Badging and Gamification Plans…

It feels like a lifetime ago that I was peeking over Patrick’s shoulder and being a lurker behind him as he went through his CoETaIL. It seems like a long time ago that I made the decision to take the course myself. Yet it is not that long ago (I am just in a different country and that all seems far away.) And now… this is my final blog for my CoETaIL course. I feel both happy and sad. I know that I will be going back through all my posts and links to reread and revisit thoughts and ideas. I look forward to having the flexibility to do it on my own, yet know I will miss the structure.  

Thank you to my husband and daughter for all your patience. Thank you to Patrick, who encouraged and inspired me to take this course, Thank you to Shaza and Danieal, who agreed to go with me on the journey. Thank you to Rebekah who was always supportive, understanding, and kind. To my cohort, those who I realized were in my cohort and those who I thought I just found on Twitter on my own accord (ha!), I appreciate all the comments and time you took to read and respond to my blogs, tweets, emails, chats etc. Thank you COETAIL. I have loved this experience.

So… My final project…

Before you watch my video, please know that I came across a few roadblocks and have not been able to implement my plan yet. This was disappointing to me, but I am super excited to roll out my newest plan in February.

Student Goals

I edited my video and took out the part with the student goals… I felt it was too long. This is the part of the script I took out:

I have 2 main goals:

  1. MYP Design Cycle
  2. ISTE Standards

In terms of the MYP Design cycle, I want the students to understand and have experience moving through the cycle. This is new to them, so exposure and practice is the key. Having them move through the cycle each time they create movies is perfect. Their daily reflections help me to understand their connection to and understanding of the cycle.

As far as the ISTE Standards, this course can hit a LOT of the standards and I felt like the ones to focus on are:

Empowered learner standard 1c and 1d

As they create films, they get feedback from peers which assists them in moving forward with their skills and understanding. As they do this, it helps them e more facil with different types of software and operational concepts that are used across technologies, platforms and software. IT helps them to adapt and use new technology as they come across it.

Digital Citizen 2C

Creating their own digital content is part of the course. They can use content that is already created as long as they abide by the copyrights and cite properly. I also ask them to put their own Creative Commons licenses on there as they create and upload content.

Knowledge Constructor 3a and 3 D

As they are learning how to make their movies, and accompanying music, they do research. They research ideas, research usable music and learn basic copyright laws. They learn how to find good sites and share those with peers. Making content and moving through the Design Cycle, they come across problems and have to solve them. Often they have to research the problem in order to solve it.  

Innovative Designer 4a, b, c, d

This is really the meat of the course. The students move through the MYP Design Cycle to create their stop motion films. Each movie is a learning experience that they can choose either to remade or to redesign or to completely start from scratch. They identify the problems and find solutions to rectify them.

Creative Communicator 6 a and 6b

As mentioned, they must choose the appropriate software to execute their movies. Some have chosen to take photos and import them to movie software on their laptops while other students have chosen to download Stop Motion software to use. They are allowed to remix music or to recreate ideas from movies or books as long as they follow copyright laws.

Post thoughts on my video

OK, full disclosure, I am not the only one who teaches this class. There is another newbie who is teaching it too. I have been sharing all my plans and ideas with him. He is on board to try too. As I plan, he has been my sounding board. He has piped in with some ideas, but he is really overwhelmed with his own job too so although he is not a planning partner, he is definitely an implementing partner. I look forward to comparing his experience and mine to see how it evolves with our implementation and participation with gaming. I also look forward to presenting at our school SIPS Presentations(tiny sips of information) with him to share our experience with gamifying our class.  

It is hard to say what the biggest thing I have learned it… I have learned so much. If I have to say one ONE thing… I guess I will say that it’s that the kids are the ones who are going to be my biggest teachers. The Kids are going to help me make my class game better and better. And I can’t wait.

Can I Get a Woot Woot?

Time to celebrate my journey, my snapshot of where I am now. When I first started to think about writing this post, I thought, “Man, I’m not at all where I want to be. I wish I had more time to beef up my online connections.” But then I realized I shouldn’t compare myself to anyone else, I should compare myself to me. This is meant to be me saying, “Yea! Look at me! Look how much I have done. No, I am not finished, I hope never to be finished! Look at what I have done in this short time.”

So Yea me!

