#DigiLit Sunday GiverCraft #EDGamify

DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, November 16, 2014.




Something exciting is happening to the balance of my classroom. It’s tipped to student control. We’ve been invited to participate in a Minecraft EDU based on the book, The Giver. The project is called Givercraft and was created at the University of Alaska Educational Technology EDET 698: Gamification and the classroom can be found on twitter at #EDGamify.

The purpose is:

“As educators it is our mission to provide high-quality, developmentally appropriate and engaging instruction to students. Through the use of MinecraftEDU students can demonstrate knowledge and understanding through building, collaboration and creativity. We hope to help fellow educators become familiar with alternative methods of assessment and instruction that integrates multiple subjects including technology.”

I have seen my grandchildren play Minecraft. I have tried it [installed on my iPhone]. All I can do is punch holes. Bam. Not good. So this is my chance to learn what my students want to use to learn with. It’s my chance to see how it works — -to become “familiar with alternative methods of assessment and instruction that integrates multiple subjects including technology.”

I participated in a practice session and failed. Miserably.  Have you ever taken a gaming personality test? I think this is the one I took last year. I’m an Explorer— off the charts. So I get frustrated with all the bangs and zombies and tedious builds. As Wikipedia says, “The Explorer will often enrich themselves in any back story or lore they can find about the people and places in-game” and “They often meet other Explorers and can swap experiences.”  That would be me.

So although I fail the MinecraftEDU teacher practice mission, I am thoroughly excited that my students will be able to create a Giver community based on the details of the book, working as a team to create the world of a “Nine.” And my students are thrilled, and that’s just the first task. The creators have developed modules that will require critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving based on evidence from the book to meet Common Core State Standards. Students take screenshots of their work in MineCraftEDU GiverCraft and upload them to a private wiki to explain their evidence. This is awesome.

I succeed at being willing to let go of the control and allow students to take the lead. I’m the guide. I’ve done this with other tech platforms, such as BitStrips for Schools. I create the activities, and students learn the tool that demonstrates their understanding.

What do I mean by tipping the balance to student control? With our invitation, we had only two weeks to read the novel — and even then we had obstacles – my training days, sports, testing. We didn’t think we’d make it, but we will. Tomorrow we finish the book in time to start the game.

The control I tossed to the kids. Instead of worksheets and teacher guides, I handed the kids Post-It Notes. We knew we needed to understand the meaning of the book with evidence to support our ideas. So students listened to the story and added notes to the areas they thought were important. We’d stop and they would share  and discuss the story: its characters, its plot, its setting, its community, its rules, its world. Their ideas. Their analysis. Not my preconceived ideas. They took notes — on their own in their journals to remember the details of this “same and mean” world, as they summarized. This they do willingly, thoughtfully, even as usually struggling readers. I’m impressed.

In Givercraft, they will partner up and help each other with book and journal ready; but again, they will be in charge: thinking, communicating, collaborating, solving together with evidence from the text. They’ve signed their agreements of rules of behavior for GiverCraft and understand  this will be different than the game they usually play; they understand this focus is on learning from reading by creating and collaboration, and from writing by sharing their creations and explaining their evidence.

We can do this, and I [we] will learn how to build more units that take our required standards to a new level that totally engages students and promotes deeper learning. We will be a community of learners.

I’m so glad I dared to learn, just as I expect my students to do every day. It’s a great feeling to do this together, student and teacher.

#clmooc Play is the game

Play / Collaboration

Play is the game, and collaboration is the strategy. Mindshift’s Jordan Shapiro article reiterates this:

          • Play is useful because it simulates real life experience — physical, emotional, and/or intellectual — in a safe, iterative and social environment, not because it has winners and losers.





        • There are connected, networked ways of knowing that will dominate the digital future. Sharing and collaboration go hand-in-hand with integrating non-competitive and non-commodified ways of playing. The way students play and learn today is the way they will work tomorrow.




So, how do we play and collaborate? In our CLMOOC, we have done both this week [ see my #f5f ]. We are still playing:

Each of us took the invitation to a game of our interest, or we followed the games of others just to observe. We incorporated interest, peers, and sharpened our writing skills (academics).  Through our shared purpose, we created products openly. I’d say we met the criteria of Connected Learning:  


We even confirmed our participation and paradigm shifts by observations, through f5fs, and  in reflections [this is mine], sharing badges of accomplishment.   Have you applied yours [ unofficial f5f and CLmooc ].

Connected Learning: Play, Connect, Collaborate, Create

So, how do I carry this into my classroom — and connect to yours? Our planning and designing is based on Connected Learning Principles through the framework of Thinking Frames, adapting the “Writing Frames” of Liz Stephens and Kerry Ballast.

