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?

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. 

Moving towards SAMR-fication

Like other COETAILers, the Mark Presnky article about doing New Things in New Ways with technology has had me continually reflecting since Course One on the validity and effectiveness of how I am using technology as a librarian.  While I am using a lot of technology (blogs, wikis, Diigo, Google Drive, podcasts, Glogster, and iMovie for starters), only some of these have transformed learning in a way that couldn’t be done as effectively without the technology. I do not think, however, that I have done anything truly new. On the flip side, I feel like I am going a long ways towards transforming the use of technology in teaching and learning at LIS.  With that in mind, here are my thoughts on our movement towards SAMR so far.

What We’re Doing

Library as a Virtual Space

Screen shot 2013-09-14 at 3.30.22 PMHaving an effective website is one of the most important parts of being a librarian, and I am pretty pleased about the current state of our library website.  There are lots of things I can and will still do with it, but I think this is the key thing I’m doing that can be checked as at least an M if not partly an R on the SAMR scale and transformation on the Technology Integration Matrix , particularly in terms of making resources available to all students simultaneously.   Students are able to access a wide variety of resources to support them in their literacy, research and technology pursuits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Also, there is opportunity for exchange and sharing of resources. Students have been added to the library blog as student bloggers (to add recommendations and reviews), but no student posts have happened yet.

What I would like to do is figure out how to make it a more interactive site, where students can contribute content without having to make every single kid at school a guest blogger.  My gut feeling is that means I need to push the content towards the students through automated posting of the information on multiple social media platforms, meeting them where they are and asking for the feedback. Any thoughts? Does anyone know of a library website that is truly transformative in terms of patron use and engagement?


Lots of our secondary students are blogging now, compared with the total of Zero when I arrived here. Interestingly, I’ve seen some teachers basically copy and paste their old paper activities onto their class blog and have students respond in that manner.  Other teachers have completely revolutionized the way their classroom works as a result of their class blogging, with students creating, sharing and exchanging in a way that was previously impossible, particularly in second language classrooms.  I enjoyed reading about Julie Lemley’s evaluation of her school’s student blog use, and I am looking forward to trying to move my school in the direction of blogs being portfolios as well as active working spaces.

Web 2.0 Tools

Public Domain

Public Domain

As I mentioned in my laundry list, we’ve played around with a variety of Web 2.0 tools over the last year, but my favorite results in terms of transformation have been GlogsterEdu and Twitter.  Our Humanities and Spanish classes have both used Glogster, the interactive poster program, as a tool for communicating learning, and the results have been pretty exciting, if at times a little busy.  Just the fact that students are embedding video, linking to further reading, sharing photos and turning their final products into portals to more information instead of dead end paper posters makes me know there’s transformation happening.

Photo by Flickr user mkhmarketing under CC BY 2.0

Photo by Flickr user mkhmarketing under CC BY 2.0

Starting this past Monday, I am working with the Year 11 English B class on their unit about how social media is impacting our communication.  We are starting our unit by investigating Twitter specifically and students are sharing their thoughts and ideas through using the hashtag #listech11. I was SHOCKED at how many of them have never used Twitter and thought it was strictly for navel gazing. Anyways, I am looking forward to returning to the subject of our Twitter unit  later in Course 4.  I hope I will be able to say we transformed teaching and learning and that I’ll have a Twitter feed filled with examples.

Where we’re going!


Minecraft Cosplay Riminicomics by deviantART user zinghi under CC BY 3.0

Minecraft Cosplay Riminicomics
by deviantART user zinghi under CC BY 3.0


We are headed there! It’s been nearly six months in the works, but it’s finally going to happen. I’ve got a team of teachers together who want to upskill themselves a bit in MineCraft prior to unleashing it as an educational for the students.  We’ve got tons of MineCrafters in our student population, and I am looking forward to seeing them build effective communities in Humanities, use blocks to teach scale and breed virtual bees to teach genetics. I really think this is going to transform our teaching in a way that could not be done before.

