Values in play: A discussion

It’s been said that media is always arbitrary, it comes loaded with values. I like to look at games as having embedded values, co constructed by the player and the designer. These are now so complex no one experiences a game in the same way. Game values, and often reflect social and cultural understandings shared between people and groups. For example, fairness, where opposing players expect the other to abide by the rules.

What I’d like to invite you to do, is to contribute a game title and the values that you believe it encompasses. They might even appear contradictory as you list them. My goal is to develop a list of values that you see in games you play.

I’ll kick off with Team Fortress 2: competition, comradeship, humour, ambition, compassion.


The Cool Blend for Learning

The meta-verse seems to generate so many ‘new’ variations on any given theme these days that no one should be hard on another for mixing their descriptions, acronyms or buzz-terms. One reason for this is of course to make those dreaming up new terms discoverable through search — as search rewards those who generate new content. This post is about re-generating better courses from what has worked well in the past using cycles that are well proven in Blended Learning.

Regardless of your enthusiasm for one technology over another, or which pedagogy you believe best suits you and your students, there is one factor which separates a ‘fresh blend’ from one stewing on the stove of in-difference. I mention this because often courses are simply ‘rolled over’ like turning a bed-sheet rather than given a damn good airing. Another problem is that way too many EdTech’s tour the planet like some 70s prog-rock relic band churning out crowd pleasers.

The solution is quite simple: Each time a course is run, it goes though a development cycle in order to identify improvements, efficiencies and better experiences. This is fairly basic stuff for Educational Developers (ED)– they are used to pulling things apart, doing a spot of design thinking and coming up with new solutions. If you are not an ED-type, then you can still play along … when you’re reviewing your course – or thinking of a new one — then you should be looking at this list of elements in order to ‘blend’ your face to face efforts with your digital efforts.

  • Time (face to face vs online live / archived /pre-recorded lectures)
  • Place (online discussion circles, small group collaboration, virtual webinars, consultations)
  • People (guest lecturers, existing video/audio, off-campus and on-campus connectivity)
  • Resources (eReserve, digital collections, curations, playlists, online readings)
  • Activities (online quiz, collaborative production, self-paced, blogging)

Blended learning promotes good preparation and decision making about the course design and embedded technological components. As improvements are made to the technology itself, new opportunities are presented to enhance the learning experiences of students and to optimise the construction and maintenance of courses and resources.

So before you get carried away with cool-words flashing across Twitter, consider that creativity and ‘out-there’ thinking does not create the kind of robust improvements and revisions that often see success in business, products and … education. With so many exciting things going on, the cool courses are the ones which get regular maintenance and evolve with the times.


Why Design Thinking isn’t a Rolls Royce.

There is a reason I called my blog Design for learning. I am a designer. I studied design, qualified as a typographer and illustrator and then worked in design and advertising. Design is not a subject, it is a craft. The best way to learn about design, perhaps the only way is from a designer.

Design is learned through literal and associative meanings. It is a craft not a process and it takes years of practice in a specialisation. Design is one form of Art, and art is about creativity, imagination and reacting to the world. It doesn’t seek to reduce it to a step by step cycle or even explain it.

In design, creative brilliance is the bridge to success. Designers are competitive and don’t easily settle. They argue a lot with other people, they argue with themselves even more. What designers want from a working environment are leaders who can create an atmosphere in which creative mavericks can do useful work. But it isn’t as fun as people might think. David Ogilvy said “Set exorbitant standards, and give your people hell when they don’t live up to them”.

Let me cut you in on the only rule you need to know. When you set out to design anything you have to work on the ideaL as Ogilvy called it.

X believes the world would be a better place if… Dove believes the world would be a better place if women were allowed to feel good about themselves. It does not matter if this statement is real or true, just that it forms a rule that the designer uses to explain it though literal and associative works, in numerous forms.
My ideaL is I believe the world would be a better place if people find awe and wonder in their interactions with it. However if I want to teach kids to feel good about themselves, that would be another ideaL. Mixing them leads to confusion. Linking them leads to action.

