Sunday, August 6, 2017

EDTECH 541 Final reflection

Integrating technology into my teaching practice has always been something I did out of instinct and not design.  Taking EDTECH 541 has changed that now by providing me with a framework of determining the relative advantage of using certain technologies and to match them with specific learner outcomes.  Integrating technology is more than simply trying out the “cool” thing that is currently creating buzz; it is making conscious decisions on helping students learn and that is a lesson I will try and promote to my colleagues.  I also feel that learning about integrating technology in areas that I have no expertise will help me out immensely as I am now an administrator and part of my portfolio is to oversee the school’s use of technology. I have a few reluctant staff members and I think that I can now approach them with some ideas on how to help their students by integrating technology.  My one regret is not having school in session so I could try some of these great ideas out or discuss them with my staff members.  Rest assured I will be doing so in September.  In fact, I am planning on starting an initiative to match up early adopters with reluctant tech users so that we can, as a school, implement effective technology in each of our curricular areas.  I imaging helping these teachers create their own networks of supportive staff members and in the end using the investment of technology to its fullest potential.  Overall, I think this courses has allowed me to gain mastery in many of the
AECT standards.  These one stand out :
  • 1.3 Instructional Strategies: with the work we have done on designing effective learning activities while integrating technology;
  • 2.4 Integrated Technologies: the development of integrated technologies;
  • 5.3 Formative and Summative Evaluation: when considering the courses readings, I feel confident about my ability to assess the appropriateness of edtech tools.

In terms of my performance, I have strived to always produce professional content for my webpage.  In fact, I have already shared many of the lessons I created with my colleagues in our Social Studies department. I’m also looking forward to sharing my completed website as well.  I think that pride in my work is a good indicator on how I feel about my performance.  I have also strived to create thoughtful blog posts for each topic.  This is where I got to expose myself to some research and other opinions and I think in the end these really helped me grow.  If there was one area where I wish I could improve on is the feedback I gave my classmates on their blogs.  I offered comments but I always wish they could be more constructive.  In the end however, it was always interesting to read how others perceived our topics.

Overall, this course has helped me see the the powerful role an educational technologist plays in an educational setting and I appreciate that this was always the focus of the course’s design.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

EDTECH 541 Justifying investment in assistive technology

Those of us in public education understand that there are a finite amount of funds and infinite demands for those funds.  Currently, the question is whether Assistive Technology (AT) is justifiable given that only a small number of students will benefit from the investments made.  This perspective seems to assume that all AT comes at great cost and that what benefits a minority of our population has no benefits for the majority.  Both of these perspectives are inaccurate.  At the same time, I believe we have a moral obligation to reducing as many barriers to learning as possible for our students.  

Assistive technology is simply a tool to help certain learners get over barriers similar to the reading glasses I now have to put on to overcome the barrier of aging.  I certainly wouldn’t deny myself that assistance and neither should we deny these tools for our students.  Some would suggest that providing assistive tools and services is too expensive.  In fact, some AT is expensive but at the same time some of it is rather simple.  As technology advances, the costs of these technologies are coming down.  In fact, legislation like the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on disabilities (LD Online, nd)  and thus is increasing the demand for these products.  With higher demand comes lower costs.  Computer operating systems also come equipped with basic assistive technologies as well.  My MacBook can easily do text to speech for people with reading barriers or even use voice controls for people with physical limitations.  A quick google search will find a plethora of free assistive apps for all sorts of devices.  Frankly, I think the cost argument against AT has lost relevance. In fact, these technologies lead to more inclusion and inclusion is proving to be more cost effective than operating pull out programs (The Understood Team, n.d)

Assistive technology can help all students as every student has unique needs (Government of Alberta, Alberta Education, 2017).  In fact, there is more and more documentation that states that all students benefit from increased use of AT as it helps more kids reach their potential and helps students become more confident (Ianyst, 2014).  In the current state of education, AT is just part of what we do.  It is part of the responsibility of educational institutions to provide the tools necessary for all students to succeed.  We wouldn’t deny me the use of my reading glasses at school so why would we deny a student the tool they need to succeed.


5 Benefits of inclusion classrooms. (2014-2017). Understood: For learning and attention issues. Retrieved  from

Family Center on Technology and Disability. (2017). Assistive technology laws.  LD OnLine. Retrieved from
Government of Alberta, Alberta Education. (2017). Inclusive education- overview. Retrieved from

Family Center on Technology and Disability. (2017). Assistive technology laws.  LD OnLine. Retrieved from

Saturday, July 29, 2017

EDTECH 541- Obstacles and solutions in integrating technology in the Language Arts Classroom

As with any curricular area, English Language Arts faces specific challenges when it comes to integrating technology with this discipline.  In many ways, the challenges the language arts teacher faces are daunting as the responsibility of teaching literacy lies within this realm.  As with many challenges, there are also solutions that can be found within technology as well.

