GOBLIN Returns!

GOBLIN kicked off for the second semester this week. John and I ran four cohorts of this faculty learning community during the Spring 2016 semester and are facilitating two more GOBLIN sections over the next five weeks.

I’m really looking forward to this round of GOBLIN. We’ve fine tuned some of the content, and are continually iterating on our game, but more importantly, I’m excited to have some fun playing games and learning with this group of faculty and graduate students. One participant shared this feeling today when they said:

“[GOBLIN] may be the only fun I get to have this semester.” – GOBLIN participant

Setting aside the pressure of providing the singular fun learning opportunity for someone, I’m extremely grateful to bring some joy into this instructors life. (Goodness knows the world needs some more joy at the moment.) With every teaching opportunity, I’m adamant that learning should be fun and GOBLIN is such a testament to this philosophy.

Ideas From Discussion

To share some of my excitement, I’ll throw out some of my favorite questions and statements as a snapshot of today’s discussion:

What’s the relationship between scaffolding and a difficulty curve in the classroom?

How do relationships and emotions impact course scaffolding and a courses difficulty curve? How can we push students harder when we have a relationship/rapport with them?

We don’t want to assess students if it’s their first time performing a task.

How do we encourage students outside of our discipline to engage in our courses?

How do we design curiosity into our courses?

The character classes and skills from GOBLIN are a metaphor for our students and the variety of skills they bring into the classroom. Each student possess different proficiencies to excel in certain opportunities over others.

Can you see why I’m psyched for more GOBLIN?!

Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast

Recently I had the honor of participating in the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast hosted by Bonni Stachowiak. My half-hour session with Bonni focused on games in higher education. Specifically, I spoke about GOBLIN, eXperience Play, and my use of games in faculty development at the University of Oklahoma. For more details, listen to the podcast episode here:

After listening, I’d recommend checking out the show notes for the podcast session:

Game-based Learning

My time with Bonni was a blast and podcasting was among the highlights of my week! In fact, the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast will remain a memorable part of this semester and I will always recall and appreciate how Bonni helped me feel comfortable participating in my first podcast. Thank you Bonni!

If you’re not already, I highly recommend subscribing to the Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast. There are many great episodes exploring the work of phenomenal educators from around the world! Listen to some of my favorite episodes:

Episode #18 – AUDREY WATTERS: How technology is changing higher education


Episode #91 – BONNI STACHOWIAK: Choose your own adventure assessment


Episode #108 – MAHA BALI: Collaboration


Episode #118 – MICHAEL WESCH: Teacher Becomes Student Through LIFE101

The featured image is provided CC0 by Kai Oberhäuser via Unsplash.

10 Notable Ideas From InstructureCON 2016

I’m aware that this post is overdue since InstructureCON concluded two months ago, but I wanted to share a few ideas from the conference. If you prefer a breakdown of the sessions I attended, I recommend checking out John Stewart’s eleven posts linked in his concluding reflection.

EdCamp – InstructureCON Un-Conference

1. Canvas Mentor Professors: This idea capitalizes on transforming both the early adaptors and heavy users of Canvas into becoming mentors of other instructors across campus. The goal is to crowdsource the Canvas support system for faculty and showcase examples of ideal Canvas implementations, giving instructors context for how Canvas might be used in their own courses.

2. Student Feedback Of Courses: Have students provide anonymous feedback on the structure and design of courses to help faculty improve their designs. Too often, we make course design decisions from the perspective of an instructor rather than a student. This pragmatic approach is an opportunity to enhance our courses to best meet the needs of our students.

3. Educating Teachers & Students On OER: One of the practices I heard from other institutions, was using Canvas trainings as an opportunity to engage both faculty & students in learning more about copyright, open-educational resources (OER), and media literacy. Teaching faculty about Canvas Commons and OER in tandem aims to empower instructors to incorporate open materials into their curriculum and know what that means for their courses.

