Week 6: Reflection on Learning

This week we discussed how classrooms have changed over the years with a specific focus on technology.  I spoke with Donna about remembering to let students experience learning on their own.  In the past I would be more inclined to help students do work by showing them; however when I was showing them how to do the work these students were most likely not learning how to learn.  I want my students to become lifelong learners and in order for this to occur I need to let my students learn.

I also recommended a website for Donna and Tiffany to check out.  The article was called, Ten Ways to Encourage Students to take Responsibility for their Learning.

Retrieved from http://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/10-ways-to-encourage-students-to-take-responsibility-for-their-own-learning/

Finally Bonnie and I talked about Minecraft.  I discussed some of the struggles I have had with Minecraft as well as some of the benefits I have gained by playing.  I really enjoy the family time I get to spend with my husband and son.  I have learned a great deal from my son and I am amazed at how much he enjoys collaborating with other players on Minecraft.

Finally, I worked on creating a Minecraft lesson incorporating estimation for my STEM class.  Overall it has been a busy week.  I enjoy reflecting on how classrooms have and haven’t changed over time.  Some ideas seem to come back while others slip by the wayside.


Week 6: How does the Culture of your Current Teaching Environment Differ from the Learning You Experienced as a Student?

The new culture of learning includes two key elements: a massive information network with unlimited access to resources and a bounded and structured environment where children have the agency to build and experiment (New Culture of Learning).  Today’s “new culture of learning” includes using gaming as an option in our classrooms.  Students have the opportunity to participate in collaborative projects via the internet.  In the past students could only participate in collaborative projects during classroom time.  Using games such as “Scratch” allows students the opportunity to receive support from their peers and fosters good citizenship, (New Culture of Learning).

In the past the teacher not only modeled for students but ultimately told the students how and what to learn.  In (some) of today’s classrooms students are being encouraged to learn on their own.  Teachers act more as facilitators as students support each other as they learn.  Children are learning how to learn on their own, and they learn how to use support from their peers to gain new information (Newman from “Drakkart, Why Minecraft Inspires Me”).  One game that supports this new culture of learning is Minecraft.  Recently I have spent a great deal of time learning how to play Minecraft for my other graduate level course.  I am amazed at how much I have learned from my family as I learn to play this game.  My husband and children took pictures of me playing the first night I tried and had a few good laughs.  When I have questions I frequently ask my son to help me.  Not only have I learned a great deal from him, but I have also developed a great connection with my son.  If educators are willing to take the time to learn how to play games such as Minecraft, they can create connections with their students.  Dave Burgess speaks about finding your passion in his book, Teach like a Pirate.  In order for teachers to reach students today they need to focus on what they are passionate about and then bring that passion into their classroom.  Teachers also need to take the time to get to know their students outside of the classroom; in other words, teachers need to learn what the students enjoy doing outside of school and take time to establish a relationship with students  (Burgess, Dave, 2012).

Learning in the past took on a “mechanistic view” the goal was to learn as much as you could in as little time as you could.  In A New Culture of Learning, the author suggests that learning should be viewed in terms of the environment.  In this environment the teacher and students coexist.  Rather than simply fixing a problem the students are working to “grow a solution”, (New Culture of Learning).  Students learn through engagement in real world or real to life games/activities.  This seems to be a very different perspective than when I was in school.  Much of my education was dictated by my teachers; I don’t feel as though I was given the freedom to explore my own interests in elementary school.  However, that being said, in the gifted program at my school I was able to do an independent study program where I spent the year exploring what I wanted.  My daughter is currently doing similar things as a part of her sixth grade program.  Why are we only offering these programs for select students?  It seems that if we are to pursue this “New Culture of Learning” we need to allow more students to have the opportunity to take in the world by “sharing their interests, developing their passions, and by engaging in a play of imagination,” (A New Culture of Learning).


Thomas, Douglas & Brown S., John. (2011). A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change.

Drakkart-Why Minecraft Inspires Me. You Tube.

Burgess, Dave. (2012). Teach like a Pirate. Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. San Diego, CA

Week 5 Reflection on Maintaining Excellence as we Innovate

This week I enjoyed attending the session with Dave Burgess.  This is the second time I have had the opportunity to share a session with Dave Burgess.  I enjoy hearing his responses to the questions we provided.  Ultimately, you can’t help but leave his sessions feeling empowered to be passionate about teaching!  Being around someone who is passionate is like wildfire; I find myself wanting nothing more than to get into the classroom and share my passion.

