Category Archives: Blogs

Thinking more about game-based learning

I've just been looking thrugh the list of links that came to me via: Online Colleges titled The 20 Best Blogs About Game-Based Learning collated by Jasmine Hall, staff writer for the Online Colleges website.

Her introduction reads;

Adults these days… seem really into chastising video games those crazy kids are into as symptomatic of the human race's inevitable, steady decline. Like every hobby and medium, legitimate concerns regarding these technologies certainly exist, but their complete lack of validity is decidedly not amongst them. Intrepid educators, developers, administrators, and parents alike know that new and digital media can be harnessed for more productive ends, such as helping students soak up various academic subjects or training new employees. Even the FBI recognizes and uses video games as valuable learning tools! Because the push toward incorporating these resources still exists in a comparatively inchoate state, anyone curious about how they apply to educational settings should keep up with the latest movements and technologies currently shaping the movement’s future. Blogs can help with that.

I agree with her that the role of game-based learning is still not fully understood or appreciated – but our lack of understanding should not hold us back from being open to investigate what the potential may be. To that end the list of blogs collated here by Jasmine is very useful – not only because of the information they contain, but also because of the way that this illustrates how the open publication of new thinking, research and ideas on blogs like these represents a part of the new way that knowledge is being constructed and shared in the 'knowledge age'. 

Reflecting here I thought about some of the more recent posts I've made about educational gaming and gamefication, including;

  • Some thoughts I had about the use of Minecraft in education. Since that post I've spoken to a number of teachers who have described to me how they're using that as a part of their work with students. 
  • Comments about the Game-based Handbook, published by the European Commision, that provides a framework for games-based pedagogy. 
  • Reference to a paper titled 7 Things You Should Know About Gamificationproviding a very simple response to 7 fundamental questions people have about the concept of gamification.

As this breadth/depth of knowledge develops and is shared, I'd certainly hope that we begin to see more evidence of these approaches being adopted in classrooms – intentionally, purposefully and in ways that engage and excite learners.


How Blogs, Social Media, and Video Games Improve Education

I've just been reading this interesting publication from the Brookings institution titled How Blogs, Social Media, and Video Games Improve Education.

At the beginning of the report there is a quote from Alan Daly, at the University of California at San Diego, who predicts that

"Education innovation will shift away from experts and capacity building to focus on networks… We have to start thinking about the expertise that resides in the system, and we have to be connected in order to make use of it. [Education] is moving away from large-scale prescriptive approaches to more individualized, tailored, differentiated approaches.”

This is a concept that is dear to my heart – the transformation of our current school system and its focus on the individual 'schoolhouse, into a networked schooling system, with its emphasis on the inherent strength of the network, on collaboration, sharing, synergy etc. 

Thus this monograph is less about the specific technologies and their particular uses in education, and more about their affordances as instruments of this transformation. The emphasis is less on how these technologies can be used as vehicles to 'deliver' the curriculum and improve student performance and more on how, in and of themselves, they are changing the very nature of the teaching and learning experience by enabling new ways for participation, engagement, and collaboration to take place.


What I’ve been reading

A colleague recently said to me, “I aim to learn at least one new thing each day from my Twitter connections”. That pretty much sums up why I became hooked on Twitter – the network of people I’ve connected with provide me each day with thoughtful comments and links to sites that are a continual source of new ideas and stimulation. Here are just a few that I’ve been looking at over the Easter weekend (apologies for not referencing the people from whose ‘tweets’ I linked to these – it only occurred to me afterwards to blog this, and I was simply looking at a row of open tabs.)

Shakespeare on Blogging – a very clever and humorous interpretation of the advice that Shakespeare may have provided for those looking at becoming proficient in communicating through blogging.

Ways of teaching thinking – I’m very interested in the development of thinking as a part of what we teach in schools. It’s identified as one of the key competencies in the curriculum, but how well do we understand how to develop it in our students? This link highlights four thinking-centered approaches for infusing high-level thinking instruction into your regular curriculum

Using the video game model in the classroom – a brief but thoughtful post from Mary Beth Hertz in Edutopia that identifies three key features of video games that can be incorporated into what we do in the classroom.

Can gaming change education? – still on the gaming theme, Meris Stanbury from eSchoolNews discusses a recent report from MIT titled Moving Learning Games Forward: Obstacles, Opportunities, and Openness,” by Eric Klopfer, Scot Osterweil, and Katie Salen of the Education Arcade. this quote sums it up: “[We] believe that the demonstrated potential of digital media wisely guided by caring adults could become a ‘game changer’ in advancing children’s prospects in the decade ahead.