I recalled that I had taken a screenshot of my Twitter page for a blog post in the first course:

Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 8.26.25 PM


And look at me now:


Can I get a woot woot? It has been fun to step out of my comfort zone on social media and post more, comment more, and read more. I admit to being more intermittent about it than I’d like, but I get sucked in so easily to the wormhole that sometimes I just can’t. Just today I was late to a meeting because I was reading posts and comments on #ISTEIntSch. Just got completely distracted and involved; and as much as I know I shouldn’t, sometimes I just enjoy it so much! That is one of the chats I have been following, others are #AISQ8, and #africaed. I like them because they are small and slow. I have tried a few others but they are so fast I can hardly keep up. My colleagues and I thought about maybe having a little party for #satchat and having each of us try to read as much as we can and like/share/call out the items that meant something to us. Then debrief after. Whew!

One of my favorite connections that has happened with my PLN is that there is a group of us who are hoping to start an online CFG (Critical Friends Group.) Years ago I was lucky enough to be at a school that has them and I got trained as a facilitator and had a few years in schools with them. I miss them so much. One time on Twitter, I saw someone post something about their CFG. I mentioned how I longed to have one again. Some liked and agreed while others wanted to know more. The idea was born to host one online with a group of us who seemed interested.

It all started with this one tweet:


There was a LOT of conversation. This is just a tiny little glimpse:


It boiled down to 7 of us across 5 timezones and a 7 hour time spread who really wanted to see if we could make it work. We chatted on Twitter for a while and finally started a chat groupscreen-shot-2016-11-21-at-10-20-25-pm

In the end we decided not to move forward just now. Although I am disappointed, I’m still excited because of the connections I made, the people I have as “friends” who I can call on for help. For instance, one of the guys who was interested even shared some resources to me from something he saw me tweet about.


Another way I have really made my PLN work for me is with people who I have worked with in some capacity in the past who I call on. Wendy from CoETaIL has been great with connecting about badging. My friend and former colleague, Lisa,  is always there for me with ideas and connections. Carl is an amazing leader and wealth of knowledge. Today I reached out to Kelly who now works for SMART and is super when I need her. Not to mention Susan, Laura, Teresa, Patrick, Sara, Danieal, Bret… I could go on and on.


I feel so lucky that these are just a few examples of how my PLN has worked for me. I know I could have a larger PLN and my reach could be even farther, but I am happy with what I have achieved thus far and look forward to seeing how much further I can go. It’s a lot for this online introvert/shy person to have done and I look forward to seeing it grow more and more.

Plugging Along: A Badging Update


We started the badging with the 6-8 graders. We focused on 4 areas and just the most basic skills: setting it up and making sure they are logged in: Skyward, Blogger, Edmodo and GAFE. They had videos to watch that demonstrated how to do all the skills we asked them to do and a Google doc outlining evidence to present to meet the standard in order to be awarded the badge. We asked the mentor teachers to be in charge of awarding the badges and give them time during their mentor time to accomplish tasks. So here is where the challenge starts. I am not a mentor. There is not an easy way to find out if the kids have accomplished the badges or not. We decided to use the awarding that is available in Edmodo because it is easy to award them, but it is not that easy to see if the kids have been awarded badges. Also, some of the mentors admitted that it was just quicker to help the kids and walk them through it instead of having them use the videos and be autonomous; and since they walked the kid through it, they didn’t award them the badge because teacher already knew they had done it, no need to award the badge.


Other teachers simply didn’t understand and didn’t ask any questions so they also didn’t award any badges. So that didn’t work so well.

Another Try

screen-shot-2016-10-20-at-11-56-21-amWe held a meeting with all teachers in Middle School and created a new document for both teachers and students that outlined the whole program very clearly. We went through the document and teachers pretended they were students and completed all tasks. Then they met again with mentor groups and were expected to award badges.

Still No Love

However, once again, I have no way of really checking to see if the kids have the badges unless I go to each student’s Edmodo profile and see what badges they have been awarded. So I have checked a handful but stopped because all of them looked like this:


So that was discouraging. I asked one mentor teacher if she was awarding them, “No,” she said, “We have not had mentor time since that meeting we had with you.” OH!