Additionally, this week I had the opportunity to lead my first twitter session.  I enjoyed leading the session but found it difficult to keep up with everyone’s answers.  Colin reminded me that one of the nice things about twitter is that I can go back and respond later if I don’t have time during class.  (Thanks, Colin).  I was thankful to work with Sara; I think we made a good team and worked well together.  We had a great twitter session on passion and shared some great lesson plan ideas and strategies.  Finally, we reminded everyone to participate in their wiki pages. 

As we discussed maintaining excellence while we innovate I managed to find some time to post on my classmates pages.  I discussed maintaining family life outside of school with Thomas and Gary (on Thomas’s page).  I enjoyed reading Gary’s post reminding us that it is okay, and we should, put family first.  When we don’t put family first we can’t do a good job in the classroom.  I shared with Thomas my successes and failures at putting family first.  Thomas is also very passionate about integrating new technology.  I reminded him of the website for Donors Choose; this website allows teachers to receive support to fund classroom projects. (www.donorschoose.org). 

I also commented on Scott’s page and shared my experience with PLC’s or Professional Learning Communities.  Scott talked about the willingness to try new things, make mistakes, reflect on those mistakes and try it again.  I mentioned how I had the opportunity to do this as a part of our PLC’s at one of the schools I worked at.  We were able (and required) to observe our fellow teachers at least once each quarter.  This gave me the opportunity to see what great things my colleagues were doing; then I could use these ideas in my own classroom.  Scott also talked about maintaining excellence by making sure our assessments are true, valid assessments and the content we teach is relevant to the subject and to our students.  Scott made some really great points.  I enjoyed reading his post.

I also chatted with Sara H. a bit.  We discussed the makeup of our classrooms; we will never have classrooms where every student learns the same way.  Sara talked about Project Based Learning which I feel like I am only beginning to learn about as well.  I shared a resource for Extended Learning Opportunities and also shared a neat Ted Talk by Ken Robinson on Creativity. 

Finally, I spent time conversing with Verena’s class during the course of the week.   I posted our initial teacher rubric last week Saturday and have referred back to if a few times to check on the progress.  I also updated our wiki page by adding a graphic.  I am still not really comfortable working on these pages, but maybe I will be at some point down the road.

How do we Maintain Excellence as we Innovate?

How do We Maintain Excellence as we Innovate?

“It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.” –Albert Einstein

As teachers, it is our job to meet the needs of our students.  We can do this by being innovative.  Each child brings different background knowledge and experiences to the classroom.  As we take the time initially to get to know our students we will find ourselves equipped with the knowledge we need to help our students be creative and gain knowledge.  You still might find yourself saying, “True great idea, but how in the world can we be innovative while trying to meet the needs of 25 second grade students?”  Certainly this is not a task that can be done overnight.  There are several ways to do this.  One way to effectively be innovative while maintaining excellence is to use research based strategies.

E. Paul Torrance suggests the following model (The Incubation Model):

               1.  Heightening Anticipation: Make connections between the classroom and the                           student’s real  lives.  “Create the desire to know.”

               2.  Deepen Expectations: Engage the curriculum in new ways. Brainstorm and                              create  opportunities to solve a novel problem.

               3.  Keep it going: Continue the thinking beyond the lesson or classroom. Find                        ways to extend learning opportunities at home or even in the community.

(as cited by Clifford, 2013).


The first step in Torrance’s model is similar to Dave Burgess’s method in Teach like a Pirate.  Dave Burgess suggests developing a hook in order to “create the desire to know” (Torrance as cited by Clifford, 2013 and Burgess, 2012).  Burgess suggests looking at different learning styles when you think about designing hooks for the classroom.  These hooks can range from “Picasso Hooks” which look at incorporating art into a lesson to “Life Changing Hooks” that look at how a lesson can be used to offer “growth and reflection” for the students (Burgess, 2012).