David Ogilvy used send staff all sorts of toys, objects and messages. A Russian doll meant, “If we hire people who are smaller than we are, we will become a company of dwarfs. If we hire people who are larger than we are, we’ll become a company of giants.”

He also said “Lazy and superficial men and women do not produce superior work.”

He had little had little time for office politicians, bullies, paper warriors, grovellers, pompous asses, and prima donnas. More than anything else, Ogilvy placed supreme importance on honesty. “Honest in argument, honest with clients, honest with suppliers, honest with the company – and above all, honest with consumers.

Ogilvy said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.” This ad, from 1959 is a seminal work. Take a look at the headline.

What is that about that sentence that is considered one of the best lines ever written? – Can learning Design Thinking help you answer that question? It might, but if we ask 100 people, what would be the success rate? Would more people, with a knowledge of design thinking get it right than those without? Would they take less or more time?

Design Thinking (DT) had more failures than successes. This is well researched. Of course people rarely mention the failures in the headlines – just the wins. It’s amusing really that DT has fell out of favour with designers and researchers because it became homogenized, turning it into a linear, by-the-book methodology that delivered, at best, incremental change and innovation. Design Thinking was supposed to promote creativity, but creativity without creative intelligence resulted in N+1 adaptation.

For those who wrote down We believe the environment will be better if we build creative intelligence in others, technology has been a bonanza. They run rings around process-driven systems because CI tends to attract CI and the genomes that those networks thrive on. You can’t replicate that with a N+1 process, but you can say ‘enhanced performance’. Notice the Rolls advert headline didn’t say “goes better than before?” …

Creative Intelligence as the ability to frame problems in new ways and to make original solutions. This is what designers must do to stay designers and put food on the table. Stop moving and you are dead. Advertising doesn’t care if you don’t like change. It demand it.

This is what they strive to build in themselves and organisations because a company that oozes it, provides a climate that is more likely to keep people alive. You’ve watched the Gruen Transfer – these people have craft and they build these climates to survive. One thing that really shits people with CI is when those without it play ‘lets pretend’ games with them and later start adding rules. This is a great way to become a dwarf not a giant. People with CI see it a hundred miles off. They’ve used it their whole lives to go around issues and do exactly what they believe they should be doing. Seth Goldin – has CI. He tells people all the time about this, yet people still buy into N+1 because N+1 is enough. What if kids now need N+20 each week and you can’t do better than N+5?

Ogilvy wasn’t a design thinker – he valued and enabled creative intelligence and always said the reward is the clients, never the organisations. He did of course make a truck load of cash, but that is what clients pay for. Advertising doesn’t pretend to try to make the client or the consumer creative – just successful though creativity and craft. That is the price of an idea.

I see creative intelligence in the intellectual space of gaming, scenario and project based learning, systems, process paths and so on. What I find interesting is that Design Thinking is increasingly appearing as the ‘new thing in education, despite the low success rate. Perhaps its just ‘lag’ or perhaps something else. You can teach it – but you can’t teach it in a vacuum or in a few days. This is why kids who are growing up in Warcraft have it – and why a gamer kid can pwn an honours student if the environment was ridiculously skewed the favour of one  and NEVER (yes NEVER) the other.

Katie Salen has creative intelligence and so do kids. I know about 200 who would run rings around any topic if you designed it for them. This is another thing Ogilvy said – that you need to talk to the end user in their language and why he didn’t care for grammar in his work or care to learn the rules of it. To him, they were dysfunctional methods in actually communicating with the audience you were targeting.

In recent weeks, our Minecraft Guildies have build 12 districts from their imagination for the Hunger Games. Some of them are 6. Some of them haven’t read it, haven’t seen it. The other kids tell them the story – and reshape the story – they use their creative intelligence to design. This means that kids have (as research clearly shows) creative intelligence.

Is it on Gardner’s Nine Intelligences? to save you Googling it – no. Go watch a 14 year old play Battlefield 3 for an hour. That kid has all 9 plus creative intelligence. The fact he doesn’t know some facts, doesn’t make him less intelligent that the person asking the questions. Go on, play Battlefield with him – see how long you last … or better still build a better climate for him to learn in. It’s not hard – he’s got a map.