I started to think that maybe I should be the one who kids submit to, I should award the badges. I suggested that to my director but he didn’t seem convinced…(yet.) Additionally, having them in Edmodo seemed unsatisfactory. The kids didn’t have any way to showcase their achievements. Did we want to make a bulletin board? Did we want to physically make pins for their backpacks? Stickers for the laptops? How can we celebrate these achievements? Could I award House Points (we have a house system, think Harry Potter) for different badges and different levels?

Keep Looking for Ideas

I went to Twitter to search. I found #edbadges and started looking to see who was posting… who could I follow. In the meantime while I have all of this going on in the back of my head, I attended a Tech Unconference here in my city. I prayed and hoped I could find a tribe at the conference about badging. I had no idea! THE Brad Flickinger was there! I could not have been luckier. He is leading the way with tech badges and I had him to talk to at the unconference!! What a stroke of luck. He shared that he is the one who keeps track of it all, he is the one who awards, he is the one who offers, he is the ONE. So this went along with my thinking that I need to be the one who does all that.Also, he awards physical badges: pins in 3-5 an stickers for 6+.

Now I needed a hosting site. I decided Weebly would be good (and then when I looked again at Brad’s it is a Weebly too… just made me feel like I was on the right track.)

This is going much slower than I hoped, but I want to do it well. I want to have things planned out before I start. This is not always the way I do things, I am a North

(from a CFG protocol) who usually just likes to jump into things and figure them out as I move along. While I don’t mind doing that, I do feel like I can have a lot of it mapped out and ready before I jump out. I really don’t know when I will be allowed to roll it out, but I want to be as ready as I can be for when I can. I know I will have the support if it is planned out well. For now, I work on the planning of it. I’m excited for it all to happen

And So It Begins…

Variety is the spice of life. I like to move. Well, in theory I like to move. I like the idea of moving and of experiencing new things and new cultures. In reality, I hate to pack up all my stuff and decide which of my precious items will make the cut and which will have to find a new home. I dislike being in a new place and waiting for my precious items to arrive and having to make do with 3 forks, 3 spoons, and 3 knives for a family of 3 until our stuff arrives.

I see the word “grasa” that means grease… must be for dishes, so do I just scrape my sponge across the solid lime-scented stuff inside?

Then there are the fun/scary parts of moving to a new country like finding a place to live, looking at all the new products in the grocery store and wondering what in the heck they actually are and how I use them (after 2 months of living in China, a friend of mine discovered she’d been using body lotion as conditioner for 2 months.) Finding your way around… will I get lost? Will I get mugged? How do I say “Where is the bathroom?” and how will I understand the directions when I receive them in the language of my new home?


Wake Up Call

One day I got a reminder email to pay for my final course in CoETaIL. Oh yeah! That had totally slipped my mind. Paid for the course…then went on about my life trying to remember my long-lost Spanish; trying to learn all the student’s and staff’s names; trying to be a patient and understanding wife and mother to a family in culture shock; figuring out my job; adjusting to high altitude; finding a new apartment and car… etc. I got lost in it all, barely hanging on. I forgot about CoETaIL again.

I hope my clothes get clean on this setting

Then one day I was talking to my new boss about helping the students who are new to the 1:1 program get all set up with their devices. He says, “I was thinking of maybe doing something like a badging program…” WHAT!!! That is perfect! DING! Eureka! I remembered CoETaIL and my thoughts for a possible final project. I had had the idea to maybe do something with badging but since I had no idea what my new job would be like it was hard to imagine anything. I thought maybe it would be surrounding Digital Citizenship, but this will totally work. I asked my boss if I could take this on and he agreed. So he and I started it together and led a session for the 6th graders and all the new 7th and 8th graders. They had a session and were able to be awarded 4 badges.

screenshot: part of the directions

I have outlined ideas focusing on just one of the areas and will get those sorted out over the next week or two so we can introduce those to the kids too. I’m super excited about the idea and the prospect of what this can develop into.

More to come as it all unfolds.

Half-Baked Ideas

Just Start a Blog Entry

I am really struggling with what to do for my final project in COETAIL. This post is supposed to highlight what my ideas is and to even create a lesson plan to go with it. If I have not pinned one idea down yet I am allowed to select 2-3 ideas to flesh out.


I don’t have 2-3 solid ideas. I don’t have 1 solid idea. All of my ideas are soft, they are wispy clouds that evaporate the minute I try to hold on to them. Why am I struggling so much? I have loved all the readings over the 4 courses and have so many ideas. What is the problem with trying just try one?