The evolution of classroom technology – as someone who taught Education Technology classes for 11 years I’m always interested in this sort of post which provides a useful historical overview, complete with images, of the technologies that have been used over time.

Top ten sites for note taking – note taking at my computer is becoming increasingly common (as opposed to the usual paper format) and this list provides links to ten very useful note taking applications. Provided by David Kapuler at TechLearning.

Using Evernote – I’ve begun using Evernote on my laptop and my mobile devices recently – still getting the hang of it all. This tutorial provides some excellent tips on how to use it well. Evernote is a great, free resource that allows you to easily capture information using whatever device or operating system you use. It then makes this information accessible and searchable from anywhere

Teachers’ use of educational technology

I’m currently working to two deadlines – the first is as response to the Ministry of Education’s current RFP for professional learning and development services, in particular the section on developing e-Learning capability. The second is my preparation for ULearn – the annual event where teachers share the exciting things they are doing in classrooms to improve learning for students using ICTs.

As I do so, my mind is pondering the tension that exists between, on the one hand, an RFP that focuses on the deficit thinking in our system – of how to address the needs of who aren’t achieving etc. – and on the other hand, the coming together of inspiring teachers who are doing inspiring things with students in classrooms across our nation. I’m left with two images – one of high levels of need and under-performance, and the other of high levels of innovation, engagement and achievement.

It’s always difficult to quantify such things – particularly if your primary focus is in just one of those areas. If, for instance, I only focused on the twitter feeds I receive daily from teachers around NZ, or read the blog posts from the same group, it would be easy for me to assume that education in NZ is in good heart. But reading some of the MoE reports and the interpretation of these in things like the current RFP paints a different picture.

So it was with interest that I viewed the infographic that has been created by GOOD and Design Language, in partnership with University of Phoenix, based on a report released earlier this year titled “Teachers’ Use of Educational Technology in U.S. Public Schools,” May 2010 National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education.

The report is actually based on a subset of national data collected from surveys conducted at the district, school, and teacher levels. The data presents results from the teacher level survey, including:

  • information on the use of computers and Internet access in the classroom;
  • availability and use of computing devices and software, teachers’ use of school or district networks (including remote access);
  • students’ use of educational technology;
  • teachers’ preparation to use educational technology for instruction; and
  • technology-related professional development activities

The infographic is interesting at a range of levels (as is the report) – but the thing that stood out for me is what is reported about the % of teachers reporting that their students use ICTs frequently for various activities. At the highest end of reported ICT use was:

  • Learning or practising basic skills (69%)
  • Research (66%)
  • Written text (61%)

In other words, the majority of use is for drill and practice, searching the web (or possibly CD-based encyclopedias?) and word processing. No change here from what we were doing in the 80s – and still struggling to make it to two thirds of the total.

At the other end of the scale I find;

  • Designing and developing a product (13%)
  • Contributing to blogs and wikis (9%)
  • Using a social networking site (7%)

Now I know that this report is from a survey of schools in the US, and not NZ – but it has me thinking all the same. I wonder what the figures would be for NZ? As I prepare for ULearn I look at the number of workshops being run for teachers by teachers on the use of blogs and wikis, and about how the use of social networking tools and applications is now widespread among our student population (at least, out of school that is) -I just wonder how representative this is of what is happening at a system-wide level? I get very encouraged when I view the list of blogs, wikis and podcasts from NZ educators on the NZEdublogs Wiki – but realise this is still just a small slice of our teaching population.

I’m left with the feeling – ICTs represent such a huge investment (in both in terms of $$$ and time), and also such a huge potential (as yet unrealised it would seem). Seems we still have a lot of work to do. Hopefully the fires that are ignited at ULearn will go some way towards tipping the balance.

What do we blog about


I always enjoy reading the Technorati State of the Blogosphere reports each year as they provide some useful insights into what is happening in the online world with regards to the use of blogs.

This year the report is broken down into five sections:

  1. Who Are the Bloggers?
  2. The What and Why of Blogging
  3. The How of Blogging
  4. Monetization And Revenue Generation, Brands in the Blogosphere
  5. 2009 Trends: Political Impact of Blogging, Twitter Usage

The report is well worth a read – and I won’t try to summarise here as the information is provided in a very accessible and easy to understand way. Worth noting in particular section five which explores the relationship between the use of blogs and Twitter – trends I’d concur with when thinking about my own use of these two tools.

