Course 5 Project: LIS Reads – LIS Lê Game On!

Well, I don’t have any fingernails left, but the movie is finally done.  Be kind, world. Course 5, it’s been real.

If you’re interesting in visiting the sites associated with this project, check out the LIS Reads – LIS Lê posts on the LIS secondary library blog and the short-lived LIS Reads – LIS Lê House competition tumblr.

I would like to note that approximately 2/3 of the way through Course 5, my iPad was stolen (I am actually still hoping that I just hid it from myself somewhere in my library, but that is seeming less and less likely) and I lost a lot of the media I had intended to use in this video. I think it turned out all right in the end, but I apologize for the occasionally heavy reliance on screenshots.  You can see my UBD “unit” plan below.

Course 5: The “Game” Plan


Gamifying LIS Reads – LIS Lê is my Course 5 project. I’ve specifically decided to make it the gamification and not the technification of our year long reading program, because I want technology to be the tool supporting the goals, not the reason itself.

My Goals

  • Increase the number of students engaged in LIS Reads – LIS Lê
  • Deepen the connection to our school community by linking into the House Program
  • Increase the conversation around reading by offering students different ways to interact with the texts and each other
  • Break down the “walls” around the book club by bringing folks around the globe into our community
  • Develop student transliteracy skills by linking a traditional reading program with activities involving a wide variety of platforms, tools and medias
  • Develop life long readers

Photo by Flickr user Leo Reynolds under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Photo by Flickr user Leo Reynolds under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Here’s The Initial (Game) Plan

We’ll kick it off in February (and by that I mean this Wednesday, basically) by introducing our first challenge.  My tentative plan is to use February as my experimental month and then dive in deeply for March and April.   This means it may be a little less” techy” as I get the game entrenched in school culture with low barriers to entrance.
First Week: Submit a picture of yourself with the book, signifying you are IN! (Thank you, Level up Book Club)
Second week: submit your favorite quote from the book

Third week: points for each contribution to the online book club conversation (hopefully with another school!) – What are platform we going to use? Who’s going to talk to us?

Fourth Week: points for submitting questions for and then participating in our Skype/Online Twitter Chat/ Google+ Hangout with JCW and/or Anne C. Voorhoeve.
Somewhere near the end of the month: Battle of the Books-style competition during Assembly or Lunch… it matters not. I am thinking we’ll use Socrative or another online “clicker” quiz kind of system. or MAYBE we could do it through the morning notices, allowing all classrooms to participate at the same time in different places. So many choices!
What I’m going to work out…today and tomorrow
Points System: How will this points system actually work?  I’m meeting with our house coordinator, Fiona Tweedie, today during our professional learning day. We have a variety of house related activities throughout the year; this program can’t dominate all of the other programs.The
Story: there just isn’t one.  Most of the game based learning literature I’ve read emphasizes the importance of a “Save-The-Princess” style story behind any educational game.  Well, every thing I’ve brainstormed has been contrived and silly.  So I’m sticking with good old fashioned competition between the red, blue, yellow and green houses.
Badges: Will badges become a part of this crazy venture?  I hope so, but I have to see first how the beginning bits work out. If there’s enthusiasm, I’d like to move to multiple challenges each week, each under a different theme and then completing three out of the four challenges from a specific theme in a month results in earning your badge. I feel like this is where I start turning it into more student centred game as opposed to a classic competition.

What I need

Photo by Flickr user Andres John under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Flickr user Andres John under CC BY 2.0

  • Examples of great online book clubs: The LevelUpBC was fantastic, and I am intimdated by their greatness.  Come On COETAIL, scare me with fabulosity.
  • Schools to connect with: I really want to have some interaction with other schools in February, March, April and May. Ready to break down some walls, try an online book clubs and make it happen? Tweet me, message me, send me an email: let’s make it happen!
  • Feedback: What do you think?

Taking A Deep Breath: Course 5 Ideas

 Course Five, you’re making me queasy.

 Photo by Flickr user cutglassdecanter under CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo by Flickr user cutglassdecanter under CC BY-SA 2.0

There are so many things that are awesome about being a librarian (I have a huge “classroom”; I get to spend thousands of dollars on books; I help kids and teachers find stuff of all kinds; I work with EVERYONE!) but this is the first time I’ve thought, “I wish I was still a classroom teacher”.

Course 5 would be easier if I had complete control over my own classroom and units and could just decide what I’m going to do and when.  However, one of the other “best things” about being a librarian is that we are the ultimate collaborator.  Therefore, the biggest roadblock I’m going to face in Course 5 is find someone who willing to commit to a collaboration that is just as important to my learning as it is to the students’ learning.