Reconciling traditional literacy skills with new 21st century competencies is one issue faced by language arts teachers.  How do you teach traditional reading and writing skills (literacy) in a world where communication technologies are rapidly evolving? It appears that “new literacies” (Roblyer, 2015, p. 261) are required to be taught in language arts and finding the balance between old and new is challenging.  These digital literacies are outlined by Roblyer (2015, p. 262) and include: developing proficiency with new technology tools, strengthening independent thought, analyzing and synthesizing of information and content creation.  Solutions can actually be found within educational technology.  Students can develop these skills using an abundance of Web 2.0 tools such as writing blogs and microblogs, analyzing comments in social media or by publishing their own ebook.

Another obstacle to overcome is helping teachers develop their own technological capacity. Young and Bush state that we “ must cultivate the same media and technology literacy we desire for students among our teachers” (2004).  Teachers often lack the knowledge and confidence to implement the technological desires of policy makers.  This obstacle can be overcome by designing effective professional development for English teachers that can bridge the old and new literacies as well as outlining the relative advantages of new technologies.  Engaging educational technologists to assist with this is critical as they can guide teachers through the process.  This can be done by creating a professional network in Google+ or a staff wiki. Quite often, in my school setting, technology is purchased and teachers are left to figure things out themselves.  In my opinion, this strategy only serves to perpetuate a digital divide among teachers between those who are tech savvy and those that aren’t.  If we are committed to teaching our students 21st-century competencies then a more structured implementation is required.  

As with many issues in educational technology, the solutions are often found within the same technology that causes the reluctance in the first place. Implementing educational technology in language arts can cause challenges for teachers and students but our changing world demands that students become literate in new ways and the language arts class is ideally set up to do just that.  To make this possible, language arts teachers need guidance and support by educational technologists and decision makers to make sure they have the knowledge and skills necessary to take on this new role.

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.

Young, C. A. & Bush, J. (2004). Teaching the English language arts with technology: A critical approach and pedagogical framework. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education [Online serial], 4(1). Retrieved from

Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Relative Advantage of Implementing Technology into the Second Language Classroom

One of my roles as vice principal is to act as the liaison for our World Languages Department.  We provide classes in French, Spanish and Japanese at our school and our teachers are very dedicated to providing students with a wonderful classroom experience.  However, technology usually doesn’t play a large role in this.  I welcome the opportunity to outline the relative advantages of using technology in the realm of learning a second language.  You will notice that I focus on French as a Second Language (FSL) as I used to be an FSL teacher and it is the traditional second language most students learn in Canada.

Roblyer outlines two issues in foreign language learning.  “There is the need to create authentic learning experiences that expose learners to native speakers and there is the need to create a broader audience and purpose for student creation” (2015, p 291).  

Technology can play a role in addressing these two issues.  For one, classrooms can access online tools that can expose them to a wide range of native speakers.  For example, Radio France International broadcasts the daily news in a format directed and language level specifically for French language learners.  Exposure to other accents and voices is critical for second language learners as it pushes them to get out of their comfort zone.  As a former FSL teacher, I know my students could understand me but had difficulty understanding someone else who spoke French.

In addressing, the need for a broader audience, technology provides communication tools that open up the world to a classroom.  Using a video conferencing tool like Skype can allow students to speak to more than their classmates.  They can speak with virtually anyone but setting up meetings with another class in a foreign country is more possible than ever.  Modern communications technology provides learners with the chance to overcome this limitation (Pim, 2013, p. 23) and speak with native languages speakers in an authentic manner.

The advantages of technology in foreign language learning do not end here and it is a shame that integration of technology is not more widespread.  Virtual field trips are possible and easily accomplished by using a service like Learn around the world. There are a number of computer assisted language learning websites and games (think Duolingo).  There are even virtual villages in Second Life where visitors can practice almost any language. Above all, integrating technology provides more authentic situations for language learners to practice and improve their language skills.  Language is communication so it only makes sense that second language learning benefits from advancements in ICT.

Pim, C. (2013). Emerging technologies, emerging minds: Digital innovations within the primary sector. In G. Motteram (Ed.), Innovations in learning technology for English language teaching (pp. 17-42).  London, England: British Council.  

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.

Monday, July 3, 2017

EDTECH 541- Walled Gardens and Social Media

This weeks entry has been done within Voice Thread.  In this Voice Thread I voice my opinions on maintaining "walled gardens" and embracing social media in our classrooms.  Have a listen and add your voice to the "thread" by leaving a comment.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

EDTECH 541 Acceptable Use Policies

As technologies becomes common place in all educational environments and society in general, it is important to teach students/users what is acceptable and unacceptable practice.  The first step in the formation of responsible users is an effective acceptable use policy.  Simply put, an acceptable use policy (AUP)outlines how a school or school district expects its community to behave while using their networks and hardware (Common Sense Education, 2017). An AUP helps manage users behaviour and keep all users safe while online.  In a world, where one's digital footprint is everlasting, these contracts are important in maintaining a positive online environment.