Inside Thinking: investigating, discovering, and documenting a topic of interest to you by connecting with text, images, sounds, videos, etc. I saw this as we connected to our own game-playing and our own lives living through our poetry.

Responsive Thinking: communicating successfully face to face and online to collaborate and create through interactions and feedback to make sense of a topic by defining, labeling, questioning, challenging, and validating topic information. We tweeted, posted, and joined in #25wordstories and more. Some people met in Hangouts. We moved from our “inside,” personal ideas to sharing and discussions.

Purposeful Thinking: investigating and presenting one’s own or one’s collaborative team’s interpretation of the topic for an audience to review, be that notes, media, image, text, etc. We folded a story and Kevin Hodgson presented it to us orally.

Social Action Thinking: exploring and collaborating to create a multimedia production to move others to action using reasoned argument with digital tools that emphasize the message. Ah! Litterati! I bet you didn’t think we’d get to “social action” while playing, but there it is!  Thank you, Janis Shelby Jones!

Whether we are writing posts, comments, or tweets; poetry; annotated images; podcasts: we are composing and revising for the digital literacies for which our students need fluency. And we did this through playing collaborative literary games. William Zinsser explains:

“Writing is thinking on paper.” “Writing and learning and thinking are the same process.”

Our brains solve puzzles. Transferring ideas onto paper is a puzzle; it’s a process that requires careful thought, and the puzzling, although hard, is fun — we feel accomplished when we’ve done it right. And doing it right means, according to Zinsser,

“Four basic premises of writing: clarity, brevity, simplicity, and humanity.”

I believe we accomplished  that. We should design a “Zinsser” badge! I’m really not into objectivized anything because we all learn what we need to learn at different times and in different ways. At any one time, we are expert and novice; so data and rubrics and badges don’t fit what I see as a lifelong learning continuum. And if we are moving towards interest-based learning, then even in similar projects, each person will learn something different, at a different level. To me, it’s too hard to quantify. So, yes, I accept that I’m shifting paradigms and will display the badge. I did attempt to welcome and guide #clmooc-ers and I know I provided guidance to several, so I will accept the Learning Concierge badge. But that’s not the end. I’m going to get better in both arenas. It just says that I’ve started my journey, and when you ask me at the end of CLMOOC, I’ll have more to add to a reflection on both. So, in my classroom, we’ll start with the Thinking Frames — and I’ll perhaps create a card/badge for each, but I’ve got a thinglink ready for all of them:  
So, I’m thinking of the writing class teacher with the elaborate game for his six trait writing class. I’d love to design that, but it isn’t going to happen. But I could create a card game of sorts using the Thinking Frames — a royal flush with all of the drafts completed, for instance. Some may be drafts, some ideas, some finished, and could be different projects — but the frames are iterative, so that’s OK. It shows learning and progress. It’s like Scott Glass considers with his first student projects:

…these kind of projects immediately introduce to the students a few critical ideas:

  1. They will use their devices to create,
  2. They will consider what is meaningful to them,
  3. They will share their work.

By setting up a framework of thinking about their work in our class — the work of authors of media — students have an idea of the flow of our time together, and that the ideas come from themselves as much as from me. Hack is a good word for prompts and interests while they are developing.

But we all know it’s more than a framework; we need some guidance for what that work might look like.

How will our play, our work, our inquiry, our interests develop in process and product? Inquiry Frames.

Embrace a story.

Tell your story — how the project developed and why.
Explain a story — what’s the issue?
Create a story — narrate a fictional, nonfictional, or remixed story.

Create quality contributions.

As you inquire on the narration or facts of your story, contribute to the topic so that others may learn or question more.
Develop your story and document its formation and process.
Create a path for others to follow.
Create multi-media that explains, questions, invites, or solves the ideas of your topic, your story.

Consider worthy intentions.

Thoughtfully dig into your topic. Consider the facts and the story. Consider its value to yourself and others. Choose to matter; your time and others’ time is valuable.

Value and provide critiques.

Communicate your ideas to others — get suggestions, and help others with their topics. Value the input into your drafts and creations. Consider the feedback as from your audience — what they understand and need. Give feedback that improves others’ work and ideas in a positive way. A critique helps you and others expand ideas and revise confusion.

Share inquiry and results.

As you learn your topic and work with others, share your process and questions; get critiques. Share your results and reflections so others understand your process and the product.

Engage connections.

During your inquiry, engage others in research and conversation. Perhaps collaborate on the drafts, research, and product. Discover more ideas and expand your own. Find commonality in differences, and decide on the most relevant and possible of your ideas and suggestions. If needed, provide more than one opinion or solution. Let your audience decide — or ask them for more ideas.

