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Tag: cool tools

Prezenting Prezi – a Choose Your Own Adventure

Yesterday I offered a DIY, ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ style introduction to Prezi – the zooming presentation tool-  at my school’s afternoon PD session. Embedded in the instructional design of the session was the concept of using Prezi without a set Path: modelling the student as the guide for their own learning. That made me the ‘Guide on the Side’ not the ‘Sage on the Stage’. I was struck how hard many of the staff found that approach.

If you’d like to participate, just  respond to the prompts, make decisions, follow the choices and play with this engaging tool.

The Great Wall of Minecraft

“Play is the exultation of the possible.” Martin Buber


What follows is a short video shot on my iPhone that is less than 10 minutes in duration. It celebrates the passion, ingenuity, creativity, dedication and determination of a student who, when offered any way to present her findings in an integrated unit on the legacies of ancient civilisations, selected Minecraft as her method. She can see what is possible in such games. Pleas view to the end to hear her final remarks about what she likes about the game.

She built a huge section of the walll, did the research and learned an incredible amount about her topic. Then, feeling unfulfilled, went on to create traditional Chinese dwellings and then start construction of the Forbidden City. Her sources? Google Earth of course! One virtual model inspiring another. Why not books? She couldn’t get inside and work out all the proportions!

My role in this endeavor was just to encourage her to pursue her passion and question historical accuracy as you can hear in the video.

I’m downloading Minecraft even as I type this. There is so much to learn about play, dedication and creativity from these young experts.

3D ‘Gee’-lab

“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents
still differentiate between a time for learning
and a time for play without seeing
the vital connection between them.”

~ Leo F. Buscaglia


You might not think it but I’m at Summer Camp right now. Amidst the usual daily activities a teacher engages in – enthusing, encouraging, counseling, creating, critiquing, cleaning, scheduling and caffeinating I’m also playing computer games alongside some friends old and new and learning about game-based learning through Boise State University’s 3D Gamelab initiative.

I’m not new to game-based learning thanks to Indiana University’s Quest Atlantis and some dabbling with Second Life. This Summer Camp is an opportunity to Beta test Boise’s CMS that has some striking features. In the image below you will see my scorecard which charts my progress though the course. I earn experience points in learning the design tools, understanding the pedagogical approach of game-based learning whilst also gaining points in my stumbling forays into World of Warcraft for schools and other online games.

Milarepa's 3D Gamelab score card

One of the key champions of Game-based learning is the visionary James Paul Gee. A task on the Mechanics of  game-based learning asked me to view an interview he gave to Edutopia and comment on three key areas. But first I’d like to share four of the salient points from the interview.

  • Future focused education needs to allow students to solve problems, think creatively, create collaboratively and innovate rather than churn through standardised tests.
  • video games are one significant way that young people develop skills in problem solving
  • video games are a continuous assessment that provides immediate feedback and a sense of progress
  • School textbooks are really game manuals that need to be used to support game ‘play’ but we tend to implement them as if they were the games themselves –

Clearly, Boise has listened to Gee’s passionate call for game-based learning to be taken seriously.

These are the three questions I was asked to reflect upon.

1. How might a teacher apply even ONE characteristic of games and game environments (choice, progress bars, etc.)  to a typical unit or module of instruction?

Choice is essential, particularly when working with adolescents. They crave ownership of their own lives. Also, choice can pertain to choice of one might learn a concept of skill, so we can cater for different learning styles here. For example, when teaching about figurative language one could write clear instructions or provide diagrams or embed Youtube videos or even ask students to create their own understanding to be shared with others.

2. What reflections or thoughts do you have about Jim Gee’s notion of the paradigm shift?  How will it change your school or institution?

I am an early adopter of game-based approaches. The greatest challenge is to have teachers see the value of games as means of sharing content as so many teachers are sadly content driven. Games also require flexible completion times given that one can play and replay to achieve mastery. Schools that have set hours for curriculum might struggle with this notion. It would certainly change the school if we were asked to make time for games across the board.

3. What unique insight can you take away from this discussion?

The consideration that text books are game manuals was a radical notion. Having just started playing World of Warcraft for this course I completely agree with Gee’s ideas on this. I baulked at the game-manual when presented with it despite its glossy appearance and reading it was a nightmare of technical language that bored me. Playing the game gave me a reason to refer to the book when I got stuck which caused a wonderful shift in my thinking.

The 3D Gamelab has a lot of offer. More on this later. But right now, having completed this Blog post I’m off to submit it and claim my prize of

a) knowledge

b) enthusiasm for the methodology and

c) 50 experience points!


Voicethread postcard from America

This is a Voicethread that looks at both the work and the play I experienced during the Churchill Fellowship.

Blogging about Glogging

‘Memory is history recorded in our brain, memory is a painter it paints pictures of the past and of the day.‘ ~ Anna Mary Robertson Moses


The 3 days of eLearning and Pedagogy training as left many of us bursting with creativity and a whole swag of ideas. It is sincerely hoped that we recall that enthusiasm and vigour for the benefit of our fellow teachers and students.

Whilst we started work on some new online courses for use in our blended environment,  several significant concepts were brought to our attention by Dr Lisa Dawley- C.R.A.P Design principles, Backwards Design to name just two. Most profound would be the Edtech leaders Online Course Elements Checklist that is bound to be a constant companion to us all in the upcoming months.

Serious stuff aside, I was very exciting by the discovery of Graphic Blogs – Glogs and could not wait to have a play. Being a visual learner who has struggled with linear, text based learning, this elicited a deep sigh of relief. Now I could be more inventive with my notetaking through using Glogster! I could add hyperlinks and videos (not this time, sadly) Secondly, this could spare me from any more drab rectangles of cardboard with stuff glued on which have become the bane of my marking life. It’s exciting to contemplate what my students could come up with with this technology.

What you’ll find below was completed in about 20 minutes and is a rough draft of the highlights of the training we received. Its a sketch from my memory. It is not a comprehensive portrait- I’ve saved the more accurate record for my Livescribe pen homepage which recorded all my notes and the audio for the three days. I’ll revisit them at my pleasure later and craft a more meaningful picture.


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