Games are not like Web2.0, they started with critical mass

It was suggested to me that games are not that practical in the classroom, that there is too much to do already, and finding times to play games would be nice, but unrealistic.

So I’d like to be realistic, and put forward that most commercial games are dripping in common types and principles of learning theories. Broadly speaking, research into games consistently identifies behaviourism, cognitivism, humanism and constructivism. There are clear relationships between these theories, game types, game functions and player interactions. At the same time pedagogy is cited as a major component of successful game-based-learning,

For the most part, instructional designers know little about game development and video game developers may know little about training, education and instructional design.

In relation to multi-player games, experiential learning theory presented by Kolb (1984) puts forward the principle that this form of learning  “requires no teacher and relates solely to the meaning-making process of the individual’s direct experience”.

So while to the left we have instructional designers, and to the right game designers – emerging in the middle are people intent on linking the two – not through novelty or token gestures, but seeing games as fundamentally being player-game and player-player interactions.

Inside most games, there is no ‘teacher’ role as teachers might see themselves. During a game session, meaning is constructed, transmitted and applied in social transactions. The function of the teacher, is not to teach, but to be an allotelic function on the game – to create game play where by players act according to outside goals and sources of motivation, embedded in the rules – and to facilitate that transaction. There is absolutely no reason to believe that these rules or transactions would not include the need to demonstrate knowledge or comprehension of mathematics, science, literature or language for example.

What I think is happening more and more is that teachers who see game based learning as a viable pedagogy are often interested in both game design and instructional design. This is perhaps an often not metioned by-product of Web2.0, as most teacher exploring Web2.0 are by neccessity exploring instructional design, often though play.

It seems logical that these people want to create and use game-worlds. To them a game-world is a natural and perhaps necessary evolution of online/distance learning – and quite often they describe their work though in humanstic terms and use a new learning theory – connectivism – to get together and make these things. It’s the ultimate robot-building-challenge, seeking the ultimate level up.

Think it’s too ambitious? I don’t, after all Gamers just solved a decade’s old medical problem in ten days. When gamers get funding, they get organised, when they get organised they put all that collective power to highly purposeful work. So the best way to not achieve this is simply not to give gamers money.

The challenge for games right now is not to get into the classroom, but to find ways to function away from them using the topologies that already exist. They’ll keep doing it while ever these networks of player-designers feel games are being excluded from the classroom.

Games are not like Web2.0, they already have a critical mass and experienced learners willing to volunteer. They are called kids – and when kids start teaching kids, in worlds created for that purpose … then are pushing third generation educational gaming in exactly the right direction.

Virtual School isn’t school shovelled into an LMS, it has the potential to be something all together more stunning.

Questioning the Net Generation

Yesterday I briefly spoke in a webinar about Essential Questions (Driving Questions) in project based learning – and how difficult teachers often find it to write them initially.

There are some questions that we can draw from how kids play digital video games that go someway to helping create a play book for inquiry.

This post is, if you like, a walk-through of designing for inquiry. It starts out simple and ends up quite complex. The role of the teacher, as I see it, is to decide the depth to which students should explore – rather than the boundaries.

Questions that game designers pose continually though their game-mechanic demands include: Challenge or Destroy; Decide if; Figure out how; Persuade or Convince others; Wonder; Get to know a place or person; Dismiss erroneous information and tasks; Predict; Understand and Relate.

So in presenting ‘big ideas’ to students

  • What do suppose would happen if we took away the Internet?
  • If it’s true – how might  Global Warming make our lives different?
  • If you could change the town we live in, how would you make it better?
  • If you were the boy in this story, how would you handle the problem he faces?
  • If you were the woman in this story, how would you change things to make them better?

