the road to “congratulations”

Just like every well-prepared educator pre-reads the picture books he uses for read alouds, I consider it my mission to review numeracy software before my students are set to the task of skip counting by 5s, adding 3 digit numbers or dividing fractions. I will admit, in the comfort of this forum, that I have been in awe of a math program on a PC and quickly (think:brilliantly) tried to share it on an interactive white board, only to find that the software was not compatible, in front of 25 nine year olds, 12 minutes before March Break began, just after the red dye party~ the healthy snacks memo sitting on my desk covered in cupcake icing. Lesson learned.

A child can get a wow, fantastic, congratulations, you did it message simply by clicking on all of the cards in the memory game or choosing all of the annoying yellow ducks with numbers until the correct one is picked; sound off please! In other cases a little more work is involved, the question changes or the numbers are different but the child can still demonstrate an understanding of how to use technology without demonstrating an understanding of the concept. I don’t want to name programs because the programs I use are good for a variety of purposes and skill levels. You probably have some in mind.

“Mastery” in math doesn’t seem difficult to attain through many software programs. Some of the programs that track progress will show you that a child can reach mastery level in approximately 20 questions. My experience is that these problems are skill-based and don’t allow for collaboration or higher order thinking.

How are you using math software to support learning? Have you discovered a program that encourages the use of the skills our students will need in the future?

Level Up,
(But only if you’ve earned it)


all i really need to know i learned from gaming

Isn’t the hardest part of writing choosing the topic?  This time it was a toss up between this topic and a comparison between winter weather in Southern Ontario and Iqaluit.  Assuming the gaming topic had more content, I chose to quest on (see what I did there.)

In a nod to Robert Fulghum’s  all i really need to know i learned in kindergarten I decided to take a few moments to share some of the things I’ve learned from gaming:

Passwords are like secret codes.

It’s ok to fail.

Nobody gained experience points at a mall.

There will always be another quest.

Don’t spend all your gold in one place.

Sometimes, you just have to run.

Ask a friend for help.

Accept new challenges.

Just pick a spell and play.

Be a healthy avatar.

Take a nap and start again.

Think first.


It’s just a game.

Full disclosure: my experience with gaming is the instructional gaming that my students are using in a K-8 school.  I don’t hide in the basement for days on end playing WOW.  My birds are not angry,  nor do they flap.

What lessons would you add?

Level up,





when the “lone nut” meets the “what have you done for me latelys”

A thought-provoking part of my experience in the Gamification Teacher Learning and Leadership Project (TLLP) has been the opportunity to observe various leaders and followers in their response to ever-changing technology.  In my role as an IT teacher in a K-8 school, I’m able to observe everyone from those who want to be on the cutting edge (including my friends and colleagues Adele Stanfield,  David Bradbury and Greg Holohan) to those who are approaching technology like a passing fad; the Rubik’s cube or ICQ of this decade.  What’s even more interesting is to observe how the leaders accept the challenge of supporting these staff members.  Can the “lone nut” who created the most recent app or video game relate to the staff member who liked it best when they wrote their report cards by hand and enjoyed teaching the apple unit every fall; long before “THE Apple” was invented?  Is the individual who created the most successful  regional social media site really the best person to share their program with the staff member who is 3 years from retirement; “…and if I have another class next year like the one I do this year, I’ll be going sooner!”

My approach is to meet people where they are and support them in their progress, at their own pace.  I’ll admit, I’m not always the best at it but I can see why the “at your elbow” approach works better than trying to explain the benefits of Evernote to 15 people in a 45 minute session, at the end of the day.  After it’s determined we all need to bring a device, 2 don’t know how to create a password and 3 have forgotten their already.  Even if I did have a box of wine to share, it would be a challenging task.  We’ve all experienced the instructor who wants to share their excitement about a concept or a product who speaks over our head or the individual in a workshop suggested by an administrator and can’t see any purpose in another word-processing software program when there’s already so much paper in the school.

A memorable experience for me was with a group of educators who had to attend a technology workshop.  Arriving with expectations of leaving early, a great lunch and a day out of the building, the participants are faced with a trainer who thinks their topic is second only in importance to the invention of the computer.

I’m curious to know about your experiences.  Are you the lone nut (and would you admit it?)  Have you experienced the staff member who is just learning how to turn the computer on and can’t “deal” with the challenge of learning how to adjust the sound, in the same month.  How did you meet the challenge of supporting that person or how did they support you.

