Saturday, July 16, 2016

My untroduction to #clmooc 2016... leading with my interests

Happy Saturday, #clmooc. Though I've posted a number of times already in the spaces and places of our online collaboration, I haven't unformally untroduced myself yet. At the risk of being self-congratulatory, I'd like to note for the hallowed digital record of #clmooc that I was posting about Pokemon before it So the first question I'll pose in this blog is: was my untroduction last year, in which I pictured myself on a Pokemon trading card, celebrated the sleepy Snorlax, and described my interest in games and learning, clairvoyant or coincident?

Maybe I should concede right here that I had no visions then about swarms of players in parks at virtual Pokestops (see below). I just wanted to enter into #clmooc's connected learning by declaring my playful curiosity about the characters and narratives connected to a game that my daughters and I were playing.

Vaporeon stampede Central Park, NYC from Woodzys on Vimeo.

So, even if I didn't see this convergence of augmented reality, fandom, fitness trackers and geolocation coming, I think I was on to something last year untroducing myself by leading with Pokemon and my interests.

I'm interested in games for learning and games as texts

I'm still interested in games and learning, evidenced by my recent posts, "A letter to professor Willow..." and "14 reasons why #PokemonGO has a future in education." When I posted on Soundcloud a brief conversation with my daughter about the game, I was thinking about how games and fandom situates youth as experts, experts with background knowledge about the digital texts they navigate in Pokemon Go.

I'm interested in badges as microcredentials that might serve social justice aims

I recently had the opportunity to hear from Nichole Pinkard and Doug Belshaw speak at the Aurora Public Schools #badgesummit. They both helped me develop a deeper understanding of badging and that learning experience has me thinking of experiments I'll do with digital badging in the coming year with the APS badge system
Screenshot of this tweet.
Screenshot of this tweet.

I'm interested in social annotation and it's civic potential

Learners who watch the #clmooc channels during the year probably have seen examples of digital annotation and discussion about where the practice of marking up digital texts in the open might lead. I've blogged about my desire to encourage youth who have experience with immigration to comment openly as experts in much the same way activists mark up texts about climate change.

For educators interested in working toward more equitable schools, communities, and policing, I invite you to mark up this post by Antero Garcia, "There are No Lessons for Alton or Philando." (Just get the Chrome extension here and watch the video below.)

Finally, I'm interested in open learning

As I read the tags and posts of #clmooc for the fourth year now, I remain interested in how a community of learners develops and strengthens, swells and shrinks, plays and questions. I'll end my newest intro with one of my first creations for #clmooc, the teaser video below. I have the same sense of anticipation about where this experiment will take us now as I did then, back when this MOOC was still just an idea. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016

14 reasons #PokemonGO has a future in education; or, Why #PokemonGO deserves the thoughtful, creative, attention of schools and teachers

I've been playing and reading about PokemonGo for about a day and a half now and almost as soon as I gave Professor Willow permission to pretty much steal my identify by giving the app access to my camera, location and contacts, I started thinking about how this immersive game might mediate Connected Learning. Since its release just last week, the game has become a mini social phenomenon, draining cell phone batteries and inspiring memes, and the social media response has been every bit as immersive as the game. An article that has enjoyed some heavy circulation on Twitter was one of the first to comment on the game's educational potential. "14 Reasons PokemonGO is the Future of Learning" by David Theriault missed the mark by engaging in all-too-familiar educational technology hyperbole. I put some mild criticism in the margins (here and here) via the social annotation tool My commentary was quickly met in those margins by the thoughts of other educators interested in games and digital tools.

Screenshot of the annotated version of Theriault's article. 
In what amounted to a short annotation flash mob, Theriault was taken to task for overhyping the game- "The Future of Education" and essentially for deficitizing youth for being hopelessly obsessed with their phones. A lot of his argument for PokemonGO was really an argument for permitting cellphones in school on their merits as composition devices. His overhyped title suggested a more measured title and defensible argument to me, so I took a break from chasing monsters to sit under a shade tree alongside my panting puppy, Oliver, where I sketched out a Twitter list of the reasons #PokemonGO deserves the thoughtful, creative attention of schools and teachers interested in playful methods for engagement with digital texts and tools. What follows is an edited revision of that list.