Inside this kind of inquiry, there are multiple opportunities to explore sub-themes and topics. The key challenge for teachers is to accept the idea that Blooms Taxonomy – though still an effective model, doesn’t ask the same questions in the same order that much of the Internet – and games do. Following on from that, the online spaces we use to drive these inquiries – not least games and virtual worlds – are increasingly important and familiar to students.

For example: A typical inquiry question might be – Go and find out about Nelson Mandela (or any other leader, prime minister, president). What did he or she do?

This typically fits the Blooms Taxonomy. Low order efforts rises to some sort of production, typically a story, poster or presentation. It doesn’t have enough in it to make it massively productive.

A revised example: What were the five distinguishing characteristics of Mandela? How did they contribute to his success or failures? What makes him so great or not so great? What are the three most important things you learned about him that might serve you well?

Of course, this revised example is a series of questions, not one single ‘task’. It’s also devoid of teaching, but relies entirely on learning. Within this, we can also create smaller quests; based on game-mechanics. These may be in what game designers call a chain, a series of steps that gradually make unconnected tasks make sense and relate to the bigger topic.

Goal: I want you to watch this video

What you need to do: From the lyrics, decide what it is trying to challenge or destroy?

How do you know you’ve done it: Post your response by selecting key lines of the song and convincing me why they are, or were important ideas.

Reward: The Researcher’s Trinket.

At times, it is useful to only sketch out your essential question while you map the design though a series of quests (I don’t like the idea of task these days). Eventually you can fine-tune your question to hint at a theme running through them.

Notice here that I’m not creating or demanding the use of any particular technology, but I am demanding constant inquiry. The over-arching or driving question might be “Can Music Build a Nation”, the end product might be a song they create … or anything.

This video is fan-made on YouTube, a remix/mashup of a song that appeared on a TV show originally. It’s really important, I think, that teachers allow students to explore their culture and identity, which includes media and artists that might not be appearing on their own iPad (or record player) currently.

If you want to drive some wonderment; try getting students to figure out the connections between SKA, Reggae, Marcus Garvey and Nelson Mandela.

You could even show them something like this, a grim, underground anthem from the 1990s and ask them why this video appealed to the generation at the time.

By leveling up the questions, and dropping in challenging ideas, it’s possible to map the inquiry, without limiting the boundaries. The role for the teacher in all of this is to be a skilled designer and weaver of conversation, which to me seems a leap of faith in that the classroom has to become a learning space, not a teaching one, and this then leads me to see virtual space as learning space … this switch seems important to me, as without it, no technology is going to change anything, but on the bright side it de-bunks this brain missing idea that teachers have to find time to ‘make’ new digital resources.

I advocate for PBL (and similar) because it’s the best way to create the time – and the critical thinking that appeals to a generation on the IV-Drip of games and online culture.

Three NEW things we need to see in education

cc licensed flickr photo by Heini Samuelsen:

Cognitive science tells us that learning with technology is a duel-band activity, which in some way explains our desire to live in a world with multiple tabs, multiple devices and multiple streams of information at our finger-tips.

This post is about actively dealing with three things: cognitive load and capacity, the modality in which we teach and learn, and the filter.

I’m going to argue we can’t have it all, but 2 out of 3 aint bad – if we at least get 2 things right – and we’re not yet getting it right.

Learning modalities are the sensory channels or pathways through which individuals give, receive, and store information.  Many students have pervasive access to technology and potentially engaged in extraneous (no relevance), essential (selecting) or generative (organising, integrating, making) activities. I think, that the common modalities we use – don’t really teach use much about our cognitive capacity, but overload us. Our motivational and emotion responses -(which make up a third of our belief-making brain activity) is not to persist.

Take a typical professional development vignette


cc licensed flickr photo by RDECOM:

The presenter has a pre-made Powerpoint, with a dozen or so slides. The room is set up with computers and the presenter has a handout. The intention is to teach the teacher why and how to use some web-tool in their practice to improve learning.

This is arrangement, classically presented to teachers as good practice, is also how most teachers encounter professional development.