I am moving to a new country and a new job. So what? Yes, I am moving and I have no solid idea what I will be doing or who I will be working with but why not just come up with an idea and see if it will work?

Ereka!, I Have a Half-Baked Idea

As I was typing the above I started to have a more solid idea:

My new job has asked that I help them with revamping their Digital Citizenship program/ curriculum (to be honest I don’t know what they have in place so I don’t know what to call it.) Knowing this, all of my ideas for the final project have surrounded Digital Citizenship. I like the idea of badges and thought to somehow combine those two things. But I was unsure how to make it ONE lesson. There is so MUCH surrounding Digital Citizenship and selecting a piece of it feels unsatisfying to me for my final project, yet tackling ALL of Digital Citizenship feels a bit daunting. Especially when I don’t know the scope of what they are looking for.

I had really liked the visual literacy unit and think that somehow combining these two might turn out great. Maybe I can do something where the students create a visual to represent their learning of the DC unit and when they complete they submit to earn a badge. Using badges is completely new to me so the management of giving them and keeping track of who gets it is something I need to consider. I think Google Classroom, Forms, Sheets, and Docs will help with this.  CommonSense Media also has digital badges already made up, so I may use the ideas on their site and combine with what the new school already has as we design the new DC curriculum as a team at the new school. Again, how to make it one lesson? An example could be after they learn and study about copyrights, they make a visual, or movie, or song, etc. They should create using what they have learned to remix, or create but using images, audio, and video they find online. They would need to demonstrate their learning of the unit by creating something which follows their understanding.

Half-baked Idea #2:

A second idea I have is to somehow use the Breakout EDU idea and combine that with Digital Citizenship. I’m thinkin’ giving them clues kinda like Google A Day where they can get the answers if they use their skills. And/ Or students can also have scenarios or case studies to look at. For example “Shaza” and “Ethan” are leaving a digital footprint. Through their scenario, students are asked which one is leaving behind a positive footprint.

The students then have to write their answers to each question. The instructions could then ask the students to put the answers in alphabetical order and take the second letter/number of each answer and put it in as the key/password for the breakout box. If it is correct the site/lock opens and they go on to the next challenge. Perhaps it is a passcode to getting onto the device or computer. Once they are on they can use the rest of the time for “free time” on the device. If they only take 5 minutes to open the device, they can have a lot of free time, if they use an hour, they have no free time.

I like the idea of students being on different levels and progressing at their own pace. I like the idea of having them do research to answer the questions in combination with having the questions be based on what we have already studied so it is more a review.

When I Learn More About My New School

Both of these ideas will require that I know and understand what the Digital Citizenship goals are for my new school. It is hard for me to plan something solid in my head without knowing that part, but I look forward to hashing out these ideas when I learn more.

Device Management

Up till now I have not had the good fortune to be in a 1:1 school. In this current position and in the last, we have been technology-rich, but not 1:1. In my next school, we will have 1:1. I am so excited. I cannot wait to see all that we can do in a day with these devices.

One of the aspects of having the devices that I wonder about is the management. Even when I have used them for specific assignments there are kids who tend to get off task and wander. I imagine that when the devices are there constantly the management is trickier. When students have them at their fingertips all the time it is tempting to check messages, play one last block of 1010!, or listen to music instead of attending to the class. I am reminded of this article and of the Twitter hashtag about banning the pencil. Anyone can be distracted by anything at any time. I was pretty much distracted by the motivational posters on the wall that never changed throughout the entire year. I stared at those same posters and disengaged daily.

amazon: Hang in There!: Inspirational Art of the 1970s
amazon: Hang in There!: Inspirational Art of the 1970s

Keeping the lessons engaging and keeping the students communicating and collaborating can help with the disengagement. Using all the best practices we can helps to keep that at bay. However, as educators, we need to have some tricks up our sleeves. We need to set  our students up for success. I look forward to seeing what my future colleagues have learned and what they employ for keeping the students on task. In the meantime, I contacted my former colleague and friend, Techchef4U, who has been working in a 1:1 environment for the past 4 years.  Of course, she had some advice for me.

