How to be a together teacher

I started this self-paced MOOC on the 29th. It’s offered on Coursera by Relay/GSE. It’s a six-week course that helps students develop a few time and task management tools.

There are three main strategies discussed in the course. The first strategy introduced is the “Weekly Worksheet”, where you track all your time and to-dos, and that extends to a “Comprehensive Calendar” that involves tracking all your deadlines and events for the entire school year. Finally, you’re encouraged to keep a comprehensive list of to-dos that would not fit on your weekly worksheet or calendar.

I use a different tool for each of these functions, and in my opinion they are all really good at what they do. I like Google Calendar to maintain my weekly schedule, because I can always access it and it’s easy to add events and move things around. I prefer Remember The Milk to track deadlines because it’s simple to add tasks, group them into lists, and see what’s due today, tomorrow, or this week; a lot more functional than Google Calendar’s tasks function. And I like the old-fashioned pocket notebook to catch tasks and ideas as they arise, and to record all to-dos without deadlines, because it’s always there and as we all know there’s something about the physical act of writing things out that makes them memorable.

One of the first assignments is to place a pin in a map along side your fellow students, and it shows that people all over the world want to be together teachers. It’s always interesting to interact with people from other parts of the globe in these MOOCs. All of the assignments are peer reviewed, so you get a look at a diverse group of submissions. I’ve looked into the lives of teachers from South Africa to Singapore. They’re not so different from my own. The struggle to manage time and task is real.

I recommend this course for any teacher in need of some basic being-an-adult skills. This is stuff they don’t cover in EDU-101, and they weren’t teaching it when I was in high school. It’s not as specific to the classroom as I imagined it would be when I signed up, but still well worth anyone’s time. Taking the course in the summer was a little challenging. The assignments ask that you build these tools, and mine were quite empty. But in the end I regret nothing.

Keep it together. Stay virtuous!


Where To Look: Games and Learning

You’ve taken an interest in games and learning…

Suggested Readings

The Game Believes In You – an excellent introduction to the intersections of games and learning.

What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy – the seminal text explaining what is compelling about video games and what could make school equally compelling.

The Multiplayer Classroom – a primer for teachers looking to add a game layer on top of the action in their classroom.

Rules of Play – the 700 page bible of game design.

Around The Web

Video Games and Learning, Coursera – a wonderful course from UW-Madison, delivered by two instructors on the leading edge of the study of games and learning.

Playful Learning – professional development and networking for teachers interested in GBL.

Playforce – a searchable database of digital games with educational value.

Classcraft – a commercial roleplaying system designed for school.

View On YouTube

Gaming can make a better world – fascinating TED talk by Jane McGonigal.

Made With Play – video series from Edutopia.

ExtraCredits: Games in Education – “because games matter”.

’90s Kids Play Oregon Trail As Adults – one of the very first educational digital games, revisited.

Follow On Twitter

@GLScenter – Games Learning Society

@instituteofplay – Institute of Play

@G4C –  Games for Change

List: Teachers Who Have GAME


Bernard Suits defined playing a game as “a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles”. I think many students view school as an unnecessary obstacle, but they will voluntarily shell out $60 to play a game. That’s right! They’ll pay money for the chance to do tough cognitive work!!

Did I miss something? Comment with additional GBL resources.

Turn your classroom into a magic circle, but don’t feed your students chocolate covered broccoli. And stay virtuous everybody.

leveling up Aloth

Outside of the Black Hound Inn in Gilded Vale I met an elf named Aloth; a wizard. Happily, after helping him settle a misunderstanding with a group of locals, he agreed to join my party. One restful night in the inn later, each of the characters was ready to level up.

Choosing new skills for myself was easy; as a low-level monk there was not a wide selection.

But choosing new spells for Aloth was difficult.

It wasn’t just that the number of spells to choose from was overwhelming. It was the possibility that I could choose wrongly, and that choosing wrongly would make things too difficult or prevent my progress altogether later in the game. If I made the wrong choice now, why even bother playing?

I closed the game and then busied myself with some chores. I kept thinking about Aloth. I’ve played other CRPGs; would Aloth even stay in my party the whole game? Aren’t all his spells useful, given the right circumstances? He would level up again later and I could choose different, better spells then. It’s just a game! If I mess up I can load an earlier save. It would be a setback, and it would cost me some time, but I could use my mistakes to make even better choices a second or third time through. And the quickest way to lose the game would be not playing at all.

That’s life and learning in a nutshell. It’s easy to be overwhelmed and to disengage. It’s harder to accept failure as part of the process, but it gets you further.

I leveled up Aloth by choosing a couple support spells. I ended up adding two new members to my party before, while straying from the road to explore, we were all summarily slaughtered by a pack of wolves.

But I keep playing!

Stay virtuous everybody.

Summer Reading

I’m going a little hard with the professional reading this summer. Here are my picks.

Teaching Word Recognition

Explicit Instruction

The Differentiated Classroom

Universal Design for Learning in the Classroom

This is me focusing on getting two aspects of my special educator game on lock; direct service with a focus on reading, and coaching general education teachers in practices that facilitate inclusion. I hope to spend more time in general education classrooms this coming year compared to the past, so I want to come prepared.

But wait! There’s more!

I am going to re-read How Teachers Can Turn Data Into Action, so I can help make our weekly team meetings more productive and focused on student learning. From talking with other teachers last week about teacher leadership, this is a very common issue in schools. And with the emphasis in the VT MTSS framework on using “research based problem solving approaches” to make decisions, I think this would be a valuable contribution to the school’s goals. (also, it’s part of a project for my master’s degree program)

On the fun side of things I’ve been reading Seveneves. I’m a huge Neal Stephenson fan. Snow Crash is the book that turned me on to reading. I get the feeling that Seveneves connects to Anathem and that’s really been driving my interest. The importance of making predictions!

And as always I have Meditations close by. Stay virtuous!