Think about the first two things:  modality and cognitive load. Powerpoint to audience decode, translate to the desktop, more input, more trial and error, more questions than answers. All the time the day’s agenda moves forward. Each participant has differing prior-experience, different capacity. The method of instruction presents a high cognitive load. How many times have you been here – fumbling to work the machine, grasp the purpose or the imperative as the presenter says “let’s move on”. It is only our familiarity with this environment that makes it feel normal and unsatisfying. – We can’t be surprised to find decreasing motivation in staff and students when this strategy is presented time and time again.

A second vignette: The keynote speaker delivers a presentation, full of motivation and emotional arguments. The audience lacks the modality to en-mass separate erroneous, essential and generative. The presenter fails to address socially independent knowledge and meaning (the other two thirds of brain-making belief). We are entertained, perhaps inspired, but how many have the capacity to action it. There are many reasons for this, the most toxic is that the presenter – is in-accessible after the presentation, a common problem when we import speakers because of their past profile or because the point of epoch they speak from – is a concensus point for the assumed audiences cognitive capacity – and sadly the popular ‘sweet spot’ messages often imitated as a result – with no evaluation.

Both these common experiences are producing marginal gains in teachers being able to rethink the modality and method they use with technology in learning and teaching. Now I’d like to look at perception, disruption and distortion in relation to filtering.



cc licensed flickr photo by simonov:

Also think about how we present ‘the internet’ as a media and not a method by which learning occurs. We cannot be shocked when students lose interest and motivation, when we present it in an almost opposite modality. They are not distracted, just intensely more interested in socially independent uses of technology at their finger-tips – as they have greater capacity to engage with it this way, that to learn in the manner I described earlier.


The filter  is a very blunt tool to deal with erroneous information and is a subjective as Alan Jones on gin. [excellent social studies clip there]

The filter distorts how we access and manage essential and generative opportunities – and counter-acts the modality of learning that students experience in just about every other area of their technological-lives. It wasn’t designed to do this – it was created to remove risk to the organization, preventing accidental or deliberate access to pornography, hate, drugs, violence etc., but has evolved into a social-filter without any real evidence or discussion with teachers or students. The filter is also applied vary differently between systems, and often between schools.

“there was no evidence that online predators were stalking or abducting unsuspecting victims based on information they posted at social networking sites.” – Crimes Against Children Research Center (CCRC) at the University of New Hampshire, March 2008.

THE SEMANTIC DISRUPTION – The end is coming.

cc licensed flickr photo by See-ming Lee 李思明 SML:

Today much of filter-policy ignorantly assumes the internet’s role in education is predominantly as media delivery mechanism and not a medium to support a method. To some degree, few parents and teachers are lobbying for anything else – making it a social issue, not so much a school one.

Filtering (as we know it) assumes information remains static in the way it is organised and identified. Emerging semantic technology – draws heavily on information produced socially – ending the time where ‘the internet’ was experienced as separate experiences or compartments. Only silly minds will think the browser and laptop will be pervasive in the next decade.

Current policy often fails to recognize youth agency: young people as participants, stakeholders, and leaders in an increasingly participatory environment online and offline.

For the most part, the filter is a crude stop/go mechanism. Given the lack of training to helps teachers learn to manage, create and use technology in sympathy with real world modality. Social filtering distorts learning because it’s not safety from bad outcomes but safety for positive ones. We want to students to be be safe, but do we want our children to play in places that are only safe? This brings me back to modality – and the neo-classical depiction of a classroom. Projector, Laptops, Filter – is this how we want children to learn and teachers to teach?


In the old days, circa 2000 – technology that power’s social media used to be called ‘application service provision‘. Clearly tools like Twitter carry ‘media’ information socially – but the term itself is misleading, popularised by culture and group bias – and even inside the believers, there is argument over what it actually means and affords society. It’s a word, along with Web2.0 that is meaningless to the majority.

Clearly GoolgeDocs, WordPress, Wikispaces etc provide a modality of learning which are clearly different to pornography – yet suffer from filtration (something I’ll come to next). Recent research finds kids are more at risk of peer-use of networks in abusive ways – than from people they don’t know.