When developing an AUP,  officials should include certain elements.  According to Education World, AUP's should have a preamble where the importance and purpose of the document is discussed.  There should also be a definition section where specific terminology is clarified.  For example, what is considered a district piece of hardware,  what is a network etc. There should be a policy statement that outlines the conditions students  must abide by before they can use technology.  Also, acceptable and unacceptable uses should be clearly outlined.  For example, students may use resources that are connected to their curricula but may not use the district's wifi network to engage in abusive behaviour towards others.  Finally, violations of policy and sanctions should be outlined as well.(Education World, 2017).   The best AUPs incorporate what if scenarios in their creation (Michell, 2016).  What if a student cyberbullies another?  What if a student downloads something illegally? What if a staff member ignores copyright?  These questions and many more emphasize the need for such policies to exist.

Here are some examples of Acceptable Use Policies.  I have included my own district's policy which, as it turns out, is not a very good example of what an AUP should be.

Red Deer Public Schools- My own district's net user agreement with policy included. Looks like it needs an update. This document also addresses computer access in our district.

Calgary Board of Education- This is from the largest school district in Alberta. 

Seattle Board of Education-  From the home of Microsoft.

Credo Christian High School- This well worded policy is from a small high school outside of Vancouver, British Columbia


Common Sense Education. (n.d.). 1 to 1 essentials: Acceptable use policies.  Retrieved from

Education World. (2009).Getting started on the Internet: Developing an acceptable use policy (AUP). Retrieved from:

Mitchell, B. (2016, September 16). Introduction to acceptable use policies (AUP).  Retrieved from

Monday, June 26, 2017

EDTECH 541 Video Blog

This week's entry is a little different.  I have created a video blog where I asked colleagues about how and why they use video in their classrooms.  They all have a variety of answers but a common theme to there answers is how video enhances their students learning.  Here are their responses:

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Relative Advantage of the Google Suite

I have been using the basic Google suite of tools (word processor, spreadsheet and presentation tool) for a few years now and I have found a number of advantages to using them in a classroom setting. In fact, it seems like Google created these tools with teachers in mind.As with any basic suite of software, the G suite allows for improved productivity, improved appearance, improved accuracy, and  more collaboration (Roblyer, 2015).  These qualities are what all software suites would boast so what is the relative advantage of the Google suite?

The cloud based aspect of this suite is one relative advantage.  By not being tied to a particular machine, users can work on their files anywhere there is an internet or wifi connection.  This is very liberating and allows for redefinition of the work place.  I can easily do my work on my desktop in my office at work then continue working in my backyard on my laptop seamlessly.  Because everything is constantly  saved to your Google Drive, files are constantly being backed up and saved automatically. G suite really does increase productivity.

Another advantage of these tools are their relative ease of use.  Google designed their suite to only include the features of word processors, spreadsheets and presentation tools that people use most (Grevstad, 2016).  The lack of complex features is a big bonus when the majority of users are not tech savy.  The same can be said for classroom use, as the suite is easily used by learners of all ages.

The collaborative nature of Google tools is the suite’s greatest asset in the educational setting.  Teachers can collaborate easily together in developing materials.  Items can be transferred from one person’s “drive” to another simply by using the share button in every Google file.  Teachers can edit students' work, informally assessing them by using the comment feature in Google Docs.  Students can collaborate with each other within this suite which has helped reinvent what can be considered outputs for student work.  For example, students can share research collaboratively on a single document shared with the class or collaborate with each other during the writing process.

Grevstad, E. (2016, October 16). At home with Google G Suite. Retrieved from

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card]. Pearson College Div.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

EDTECH 541 Reflections on the 2017 Horizon Report's Preview

I always get a little excited when the Horizon Report comes out.  I feel like by reading it, I become privy to information that few teachers get even though they could easily access it. Reading the preview of the 2017 report has me thinking about how some knowledge of what is on the “horizon” is already affecting my teaching practice in the realm of Social Studies. Of all the upcoming trends that this report highlights, I can see three that could be integrated easily in my area of the school and in some cases, have already started to implement.

Redesigning learning spaces is one area that interests me a great deal.  Already, early adopters in my school are started to embrace the notion that our classrooms should be more student-centred than teacher centric (Horizon Report, page 4).  This idea follows the notion that we need to teach our students how to learn as much as what to learn.  In fact, my jurisdiction has recently signed on to an Alberta Education initiative called Moving forward in High School Redesign. Under this initiative, we can allow several entry and exit points for students throughout the year.  For example, if a Math prodigy has learned an entire course by mid-march, why would we make him sit in the class until the end of June.  The goal of redesigning this structure of High School is ultimately to have students be more accountable over their education.  In fact, Alberta Education defines flexible learning environments as a place where learning is student centered and teachers are empowered to decide how best to structure time to teach students (Alberta Education, page 2). So far our experience with this flexibility has been positive.

Another trend that I have already experimented with to a certain degree is Authentic Learning Experiences.  I started to use  Project Based Learning with my classes last year as PBL’s foundation has authentic learning at its core. (Boss, 2017).  I found that when students have a real live, authentic, activity it is more meaningful and they are more apt to retain what is learned.  Although not a new phenomenon, authentic learning may go to the next level thanks to advancements in educational technology in areas like virtual reality.