On a more positive note, if I can get someone to jump on this train with me, Course 5 can be pretty exciting. After my exploration of the Course 5 examples, I am reflecting on the importance of this unit redesign not just being about one tool but being about leveraging technology to truly transform the way students are learning.  The most effective sample  Course Five projects I saw did this through the use of multiple tools, like Bringing Life to Poetry and Enhancing Book Clubs.

Techno-Gamifying LIS Reads – LIS Lê

lisreadsnormalblueLIS Reads is my biggest initiative right now, and the first three and a half months were an interesting journey. You can learn more about it on our library blog and in my previous COETAIL posts: A #ChooseKind MashUp and  Coming to a Screen Near You: LIS Reads – LIS Le.  Some aspects have been fantastic!  Sometimes it’s felt a little lackluster. The first month I had an activity in the library once a week.  In October and November I traveled quite a bit (professionally and personally) and I wasn’t able to host as many activities.  I would like to see if the use of technology can take some of the pressure off of my physical presence to make things happen.


Photo Credit: susivinh via Compfight cc

As I posted earlier, I think I can leverage our house system to use gamification and reading to enhance the impact of LIS Reads throughout the school.  Also, my last LIS Reads celebration of the year was tied to the monthly book selections, but it moved beyond into reading in general because the break was coming and I wanted to encourage any kind of reading over the break, not just LIS Reads books.  Here are a few things I am pondering:

  • Author Visits via Skype (I was quite impressed by the Skype-a-Creator project Madeline Cox did for Course 5.  At first glance, it seems simple: have some experts Skype in.  After looking more closely at her unit, it’s such a powerful example of completely changing a study in multiple ways.)
  • Virtual Book Club discussion using Google Hangout
  • LIS Reads – LIS Lê tumblr to submit Quotetastic Friday style quotes from the montly books
  • Sharing related quotes and thoughts on Twitter with #lisreads
  • Use WattPad to encourage fan-fiction pieces related to our LIS Reads – LIS Lê texts
  • Have Battle of the Books style competitions between the houses on the books at the end of the year
  • Vine Reviews of Books

Of course, a challenge of doing this through the reading program instead of through a classroom unit is that I don’t have the same students all the time.  Also, I will need to work pretty hard to ensure continuity and connection between all of these activities so that it doesn’t just become a series of unrelated tech activities. Students would end up working on a variety of skills depending on the tools they use and the activities they engage in. Obviously this idea is still in the percolating phase, but I think it has potential if I plan it out well.  LIS Reads – LIS Lê won’t kick back into high gear until February, so I’ll have some wiggle room when I get back.  In the end, I want to connect students beyond the walls of LIS, strengthen the ties to our community through our house system, and have students think about reading as more than just the act of moving from left to right and top to bottom (depending on your language and culture of course!).

Making it happen with Minecraft

Minecraft!  So excited about it!  We’ve got MinecraftEDU on 25 of our library computers, we’ve got enthusiastic teachers, and we’ve got students who are chomping at the bit to use it.  Rebekah Madrid’s post on 7th Graders (and one teacher) learning with Minecraft (as well as her offer to share her Build a City project resources with me- Rebekah, I accept!) has me pumped up to give this a try.

Photo by Wikimedia Commons contributor Adam J.W.C. under CC BY-SA 2.5

Photo by Wikimedia Commons contributor Adam J.W.C. under CC BY-SA 2.5

Our lower MYP humanities students study cities and dwellings and in the past they designed an ideal city on paper for their final product: BORING!  We wanted to give designing their ideal city in Minecraft a try last year, but it just didn’t come together in time. I know that this year’s Year 8 team is up for it, but this unit also traditionally takes place near the end of the school year. This won’t fit into our COETAIL timeline, but I noticed in Alex Gunther’s Minecraft Mania video reflection that his students hadn’t completed their unit by the COETAIL deadline either.

If I can get past the timing issue, I think this idea has the most potential because I will get to work closely with other teachers, there are clear models of other schools using this tool, and it fits well into the COETAIL course 5 format and requirements.  My students will learn to use a tool many of them enjoy in a different way; I’ll need to give up control in the sense that I am not as skilled with Minecraft as many of my students.  I am particularly pleased about the potential for focusing on collaboration and communication skills like the ones that came up in Alex’s Minecraft Mania video reflection.

Minecraft teacher avatar by deviantART user CoreFire1528 under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Minecraft Teacher avatar by deviantART user CoreFire1528 under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Also, there’s a growing community of LIS teachers who are very interested in using Minecraft in their classrooms.  As the librarian, I could potentially lead this as a professional learning opportunity and document the learning process of teachers as well as students.

