Academic Technology Expo 2017

Friday, January 13th was the sixth annual Academic Technology Expo (ATE) at the University of Oklahoma. ATE is one of my favorite local conferences because there’s an emphasis on instructors presenting the tools they are using in their classrooms. This helps me gage and pursue various technologies and use cases that interest faculty. Not to mention, ATE keeps me informed about many of the technology initiatives throughout OU classrooms.

This year’s ATE was especially notable between a day (Jan 12th) focused on OU’s new Innovation HUB followed by a day (Jan 13th) filled with phenomenal presentations and the wonderful Keynote speaker, Gardner Campbell!

Telling ATE Stories Through Twitter

The tweets that follow are intended to represent a snapshot of my experience at ATE. They have been curated from the #OUTechExpo stream and will include various individuals. In other words, this post also acts as a “recommended to follow these awesome people” post. Anyways, I’ll try to limit myself to ~5 tweets per session—here we go:

Drupal as a Collaborative Classroom Tool
Students Creating and Sharing Online Annotations through Hypothesis
Wiki EDU - Wikipedia Articles as Course Assignments
Keynote: An Insite-Oriented Education
Making Games for the Classroom with Twine
Students as Makers of Educational Games

Keynote

Reflection

My favorite part of ATE was presenting alongside Lauren and Julie on some of the curriculum they’ve implemented/are developing for their courses. Lauren built a text-based game with her students around the choices immigrants and asylum seekers face. This activity intended to engage Lauren’s students in both research and creative writing that could be showcased outside of the classroom. I love this project because Lauren had her students reflect on every choice they made while developing the game, Sanctuary. What an opportunity for her students to see the world through another individuals point of view and empathize with people immigrating to the United States.

Julie also has a terrific choose-your-own adventure game development activity she intends to implement in her Fall 2017 course around Spanish literature. For Julie’s students, they will practice their language skills while writing plausible, alternative ending to pieces of literature. Checkout the example Julie developed for her students, Las medias rojas, during her participation in eXperience Play. My favorite quote Julie said about why she’s pursuing this activity is that she had “fun” developing her own text-based game and wants her students to have a similar experience in her class.

Sanctuary Cover
Las medias rojas Cover

I felt spoiled at ATE since it was my second time to hear Gardner Campbell speak in the last three months (shoutout to #OpenEd16!) He was phenomenal. What resonated with me from his talk is his portrayal of the internet as a network where everyone is connected, but no one entity is in control, as well as his call to action that we should always be intentional when implementing technologies into the classroom. To me, these are two ideas that drive some of the curriculum and professional development I design. Honestly, it’s hard to put into words much of the inspiration Gardner propagates, so I will differ to the soon-to-be-released video of his talk. I highly encourage you to listen to his encouragement (when it’s posted). Thank you Gardner Campbell!

PS. Gardner Campbell invited us to his Open Learning Connectivist MOOC that starts this week. I wanted to extend the same invitation to you. 🙂

Finally, due to the threat of inclement weather, ATE possessed a high concentration of passionate educators willing to brave the potential of freezing rain. Thus, from learning about Drupal to facilitate collaborate research in the classroom, to engaging students in discussion using group annotations with Hypothes.is, and scaffolding the writing of academic papers with Wikipedia articles, ATE was comprised of some fantastic sessions. I love seeing the results of passionate instructors and the technologies they utilize. Here’s to another great year of learning alongside them.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Riley McCullough via Unsplash.

My Vision (and Search) for a Connectivist Graduate Program

For the last year, I’ve been contemplating graduate school. I’m still researching and evaluating various programs around the world, but I wanted to take a second and reflect on what I desire from a graduate program. I have many answers to this question, but let me expand upon this idea:

I want a graduate degree program where students teach some of the courses in the curriculum.

I don’t believe this is too outlandish since I’m looking at programs in the field of education, possibly within instructional design. But I’ve had no luck uncovering such a program. So, for now, I’m going to dream. What would such a degree program look like?

Anatomy of a Connectivist Graduate Program

I envision a program founded upon connectivist learning philosophies and comprised of two components:

  1. A core set of curriculum that every student must complete. This is crucial for standardizing instruction for degree components like research methodologies and models/theories of the discipline.
  2. An additional set of courses led by students based on their own expertise. These are intended to be open-ended in regards to content and practice and would vary year to year based on the student body.