Finally, our school’s makerspace (Horizon Report, page 7) is one thing that I have a keen interest in.  This is a recent addition to our Learning Commons area and now that I am the Vice-Principal responsible for tech acquisition I’ve been purchasing some pretty interesting things.  Recently, I acquired a 3D scanner that can scan a nut and bolt for example and then our 3D printer can recreate them.  In fact, if I was to evaluate my school and it’s readiness for the upcoming trends in education technology, I would give us an above average grade.


Alberta Education. (4 Mar. 2016). Foundational principles for high school redesign: Flexible learning environments. Retrieved from  <>

Boss, Suzie. (20 Sept. 2011). Project-based learning: A short history." Edutopia. Retreieved from

NMC/CoSN Horizon Report Preview 2017: K-12 edition. (25 May 2017). Retrieved from

Saturday, June 3, 2017

EDTECH 541 Mission and Vision Statement

I have been an educator for 22 years and educational technology has always been a part of my teaching practice. I have sought to use different technological resources to enhance the classroom experience of my students by listening to my instincts as an experienced teacher but I have never articulated a formal vision or mission statement about the integration of educational technology into the curriculum I teach until now.  Doing so has increased in importance for me as I have recently been appointed vice principal of my school, and one of my responsibilities is the acquisition of edtech resources for our entire school of 1700 students.  Without a clear vision, it will be difficult for me to execute these tasks in which I am now in charge.

First and foremost, I believe that educational technology can and should enhance the curricula we teach.  Teaching and learning are complex processes and educational technology can play an important role in assisting teachers to deliver knowledge and for learners to acquire that same knowledge.  Educational technology has become a huge industry with endless choices available to schools.  Recently, we have seen Smartboards, tablets, chromebooks and  handheld devices become commonplace in our classrooms.  With all this choice it may be difficult for educators to decide what technology to acquire.  If it doesn’t enhance a curriculum, don’t bother (Provenzano, 2012).

I also believe that educational technology can help bridge achievement gaps by providing assistive technology for learners with special needs.  Thanks to apps like “Read, Write Google,” students with reading difficulties can quickly and easily have text read to them.  Speech to text apps are common place and help students who normally would have needed a scribe in the past.  Students with vision problems can overcome that limitation by increasing font size on an e-reader.  Translation tools can assistant English Language Learners in schools.  It is clear that many of the challenges some of our students face can be overcome thanks to technology.  In fact, the assistive nature of educational technology is a strong reason for its use in our educational settings (Roblyer, 2015).

Technology of all sorts is ever present in all aspects of modern life.  We have smart TVs, connected appliances, wearable technology, etc.  I strongly believe we would doing our students a disservice if we didn’t embrace technology in an educational setting.  The ability to work and live in this technological world had become a core competency that we should be teaching our students.  (Alberta Education, 2016).  With limited funding, educational institutions may find it difficult to acquire educational technology but not acquiring it, is not an option.  I firmly believe we have a moral obligation to our students to integrate technology into our schools.


Alberta Education.(2016, March 17). Competencies Overview. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from

Provenzano, N. (2012, April 17). A (Very) Short Guide to Purchasing New Technology. Retrieved June 03, 2017, from

Roblyer, M. (2015). Integrating Educational Technology into Teaching Enhanced Pearson Etext Access Card. Pearson College Div.

Friday, March 31, 2017

EDTECH 532- Learning Theory Mashup

Learning Theory Mash-Up

Over the course of my studies in the Masters of Educational Technology at Boise State, I have been exposed to several different learning theories.  Discussing these theories have been an essential part of several courses I have taken.  In this post, I will “mash- up” two such theories that resonate with my own philosophy of education.  Specifically, I will look at Lave and Wenger’s Community of Practice theory and Bloom’s Mastery of Learning Theory.

Lave and Wenger theorize that it is our desire to belong to a certain group that motivates us to learn (Communities of Practice, 2016).  In turn, we create natural learning communities where those who desire knowledge can reach out and learn from others.  We often see this behaviour in gaming communities where players can improve their proficiency by seeking help in online forums and communities.  They are motivated to become more integrated in that gaming community itself.  For example, I was once a member of a gaming “clan” when playing Medal of Honor a decade ago.  Within our clans forums, I learned more and more about the game and as my knowledge grew, my stature within the clan did as well.  

Bloom’s taxonomy is well known and has always been part of my foundation as an educator. Simply put, the learner will gain proficiency in at a certain level of their learning before advancing to the next, higher level of learning. (Mastery Learning, n.d).  This is also very evident in the world of gaming.  To proceed to the next level of a game, the player must first master the current level they are on.  They will continue at that current level until the game deems they are proficient enough to move on.  This concept of scaffolding is ever present in both the educational and gaming realms.

When we mash these two theories together, I feel we achieve something akin to “Communities of Mastery”.  To acquire the desired knowledge or to reach the next level, we need our communities assistance.  We achieve clout within our community when she share the knowledge we have already acquired.  Both of these ideas serve as motivators for learner and teacher.  In the end, we want to achieve the highest level of mastery we can.  These goals also serve as motivators for both learner and player alike.

mashup (2).jpg


Communities of Practice (Lave and Wenger). (2016, June 29). Retrieved March 31, 2017, from Learning Theories,

Mastery learning. (2017, March 25). Retrieved March 31, 2017, from Wikipedia,

Sunday, March 26, 2017

EDTECH 532- Simulation Games 2- Real Time Strategy Games

Real Time Strategy are very popular with gamers who want to immerse themselves in completely different environment.  These games require strategy and  resource management while continually advancing the player through harder and harder scenarios in other words, these games provide the player with a productive struggle.