 On the back, back burner

  • Professional Learning: I’m on our professional learning team, and the whole reason I joined was to work on growing the PLNs of our faculty.  If I want to go from the angle of librarian as professional learning leader, there’s a lot of opportunity for a Course 5 project here… if I can get teachers on board!
  • Tech Tuesday: I’m thinking about flipped classrooms and teachers and educational technology.  Tech Tuesday is great.  It’s also exhausting.  I tried alternating Tuesdays, but that wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped.  I wonder if I can conduct some kind of Tech Tuesday renovation by redefining it through the use of instead of just the study and sharing of technology…
Image by deviantART user Karen Bloodstone under CC BY-ND 3.0

Image by deviantART user Karen Bloodstone under CC BY-ND 3.0

  • World Poetry Day & March LIS Reads: Perhaps instead of attacking all of LIS Reads – LIS Lê, I should focus in on one month and transform it through technology. World Poetry Day is March 21st, and our LIS Reads – LIS Lê books are all in verse for the month of March.  Bringing Life to Poetry got me inspired, and I think I might be able to be more effective if I addressed one month as a “redefined unit” instead of trying to work on my COETAIL project from February to June.

The thing is,educational technology has been impacting how I teach and, I hope, how my students learn ever since leaving library school.  The key to a successful Course 5 project for me will be growing beyond tool by tool integration into true, long-term transformation.  I am looking forward to having the next month to ponder where I want to buckle down and make something awesome happen.

Students, we have a problem

Project Based Learning:

In project-based learning, students try to answer a question — one that has relevance for them — that is greater than the immediate task at hand.

(Project based Learning – Real World Issues Motivate Students)

Problem Based Learning

Authentic problems are primarily encountered in the learning sequence, before any preparation or study has occurred. Problems serves as a trigger for prior knowledge, which leads to the discovery of knowledge gaps. These knowledge gaps are overcome through self-directed learning.

(Transitions and Transformations in Learning and Education)

ARS Ohio processing tomato

To-MAY-toe; To-MAH-toe
By Penny Greb, USDA ARS [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What’s the difference?

I explored a variety of explanations, but the biggest difference I noticed is that most problem based learning examples involve solving creative, interesting hypothetical, historical or based on real-life problems, whereas the best project based learning examples I saw focused on authentic real-world problems that students were actually expected to solve!  High Tech High’s Africa project blew me away.  At our school, I think we tend to do more problem based learning than project based learning, but I would love to see more project-based learning that ends with a problem-solving product.

Honestly though, this semantical discussion is silly.  Why not just have students do projects to solve real world problems and call it Learning?

Photo by Flickr user thekenyeung CC NC-ND 2.0

Photo by Flickr user thekenyeung CC NC-ND 2.0

I think the most exciting way our students get involved with real world problem solving is through our CAS and MiddleCAS programs. We have students who are working to bring Operation Smile to Angola, working to Stop Child Trafficking Now, and students who started an organization called Babushi Nation to alleviate child poverty.  These three initiatives are particularly compelling because they are completely the brain children of students with little to no push or support of the school beyond a CAS framework that requires service time and a supervising teacher to guide you through the process.

From a teaching and learning standpoint, a big step I’d like to see our school make is to engage with a specific charity or area of need in our community. The above examples I shared are powerful examples of students choosing a cause they feel passionate about and making a difference. I think, though, that if our school engaged with a limited number of specific charities,the faculty could more effectively get behind more authentic problem solving projects that will have a long term positive effect on our community.

SisterDomingasandFriendsFoundationOne of the after school activities I am involved with is Casa das Crianças, an orphanage run by Sister Domingas about an hour from our school. Around fifty children live there full time with another approximately 60 (this number fluctuates) that are regular after school visitors because their parents are working or unable to care for them full time. I arrange for our students to visit the orphanage throughout the school year to play with the children. Several of my colleagues arrange fundraisers an coordinate other activities to benefit Casa das Crianças. The next step out school could take is to commit to an official partnership with Casa das Crianças and look for ways to better the lives of these children through the learning of our children.  Off the top of my head, I’ve got lots of ideas, but the sky is the limit:

  • building a pump to bring up water instead of hauling it with a bucket
  • planning a garden space for the newly acquired lot next door
  • redesigning the small library/study room to build more effective shelving and study spaces
  • writing proposals to raise money for their needs
  • creating age appropriate play buckets to teach young children how to play
  • Developing promotional videos about the needs of the children and sharing them through social media to raise money and awareness

Of course, my ideas are not as important as the ideas of the children who live there and the adults who work there, as they are the ones who have an in depth knowledge of their need.