To me, a connectivist program necessitates a particular anatomy and entails thoughtful design. As an example, a degree like this would require a set cohort of students that progress through the curriculum together. Such a cohort would need to be comprised of diverse individuals from different backgrounds, possessing a variety of skills. To ensure such diversity, there’d need to be an application process that not only considers expertise, but also establishes cohesion in terms of student backgrounds within each cohort. In other words, this entire process requires careful design considerations.

If it was possible, there would still be several challenges to overcome.

Challenges

The skills to thrive and succeed in a connectivist degree program are not the same skills present in typical educational environment. For instance, I anticipate humility would be a critical element of a connectivist degree for everyone involved. There’s a significant discomfort about not knowing the exact direction of a program as a student or as a teacher; and overcoming these feelings would require a strong emphasis on community and active, inclusive communication between all parties.

Additionally, I foresee accreditation being a serious stumbling-block. In fact, I proposed a “core set of curriculum that every student must complete” as a solution to this challenge. Program viability depends on the consistency of educational quality and rigor from year to year for each cohort. Accreditation is a conversation well beyond what I wish to tackle in this post but it remains a significant challenge. (Not to mention, I don’t have the answer to accreditation anyways.)

With these two challenges, I hope that I’ve illustrated the complexity of design for such a program to exist—intention and care in developing a connectivist graduate degree are imperative. Still, I am determined! If we are to produce the next generation of educators, critical instructional designers, etc., we need to utilize the educational philosophies we champion in the designs of our programs themselves.

Disclaimer

Since I’m still dreaming here, I want to explore a couple of my favorite questions.

What courses would I want to teach?

This is one of my favorite questions in the context of a connectivist graduate program!

One course that I’d love to facilitate would involve exploring productivity using affordable. I know this may sound a little out-there, but I imagine a course where everyone is limited to $300 worth of technology and must participate with minimal computing devices—including designing instruction to operate on inexpensive technologies. Specifically, I’m interested in engaging others in curriculum around $100 laptops, $50 phones, or $50 tablets? What does a Domain of One’s Own project look like under these parameters? A portion of this curriculum would focus on socioeconomic barriers and issues related to digital redlining.

Another course I’d love to teach would focus on interests that I’ve explored in both GOBLIN and XP—I’d love to teach a course about digital storytelling, game design, and what games have to teach us about learning. I see many opportunities to engage others with information literacy, media literacy, and various digital literacies while participating in experiential learning and exploring creative expressions. Ideally, part of this course would involve developing games and discussing them as transformative experiences with opportunities to pursue action research and/or academic research.

What courses would I want to take?

On the flip-side of teaching in a connectivist graduate program, there are many topics I’d love to explore.

For example, I’d love to learn more about practical use cases of APIs in the classroom and beyond. From personal workflow automation to manipulating sets of data across the web, a practical API course sounds phenomenal. I’d imagine course projects would range from building APIs to utilizing public APIs and engaging in the conversations of the future of APIs in education.

Also, I’d love a course on “crowdsourcing” and how it can be implemented instructionally into courses and/or research. Topics like large scale community driven problem solving and hosting crowdfunding campaigns for social work. These projects would make for some spectacular curriculum in my mind. Crowdsourcing as an instructional tool is not typical and I see a lot of potential around a such a course since there are a multitude of directions and applications for the idea.

Looking Forward

I know this post presents small and specific examples as part of gross oversimplifications of larger ideas. But I write because I see value in a connectivist approach to graduate education. I provided examples of student-led courses because they demonstrate to me the strength of connectivim and highlight where traditional curriculum falls short. Student-led courses can be built on personal passions and current conversations. A dynamic program might be tailored to the participants, current technologies, and cutting edge scholarship; not to mention, scaffold greater transference of connectivist (etc.) theories to practice!

At the end of the day, the core of my dream—what I value most in my education:

  1. The opportunity to be viewed as an aspiring scholar, rather than just a student;
  2. A program that practices what it preaches, instead of defaulting to lecture and discussion of readings;
  3. The promise of growth and not feeling indoctrinated into standardizations of thought;
  4. Connecting with a community that involves and cares about everyones struggles, development, and experience.