Level  Up,


P.S. No need to determine whether I’m writing about anyone in particular.  Most of the examples are fictional and meant to be light-hearted rather than critical.

plug and play opportunities

While researching gamification and game-based learning this summer, I’m finding there is a spectrum of delivery methods. Some educators are using commercial software for language or math activities while others create a specific theme in their classroom in which the students participate to complete daily, weekly or monthly quests.

While sitting outside on my deck at 6:30 am to avoid the humidity of the day, I found a website that boasts a “plug and play” learning game with a poker chips structure. Apply the 11 steps to any subject, concept or social skill and then let the students do the learning. John Hardison explains the process and provides a number of examples on his site 11Steps to Gamify Your Next Lesson.

This is not a strategy with avatars or badges as I’ve enjoyed reading about in other articles, but an opportunity to use gamification in everything from teachable moments to higher order thinking concepts. You can follow the voting chips conversation on Twitter by commenting on #votingchips. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Level up,

secure, store and manage

David Bradbury and I recently met with our 21st Century Learning Consultant, Tim Kivell. We set out to discuss how we would use our TLLP funds efficiently and using the appropriate protocol for
purchasing, ordering, etc. As always, Tim’s knowledge and experience were invaluable for what we needed to know. I came out of the meeting with some awareness of 3 issues facing many of us
who use mobile devices and/or pricier technology in our schools.

We had to determine a system to keep our iPads secure. Brettford carts were mentioned, but they are a bit pricey for our budget. I know some schools keep their devices locked on one location while others allow the devices to remain with the staff members who use them on a daily basis. Keeping everything in one location may set your school up for a big loss if the wrong person knows where they are kept and had access.

Storage was also an issue, although not completely separate from security. iPads need to be charged regularly to be available throughout the day in a variety of learning environments. Again, the Brettford carts were mentioned as were some other suggestions. At our school, iPads are with the classroom teacher with the exception of a set of 5 that can be signed out for classes to use over an instructional block. We don’t have this second option in place yet, so I’m not sure how well it

Managing the apps and settings on the iPads becomes a concern when we wants encourage higher order thinking skills through the use of technology. Just because it’s new technology doesn’t mean the children will learn any better without educator guidance. Ensuring apps that include animals talking inappropriately or apps where the student begins by loading a weapon do not appear on the
iPad is important when convincing parents and educators that the latest in technology is a positive part of a student’s instructional day. Our board has an account that can be used on our iPads to limit poor apps and explore 21st Century Fluencies.

I know our team will work well to determine the best routines for our students. I wonder how others are managing, storing and securing their mobile devices?

Level up,

very early learning

As a rookie gamer (and when I say rookie, I mean pre-PacMan), my knowledge and experience in the areas of gaming and gamification are limited.  After doing some preliminary reading, I feel I have a starting point as well as a number of excellent resources to help me through this journey. (Not the least of which are my team mates and friends Adele Stanfield and David Bradbury.)

Much of the research begins with gaming.  Examples included iPad apps that reviewed one concept using 20 questions on the same topic or skill.  There were many of these examples for single digit addition, counting to 10, naming colours, etc.  The programs were designed to drill the same concept repeatedly with little variation in skill level, challenge or sequential order.

Another concept that came up was simulation.  This is where the rookie truly comes out.  Airport City, Big Business, My Country 2020 and Megapolis are simulations avaiable through the Apps Store for iPads.  The SimCity programs might be earlier examples of simulations.

Finally, gamification was the newest concept in this realm.  My understanding is that gamification can occur in a software program like Prodigy MathIXL Math or it can exist in a learning environment.  Players have one common goal or set of goals and are rewarded with points, badges or items to increase their ability or appearance.  The Quest To Learn School in New York City is run based on a gamification model.  Surely the team will want to visit New York City, for the professional development, of course!

As a blogger, I have been better at posting and asking for feedback than I have been at sharing opinions on the posts and blogs of others.  Throughout this project, I would like to participate more in the blogs of others.  If you choose to comment on my blogs, please let me know the name of your blogs and I’ll happily share.

Level up,


one week after the conference

What a difference a week makes!  Last weekend, I was full of new ideas, searching for resources to read and my mind had one setting, gamification.  As one of the presenters (Jeff Pelich) reminded us, life gets in the way.  I realize that I’m going to have to chunk this project into perhaps smaller bits than we had planned only last week.  My enthusiasm has not waned, but I believe that the learning curve will peak in the summer; the first of many learning curves, I suspect.  Our team leader (Adele Stanfield) and fellow team member (David Bradbury) will keep me on track.  I am looking forward to the opportunities and the journey in the year ahead.

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