  • We have, like it or not, chosen to put technology into learning and teaching though government and organizational investment.
  • We cannot afford to accept we don’t need to train (and mentor) teachers to see technology as a method and find better modality in how we do it.
  • We need to accept how much more powerful technology is when used through personalisation and allowing people to become socially independent learners.
  • We need to accept, that in terms of cognitive load, capacity and modality – technology does not give rise to Frankensteinian epoch moments we can push out as being ‘the future’ or something to ‘work towards’ – but that as events that need corresponding change in education immediately.
  • What we did before and what we do after any epoch moment – causes greater distortion in the classroom.

TWO OUT OF THREE AIN’T BAD – Something I can live with

In approaching teacher development and support – we have to recognise that teachers are capable of asking for help, and that request comes from a professional capacity. What they do out of work is entirely their business. This is a blurred message much of the time – perhaps most problematic in the current popular dialogue of the personal learning network.

  • We need to find ways that we reduce the cognitive load needed to learn something essential – but delete the erroneous – in the classroom.
  • We should stay clear of generative desires when helping and mentoring them – as generating content is now seen as a chore, rather than creative joy.
  • Teachers should not believe that making more content is better – or required in pursuit of using technology in the classroom. (busy-thoughts).
  • Most of all we need to accept that the envelope in which we often work is not realistic – but a simulation of the real world. There is no shame in being clear about this with students – so that they recognise where the classroom-end point is, and where they need to start taking responsibility for their future. Even if this is to find a grade-school game that they could use at home to learn maths, that is banned in school.

Two out of three aint bad, as Meatloaf said.

Accept that we can’t have it all – we never did, and we never will – we live in amazing times, with mind-blowing complexity – but there are ways to do a lot of good with what we have … and each time we do … we push negativity one step further backwards as we make more sense of the positive.

Breathing Earth – Visualisation of our world

VISUALISING information is something that today’s online generation recognises as ‘feedback’. The interface is not so much a ‘tool’ to intereact; but a system from which they gather information about the ‘world’ and their impact though the cycle of decision/outcome that occurs. Breathing Earth is a stunning example of what ‘good design’ beings to statistical information and how colour, layout and typographic information helps create a more engaging shared reality. There are numerous uses for this; not least in playful learning, and well worth checking out.

A fresh approach to Higher Ed Course Design

There are times when you hear someone talk and you think, bloody hell! – that is going to change everything. Now it seems you only need to read 140 characters, and get the same reaction.

Howard Rheingold posted a link to his ‘social media’ wiki on Twitter.

It’s not the fact it is a wiki and not a course in Moodle, WebCT or Black Board that is impressive though.  HR has built a very sophisticated information architecture that is simple to get around (a massive step forward in itself) and packed it with language that leaves students in little doubt as to the how exciting, challenging and rewarding the course will be.

It’s not there to ‘inform’ in the way most online courses do. It’s not some kind of digital point of reference (though it does that superbly) either. It’s language advocates adoption, adaption and infusion of technology, as a transformational experience that will deliver life long benefits. In just a few pages – HR clarifies, engages and sets up his course as being something you just want to sink your teeth into.

For example: students will have practiced mindful self-observation of the ways they use their own attention. Increased facility at inquiry and collaboration are other meta-skills diligent students should expect to gain: the methodology of collaborative inquiry used in this course is expected to generalize beyond the classroom.

Another significant element of the site is the ‘How To’. He’s immediately set out his expectations, guidelines and criteria for success. He talks clearly about how that success will come about using a range of ‘un-passive’ technologies … but then immediately scaffolds them out of ‘entry’ level uses of technology with a self help guide on how to blog, make a wiki page etc.,

He’s not treating the method of evidencing learning as a separate ‘training manual’. The learning method for evidence is using the tools themselves.

This is the best and most influential ‘course design’ example I’ve seen – but I’m not surprised – as HR is just inspirational.

Digital Winter

I’ve been working on a (not sure what to call it) – thing that’s a bit too big now to call a blog post.