That is why I’m envisioning a degree program constructed with connectivist learning philosophies because we should make our programs reflective of the educational ideas we champion.

Before I close, I want to take a moment and shoutout to Martha Burtis & Sean Michale Morris for their recent talks on Critical Instructional Design:

Although the topics from their presentation does not necessarily relate to the content I cover, their words were an “inspiration catalyst” for me to finish writing this post, which began a few months ago.

Anyways, what are your thoughts on a connectivist graduate program? Is it possible? What are the risks? What are the benefits? Am I crazy? 🙂 Let me know.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Baim Hanif via Unsplash.

Anatomy of Slaying GOBLINs – #OpenEd16 Presentation

Last week, John and I gave one of my favorite presentations while at #OpenEd16. We spoke about our game-based professional development program, GOBLIN. During our 25 minute presentation, we combined role-play, gameplay, storytelling, and discussion to emulate the experience of participating in a session of GOBLIN.

Role-Play

To add subtle hype to our final-day-of-the-conference session, we distributed a few sightings of the GOBLIN via twitter:

These “sightings” aimed to invoke curiosity and set the tone for our presentation. John and I intended to paint the attendees of #OpenEd16 as warriors we’d gathered to consult and help us defeat the mighty GOBLIN. As soon as the session started, the role-play was already in full swing. John and I introduced ourselves as the Guru’s of these lands, seeking aid from valiant warriors. We were not disappointed.

One of John and I’s worries of the extensive role-play in our presentation was soliciting buy-in from participants. If role-play is not fun, coherent, or accessible, then it will not be well received—and like GOBLIN, we had crafted role-play into our presentation and staked success on this design. Fortunately, we were relieved at the laugher and feedback from Twitter inspired by our approach. We’d put a significant amount of thought and craftsmanship into how role-play would be integrated into our session and the results were fantastic:

My favorite line to deliver was about the computers, tablets, and smartphones of the participants:

These comments were not inconsequential. They allowed John and I to layer and tailor our own ideas over the real world. We were framing tasks in new light—breathing perspectives and meaning into normally trivial endeavors. In practice, John and I capitalized on the world we created with a short research game.

Gameplay

With our fantasy universe was established, we engaged participants in a simple game. The task was to submit open resources like images, video, or software to goblin.education/opened16. This crowdsourcing of information inflicted damage upon the GOBLIN. The more resources procured, the more points removed from the GOBLIN’s health bar:

Gif of GOBLIN being damaged by recourse submissions

There were so many people attempting to submit resources simultaneously that we crashed the website for a couple minutes! (Which was fine as we only need to demonstrate the concept of the game.) Nevertheless, thanks Lee! 😉

Storytelling

Cartoon campfire

Following the game, we launched into the history of GOBLIN. I framed this story in the context that John and I had encountered this menace before and needed to inform these warriors of the GOBLIN’s origin. This weaving of role-play and reality sure made for some memorable storytelling!

The birth of GOBLIN is quite simple; it arose from a single question:

This question drove the development of GOBLIN. We wrestled with it as developers/instructors and we used it as a point of engagement for our faculty.

In addition to this foundational question, John and I practice experiential pedagogies, and pragmatically, this means we use the concepts we’re teaching in the design of the instruction:

In practice, this meant we:

Once we established these two core ideas in the genesis of GOBLIN, we explained our development process and how open educational resources enabled us to build character cards for the table-top, D20 based RPG named GOBLIN.

But the GOBLIN game was merely a primer for discussion of pedagogical concepts like scaffolding, overcoming failure, and gamification (etc.). These discussions and the exorbitant amount of optional homework completed by faculty were where we engaged participants in professional development. Together, these aspects of GOBLIN resulted in the highest attendance of any faculty learning community we’ve ever facilitated (even ones where iPads were given as part of their involvement)!

However, the story is not all fun and games. GOBLIN suffered from a lack of equal representation among the characters. For instance, it was difficult to find open female artwork that was not heavily sexualized. John and I made it a point to diversify our characters as much as possible. We used labels to imply gender ambiguous artwork was female and ensured that no more than half of the characters where explicitly male. But even with our attempts, we still received feedback that greater diversity should be present. We agree and plan to keep working at improving this weakness of our program.

Slide from GOBLIN presentation showing female character and implied female character, sorceress.
Female rogue and implied female character, sorceress.