The next step in Torrance’s model suggests that as teachers we seek to engage the curriculum in new ways giving students time to brainstorm and be creative.  As teachers it is our job to make the curriculum engaging.  Certainly we can stand on our soapbox and present information, anyone can read from a script.  The true challenge of teaching is presenting the curriculum in a “new” way.  One thing we can do as educators to enable our students to access the curriculum in a new way is to give our kids tools while allowing them to explore the content individually and collaboratively.  In other words, we should give our students time to explore, make mistakes, and learn from their mistakes.  Ken Robinson states that, “If you aren’t prepared to be wrong you will not come up with anything original,” (Robinson, Ted Talk on Creativity, 2006).  Robinson discusses how kids will explore things they don’t know.  If we give students the tools they need to find information along with the “hook” that gets them excited about learning, our students will actively seek information.  (Robinson, 2006).


We can continue to maintain excellence as we innovate by providing students the opportunity to extend their learning beyond the classroom.  ELO’s or Extended Learning Opportunities can be…”independent study, private instruction, team sports, performing groups, internships, community service, and work study” as well as online courses and apprenticeships,” according to Keena State College (2014).  Extended Learning Opportunities give students the chance to extend their learning in a real world setting.  As we design hooks for our lessons Dave Burgess suggests looking at real world hooks.  One way we can do this is by asking ourselves questions as we create engaging, innovative lessons.  One question might be, “What can we inspire kids to learn that goes beyond the test?” (Burgess, 2012).  By actually thinking about questions like this and looking at ELO’s we can help our students see a connection between school and the world they live in.


Ensuring the first few days are successful and engaging is important, but bear in mind that developing a plan for classroom management prior to the first few days of school is essential.  One book I refer to each year as I plan for the first few weeks of school is The First Days of School by Harry Wong and Rosemary Wong.  I like referring to this text because it reminds me of the many things I need to consider when I plan for the first few days and even weeks of school.  I want my classroom to be innovative and engaging, in order for this to happen I need to get to know my students and this requires a safe, well-organized environment in which my students feel they can share information, make mistakes and learn.




Clifford, Miriam. (2013). 30 Ways to Promote Creativity in Your Classroom. Retrieved from http://www.innovationexcellence.com/blog/2013/01/10/30-ways-to-promote-creativity-in-your-classroom/


Ken Robinson: How schools kill creativity. Ted Talk, Feb. 2006.Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html


Burgess, Dave. (2012). Teach like a Pirate. Dave Burgess Consulting Inc. San Diego, California.


 Extended Learning Opportunities. (2014) Keena State College.  Retrieved from beyondtheclassroom.org


Wong, Harry K. & Wong, Rosemary T. (2001).  The First Days of School.

Week 4 Reflection on Innovation and Engagement in the Classroom

Over the course of the week we discussed how we could make our classrooms more engaging.  We also looked at whether or not this process needed to include innovation.

I enjoyed reading Tomas’s blog post about teaching with passion.  He discussed his passion for technology and shared some different resources online.  I mentioned that I also enjoy using the NLVM website in the classroom.  In addition I gave him another site that he could use for base ten blocks.  I like this site because you can select different grade levels, workmats, and different manipulatives all on one screen. 

Base Ten Blocks

I also enjoyed reading Bonnie’s post on engagement.  She discussed using “whole group” response rather than hand raising.  I asked her what she meant by “whole group” response.  I also shared a link on response cards.  I used different response cards in my classroom and find that engagement goes up when I allow all of my students the opportunity to respond. 

Response Cards

I also really enjoyed reading Leslie’s blog post.  She discussed Frondeville’s article.  Specifically she talked about using Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures in the classroom.  I enjoy using Kagan Learning Structures in the classroom.  I shared my favorite Kagan method called Rally Coach and provided a site to reference for others who want to research Kagan Strategies on their own.

Kagan Stratgies Research

Finally, Scott and I had a great discussion about making mistakes.  Our students are more engaged when we are willing to be “real” with them.  Teachers are not some perfect group of individuals who never make mistakes, in fact we are quite the opposite.  I find myself making mistakes often; these mistakes are what make me a better teacher.  Of course I was embarrased the first time I messed up, but owning up to your mistakes and showing your students how you can learn from your mistakes will help them learn what to do when they mess up. 

I also contributed to both wiki pages this week.  I put the components together for the teacher rubric page and our group is currently working on revising our rubric and getting it into the final form.  I really enjoyed working with Verena and some of her students.  They were very helpful as I tried to clean up the wiki.  I am impressed at how hardworking and diligent her students are.  Thanks for working with us! 🙂



Week 4: Engaging Lessons

How do we keep our lessons engaging?