The one observation I would make, however, is when reading through section two of the report on the what and why of blogging (see graph above), education doesn’t appear as one of the topics. I find this surprising given the number of education-related blogs that appear to be around. One can only assume that those who blog from the education perspective have been counted among those represented in other categories such as “computers”, “personal musings” or simply “other”.

I for one would be very interested in understanding more of what is happening in the education sphere in relation to blogs – everything from education professionals blogging about developments in education practice, through to teachers using blogs for personal reflection, classes using blogs to celebrate and share learning and students using blogs as a de-facto e-portfolio.

Perhaps this could be a focus for 2010 Technorati??

What’s next for newspapers?

I’m now back in NZ, getting used to the time zone differences 🙂

Over recent months I’ve read an increasing number of stories, articles and comments on the future of newspapers that I’ve been storing away to make comment on, as I see the whole debate as being indicative of the paradigm shift in the “knowledge economy” we’re all a part of. As a blogger this thinking has been percolating in my mind for some years now as i think about how I access the news, how I filter it, engage with it and report it.

The interactive map above is part of a recent initiative of the Independent newspaper in the UK, titled “what’s next for newspapers?” Prompted by the impact of the global recession on the newspaper industry, the Independent is using the opportunity to prompt a richer debate about impact of digital technologies on the newspaper industry, the implications of these changes for the newspaper industry, for journalism, and for society. The team at the Independent say that…

The aim with interactive collaborative maps of this kind is to weave together all of the salient issues, positions and arguments dispersed through the community into a single rich, transparent structure – in which each idea and argument is expressed just once – so that it’s possible to explore all perspectives quickly and gain a good sense of the scope and perceived merits of the different arguments

I see a great topic here for high school media studies students, or social studies classes for that matter. And it’s great to see the Independent actively using the debategraph tool as a means of engaging people in this debate – I’m a fan of this tool as I love the way it dynamically represents the changing perspectives in the debate, and enables large scale participation.

The Independent article refers to the thoughts of Clay Shirky, who’s post on Newspapers and thinking the unthinkable got me thinking about this a lot more just a few weeks ago. Shirky traverses the issues of ownership, control, quality, economics and impact of digital technologies in his article – focusing in on his argument that…

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism. For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.

Not everyone agree that newspapers are under threat, however.  John Hartigan, CEO of News Limited in Australia claims that the future of newspapers is bright. He is critical of the traditional ‘knowing a little about a lot‘ approach of newspapers to reporting the news, and sees the future involving teams of highly educated people with specialist knowledge providing more in depth news and analysis. He is not a fan at all of the notion of “citizen journalists” and dismisses claims often made by bloggers that theirs is a fresh, more democratic medium, by saying “Amateur journalism trivialises and corrupts serious debate“.

If you’re looking for some perspectives and themes to fire up your students’ thinking, then I’d recommend Ryan Scholin’s post on 10 obvious things about the future of newspapers (it would also pay to read his original post from 2007 to get an idea of what has changed.)

I’d love to hear stories of classes that participate in this debate, and the usefulness of the debategraph map as a focus for this.

State of the blogosphere 2008

When I started blogging back in 2004 I was by no means the first, although blogging was still more of a novelty here in New Zealand, and seen as something that only “geeky” people did. But 2004 was also the year that’s most searched-for definition was blog, and in noting this, Time Magazine commented on the phenomenon of blogging by saying “Radio had its golden age in the 1930s. In the 1950s, it was television’s turn. Historians may well date the golden age of the blog from 2004” then asking, “How long can it last? Who knows?” Two years later Time announced their person of the year is “you”! 2004 was also the yer that Technorati started!

Here at the end of 2008, the latest figures from the annual Technorati “State of the Blogosphere” provide ample evidence that blogging is now a well established part of our daily lives. As in their past reports the team at Technorati have  analyzed the trends and themes of blogging, but for the 2008 study, they resolved to go beyond the numbers of the Technorati Index to deliver even deeper insights into the blogging mind. For the first time, they surveyed bloggers directly about the role of blogging in their lives, the tools, time, and resources used to produce their blogs, and how blogging has impacted them personally, professionally, and financially.

The report is well worth a read, and delivers on what it sets out to provide – with ample evidence of the extent to which blogs now pervade our daily lives, illustrating that blogs have now moved well beyond simply the domain of the hobby-ist, and now provide the opportunity for income generation, product placement and political and public policy campaigning. How things change in just four years!