Discussion

Fortunately, we concluded our presentation in several minutes of open discussion and talked about these shortcomings with the attendees. There were some great suggestions to engage art students at the university in producing open artwork for GOBLIN.

Others spoke about artwork and their fear of competing against high budget games. John and I let the discussion evolve naturally and many great points arose from these statements:

To wrap it all together, Erika Bullock gave a testimony as a student who participated in developing games for class assignments. She attested to the potential of learning inherent in that design process and her comments encouraged instructors to consider the value of games as instructional opportunities.

What a great time of discussion we had. John and I enjoy crowdsourcing ideas from the discussions we host in GOBLIN or in presentations about GOBLIN. Learning is best as a communal experience. 🙂

Reflection

Presenting at #OpenEd16 was a phenomenal experience. The opportunity to share ideas and work with many of the people I look up to is a fantastic “right of passage.” Like Terry said in his #OpenEd16 reflection, “It is VERY satisfying, when you get up the nerve to tell [your edu heroes] you admire their work…to see them seem genuinely grateful for the praise and interested in who you are.” I couldn’t have asked for a greater audience and location.

One component of the presentation that folks might not have been aware of at the time, is that the entire presentation was a reflection of a GOBLIN session. We used a game to set the stage and add context to the discussion we wanted to facilitate. There were some extra components since it was a presentation, like the dive into GOBLIN history and the how the building process was impacted by open resources. But overall, very similar structure between GOBLIN and this presentation about GOBLIN. #meta

From the feedback we received and the questions following our presentation, I’d call the session a success. I made a lot of connections with folks interested in GOBLIN and look forward to the working with them.

As a reminder, GOBLIN is built using open materials and is also licensed openly for you to take it, adapt it, use it, and expand it. If you want some assistance with the materials, let us know. Be aware that we’re still building pieces of the GOBLIN  website and improving implementation and distribution.

Also, if you want a copy of our slides, here you go:

Finally, if there’s one way our presentation will be remembered, I’m glad it’s because we gifted D20 dice as swag. 😀

The featured image is included with Mark Morvant’s permission.

eXperience Plan

If you are interested in participating in eXperience Play (XP) remotely, I am going to provide a to-do list of items each week. These to-do lists will include a variety of tasks such as playing games, reflecting, blogging, and portions of game development. If you complete all five to-do lists, you will produce an educational text-based game in five weeks. For more information on this professional development, read this blog post, visit the eXperience Play website, or contact me via Twitter or email.

This post corresponds with the second session of XP.

Part 1 – Game Development

1. Watch this video:

Think about the scope of the game you want to build and know that you do not have to make a perfect game on your first try. You are learning!

2. Outline the story/choices of your game (from the idea you were brainstorming last week).

3. Create a storyboard to visually organize the outline of your game. Hold onto this storyboard for next week. Here’s an examples of how the connections in your storyboard may look:

Digital flow chart illustrating liner and circular organizations of stories in text-based games.

Please note that I’m not concerned with an “official” way to storyboard or plan your game. XP participants have developed flow charts on whiteboards, used notecards to represent each “scene” of their text-based game, setup spreadsheets to map out choices, and created digital flow charts using software like CmapTools. Use whatever tools you need/want while planning your game. If you have questions about this or want to engage with us, please reach out to us.

Here’s another example of the planning taking place in XP:

Part 2 – Professional Development

4. Write a blog post about your experience planning your game using the following prompt:

Blog Prompt
  • Write an overview of the process you followed while planning your game. Document what tools you used (whiteboard, notecards, software, other, etc.) and include screenshots of your planning artifacts (complete or in-progress).
  • Reflect and write about how this outlining and storyboarding exercise helped you while planning your game. Alternatively, applying this activity to the classroom, how can outlining and storyboarding a concept or project aid a student?
  • Research & define “Digital Storytelling” in your own words. Describe your outlining and storyboarding exercise in the context of your definition of “Digital Storytelling.”

Please have your plan/storyboard for your text-based game ready by September 26th.  Share your storyboard with me via Twitter or email or reach out with any questions.

The featured image is provided CC0 by Olu Eletu via Unsplash.