A thought about engagement:

“More recently, student engagement has been built around the hopeful goal of enhancing all students’ abilities to learn how to learn or to become lifelong learners in a knowledge-based society,” (Gilbert, 2007, p. 1, As cited by Taylor L. and Parsons, J., 2011).

The first step in engaging our students is getting to know who our students are; not just who the students are at school, but who they are outside of school as well.  Dave Burgess speaks about building rapport with students.  One of the “Big Secrets” he shares “is to spend less time trying to get students interested in what you are presenting and more time making connections between what you are presenting and what they are already interested in,” (Dave Burgess, p. 347).  In order to know what students are interested in, we have to get to know the students.  We can do this by creating a safe, supportive environment where our students feel valued (Burgess).  Furthermore, “Students want stronger relationships with teachers, with each other, and with their communities…They want their teachers to know them as people,” (Taylor L. & Parsons, J., 2011).  How can we, as teachers do this?  How do we get to know our students?  This can begin on the first day by greeting our students as they enter the classroom.  Or, by asking students what their hobbies are, or what they did over the summer?  We can continue doing this as the year goes on.

I often run into families outside of school, and I always make a point to say hello and ask the student about something I know they might be interested in.  I can think of one particular instance when my students realized how much I love to run.  The kids would often see me running outside.  During one particular run in my housing area, I saw a few of my students.  On my second lap around I saw a few more students and noticed that they began running with me.  I slowed down a bit, and by the time I finished a few laps I had about 4 or 5 of my students running with me.  I don’t recall exactly what we talked about during our run, but I do know the kids talked about it at school for weeks.  Establishing good rapport with students is the first step in creating engaging lessons.

Along with getting to know our students we need to create a positive learning environment.  Dave Burgess says that a positive learning environment is critical in order for higher level thinking to occur (Burgess, 2012).  Willms, Friensen, and Milton state that, “Students who describe their classroom disciplinary climate as positive are one and a half times mores likely to report high levels of interest, motivation and enjoyment in learning,” (2007, as cited in Taylor L. & Parsons, J. 2011).

Once you have established a positive learning environment and you have taken the time to get to know each student you can begin the creative process of making your lessons engaging.  Of course, hopefully up to this point you have worked diligently to implement engaging lessons to get to know your students.  I am not going to pretend that I have all the answers on how to make lessons engaging.  I can tell you some things that have worked for me, though.  In Teach Like a Pirate, Dave Burgess discusses finding your own passion and using that passion to help you teach.  One of my passions is exercise; ultimately, I prefer running, however running around the classroom is not always feasible.  So, one way I incorporate my passion into math is by skip counting while doing exercise.  Generally we will do this during our warm-up; however, sometimes my students will begin to look tired or distracted so we will stop what we are doing and skip count while doing jumping jacks or some other exercise.  My students love it and after we have done it a few times, they will even ask to do it if they feel like they need to get some wiggles out.

Besides using your passion to engage students, teachers can use exploration to engage students.  “Just as we want to learn about the Web by clicking our own path through cyberspace, we want to learn about our subjects through exploration. It’s not enough to accept the professor’s word.  We want to be challenged to reach our own conclusions and find our own results.  The need to explore is implicit in our desire to learn,” (Windham, 2005, p. 58 as cited by Taylor L. & Parsons, J. 2011).  Students today seek the opportunity to explore problems and find their own solutions, either independently or collaboratively.

Does innovation play a part in engagement?

Innovation certainly plays a role in engagement.  As teachers, we have to be willing to look beyond what we have done in the past, and instead be willing to learn what our students need NOW.  This isn’t always the easy option to choose.  It is much easier to create lesson plans and use them year after year.  However, in order to reach our students we need to be willing to teach with passion and be willing to use our “creative genius” (as Dave Burgess refers to a teacher’s ability to create) to develop engaging lessons.

In order to create innovative, engaging lessons we need only to begin by looking at our students.  Donna Fry, secondary school principal in Northwestern Ontario states, “This [the kids] is the essence of what drives innovation in the classroom.  It begins with kids.  What do they want to learn? What questions are they asking? How can they find the answers? It can only be cultivated when a teacher is given the professional freedom to let them go, to give up some level of control over where the learning is going.”