Sample Canvas Commons content, some of which is OER
Sample Canvas Commons content, some of which is OER

4. Canvas Camp Via Email: One idea with similar intentions to the Canvas Camp trainings we host was broadcasting daily Canvas challenges via email. This aims to engage faculty in learning a little more about Canvas everyday. If faculty complete all of the challenges outlined in these emails during the week, they would end up producing an entire Canvas Course. With the right amount of scaffolding (instructional videos, written guides, etc.) the reach of this type of self-directed training could be significant.

InstructureCON – Day 1

5. Student Information Systems (SIS) Are Not Always Necessary: I understand this is a heated topic, but I witnessed one person replace the functions of a SIS using Google Apps Scripts and the Canvas API. Student data was housed in Canvas and the operations of the SIS were performed using a few lines of code and Google Forms. Interestingly, this setup was both efficient and easy to use since interactions with the student data were simplified to a few forms. Feel free to explore a Canvas course that outlines how this was accomplished or read more about the session where this idea was shared.

6. Moving From API To LTI Integration Can Be Detrimental: I have to pick on TurnItIn for a second since this is a perfect example. Here was the API implementation of TurnItIn:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 2.00.51 PM

What is great about this is the discreet implementation of the TurnItIn service. In other words, the API integration made it easy for instructors to enable this feature. Additionally, instructors could enable TurnItIn in conjunction with “Media Recordings,” “Website URL,” or “File Uploads” assignments through Canvas. However, the new LTI implementation looks like this:

Screen Shot 2016-07-28 at 2.04.08 PM

Not only is this less accessible as a service, but it also makes Canvas less functional. For example, when the TurnItIn “External Tool” is enabled, it takes over the Submission Type. Meaning if an instructor wants to use TurnItIn for a paper in tandem with a video of a student presentation, the teacher will have to make two assignments to receive both of these pieces of content. In this case the TurnItIn LTI effectively dissuades people from using more that traditional written assignment types—another example of how educational technologies impact the design decisions in our courses.

7. Build with Accessible Tools: One irritation I had during a couple of the sessions were these beautiful courses that were build using (HTML) pages in Canvas. Design-wise they were excellent, but functionality-wise, they always seemed to ignore the mobile accessibility of their course. To me, sacrificing the mobile experience of a course does not benefit students. Not to mention the exorbitant amount of extra work this involves.

InstructureCON – Day 2

8. Live API Lowers Entry Barrier to APIs: If you have not already seen the Live API page on your instance of Canvas, you should view it now. The URL to access the Live API requires your school’s Canvas domain as follows:

[your-schools-domain].instructure.com/doc/api/live

Alternative, here’s a generic preview of the Live API:

Screen capture of Canvas LiveAPI website

9. Educating Teachers About Online Instruction: Similar to how Canvas professional development is infused with opportunities to teach instructors about OER materials, there’s room to engage faculty in what it means to teach online. This was apparent during InstructureCON, but I’ve seen evidence of this more and more. For example, I’ve witnessed a shift in organization of content in the LMS. Instead of distributing course contents by topic, instructors are now choosing to order their materials chronologically to simplify the presentation of their Canvas courses.

Bonus Idea

10. Making Internet Accessible To All Students: I have to share one idea that was presented during the Pack Light for Performance session. The presenter was in a district that used Kajeet Smartspots in conjunction with Chromebooks to give all students access to the web. This equalization of technology access meant that teachers were confident their online assignments were available to all students. Since, I’m passionate about overcoming socioeconomic barriers and am constantly explore the validity of low cost technologies in the classroom (1, 2), I was ecstatic to see the cellular hotspot approach to making internet accessible to all students!

Please Note

I wanted to take a moment and let you know that post has been difficult to complete. I started writing it during InstructureCON and intended to publish it shortly after, but family matters kept that from happening. Anyways, I just wanted to note that much of this content deserves more in-depth explanations, so if you have any questions, please let me know. I would like to revisit many topics, but at this moment, this blog post is as much a highlight of my Canvas Conference experience as it is a scar that needs to reach conclusion.

GOBLIN as Open Educational Resource (OER)

This post is written by guest blogger John Stewart. John is the Assistant Director of Digital Learning at the Center for Teaching Excellence at the University of Oklahoma and my collaborator on GOBLIN.