For this challenge I played to of the suggested games. World of Warcraft II and Kingdom (Total War Battles).  Both these games had similar characteristics.  They require the player to build human resources (ie craftsmen), natural resources(minerals, food, construction materials) and develop increasing battlefield capacity(stronger and stronger soldiers).  The other requirement for these simulations is time.  Players can easily play for hours at end, losing track of time.  Both of these games remind me of the Command and Conquer series of the mid 1990's which were very popular.  I believe the real secret to this genre's success is that create a viable reality withing the player.  You are whisked away to an alternate reality of sorts where you can quickly become assimilated.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

EDTECH 532-Action Games -Rytim Games

I played  Rhythm Fireworks 2 for awhile and was totally engrossed in matching keystrokes with the beat of the music.  This game is very similar to such video game hits Guitar Hero, Rock Band and Dance, Dance, revolution.  Although these games keep score, the real challenge is to keep in time with the music.  I would say they are more "pass time" than game.

Nintendo Wii really embraced this form of game in many of it's games. Some games demanded peripherals such as drum kits and guitars (Rock Band) or a mat in which you would step on arrows (DDR) that would make the user use their entire body.  I know elementary teachers that have used similar games during indoor recess, a phenomenon in Canada when the weather is too cold, to make sure students burn off excess energy.

These games have taken video games beyond just hand/eye coordination and incorporated a full body experience which requires concentration and physical coordination.  It will be interesting to see where this genre takes us to in the future.

EDTECH 532- Action Games- Driving

I forgot how much I like driving games.  Playing "Shut Up and Drive" reminded me of the arcade game "Outrun".  I think the attraction of a good racing game, like any game really, is it transports the player to a place they will probably never visit.  That is to say, the seat of a high performance race car.  Driving a car is actually a mundane task and like most people, I have been behind the wheel of my own car, and wished I could just blow by everyone

Although the sounds and the graphics are not realistic, our imagination gets captured within racing games and we are competing as if the situation were real. Racing games can be pure fantasy as well. For example, Mario Cart is one of the most popular racing games ever and it's premise is completely far-fetched.  Who can imagine a race scenario between people, dinosaurs, apes, etc in small go carts could be so compelling. Nintendo tapped into something powerful when it allowed the players to use special powers they could collect which are designed to keep everyone in the race.

Racing each other has been part of our collective experience for ever.  Ancient Greeks created the olympics, every kid races his brothers and sisters, to the door, etc It is only natural that racing games are popular with us as well

Sunday, March 5, 2017

EDTECH 532- Action Games 4 Fighting Games

I have never been a big fan of fighting games. This may because by the time Mortal Combat came out, I was in High School and playing video games became less and less of an attraction for me.  I did play the embedded  Karate Champ for awhile until I became frustrated enough to quit.  I couldn't really figure out the controls very well.  I then downloaded Brawhalla on Steam and played it for quite a while.

In the beginning, fighting games appear to be mindless games that require no skill but I have gained an appreciation for the strategy required to be successful in these games.  Instead of just punching, hitting and kicking without thinking, a successful player must actually be observant and react to what the enemy is doing.  This is very evident in the iPad game Infinity Blade.

Like all successful games, Infinity Blade gradual increases in difficulty, scaffolds the experience for the user and provides gradually increasingly abilities and rewards in the form of more powerful swords, armor, etc.

In the end, I won't be playing anymore fighting games in the near future, but it was fun to revisit this genre.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

EDTECH 532- Action Game 3

Doom, the originator of the First Person Shooter (FPS).  I remember spending hours playing this in 1994. While playing Doom again I remember, the suspense of wondering what was waiting for me around a corner and blasting the heck out of it.  Apart from shooting the enemies, there is the added challenge of solving the maze that you find yourself in.  For an added competition facture, you can improve on your time on each level.  I somehow remembering the graphics being more realistic, it must be the alternative reality that Doom created in my mind

 FPS is definitely my favourite genre of games.  I really got hooked with this particular genre of games when the original Medal of Honor came out.  These games told the story of WWII and put the player in the middle of such events as D-Day.  They also added a component of online playing where you could battle against friends by hosting a match on your own computer or a dedicated server.  This series of games lead my love of another story line which was Call of Duty, a FPS in a more modern setting.

EDTECH 532- Action Games2 Question

For this quest I played a game on Steam called Mandagon.  This is a platform style game where you control a statuesque type character.  You guide this unnamed character through a series of mazes.  In the beginning, you control through moving left/right and jumping.  Later elevators and blow holes help move as well.

There is no back story provided so the player is left to imagine what sort of quest he is on.  The game exists in Zen-like world of statues, waterfalls and calming music.  Like all good games, the more the player progresses, the more difficult the game becomes.  Eventually, I came to a place where I was stuck and could not progress any further.  Perhaps if I had a joystick or game controller and not my keyboard controls I could get over this obstacle.  Perhaps I need to take a break an come back to it later.