Another part of being innovative is being willing to make mistakes.  As we embark on this journey to create engaging lessons, we need to be willing to try new things and to fail sometimes.  Failure should be viewed as feedback (Burgess, 2012).

Creating engaging lessons can be challenging and requires creativity that we often feel we may not have, however if we are willing to embrace our own passion and open ourselves to new ideas we can create truly innovative and engaging lessons.  I think the first step in doing so is committing to doing it.


Burgess, Dave. (2012) Teach Like a Pirate. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc.  San Diego, CA.

Fry, Donna. (2012) Classroom Innovation Means Giving Up Control. Retrieved February 7, 2014 from


Taylor, L. and Parsons, J. (2011).  Improving Student Engagement. Current Issues in Education, 14(1).

Retrieved February 7, 2014 from http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/viewFile/745/162

Rationale for Team 3’s Evaluation Tool for Teachers to Determine the Use of Serious Games in the Classroom

            Our group spent much of the week discussing how to make our rubric a clear, effective assessment tool for teachers to use to assess serious games.  Our rubric touches on several different components of serious games. 

            One component we touched on was identity.  Gee discusses identify in his article, Good Video Games and Good Learning.  Taking on a new identity allows the player or student to make a commitment to the virtual world; in other words the student will value his/her work more when he/she can identify with the world.  Additionally, we included interactivity on our rubric.  Interactivity, as defined in terms of digital games, means “a game property that allows users to influence the quality and course of events occurring in the game world,” (Klimmt and Vorderen, 2007).  In our group we split up interactivity further by creating two separate components: one for interactivity and one titled “authentic environment”. 

            Other components we included were risk taking and well-ordered problems.  Gee discusses both of these components in his article, Good Video Games and Good Learning.  Gee states that good video games order problems so they lead or build into the next problem.  These problems also encourage the player to take risks and try new things.  Finally, after students take these risks the game provides feedback through failures.  (This is another component we included in our rubric). 

            We also included a “clear purpose that relates to the learning objectives and standards”.  Anne Derryberry states that, “Serious games are designed with the intention of improving some specific aspect of learning,” (Online Games for Learning, Anne Derryberry).  When teachers utilize these games and students begin playing these “serious games”, they come with the expectation that these “standards/objectives” will be met.  This component also includes “a clear purpose”. “In a nutshell, if a serious game has no impact on the player in a real life context, it misses its pivotal purpose.  For this reason, the game’s purpose acts as the driving force that shapes the dynamic and the coherence of the game system as a whole,” (Mitgutsch, K and Alvarado, N). Finally, the nature of the game allows transference of new skills from the game environment to the real world. 

            By no means is our rubric the only tool that can be used to evaluate serious games, however I feel like our group has worked diligently to create a rubric that is backed by research and thoughtful consideration.

Contribution to the group:

In order to support the group I offered to type up the rubric; I did so because I am currently not working in the classroom so I have a bit more free time than other people in my group.  Also, I really do not mind helping out.  Our group worked together to edit/revise the rubric once the first version was typed in.  We initially began with numbers and I added words as well and the group agreed.  Scott worked on dividing interactivity into two components, which I think made our rubric clearer.  Bonnie, Megan, and Donna added quite a bit to the rubric.  I think I added the section on problem solving.  You can see we really did discuss how we evalutated serious games by reviewing our homepage for the wiki.  Our group worked really well together.



Derryberry, Anne. (2007). Serious Games: online games for learning. Retrieved Online January 23, 2014 from https://www.adobe.com/resources/elearning/pdfs/serious_games_wp.pdf

Mitgutsch, Konstantin and Alvarado, Narda. Purposeful by Design? A Serious Game Design Assessment  Framework. Retrieved online January 23, 2014 from http://hubscher.org/roland/courses/hf765/readings/p121-mitgutsch.pdf

Klimmt, Christopher. Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects. Serious Games and Social Change Why They (Should) Work, Ch. 16.  Retrieved online January 23, 2014 from http://books.google.com/books?id=eGORAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA272&lpg=PA272&dq=crucial+components+of+serious+games&source=bl&ots=1tams3LkXB&sig=ryfqE1m0LhZuzffXACvymkYDqrQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rl_jUvWPPNHmoASvyYDgDw&ved=0CGgQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=crucial%20components%20of%20serious%20games&f=false


James Paul Gee

Good Video Games and Good Learning