She had this great Haiku Deck full of suggestions and links. (I was tickled to see that one of her resources quotes Kim Cofino)

Managing iPads in the iClassroom – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires;

There are a lot of great tips in there that I will be able to use next year, but some I can start right away:

  • Use the Lock Screen to post the iPad rules or iPad oath: swipe to accept. We have iPad rules at our school, but they are not reviewed as often as I would like to and having them on the lock screen would help me to remember to review them before we begin. The idea of the iPad Oath is pretty sweet too. I like the idea of having the students help to create it as they do the classroom constitution.
  • There are some new attention cues for me in her Deck as well: (from 2 sources: Nocking the Arrow and Embark: Your iPad Intro)
    1. Apples Up
    2.  iPad Today / iPad Not Today sign on door
    3. Open/Closed/Stowed
    4. Hands On / Hands Off
    5. Snooze it or Lose It
  • The 3 tiered colors for tasks: 
    1. red: This is important, eyes on me only, screens off
    2. yellow: You may be using 2-3 apps for this assignment
    3. green: You can use any app

There are not too many weeks left in the school year, but I’d like to get started with the 3 above ideas.

Forecast for Change

Will education be changing because of technology?

Unfortunately, education seems to change at a snail’s pace. I hope it does change, but I hope that technology is not the only reason it is changing. This week, I read the  article by Steve Denning called The Single Best Idea for Reforming K-12 Education. He says the the root cause of dysfunctional schools is the “factory model of management.” His article was written in 2011, and yet we still have exactly what he describes! It is a very toxic educational system. In my perspective, it has not evolved very much in a very long time. It is due for a change. It’s a GREAT article… Here’s the link again.

In 5, 10, 15 years, I hope to see myself at a school that has evolved. I think of technology as part of that evolution, but not necessarily at the heart of it. I agree with the ideas of allowing students choice, I agree with throwing away the curriculums we have, as Seymour Papert suggests, I believe in progress being measured by questions generated by the learner and students assessing themselves with student products and outcomes being the (point #8 in the aforementioned article by Steve Denning) success criteria. I believe in using the learning cycle to help students follow their paths in learning.

My Own Kind

photo by y. barker
photo by y. barker

I have a child. I desperately don’t want her to attend a school that tries to fit her into a mold. That tries to guide her passion instead of allowing the natural love of learning and curiosity that she, and all children, have to bloom and see where it takes her. This is what was at the root of our decision to home school. At the same time, I see how much her writing improved when she had a “proper teacher” (instead of her dad, who did a phenomenal job of homeschooling by the way) after she convinced us she wanted to go to school.

If we return to home schooling, I’d like to try some of the leveling up or badge ideas. I don’t need to have official ones. I understand reasons for having official ones, so that it’s your proof of learning. I understand the ideas that if you have badges as the motivation for learning then you are not self directed and without them you have no drive. I just don’t know if I agree with that. I don’t know; I think everyone is different. I think for me, I would use them as a way to show accomplishment. Like to say, “hey, look at all you have accomplished this month, term, year, or whatever.” As a way to celebrate what has been accomplished. So to that end, I might even create my own badges for her. I’d allow her curiosity and interests to drive our instruction. To allow the necessity of the task to drive the lessons. Such as, if she wants to write a book (which she does), then we could study about character development, descriptive writing, editing, typing, grammar conventions, leads…. you get the idea. If she wants to publish that piece, we can study about our publishing options, write letters, submit drafts, etc. When the family goes on a holiday we can each submit a proposal as to where to visit and why. So here we learn about presentations and research, math skills and graphs to show how much the trip will cost. (We had a friend whose family did this each year for their family holiday and I always thought that was such a great idea… I still need to steal this one.) I’d like to see more project-based learning.

To Other’s 

photo by y. barker
photo by y. barker

If that is the kind of learning I’d like for my own child to have, why not do that type of teaching? If I could paint my own picture of the future, I think I’d like to see myself putting into action those types of ideas I would like my own child to experience. I know I am not ready to put them all into place now. I need to hone my skills and start with sizable chunks I can manage. Start with one concept and get comfortable with it and then add another aspect. When I decided this year would be my last at my current school, I looked for a school that had some of these aspects in place already so I could learn and grow from those more experienced. I am very happy that this is the case. I also hope to bring aspects they do not have in place yet and be the catalyst for more growth and learning for them as well.