#games4ed – Leading My First Twitter Chat

Last night I moderated the #games4ed live chat. Little do anyone know, this was my first time to host a Twitter chat. O.o I’ve had a lot of fun on Twitter recently. First I remotely participated in a conference and then I published my first set of open Twitter data. Not to mention joining the #games4ed live chats and meeting many awesome people: Melissa Pilakowski, Steven Isaacs, Mark Grundel, & PBJellyGames, to name a few. With all of these experiences, I felt prepared to moderate a Twitter chat for the first time.

Preparing to Moderate a Twitter Chat

1. Brainstorming topics & questions – After Melissa asked if I wanted to host a night of #games4ed, I started thinking about what subjects I wanted to do. Eventually, I decided on Open Educational Resources (OER) and Game Design. John Stewart and I had just recently finished GOBLIN, which was built as an OER table-top game to teach professors about gamification and game-based learning. All of these ideas were fresh in my mind and I wanted to hear other educators contribute to this conversation. I am glad I selected this topic because #games4ed has not covered OER yet. So, I was excited to be the first!

#games4ed QAll
Final list of my #games4ed questions shared under a CC-BY 4.0 License

2. Creating question graphics – #Games4ed uses images to showcase the questions each week. The advantages of this approach means questions can be longer than 140 characters and graphics are easier to see among a sea of tweets. Additionally, I wanted to emphasize the OER theme for the night. So, I ended up using artwork from the public domain game Glitch to build the graphics. Some of the assets were used in GOBLIN, so I was familiar with the resources at my disposal. Finally, to edit the graphics, I used Pixelmator (a streamlined photoshop-like software) and I believe the graphics turned out great!

Example question graphic shared under a CC-BY 4.0 License

3. Scheduling Tweets – One of my major concerns for moderating was getting overwhelmed by the number of tweets I felt required to produce. Therefore, I removed all of this stress by using Tweetdeck schedule tweets feature. First, I calculated how to spread seven questions across one hour—I determined to start questions at 8:05PM ET and reoccur every eight minutes. Next, I scheduled other tweets I thought were relevant for the chat including an introduction and links to OER resources. In other words, I intended to limit my focus to the tweets of the participants.

List of my scheduled tweets in Tweetdeck.

What I Learned from Moderating

Scheduling tweets is the only way to keep up with the conversation. As a moderator, I want to welcome and make as many people feel at home as possible in the Twitter chat. Between being hospitable and attempting to hold a dozen conversations at once, having my own questions and answers running in the background helped me stay on track.

Begin moderating Twitter chats in small circles. The #games4ed live chats are sizable with anywhere from 25-60 participants. (Last night included 37 users.) In contrast, there were nearly 400 participants #oklaed on Sunday evening. If you want to host a Twitter chat for the first time, I recommend starting with a smaller community. A manageable live chat let me practice moderating and I had a positive experience hosting.

Inviting friends makes the event more fun! I gave some of my friends access to the questions for the night and although they couldn’t be present, they scheduled tweets to sync with my questions. This generated more ideas and their support was encouraging during the live chat (shoutouts to John Stewart and Jason FitzSimmons).

I need to practice keeping up with the conversations. During the chat, I fell behind a couple of times as I was attending to earlier tweets. I know this is inevitable in a Twitter chat, but since hosting I want to improve my response time in future sessions.

A core group of participants helped engage more users. Since it can be difficult keeping track of everyone, I am grateful to the regular participants for helping supplement my engagement. Melissa and Steven, were especially helpful during this session as they insured participants didn’t slip through the cracks.

I enjoy live tweeting! This was an awesome experience. From brainstorming questions to connecting with educators, I discovered that I value the process of moderating Twitter chats. I can’t wait to host another!

#games4ed Open Twitter Dataset

Finally, I am releasing all of the Twitter data from last nights session as an OER! If you would like a copy check out the following link:

Open Twitter Data Google Sheet

If you want to analyze this data I suggest a tool like Voyant-Tools 2.0. For more information on collecting or visualizing tweets check out my post on Open Twitter Data.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.47.23 AM
Tweets from this #games4ed Twitter chat in Volant-Tools 2.0.

Alternatively, check out the Participate Learning transcript from the live chat:

Thank you everyone for making my first moderated Twitter chat a positive experience. I look forward to more of these opportunities to connect and discuss with other educators from across the world!