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.

Gaming in the Library!

Level up Book ClubImmediately prior to moving to Angola, I participated in a summertime online book club for educators called the Level Up Book Club.  It was a lot of fun, taking the regular book club (read, discuss, wash, repeat) and turning it into a friendly competition that encouraged nearly constant engagement.  I read books like

I earned points for sharing resources on Twitter, participating in Twitter chats, taking photos of myself and adding them to our group Tumblr, responding to blog posts, developing resources and more.  It was an excellent example of how learning can be turned into a game, and in this case it was for adults.   I definitely engaged in this more deeply than I would have if it was merely a once a month Twitter chat, and I made connections with librarians and other educators around the globe.  In that way, this was a positive example of “gamifying” something to get me to be more motivated.  Unfortunately, as Lissa points out in her Gamification: I’m a skeptic post, this was also straight up bribing up me to do more with external rewards.  I didn’t mind because I was interested in the topic, but it sometimes rang a little false as I searched for more quotes to share on Twitter just so I could raise on the leader board, which leads me to…

My Worries

“The act of gamifying an educational experience alone is not enough to make the experience rewarding, instead it should serve primarily to make something that is already rewarding more rewarding – perhaps by encouraging learners to invest more time than they already would.” (Play As You Learn).

I sometimes feel that gamification of learning is really just trying to make something painful seem like something fun. It is so important that we remember that “gamifying” a lesson unit or learning experience is just like “technifying” it.  Gamification is a tool, just as technology is a tool. If the underlying concept and learning isn’t strong, relevant and interesting, students aren’t going to go for it and you’re left with a bunch of unused badges laying around.  We have a house system at our school which manifests itself in fairly light hearted competitions like a trivia quiz, a goofy sports day (non-traditional games that aren’t rooted in athletic talent) and a Peace Day soccer tournament.  Our house coordinator would like me to run a House competition of some kind through the library and suggested we see who checks out the most books.  I immediately frowned because I don’t think reading should be a competition, unless it’s a competition against yourself.  I am still trying to figure out how I can create a points-based competitive game related to the library that enhances a literacy or research experience rather than dressing it up.

Courtesy of Ninja Program

Courtesy of Ninja Program

Despite my concerns about the potential downsides to gamificiation, I am going to dive into Jeff Utecht’s Ninja Program with my students as an after school activity for next semester. I know my students need to improve their search skills, and I appreciate that in addition to a module focusing specifically on search, at the core of every Ninja Program module is students learning search skills to empower themselves.

The real purpose behind these quizzes [is] to find students within our schools who are willing to search and find answers. The answers themselves are not the outcome…the search skills are. Google Apps changes way too quickly for us to actually assess the knowledge of programs, but the hope is that students will get comfortable learning how to search the web, videos and the training materials so that as things change and as they help others they can find what it is they need. So to that end I encourage students to open the quiz up in one tab and search in another. This is also the reason for the Search quizzes which students might benefit from taking first (from the Ninja Program Training Concept and Purpose document).

With this purpose in mind, I’m going to give it a try.

My Thoughts

While gamification sometimes leaves me a little uneasy, game-based learning makes me smile. (Thanks again Lissa, for helping me to clarify my thoughts on this distinction through your epic post.) I love games, and so do my students.  With this in mind, last year I ran a gaming club in the library as an after school activity. Each week different students shared different games with the group (often it was a world they’d designed in Minecraft) and at the end of the nine weeks, students designed their own games.  It was a great experience and a pleasant mix of board games, card games and electronic games.  It’s something I would like to try again this year, but I also want to try using game-based learning at school through established games that have a more defined educational purpose.  Our humanities department already uses NationStates to learn about governance.  Right now

Minecraft Cosplay Riminicomics by deviantART user zinghi under CC BY 3.0

Minecraft Cosplay Riminicomics
by deviantART user zinghi under CC BY 3.0

I’m working with some other teachers at LIS to use MinecraftEdu as a teaching and learning tool.  I know we’ll start with our Year 8 humanities class designing their ideal city as the assessment task for their study on cities, but I am also excited about the potential for math, physics and literature.  Currently we’re in the early stages, gathering a group of teachers who are willing to play together just to familiarize ourselves with it as a tool. Who knows? Perhaps this will end up being my Course 5 project!

My Dreams

So, as my post probably shows, I am conflicted about this topic. I like games, love game-based learning when it’s done well (as in NationStates) and am a little worried about the cheapening of instruction through badge and leaderboard based gamification. In the midst of all of this conflict and confusion is a desire to make my LIS Reads – LIS Lê one big game.  I’d like to have it become a competition of sorts between the houses, not based on how many people have read the books, but on what we do with it after we’ve read them. I’ve got a variety of ideas, including:

  • 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

The thing is, all of my ideas right now just make it a competition, and as everything we’ve read shows, badges and leader boards do not a game make.  You need an intriguing story at the core of it, like Mario Brothers or Ju’s Ninja Math.   I need a story.  Any ideas, COETAIL friends?

Coming to a screen near you: LIS Reads – LIS Lê

When I discovered we had to make a movie for the third COETAIL course, I was thrilled because I knew I would have to force myself to take my photos of our LIS Reads September celebration and tell the story in a movie.  I was incredibly lucky to have Ju as our official photographer and filmmaker for the LIS Reads – LIS Lê Kick-Off celebration we held at the beginning of the month.  You can see her far superior creation embedded on her Stepping Stones blog as well as on our LIS secondary library blog.  After watching what she created, I though it would be nice to post the videos for the kick-off celebration and the end of the month lunchtime celebration of Wonder on the library blog.  Hopefully we will also share these through the homeroom classes to drum up and interest in our year of reading.

Upon reflection, I wish I’d videotaped students’s responses to the mini book club questions so that there could be video as part of this film.  However, I am pleased overall with the final product.  Luckily, with LIS Reads – LIS Lê, there’s always next month!