EDTECH 532- Embedding Sploder

Here is my attempt at creating a game in Sploder.  Sploder is a web tool that can create a variety of arcade style games using a drag and drop system.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

EDTECH 532-The gamification of education infographic

In this quest, we take a look at the following graphic on gamification which is created by Knewton and Column Five Media.

The short history portion of this infographic is of particular interest to us.  My own experience in educational gaming intersects this timeline from time to time.  For example, when I first started teaching in 1994 SimCity was one of two games installed on the computers in our computer lab (the other was Dino Park Tycoon).  Students could play these games when the lab was open at lunch or when they had completed their work and had free time.  When I think back, I can't help but think of the lost opportunities for learning we passed up as a staff by only using these games as a passive teaching/entertainment resource.  Perhaps if we new more about the power of gaming then, we could have targeted learning with these games.

I have always been a big fan of Sid Meier's Civilization series of games.  In fact, I think the Civ  III had a simulation creator where users could create their own scenarios.  I remember trying my hand at it and tried to recreate the Seven Years War between the French and English, a topic I was teaching at the time.  Unfortunately, I didn't have the time or knowledge to carry this idea through to completion.

Since my early days of teaching, I have only used games for my own entertainment but now as I reflect, I think I might pursue an idea of a historical simulation game for my EDTECH 532 project.  A game in the spirit of Civilization which could help recreate a historical period that I often have to teach.  For example, with my Grade 12 students we look at the Cold War, a nuclear deterrence strategy game could be excellent to help students understand the risks and effects of Nuclear Brinkmanship which I find students don't understand as well as those of us who grew up in the '70's and '80's.

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media

Sunday, January 29, 2017

EDTECH 532-Video Game Graphics Quest

In this quest I watched a series of videos that described the evolution of video graphics.  Although I did not understand all of the technical aspects of this video series.  I did recognized many of the games throughout the video game eras mentioned.  I just turned 46 and as I watched these videos, I realized my life paralleled the evolution of gaming graphics.

I still remember the simple Pong console my parents purchased in the mid-70's.  As simple as it was, my brother and I played tennis the three games available, Tennis, Hockey and Handball.  I also remember playing many of the simple arcade games of the time.  Asteroids was one I played often and I was introduced to Space Invaders on a family trip to Hawaii in 1979.  There was one in my hotel lobby and a put every spare quarter I could find in that machine. One vector game that wasn't mentioned but that I enjoyed was Lunar Lander.  The player had to control the speed and pitch of a space craft and land it safely.  (see image below)

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Lunar Lander
In terms of Sprite games I remember playing 1942 and Mortal Combat but I was in High School during most of this era and Video Games had taken a back seat in my life.,  I do remember wracking my brain playing Myst on a friends computer and being totally hooked.  The same friend also had the original Doom and we spent many hours blasting terrible creatures to bits.

The third era of games mentioned in the video series however bypassed me.  This was the early 90's and I was in University.  Money was tight and didn't get back into gaming until I won an original Sony PlayStation and NFL'98 was my game of choice.

The FPS hit me hard with the Medal of Honor series and then Call of Duty.  I was sucked into these games and if you asked my wife, this wasn't always healthy.  I belonged to a Clan and participated in Forum conversations, played in serious tournaments and spent a lot on upgrading my PC's.  It is probaly her where I really started to understand the true power of the modern computer.

Like many people, I got a Wii console for my kids and that has been the extent of my gaming recently.  To be honest, my recent gaming as been limited to my iPad focussing on simple games like cribbage.  After watching these videos, I may start looking into a new gaming computer:)

EDTECH 532- Play this, learn that

As I progress through this course, I will be periodically commenting on our class resource, Play this, learn that! by Dr. Chris Haskell in this ongoing Blog post.

To being with, we must identify the purpose of the ebook which is to help us find the educational value in commercial games.  This will move us beyond the traditional notion of educational games which Haskell calls "serious games" (think Oregon Trail) whose sole purpose is to educate and introduce us to a whole new world of gamification.  Haskell points out that we can do this if we use contextual transposition when using a commercial game.  In other words, if we change the context and goal of a game, we can adapt it to our educational needs.  I don't have much experience in doing this so I am eager to try this out.  Computer games are an appealing and motivating teaching medium and we are just starting to see the potential it can have on learners. We keep talking about how we need to adapt to the needs of the 21st Century learner and gamifying our learning environments may be a great place to start.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

EDTECH 532- Gaming for love

This info graphic depicts the social power of modern gaming.  Part of the attraction of online games,  is a social and communication component.  Gamers develop their own communities so it is only normal that some of these virtual relationships may expand into real relationships.  Do people enter a gaming community looking for love?  I'm not sure that is the initial reason for gaming but it is certainly natural that long term relationships may develop. So I guess it also makes sense that "Gamers get girls".