Technology’s Role

Photo stolen from PCGamer's article on Minecraft's Block by Block partnership with the UN

Photo stolen from PCGamer’s article on Minecraft’s Block by Block partnership with the UN

There are SO many ways technology can support either form of PBL, because at the core of modern problem solving is some form of technology, whether it’s through using social media to connect with others, to do research, or to design a solution to a specific problem. Many of our students are already using  social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote their causes. I’d love to see our school mimic the UN& Minecraft Block by Block partnership use Minecraft to design spaces at Casa das Crianças or abandoned lots in Luanda.  I think I’ve said it in every post during Course 4, but it bears repeating:

Technology is just a tool to support authentic teaching and learning. 

Building Networks

Photo by Flickr user adesigna under CC BY NC-SA 20

Photo by Flickr user adesigna under CC BY NC-SA 20

Pondering connectivism was an excellent think for me, and I was able to reflect on the activities I currently work on as well as the ones that are percolating in the back of my brain.  I connected with all of these readings, but Daniel Pink’s Drive speech at the RAS was the best.  Therefore, I’ve selected his three factors for motivation to organize my reflection: Autonomy, Purpose and Drive.


#1 Tech Tuesday: I need to schedule a round-table sharing day for people to bring in their favorite tech tools.  I also need to do more scheduled sharing by others.  My “Guest Star” days are by far the best attended Tech Tuesday (I try not to take it personally). 🙂

Photo by NASA - Public Domain

Photo by NASA – Public Domain

#2: More international collaboration through social networks: by modeling how you can make this happen for my students, I can show them how to use the world as their encyclopedia once they’re out of school. I am (still) toe-dipping stage with this, and I need to figure out what deep diving looks like without engaging in another paid for course that forces me to do it like the Flat Classroom. Twitter is of course a great resource, and I’ve started to have some nibbles through Skype for Education.


#1: MOOCs as after-school activities: The University of the People fascinated me, but I don’t think it’s relevant option for me or my students right now.  I did like reflecting on all these modern innovations when it comes to learning, and I think have students select a MOOC and take it alongside interested teachers would be amazing.


This is a tough one for me.  it’s so easy to bribe students into doing stuff you think is cool! But here’s the hard truth:

#1. I need to stop bringing candy to my library lunchtime celebrations.  Damn you Daniel Pink!  It’s time to return the motivation to come and the motivation to stay back to the WHAT of what we’re doing. If the activity itself isn’t motivating and interesting, sugary teeth-rotting candies aren’t going to make it any better. Actually, as I’ve seen recently, it will take away from the excitement for those who are truly there because they love -NaNoWriMo, LIS Reads, Reading, Gaming- since candy crashers just come take loads of freebies, half heartedly participate and leave.

#2: Connectivism is important and it is not about technology. Technology is just a toolConnectivism is about relationships: developing, nurturing and valuing relationships. I think the IB program does put relationships at the center of their program, and then it is our job as schools to work on making sure relationships are at the center of our delivery.  One of the things I think our new deputy principal is doing particularly well is putting the focus back on relationships and conversation as the primary tool for navigating “discipline”. I am trying to reflect this in my library program.

#3 READ: I think connectivism in the library is deepening my connection with students, the sense of community and developing the library as a vibrant community space. I was delighted (and a little scared) when I saw

#4 Pay people enough to take money as an issue off the table.

Bingo Number 20 by Flickr user Leo Reynolds under CC BY NC-SA 2.0

Bingo Number 20 by Flickr user Leo Reynolds under CC BY NC-SA 2.0

How do we take grades (the student version of money) off the table for students?  Well, I am still fascinated by the 20% idea, and I think if we do inquiry well, the grade part becomes less of a motivation.  Perhaps working 20% time into one of our science classes will be my Course 5 project?

FedEx day: How do we take money (the teacher version of grades) off the table for teachers? We did one of these with our secondary school faculty at work, and it was wildly successful. I think we all felt good about working at LIS that day.  And we accomplished some serious stuff!  So WHY WHY WHY WHY haven’t we built that into our classrooms?

In very small ways at LIS, we are starting. For example, I believe “read whatever you want time” is essential, and I’m proud of our Language A English classes for building this into the majority of their courses, if on varying levels.  One of my favorite manifestations of this time is in Sou Cheng Leong’s Year 7 class, where she allows students to have ownership and autonomy in this process by having a different student each month design the book report format (students vote on which one the class will do) as well as reward the best ones based on their own judgement. You can check out examples in her Year 7 Reading and Book Reports Category.

In Conclusion

I think connectivism has a place in every learning environment.  I hope to keep it in mind as work to develop the learning relationships at my school.