100 top sites for the year ahead

It’s that time of year again when people come out with their various lists and predictions…

My good friend Douglas up at the MoE alerted me to this post on the Guardian website, titled 100 top sites for the year ahead. The list is nicely categorised so you can find sites that meet your needs easily. The last list the Guardian published was in 2006, and the authors note that the biggest changes since then have been in the fields of collaborative online services that let people in different locations work simultaneously on projects.

Another point of note is the reference to the fact that many of the sites on this list weren’t around in 2006 – a sign of the rapid development of these sorts of tools. So too, a question about how many of them may still be around in another 2-3 years, given the economic climate that may not smile so favourably on free-for-use sites such as many of these are – something that Suzie has commented on on her blog.

State of the Blogosphere 2008

Technorati have recently released their annual State of the Blogosphere report. Since 2004, thier annual study has unearthed and analyzed the trends and themes of blogging, but for the 2008 study, they resolved to go beyond the numbers of the Technorati Index to deliver even deeper insights into the blogging mind. The 2008 report has some interesting depth presented in five special sub-reports:

The 2008 report reveals just how pervasive blogs have become , and the extent to which they are a part of our daily lives. The figures supporting this vary from survey to survey, but all are now consistently high!

The understanding of what a blog is is changing – once known as an abbreviated form of Web-log, this report reveals a relatively equal distribution of use of blogs across all age, gender and occupation categories.  In addition, the figures reveal that blogging is now a truly global phenomenon.

Technorati defines the Active Blogosphere as: The ecosystem of interconnected communities of bloggers and readers at the convergence of journalism and conversation. As the Blogosphere grows in size and influence, the lines between what is a blog and what is a mainstream media site become less clear. I found it interesting to note, for instance, that in the US, 95% of the top 100 US newspapers have reporter blogs now.

Perhaps the other thing that stands out in this report is the emergence of brands and branding of blogs, and the fact that there is now good money to be made from certain genres of blog.

For anyone interested in the emerging trends associate with blogs and blog use this is a fascinating report. Probably the most interesting section for me is the “what and why of blogging” which reveals all sorts of interesting data about why people blog, what they blog about and how they measure the success of their blog. Although Education doesn’t specifically get a mention (doesn’t even appear in the top 18 topics blogged about!), there’s plenty in this report to inform thinking about the use of blogs and blogging in educational contexts.

Nothing to fear from Australians


Brilliant comment from Miguel Guhlin on Al Upton’s blog which I just have to refer to here. Writing with just a modicum of hyperbole, Miguel illustrates the tensions that I referred to in my previous blog entry, of a system that is resistant to the very essence of change that is impacting on it from every quarter, and where the pedagogy of assessment continues to drive the pedagogy of instruction!

Al, as a school district administrator myself, but also, as a citizen of the United States, I have to confess that I’m a bit grateful your blog has been shut down and Australian children denied the opportunity to engage in global collaobrations and learning. Here’s why:

In the United States, blogs are distractions to the real job of educators to improve student achievement on accountability measures. Blogs, as tools for online publishing, engage students with access to an authentic audience–that sometimes, let’s be honest, can be TOO authentic if you get what I mean–and may result in divergent learning that is, to be frank, unsuitable to preparing children for yesterday’s workforce. We want children who are literate, but lack that attitude that would hurt their careers and survival in our workforce…it is our goal to establish (and we’ve done an excellent job aside from your blogging efforts) a, what Paulo Friere calls, “domesticating” educational experience.

Secondly, you’ve no doubt read of books like Wikinomics, The World is Flat, and A Whole New Mind…these are books that speak to the interconnectedness of world affairs, peer productions–companies working in tandem across the globe to create a new product marketed to millions on the web–necessary in the future. I’m honestly grateful that Australians will be barred from this world, prevented from joining peer producers in the world. To be honest, in the United States, there’s been a bit of concern that you Australians (not to mention New Zealanders) have been engaging too rapidly in this new virtual world.

It’s a relief to know that you’ll be “dummed down” to join the United States in a slower realization of these truths. Some argue that we need to distinguish between using technology as a way to empower students, facilitate communication/collaboration at a distance rather than using technology to domesticate our students, helping them achieve basic skills that won’t get them much farther anyways. But you see, in this competitive, global economy, disempowering YOUR children may allow mine to do well.

Al, take a hit for the opposite team. Rejoice that my students will whip your’s when it comes to working online, and that you won’t have distractions when drilling students in basic skills.

With appreciation for the lack of leadership in your part of the world,
Miguel Guhlin Around the
U.S. School District Administrator