EDTECH 532-The Seduction Secrets of Video Games

The success of contemporary video game franchises is the result of certain considerations in the game's design.  Keith Stuart's article The seduction secrets of video games (The Guardian, 2011) identifies some common design strategies of successful games that we as educators should take note of.  As this article states, games tap into our motivation and neural pathways which is exactly what teachers strive to do with their students.  By tapping into our brains' preferences to systems and puzzles, game designers have created very effective learning environments.

Overall, games are effective because they create an environment in which the learner can take risks without facing and judgement from others.  They can try things, they can fail, sometimes fatally without fear.  Following the design template of Acquire/Test/Master has been a successful design strategy for many games.  In other words, one acquires a new skill set, they test it out, and experience a series of failures until they master that skill.  Once the skill is mastered they move on to a new challenge.  This is not always the case in our classrooms.  We often teach, test and then move on regardless of the mastery level of our students.  It doesn't take much to figure out why games are more popular than class.

Successful games tap into our desire to be autonomous.  The feeling of being in charge is empowering and in many games the player has to approach a situation, make a plan and then put that plan into motion. It make take several attempts to beat the Alien or Prince of Darkness, etc but the player gets to decide how its done.  When success if finally reached, there is a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Video games tap into this desire and need for autonomy.  How often do our classrooms?  I dare say that most often students are not experiencing autonomy over their learning.  They are simply doing what they are told which is not as rewarding.

Video games also create curiosity within the player.  The article states, "good games will have the expected progression at each level but will provide surprise rewards halfway through".  This is a motivation strategy that doesn't exist in our classes very often.  Players keep exploring, looking deeper for that possibility of an extra nugget of information or reward where our students rarely go beyond what is expected.  Imagine if our students had the same motivation in our classes as they do in their games!

Video games also provide the player with disproportionate feedback.  Upon the completion of a simple task, the player will experience huge fanfare which really is an overreaction but our brain loves it!  Using sounds and graphics we are rewarded for doing something.  Stuart calls this a "charm offensive" on our brain and an "endorphin come on".  I'm not sure the classroom teacher can compete with that.

By tapping into effective game design, game producers have provided us with safe and effective learning environments based on sound research and science.  Using these resources in an educational only makes sense.  Through their video game play, students prove they can learn almost anything and really is time we expand these platforms to our classrooms.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

EDTECH 532-Virtual Hallucinations in Second Life

This evening I travelled to a virtual hallucinations space in Second Life.  The purpose of such a space is to allow us to experience the tortures of schizophrenia.  As you go through the space there are voices constantly speaking to you, telling you are worthless, to kill yourself, and to do terrible things to others.  At the same time there are visual hallucinations where words appear more prevalent in text and confuse meaning.  To never be able to shut these hallucinations out must be terrible.  Educationally, this could create so much empathy within people who have never suffered a mental illness.  That empathy could lead to more understanding for students who suffer from mental illness in general and schizophrenia specifically.  This was indeed, a very valuable experience.

EDTECH 532- "What are the most important things to remember about "gamifying" education

There are few things one must remember when thinking about "gamifying" education.

First, gamifying education is very much about tangential learning which exposes the learner/player to content and information without forcing the point to hard.  In fact, learning happens simply through that exposure and the learner/player seeks out more information on their own accord.  Basically this leads to self-education.

Also, gamifying education enables learning by making it interesting.  This process bridges the gap between games solely intent on educating and games meant to entertain.  For example, while a fantasy game is loading, quotes and facts can appear on the screen and expose the player to some of the factual inspiration behind the game design.  If the player wants to learn more, the game can link to something like wikipedia which can provide more information.

To sum all of this up, gamifying education is simply enhances a learning experience with out taking the fun out of it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

EDTECH 532: Jane McGonigal Reflection

After watching Jane McGonigal’s Ted Talk from 2010 titled, Games can make the world better, I began to get a sense of the full potential of gaming.   In McGonigal’s words, games can save the world.
The one thing that struck me was how many hours our students spend gaming.  Between grade 5-12 we can expect a child to have spent 10000 hours playing video games.  Of course they are becoming very literate in the virtual worlds these games resided in and in order to complete the tasks assigned in game play, they have to learn.  Most of this learning is done on their own through trial and error and exploring the game environment on their own.  They fail, then they try again.  They keep trying until they succeed.  In essence this describes mastery learning.  What really impresses me is that kids do this on their own.
If you ask me how this applies to education I would have to honestly say that the gaming described in the video can serve as a model for teaching the 21st learner.  Let students explore, give them a problem to solve and assist them through their journey.  If I were to begin to design a game for learning, that is the formula I would follow.

Monday, January 23, 2017

EDTECH 532 Prometheus Quest-Drop Pods

Tonight, I worked on becoming certified on using the Drop Pods on the Prometheus.  Thanks to the clear instructions I managed to complete the Quest without too many problems.  I had to think a bit about where to type the Vector in but I eventually figured it out.  Unfortunately, the pics I took can't capture the music I got to listen to.  Below you will find evidence of my Quest.  It was pretty fun!