Looking Forward

By DuEnLiJu (common) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
By DuEnLiJu (common) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons
FLIP IT! Flip It Good

This week’s readings really got me thinking. I read some great articles about the Flipped Classroom:

These were all really good reads/listens or watches, but this idea is not new for me. I have assisted a few teachers in flipping their classrooms and once spent a very long time asking a LOT of questions to a teacher from Clintondale High School aka: The Flipped High School. My favorite thing this teacher said was that once he flipped is classroom he started to really get to know each and every student in his classes. He confided in me that in the past, he had had students that he never heard speak. This does not happen to him any more. I thought that was a pretty powerful statement.

But flipping is not what I wanted to read about…

Photo by Wesley Fryer
Photo by Wesley Fryer


I moved on to games and gaming. THIS is interesting to me. The idea that sprang out to me was a quote from this article,

One of the things we think is the most important about the new culture of learning is that play be seen as a critical part of all learning. Learning the rules of a game is boring, tedious and time consuming if you aren’t interested in playing it. If students see those basic skills as the “rules of the game” that enable them to play, mastering them acquires a whole new meaning. We have witnessed over and over kids mastering all kinds of “basic skills” because they were being put in the service of a deeper passion.

YES! The rules of the game… and the game can be anything. It can be how to get the service you want from an airline (so we need to learn how to write a letter.) It can be how to buy that American Girl Doll you want and still be able to buy some sweeties at the shop before you go home for the summer (so we need our maths skills so we can figure out how much we can spend from our weekly allowance and still save enough for said doll.) It could be where to go on your next family holiday (woah, there’s a LOT there to study.)

Clearly, games are the way forward, as Hanan Al Hroub, 2016  winner of the Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize’s teaching is based on games. She states that she teaches through games, “We Play, We Learn.” She is inspiring indeed:

Ok. How do I go about implementing? What are things I need to consider? What are things that those have gone before me will have me know? I read a lot. These 2 were my favorites:

As I read about gaming my brain kept kinda daydreaming and not focusing. I liked the ideas and was engaged with all that I could imagine…

But REALLY it’s…

With my head reeling, I kept being reminded of the Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out ideas from Mizuko Ito. For me, the idea of hanging out (or PLAYING) has stuck with me throughout COETAIL. I have really latched on to this idea; perhaps because I now have my own child and I can see how play is really learning. I don’t know why, but it has really been the thing I keep coming round to over and over since COETAIL started.

On to the articles about PLAY.

Photo by: Amanda Mills, USCDCP
Photo by: Amanda Mills, USCDCP

Oh my heart hurts for the kids I used to teach when I was in the classroom. Those poor kids. Only 15 minutes of recess a day and I used to sometimes take it away from them as punishment. If I could only apologize, scream from the future me to the past me to stop! I’m not a classroom teacher anymore. And it still happens today. At the school I teach in. Sigh.

I’m no better, really. I still forget to allow my students to play with the technology before we sink our teeth into it for academic purposes. It is strange, really, because it is the complete opposite of what I do when I teach the adults. Odd. When I teach the adults, I usually have them play with it first, see what they can figure out on their own, ask them how we can use it with our students, share out ideas, play a little longer with ideas others have shared. THEN I start my bit of the workshop or presentation or whatever. Why don’t I do that with the students? I did in the past, but not consistently. And I stopped at some point. Why? Why did I stop?

If I am guessing it is because of the pressure to get it all done in a specific time period. See, this is where I want to quote Seymour Papert again where he talks about throwing out the curriculum. This is where I go back to the idea above about learning the “rules of a game” to satisfy a passion. If there is a purpose, if it feels like play, then the learning will take place. It’s like the Passion Projects, or the 20% Time, or Genius Hours, or Makers Clubs that a lot of schools are doing. It’s Project-Based Learning or X-Based Learning. This seems like what I am wanting to move to. Thankfully, my new school is already involved in this type of thing and I will be able to learn from their experience. I am so excited.

Non-Experiences With PBL

I’m not sure when I first heard of Project-Based Learning, but it has been something I have been wanting to have experience with for a very long time. It seems to be very elusive for me in terms of getting my hands dirty with it. Any time there is a conference, I gravitate to any session that smacks of PBL and I eagerly read about it, but as for actual experience: zilch. I wish so much I could write something different.

