Friday, April 30, 2010

#MSET Session 4: Digital Game-Based Learning in the Classroom

Presented by Ryan Schaaf of Howard County.

The last time I attended a session on using games in education I was under whelmed, but I think that was more from the presenter than the subject.  I am cautiously optimistic.

  • First paper handout I've seen this conference.  Printed PowerPoint slides.

  • "Let's start with your Door Prize!  ... I left it at home."  It was cards for a contest for a game called "Legend of Zork."

  • In games the teacher is the guide and students learn through exploration.

  • "Mirrors how humans think and how the mind works."

  • His slides are walls of text.  I don't think it's hurting his presentation too much though.  He's not just reading the slides, and paging through the handout shows that these are just to front-load background information.

  • Gaming appeals to multiple intelligences. (Yay, Gardner!)

  • "Teaches without its main purpose as teaching."

  • Can be used to train in low-risk environments. Military, Aviation, Medical, Financial, and so on.

  • Motivation, Instructional Strategy, Closure, Assessment, Review, Reteach.

  • Current slide is showing the cover of GTA4 (very violent, not for kids) and the hunting scene from Oregon Trail (with LOTS of dead animals).

  • Gaming DOES NOT EQUAL babysitting.  (Same deal with TV, movies, Discovery Education Streaming, etc. - It needs a purpose!)

  • "The teacher has to be there to guide and direct."

  • Use careful and deliberate search terms to find high quality educational games.

  • Showing a sample game on composting from

  • Lore of the Labyrinth from Thinkport.  I think I've seen this game presented at this conference before.  It teaches math but not in a dry style.

  • for High School students.

  • Quia - pay to make games but play them for free.  I've toyed with this before.  They have a free trial.

  • - Engineering

  • Showing data concerning gaming activity.  Students did not just enjoy it, they also spent more time engaged in the lesson.

  • "I'm not saying it should always be used, I'm saying it's a good tool and at least as effective as other strategies."

#MSET Session 2: Integration Technology & Art in a Lesson Study

Presented by Roxanne Dean & Linda Jones, both from Baltimore County.

  • Honestly, could anyone who knows me expect me to attend any other session?  It's Art! It's Technology! This is what I do.

  • Demonstrating Voicethread used to teach a lesson on drawing a human face.

  • "At this point they haven't thrown me out." Said RE: How many Voicethread pages she has.

  • 5th graders drew self portraits then turned them into contour line drawings and learned about Andy Worhol.

  • "Why do you think we need to do this in contour?"

  • They reproduced their drawings on the computer.  No scanning or photography?  Would be nice to have the time for that.  In my case I may have to use something like this to digitise student work.

  • Showing Art Content Standards.  Yes, this is an art lesson!  It's not just token "Let's color something and say we did art!"

  • Showing lots of Pop Art.  Comment about how things that Warhol thought were important are not recognised by today's kids.  Interesting snapshots of the culture at the time.

  • So apparently Voicethread lets you record video with your voice.  That could be helpful for students who are ESOL or have certain disabilities.  Seeing someone's lips move as they talk can certainly help to aid comprehension in some cases.  (It helped me in college, especially with some professors who had strong accents.)

  • A cow is used to signal clean-up time.  Students expect it and are used to the routine.  Makes me wonder how I might implement a similar strategy - perhaps with a school mascot?

  • Students used the paint brush tool in Pixie to redraw their line drawings.

  • Copy/paste used to get 4 identical panels, then the panels were colored separately with the paint bucket.  (Watch out for cracks!  The colors will leak through!)

  • While this was done with Pixie, I see how this could be done with other art programs.  GIMP, SUMOPaint, TuxPaint, Frames, even!  ... Am I starting to sound like a broken record?

  • "Zoho" used to embed art on a site for parents to see progress.

  • Showing an example made starting with a photo.  Apparently the photo needs to be "glued" to keep it from fading.  I imagine layer settings could protect it in GIMP/Photoshop/SUMOPaint.

  • "Photoshop is a little advanced for 5th grade."  Not if my 3rd graders are making vector graphics in Frames.  Give me a day or two and they can do it.

  • A conference is not worthwhile if you don't find something you can take with you and use the next school day.  This presentation is all I need for MSET to be worth it, and it's only the 2nd session!  Can we say this is an awesome conference? Yes we can!

#MSET 2010 Session 1: 411: Easy Animation for Time-starved Classrooms on a Shoestring Budget

Presented by Diane Boarman, Howard County

This is possibly one of the smallest rooms I've ever been in, and there are few if any empty chairs.  Meanwhile the walls are doing little to block out the noise of convention center staff moving things around.  Nevertheless, the show must go on.

  • Created her first animation using Layers in Photoshop, but her school didn't have Photoshop.

  • Switched to placing images in PowerPoint.