Image 1: my descent to the ground

Image 2 and 3: On the surface

Image 4: At Vector <133,60,2272>

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Gamification Of Education

Here is an infographic form that succincly makes the case for introducing video games into learning environments.  I appreciate it's scientific approach in making it's case.  We all know games are fun but this infographic goes beyond that describes how gaming can motivate students as it cites brain research and other relevant studies.  It also confirms some of my beliefs about gaming. It helps us learn, it motivates us and gaming can be used at any level.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

EDTECH 532- Diversity In Gaming Experiences: Reflections on the different types of games

In pursuit of my Action Games quest, I will be reflecting on different gaming experiences.

The first genre of games I tackled were "Shoot-em up Games".  I tried three of the games out for size.  First was a version of the 1980's classic Galaga.  I have to admit I became a little nostalgic.  I remember playing the original arcade machine version growing up. I also tried out two other shooter games through my Steam account.  Specifically I played Relic Hunter and Tera Blaster which would considered "Top down" shooter games.

All of the Shooters had similar qualities.  Basic graphics, simple controls and the most basic of concepts, shoot everything you see.  These games had similarities in their design.  As on advanced, the game got harder but the rewards became greater.  The game that held my attention the longest was Relic Hunter.  In addition to the shooting aspect, I was given specific tasks to complete as well.  Despite having the most simplistic graphics, I kept wanting to play and try and complete my task.  This seems consistent with the rewarding aspects of gaming that we have talked about in these early days of the course.  To motivate the user and retain their attention, the game needs to offer periodic rewards.

  Sims have always been a big part of my gaming experience.  I have owned several versions of Civilization, Sim City, etc.  They are a perfect way to pass some time immersed in a different time and place.In regards to Simulation Games, I tried out Tropico on Steam.  I chose this particular game because of my Social Studies background. In this game you assume the role of a leader of a small island nation and have to retain power by keeping citizens content or by using force.  This would be really good resource in a classroom setting as students can see the results of making decisions on domestic and foreign policy.  Furthermore, students become more aware of all of the things leaders have to consider.  I also liked that the identity choices available were real life Latin American leaders which could naturally lead to some sort of research assignment.  Like all good SIMS, Tropico allows you to experience first hand a specific scenario.  The potential for Simulation Games such as this is limitless in an educational setting.

Interactive Fiction games have been around since the early days of personal computing.  In fact I remember playing such games on my Apple IIe in junior high school.  For this quest I tried my hand at Zork and To Burn in Memory.  I have to admit, when I was 14 this type of game held my attention but I had a hard time focusing.  I actually had to think too much.  I had to keep track of where I was using a pad of paper and focus alot on the fine details of the script.  It's kind of sad  that I had difficulty with this which makes me think this could actually be a good format to help students with their literacy skills.

There are also a series of Other Games that don't really fall into the above categories but may have value in the educational setting.  Games such as Poker and Yahtzee can be used in lessons on probability very easily. In fact teachers have been using card and dice games do to this years before the introduction of video games.  Other traditional games that have found new life in the digital realm such as Chinese Checkers can help with critical thinking skills as it demands the player develop a strategy.  I have to admit it has been a long time since I played Yahtzee and it took me a few games to remember exactly what I was supposed to do.  I kind of felt I should have a small pad of paper and a golf pencil but I did pretty well without those.  These games were popular for a reason, they make you think and they are fun.  I'm glad to see them finding new life in the online world . Now that I am nostalgic for the board games of my youth,  I think I may have to do a search for Parcheesi.

Adventure Games take a page out of interactive fiction but add much needed graphics to enhance the experience.  I took a few turns at Peasants quest and Heroes Must Die.  Although both were rather simple games they did capture the imagination and I felt like I lost track of time while playing them.  The graphics and actions enhanced the storyline and I could see how an English teacher could use games like this to teach the different parts of the story.

Playing a classic adventure game such as Zelda, players will find that many of the above game features combine.  Players immerse themselves in a story line, collect information while reading text and combat a variety of dangerous creatures all while seeking to finding the Princess Zelda.  This formula of quest, increasing difficulty, action and fiction combine to create a enjoyable experience for the player. I think it is safe to say that this design format influenced many of the educational games of today.  It's actually pretty hard to believe that I had never played Zelda before in my life.  I somehow missed that trend during my first years at University.  I must have beens spending my time "studying".

Video games have evolved in ARG's or Alternative Reality Games.  Players in these games, accept that they are in an alternative realm to their reality and immerse themselves in this knew reality.  Recently I played 39 Clues which serves as a good example of the genre.  First you assume an identity which belongs to one of the "houses" of the powerful Cahill family.  The player is then tasked to solve a family mystery centered around the sinking of the Titanic.  My first quest took me on a virtual tour of Halifax, Georgia and Scotland.  I quickly saw the educational value of this game.  I had to use several different competencies such as critical thinking to solve puzzles while at the same time learning bits of information about the Titanic, different locations, etc and there were aspects of interactive fiction games where I had to ask questions to people I came across.  Also, this game possess many of the motivational aspects of games design.  I received positive reinforcement throughout and once I solved one puzzle, I was often to another that was a bit more difficult.  I can certainly see how such games can hold one's attention for a long time while at the same time, educating them.  This is a very powerful genre of gaming.