But the idea in it is that of students being in a ‘digital winter’ when it comes to ICTs. I think that several years ago, ICTs were more engaging to students, but as technology became ubiquatous in their lives, the activities often have not moved on.

So the ‘digital winter’ is the idea that many students have frosted over in ICT lessons and are reasonably ‘cold’ when it comes to motivation. Perhaps this is why so many simply copy and paste information, rather than become engaged. We talk about students being passive in ICT, but I think it’s worse than that, I think they are often stone cold.

So in designing activities in mainstream classes (not project based learning), I think that rather than being a teacher, you have to think about being and ‘information architect’.

How do we present information so that it thaws out students? How do we present it to students so that they engage with it – from multiple perspectives?

Central to that is finding ways in which the activity itself relegates a lot of the ‘copy and paste’ experiences to what they in fact are, low order thinking.

How can we ‘copy and paste proof’ learning and raise the levels of learning to higher order thinking? How can we do that with out making it overly complex, or too prescriptive? How can EdTechs (if there is such a person) model this to teachers who may have fairly low interest in ICT, or have limited access to it? ...

There are a lot of questions raised, just in thinking about developing an activity that uses read/write methods, so its very helpful when students help you out with some of them.

One thing I’ve learned, forum discussions are best used when students start them. They tend to attract 4x the responses than if a teacher does.

Teachers should join the conversation when asked and not wade in with their thoughts. Being seen overtly monitoring and commenting in a discourse community makes it a ‘creepy tree house’. The value of the forum is often that you get a window on the ‘zone of proximity’.

Here is an example of students doing just this.

Create entry documents that are are ‘short’ on details. Let the students identify this! It creates discussion.

The project is introduced, not all answers given at the outset. It is a concious decision – not to give out all the answers, or even all the information. Un-packing a brief is as important as answering it.

I’ve lost count how many times in the past that I’ve told students when reviewing exams ‘read the question!’.

Maybe they do, they are just not great at unpacking it. Creating discussion allows them to ‘find fault’ – something they love to do – and it helps them unpack the overall picture. Sneeky, but it works.

I also try to desk-top-publish briefing documents.

Okay, so I’m an ex-art director (ouch the salary drop hurts) so its not that hard for me to knock out some InDesign or Photoshop – but presenting the task as visually ‘different, is another key motivator. Advertisers know the value of making visual statements that make people stop and think.

More often than not, most school assessment tasks are rather bland and predicatable word documents off a ‘schooly’ template. They represent a slow test, not an exciting activity.

Back to the Digital Springtime … creating peer debate and interest motivates. Motivation leads to effort.

One for All Grade Assignments

Rather than design an assessment task that is handed out in several grade classes, and worked on in ‘silos’. I am learning that desiging one in which the entire grade work in a discourse community – works better. It is also way easier to model and support the teachers – who are also often thawing out.

Using your PLN to bring ‘outsiders’ into the project makes it more authentic and adds more interest. What is great to find out are forum discussions that indicate that the students are warming to undertaking the task.

In a grade task, it only takes 5% of students to get engaged early, to draw the interest of the others. Immediately, a new pedogogy is created, and the project takes off. Just be sure to call it a study group with Senior Students, not a Blog or a Ning or whatever. Does it work? well this project went live 1st September 2008, this discussion was started 3 days after. The students are indeed not used to this ‘kind’ of learning – but they do engage with it – once they thaw out a little.

I read and thought about Kim’s post about the professional development cycle, and this lead me to think about the learning cycle.

  • Re-engagement comes from out of a “Digital Winter”, so you need to suprise and generate interest in a project though their curiosity.
  • “Digital Spring” happens when a few students start to ‘try’ out the EdTech and sandbox it – More students watch, than take part, but never the less, the hit stats show that more visit than post.
  • “Digital Summer” happens when kids start to lead the discource community, taking over often from the early adopters, and from the teachers
  • “Digital Fall/Autumn (proper)” – the evaluation and reflection of the project – usually started again by students.

Of course what we are all dreaming of is the Endless Summer! You want to make sure the Winter is short. So that we can learn from the task, and invent a better one!