Skype in the Classroom

Skype Pony by deviantArt user 10art1 under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Skype Pony by deviantArt user 10art1 under CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Well, I want to make this happen…in theory. In practice, I’ve let the everyday stuff of my job keep me from engaging in it. I’ve joined and I’ve lurked, but I need to dive into a project like a Mystery Skype and just give it a go. Skype is the ultimate “R” in SAMR!  Connecting with experts, breaking down classroom walls, putting my students in the interviewer seat: there’s so many ways this could transform teaching and learning at LIS. I just had my first request from another Skype Educator, and I have put them in contact with a classroom teacher at my school.  If Skype Pony, can do it, so can I!

What do you think?

I’m tired of typing, dear reader.  What do you think?  How can I help to move my school closer to the R in SAMR?

Privacy: The Power is Yours

Sometimes I get tired of hearing people whinge about their privacy online.  The Internet wasn’t built to be private. If you feel that certain sites don’t protect your privacy in the way you would like, don’t use them.  If you don’t want the whole world to know your relationship status, don’t post it publicly.

The choices people make about Facebook are excellent examples.  My dad is living a perfectly fulfilled life without Facebook, while my mother is currently working hard to join the ranks of the social media luminaries on Oh Crap! My Parents Joined Facebook!.  My brother used Facebook until it was time to get a real job.  Some of his college friends behaved like idiots online, so he just stopped being friends with them in the public sphere of FB. He now has a well-paying job flying airplanes for American Airlines. Good decision, Sean!

Of course, I recognize that everyone doesn’t have all of the information to make informed decisions about their privacy online.  I’ll break Internet privacy down into two parts as I see it. One, the decisions you make about what you deliberately share: photos, status updates, blog posts, videos, etcetera. Two, the decisions you make about what companies and websites get to collect about you: your browsing habits, searching, and websites visits.

Think Before Your Share!

Where do memes fall under copyright anyway?

That’s it. 🙂

Just kidding. This blog post is for my COETAIL class, so obviously I’m going to share some specific examples of how I’m working with kids and parents to think about privacy.  In the end though, it all boils down to Think Before You Share!

A committee at our school is currently re-designing our Well-Being curriculum, and they pulled me in to discuss the Internet Privacy, Digital Citizenship and Cyber Safety portions.  For this, I was thankful. I made a lot of recommendations, sharing resources from Common Sense Media and other sites I’ve collected in my Diigo over the years on Digital Citizenship and Internet Safety. Next year, we are going to have a much more comprehensive approach to students and the Internet.

In the meantime, we’re talking to parents and students about their privacy and sharing settings on Facebook. We decided to focus on Facebook because the research shows that if kids are on social media (and they almost all are!) they are on Facebook.  Last week, our guidance counselor, adolescent psychologist and I presented a Coffee Morning called Facebook and Your Child.   In the post you can see the resources we gave them as well as check out the slides we used to support our presentation.  For the students, I’ve put together a post on our school library blog titled You, Facebook and the World!  Students and parents alike need us to regularly discuss their options for privacy and sharing without placing value judgements on their decisions.  It’s not our job to define for them the right amount of sharing; it’s our job to help them make informed decisions.

Who Gets to Take What?

It creeps me out to think about the fact that whenever I click a link, some company can be making money off of my browsing.  I want to make the decisions about who gets my information.  To do this, I use Ghostery.

Ghostery is your window into the invisible web – tags, web bugs, pixels and beacons that are included on web pages in order to get an idea of your online behavior. Ghostery tracks over 1,200 trackers and gives you a roll-call of the ad networks, behavioral data providers, web publishers, and other companies interested in your activity” (from About Ghostery).

It’s great because on every page you visit, you get a pop up window about the companies collecting information about you.  You are empowered to make decisions about who you trust and who you want to block.  But don’t take my word for it; watch Ghostery’s hilarious intro video to learn more.  As always, don’t use this (or any other resource) with your students until you’ve watched it yourself.

How is your school addressing social media with your students and parents?