I really enjoyed this week’s readings. I had not heard of many of the X-BL’s listed in John Larmer’s article Project Based Learning vs Problem Based Learning vs XBL (funnily enough I had heard of Zombie- Based Learning.) I like how many of the XBLs are actually not so far different from one another and are really complementary. I like the ideas of seeing where all the XBL overlap and when to use one over the other. I am not at all an expert, but I like the theories and thinking about it all. One of the new ones to me that seems interesting is place-based learning.

Thoughts expressed in the article by Seymour Papert specifically resonated with me, he was also featured in a video in an article by Diane Curtis. My favorite line in the video was when he said, “First thing you have to do is give up the idea of curriculum. Curriculum meaning you have to learn this on a given day. Replace it by a system where you learn this where you need it. So that means you’ve got to put kids in a position where they’re going to use the knowledge that they’re getting.” The whole video is actually really inspiring:

It was exactly that idea that fueled my husband’s and my idea to homeschool our daughter. At that point, I thought, “OK, here is my chance to do some PBL.” In reality, it was not me who did the home schooling, it was my wonderful husband. I tried to share my understanding of PBL with him and to create some ideas for projects, but he had his own ideas. To be fair, he was the one doing the schooling in actuality, so it only made sense that he be allowed to create it the way he wanted. He did a really good job, too so I had no room for complaint.

In my current job, the school is pretty traditional. They do a lot of direct instruction. Next year, they will begin transitioning to PYP. I won’t be there though, to see all the changes taking place. I imagine that it could be a great opportunity to begin dabbling in PBL at the same time.

If I were staying, I would probably approach one or two teachers, or one team, who would be willing to embark on this with me. I would ask to start small, maybe one project and see how it goes. Given that they will essentially be starting all the units from scratch, it would be a good time to collaborate with a teacher or team and give it a go.

What I really would like is to team with a teacher who has experience with it already and learn from them. I hope my job next year will provide that opportunity for me.

Technology Integration and Me

My own tech integration? It varies. It varies by teacher, by project, by activity, by a lot. I wish I could say that all of the ideas I come up with to share are on the center of TPACK or at the top of SAMR; but that would be an untruth.

When I am feeling like my ideas are less than inspired, I go to the internet. In the past, currently (and I am sure in the future,) I have looked for ideas and inspiration in many places. One of those such places has been Florida’s Idea-Sparking Matrix. Ok, that’s not what it’s real name is; but has been just this thing for me. When I have looked at all the many ideas others have shared, it has inspired me.

Another thing that has often inspired me is to look at which apps are free (the app I used to use is now defunct, but there are other sources like this one.) I know that sounds strange, but when I look at apps and start to play with them, I often get a little seedling of an idea sprouts up as to how to use the app in school with kids.
Please indulge me by watching my homeschooled daughter and her dad as they do their own remix of Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle’s Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear using an app I found for free called MadLips

What do you hear from Yolanda Barker on Vimeo.

I loved Kim’s article Creating a Culture of Collaboration Through Technology Integration. It was so well organized and well stated. I was envious to read that she had assisted 2 schools move towards full integration. It is one of the reasons I took the job I have currently; I intended to help with that transition. Things were going well at the start, but my efforts were thwarted by persons to whom I was unable to communicate what Kim so plainly wrote. I am filled with good-natured envy. Next time, maybe I will just hand them a copy of the article.

For the last 2 years of my previous job, I felt my own content knowledge was poor. Previously, I had been an elementary school teacher for a number of years before moving to the integration specialist position. When I was an integrationist for elementary school, I felt confident in all 3 areas of TPACK and collaboration with the teachers felt balanced for me. When I moved to the high school it all of a sudden felt quite different. What do I know about Physics or Japanese? What do I remember about Calculus or Government, for that matter? I heavily relied on my colleagues’ content knowledge. Since they were very motivated to collaborate and integrate, it was not as hard as I thought it would be. They explained to me what they wanted and I helped to realize their vision in creative, technological ways. It was fun, I enjoyed the collaboration and I can see where it fit on Kim’s cycle that she refers to in her article.

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click the image to watch the video

Most of the teachers I work with at my current school are great at Content and Pedagogy; but are weak in Technological Skill and Knowledge. This is not a criticism, it is just an observation. This actually makes my job easy, I can easily collaborate with them with my own technological skill and knowledge and we can come up with some smashing ideas and projects. IF, and this is a big IF, they invite me into their classrooms and are open to collaborating with technology.