While the thought of gamifying an entire class or even elements of a class will be daunting for many, GOBLIN also includes more universal and applicable concepts.  Well designed games introduce game mechanics and then increase the difficulty of tasks to encourage mastery of those mechanics.  They encourage team work, challenging players to combine the strengths and overcome the weaknesses of team members. They allow you to lose and to learn from that failure to improve.  By adapting these lessons for the classroom, we seek to improve student engagement and help students master the skills to succeed in college.

We hope that the design of GOBLIN will be more entertaining and provide better transference of skills than traditional lecture- or seminar-based workshops. The whole point of the project is to think about how we can create more active and engaging environments that motivate students to learn.

Open content was key in building this project.  The most visible example of open content in GOBLIN is the integration of artwork from Glitch the Game. When the game was discontinued in 2012, the programming team at Tiny Speck (many of whom served as the developmental team for the giant communication app Slack) released both the game code and the creative assets as open content in the public domain.  This meant that we could use any assets from Glitch to develop GOBLIN.

The ability to repurpose this artwork from the public domain inspired our storylines and allowed us to focus on developing game mechanics and instructional content.  All of this would not have been possible without the availability of high quality open content. For this we are grateful to Glitch creators.

We also drew on other open content resources including pixabay.com, a repository for open source artwork was phenomenal for acquiring content. Unsplash is another fantastic source for high-resolution, breathtaking photographs that can be freely used.

All of these resources hold a special place in our hearts, because they are aligned with personal philosophies on educational materials: open access content is best.  While, we intend to run this series as often as we can find interested folks to participate, we hope to reach a far larger audience outside the campus of OU by offering the website as an open educational resource.

We encourage anyone visiting the site to run their own versions of Goblin by using the site or by building and improving their own forked version.  To that end, we have used the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license throughout the site to assure users that they are welcome to use and adapt any material presented as long as they attribute it and don’t charge money for it.  Let us know if you want help in playing the game, using the resources, or adapting the workshops in whatever way suits you best.

We encourage you to consider sharing your next project as an open piece of content. Together, we can build even greater projects with the option to iterate and grow from other pieces of content.

A Brief History of GOBLIN Faculty Development

The idea for GOBLIN originates from over a year ago when I was thinking about faculty and staff trainings that I wanted to develop. At the time, I was looking to create professional development material around the idea: “What do games have to teach us about learning?” After finishing up development on similar projects, Mobile Blogging & Scholarship and Lynda.com Course Integration, I was ready to tackle what would eventually become GOBLIN.

At the start of development, I asked myself, “how do you teach gamification, game-based learning, difficulty curves, etc. to faculty?” Especially when such topics are not perceived in the same prestige as something like integrating instructional videos into a course? Being a firm believer of constructivist and experiential theories of learning, I knew I wanted to develop professional development that would give participants an experiences of these topics. What better way to demonstrate “what games can teach us about learning” than using a game?

Now I was on the path to create GOBLIN.

Once, I determined I was going to be developing a game, the project started to solidify. I narrowed down the topics I wanted to cover in the training. I established the branding of Games Offer Bold Learning Insights Nowadays (GOBLIN). And I started brainstorming what a game to teach about learning would look like.

As you can imagine, the scale of this project quickly grew beyond what I could complete in a timely manner on my own.

Enter John Stewart.

I had been working with John on Mobile Blogging & Scholarship for several months at this point. Since we shared a love for learning, educational technology, and for games, it quickly became apparent that we were perfect partners for this project!

A few meetings later and we were cooperatively building GOBLIN.

The development process was three-fold (or more) at this point. We were exploring and determining the content we wanted to use, we were developing the mechanics of the game, and we were writing the adventure that tied everything together.

Expansion, reduction, development, simplification, and many iterations later we had come to a definite plan for GOBLIN (version 1.0).

And so continued the primary task of creating GOBLIN’s content, game, and story, while simultaneously initiating the axillary tasks of developing a website, creating game pieces, and marketing (to name a few). Eventually, GOBLIN was in a state to start prototyping and play-testing. So, John and I followed a rapid-prototyping development model for the remainder of time we had to develop.

If you are interested in learning more about the current state of GOBLIN, visit the website and let us know if you have any feedback or questions!