Maker, Gamification & Other Wonderings

So much swirling for me as the summer days unfold.  I love the self-paced PD that summer allows. Reading, researching, testing and conversing… my own personal 20% time.

Heading to Google Summit this weekend here in California.  Super excited!  Loved last year and implemented more than from any other conference.  Looking forward to the same powerful two-days of learning.  Bringing a gaggle of teachers along this year.  I hope they are as jazzed as I am.

Applied to and was accepted to the Google Geo Teacher day of training at the GOOGLEPLEX! Super cool!  This will be a perfect follow up to the online Maps/Earth course I took in June.  And a great kick off to the Summit that starts the next day.

So I’m reading Invent to learn and lurked about in a #gamification chat with #caedchat (Sunday evenings).  I left pretty confused. Is it a game?  Is it game-like?  Do we make the learning a game or just tease out the bits that are motivating the way games can be?  It’s definitely a situation of over-thinking the concept. I’m sure I turned many instances of learning into a game-ish scenario when in the classroom.  Our Kidblog work took a turn in this direction.  Can we write well enough, in an interesting manner so as to attract a wider audience. A teacher of English in China found us and boy did that set the kids on fire!

I think #gamification has more to do with the culture of your classroom than any external devices you utilize (badges and the like).  While those things may help, if your students don’t understand that learning is the goal, that risk-taking is valued, that trial & error are part of the process, that, as a class, we work together for everyone’s benefit, any kind of gaming elements will be fake and contrived.

Competition came up a lot in the chat. It doesn’t have to be negative, not dog eat dog.  Competition for personal best is a worthwhile endeavor.  Yes, hard to impress upon some students, but easily modeled by the teacher.  I know I lean on so many folks to help improve my own craft.  We can do a better job of exemplifying this work in classrooms and around campus.

So the whole Maker thing is intriguing.  Our family went to a Mini-maker Faire at Sonoma Country Day School in the spring. It was awesome!  We built sling shots out of hangers and rockets of paper and tape.  We crafted a boat from just the right bits plucked from the pile of random items.  photoThis week, my older son, Josh, is jazzed about Maker Camp by Google.  We are working on our Day 1 boat today.   It comes back around to the book (Invent to Learn) Gary Stager (@garystager) & Sylvia Libow Martinez (@smartinez).  There’s a lot of connection.  Motivation through invention, through play and through discovery.  I draw a parallel to my own inventive cooking style. The husband jokes, “This is good.  We’ll never eat this again, will we?” Nope.  It’s never the same twice at Casa Haugen.  So when I’m winging it in the kitchen, it’s a great feeling when my idea actually results in a yummy meal.  Cha-ching!  That’s the Maker feeling.

Not sure how that translates into the classroom yet.  I can see  bits and pieces of it, opportunities here and there and honestly, I think it comes back to classroom culture.  Can I share my out-of-this-world idea with my teacher and be respected and heard?  Can I bring in my weekend invention to share and be valued and understood?  Can I ask my teacher about an alternative idea I have for a project and know that my idea will be truly considered before a decision is rendered?

So even among my Wonderings… there’s a thread.  The culture we establish in our classrooms and on our campus’s says so much about us and what we value for students.  How do we model our beliefs and how much risk-taking we will tolerate and even encourage?  I try very hard to walk my talk.  It’s a mindfulness that is sometimes exhausting.  And I often fall short of my own goals.  No reason to not stay the course, though.

Back to my Wonderings and reading… lots to learn.


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