1. Interest in Pokemon and the app is cross-generational.

2. #PokemonGO is a complex, distributed text, as evidenced by this Reddit thread.

3. Youth have background knowledge of the game and the story.

The table in my basement photographed during a PokemonGO planning session. 

4. Social mapping in PokemonGO is engaging and relevant.

5. Youth with mobile access will have background with digital maps- notably Google maps- and be able to make meaning of the geographic aspects of the game.They'll quickly connect maps to strategy.

6. The PokemonGO app is free, which allows for teacher and youth experimentation.

7. Using a mobile phone camera is central to gameplay. That invites creativity and composition.

8. The augmented reality in the game invites memetic composition, and shots like the one below are snatching the attention of Internet culture in the same way #bookface and #planking have in the past.

Screenshot of this Tweet by @MatPatGT

9. You can play outdoors, with a dog or a little sister.

10. In PokemonGO parks become text and media-rich environments to read and explore.

11. Museums and educational "3rd spaces" can marry, augment, and advertise their content w/ game content, like the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Arkansas has by blogging photos captured with the game's app.
Screenshot of this Tweet by +Swot Sisters 

12. Players create avatars and rosters of pocket monsters, developing fictional digital identities to test in the collaborative game.
My avatar was created by my daughter who was so excited she added an extra "l" to her own name. 

14. If you are a teacher, who you gonna trust? @pearson or Snorlax?

A screenshot of this Tweet by @Sonya_Wattles.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Reflecting on LRNG assessment work: week 2

A few weeks in to assessing LRNG playlists, the experience has me thinking a lot about what information I need to provide helpful feedback to learners. A
s I sift through digital stacks of submissions, I find myself wanting experience inside the playlists that engage youth. I also wish I knew the context that brought them to learning opportunity. Are they in libraries? Do they have the support of mentors? My best feedback might reference their experiences so they can learn from me how to better navigate supports and platforms.

Our team's extended and distributed conversation in a Slack channel has me imagining how I might make the criteria explicit to youth in the playlist so they could understand what assessors are looking for. My brainstorm idea: I want there to be a one to two minute video from a helpful, friendly teacher sort of person, like Chris Rogers or Paul Allison, who would break down the expectations for them and also help them understand that they could submit multiple times. I imagine my teammates in short video clips speaking directly to learners, maybe this teacher-as-narrator would speak while walking down the street and pausing to buy a popsicle from an ice cream truck. "Your work in this playlist will be read by an assessment team comprise of people like me," he or she might say. "We're going to be checking to see if your submissions are in the format we've asked for, and to see if they contain tips for other youth based on your learning." A video would help the youth be perfectly clear about what they should do. Adults seeking to support young learners could direct them to these videos and watch alongside the youth. "It sounds like this badge really hinges on an informal essay or video. Which would you like to take on? Which sounds fun?"

I can't help but reflect on what we’ve been looking at while assessing the Pay Day Ready playlist. It is instructive to me that we’re assessing a submission where youth are supposed to produce an essay or a video but very few submissions have more than a few sentences that amount to brief statements of learning. It seems like that goal- having youth draft informal essays or capture quick videos- ought to be really achievable if the expectation is clear and if the supports are in place to help them do so- either through digital content or through the support of mentors. If the content or learning experience that we thought would produce essays or videos doesn’t, we can generate questions and iterate. Is the experience is sufficiently clear about what youth should do? In this case the digital content, the learning experience, or the mentors guiding youth to the playlists are probably indicating that the expectation is something less than essays or videos. The feedback we are providing is closing that loop, too, and lowering the sights of the playlist because we direct them to list three tips or key learnings but we don't ask them to bring to bear what they know about essays or video composition.

While I don’t know if an essay is the right target or if a video is the right ask, but I think those things are achievable if the content, the face-to-face support and the feedback couple to provide a warm, demanding experience for interested youth. It also seems achievable that a team like ours might be able to look at learners’ work together as a regular protocol. We could start our assessment conversations by noticing what there is to admire in that work. With those possibilities in mind, I wonder if the work we do looking across playlists will surface which learning experiences are warm demanders and produce thoughtful work that uncovers the assets that we know these youth bring to summer learning.