  • Suggests PlayDoh for claymation.  If the lesson takes a while the PlayDoh can dry out, even with sealing it regularly though.  Parafin based clays can be purchased at craft stores and never dry out.

  • Make sure slides are imported in order - some programs have a fit and put slide 10 in front of slide 2 because 1 is more than 2, right?  Watch for that.

  • Still suggesting Photoshop or Photoshop Elements.  On a shoestring budget I'll use or

  • Images not in the rectangle for a PowerPoint slide will not show up.  GREAT way to organise elements that will be moving in or out of the frame later.

  • "Insert -> Duplicate Slide, then move something." Repeat ad nausium, but it WORKS and students can understand it.

  • What's also good about this is if students make the switch to Frames these skills should carry over.  Frames is more powerful than PowerPoint but PowerPoint will get the job done with most of the tools you need.

  • PowerPoint 2008 no longer supports photo editing?  Ugh, didn't they learn when Apple cut features out of iMovie?  Hm, apparently they did but they learned the wrong lesson.

  • Word Art to make titles for your animation - more flexibility than using the built in title generator in iMovie or MovieMaker.

  • "Save As -> Select JPEG."  Check "Save All" and change the name to prevent overwriting.  A simple "ver1,ver2, ver3" is enough.

  • "Save often."  Good advice for almost any lesson.

  • When you import your slides in set the timing for as short as possible and turn Ken Burns Effect off!  Honestly, that effect is overused and makes your animation into an earthquake simulation.

  • You don't need to use clip art - you can draw things with Autoshapes, also.

  • Animations imported into PowerPoint will not be animated when exported as JPEG files.  Don't bother playing with transitions in PowerPoint.

  • "Do we have enough time?" We have 20 minutes left.  She breezed through.

  • The video she's showing is very amusing and a mix of live action and animation.

  • Did she just call GIMP "Free shareware?"  She did.  It's not shareware.  It's just free.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010



Almost everyone (online) has heard of it.  Anyone can use it.  But are they using it well?  Some would argue that depends on what you're using this microblogging platform for, but nevertheless I've collected a short list of Twitter dos and don'ts for your consideration.

You may or may not agree with this list, and that's fine with me.  Still, I reserve the right to say that people who don't take these points of advice are "doing it wrong."  Your mileage may vary.

Bullet list rather than numbered list, as these are in no particular order.

  • Don't post what you're eating. OK, maybe if you're being treated to dinner at a five star restaurant and the roast duck is simply to die for, but that most likely will be a very uncommon experience.  Your daily menu (or daily routine, for that mater...) should not be Twitter-worthy.

  • Don't follow more than 100 people. Personally I get concerned when I'm following more than 50.  This may require you to make some very hard choices, but if you're following hundreds of accounts then chances are high that you will miss tweets by many of those people for weeks if not months.  Are you actually following them, then?

  • Promote other people. If the only things you tweet are links to your own website, people will quickly see you as someone who is self-serving and perhaps a bit egotistical.  Watch your Twitter feed for things worth retweeting, and do so.  (Just don't forget to give credit where credit is due.)

  • Talk to people. Twitter can be used as a bullhorn, but that doesn't mean you should only use it as such.  Answer questions.  Reply to comments.  If you find a link you know someone'll like, share it with them!  Web 2.0 at its heart is about communication.  Communicate with people.

  • Think before you tweet. Imagine what your mother would say if she found your Twitter account.  What your boss, significant other, stalker, or students would say.  Don't assume that making your tweets private will prevent any of those events from occurring, as anyone you allow to see your tweets has the power to retweet what you've said.  If anyone can see it, anyone at all, the potential exists for everyone to see it.  (Or as Ben Franklin once said, "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead.")

  • Leave room for retweets. There is something very satisfying about writing out a tweet that hits exactly 140 characters with minimal effort on your part.  Unfortunately, when someone tries to retweet that they'll often find that the addition of "RT: @yournamehere" or "(via @yournamehere)" takes them far over the character limit.  If you want what you're saying to be repeated, keep it as short as you can while still getting the message across.

  • Keep it clean. While you personally might not have anything against profanity or off-color jokes, a lot of people do.  Many of us like to keep our Twitter feeds safe for work/school environments.  It is of course your choice if you want to post a series of offensive jokes, but if you do I won't be following you after that.

  • Yes, we know Twitter's asking you what's happening for each post.  Writing "Posting something on Twitter" was funny once, just once, and it was done by someone else before you signed up for the service.

  • Check your sources.  Web 2.0 allows for a quicker spread of information, but unfortunately also allows for the spread of misinformation.  A famous hoax comes to mind, but there have been rumors of celebrity deaths, "facts" about the recent U.S. healthcare reforms, and more spread through Twitter and other sources.  If you see something that raises your ire, make sure you're not getting fooled before you hit that retweet button with a vengeance.

Those are my tips.  What are yours?