Mesh all in academic goals.

As you inquire, research, connect, collaborate, analyze, and create, consider the academic goals learned: content, process, collaborative, design, etc. Be clear about your learning in your documentation, products, and reflections.

What I’m thinking about here are expectations as starting points for conversation on what we’re learning and how to develop ideas, which will depend on the student’s audience and purpose. I appreciate the ideas for games from Jennifer Denslow, which will help develop a sense for connectedness and conversation. These inquiry frames provide guideposts for connected learning. So, as Scott Glass said in his blog:

 “I suggested that teachers early on challenge students with quick creative challenges aimed at having students reflect on and create multimedia statements about themselves.”

By starting out with word play and memes, we can discuss the process through the Thinking and Inquiry frames. From there, the game is on — I don’t know what it will look like, but I’ll take advice from my students. My feedback usually includes specific information, and those students become the teachers for the others who don’t get it. We usually get wrapped up in knowing that by the end of the time, all of us will understand, demonstrated through their project. It just seems like we are already collaborating and playing.  I think we just need to celebrate it — the completion, the process, the products — as another level of our learning game. I’ll let my students design the concept and badge. We’ll start and end the year with this one:



And finally, how do we connect to learn? Hmmm, it just so happens I started this last year, and as I continue on my learning continuum, I’ve revised it. So, I’d like to invite the middle school teachers to help me with this, if it fits their interests. We’ve all got our own standards to meet, but we’ve learned through CLMOOC that those can be met in a variety of ways, and that connections and collaborations deepen the learning of more than finite objectives. So, what if a group of middle school teachers collaborated on a blog of makes and prompts that promote the Connected Learning Principles through the lens of the Thinking Frames? The blog would suggest the prompts and makes; the students could write about their projects in their own blogs or Google Docs [ and collaborate in Google Docs or Wikis ], and share their play/work in comments on the blog prompt. Whether we incorporate prompts from Digital.IsCLMOOC Make Bank, or our own prompts, the blog will be the hub for our connected classrooms. Here’s what it might look like:  Blog, Connected Learning and Writing Frames, Guidelines.

I’m excited to be more playful this year, to bring joy back to the classroom. I want my students to expand their worldview carefully and become more digitally literate. And maybe together we can make it “Game on!”

How about you?

Will you connect 2 learn to keep the game going?




 keepthegamegoing visual

#clmooc iTune Family Fun

itunefamilyfunWant creative and critical thinkers?

Use the power of the internet to learn vocabulary, metaphor, analogy, bias, etc.

“iTune” Family Fun

This can be adapted to classrooms, don’t you think?


Get to know each other better, and learn to use keywords to find the desired topics.

Explain your choices and have fun.

Equipment: One or more devices hooked to the internet.

Purpose: Choose an appropriate song that fits the topic and person for your search.


A topic is chosen.

Each person decides which other person s/he will choose a song for that fits that topic.

Use the search tool at iTunes Music Store to type in key words for the topic and the person. When you find a song that fits, call out “iTune.”

That person shares/plays the sample file first after everyone has chosen a song.

The person for whom the song was chosen decides if the song fits. (If using only one device, decide who searches first and take turns.)

The winner– usually everyone is a winner because everyone justifies each choice made.


1. Gather your people.

2. Connect to the iTunes Music Store.

3. Decide on a topic. Ideas: Peace, Beach, Lonely, Grand Coulee Dam, Serenity, monsters, candy, etc.

4. Each person uses that key word or any related words to find a song to fit the topic and chooses the person in the game they will find a song for.

Example: For Serenity, I knew immediately that Scott and I enjoy the serenity of our small home, so the song, “Our House” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash would fit well. I typed in “Our House” and found the CSN version, calling out “iTune.” It would work for Scott or myself.

My granddaughter (age 11 at the time) searched for herself, choosing the song, “Serenity,” by Godsmack.

5. When the song you chose is found, call out, “iTune.” If using more than one device, wait until all players have found their songs. Then take turns sharing in the order in which “iTune” was claimed. If using only one device, sharing may occur at the time you find your song. Share by playing the sample  30 second clip.

6. Usually, the justification is obvious, but the person for whom the song was chosen may request justification for that choice. The person who chooses it, explains the choice. It may be a phrase from the song, the beat, the meaning implied, or a pun that resulted in the choice.

For instance, to find a song for Scott, a newspaper publisher, my granddaughter might choose “All Nighter” by Salt Peanuts–because it sometimes takes late into the night to put the paper out, and salty peanuts make a great snack for the night. Or I might enter “Free Press” and choose “Herbert Harper’s Free Press News (Electric Mud)” by Muddy Waters because the truth can’t run or hide if we have a free press.

Since justification is relative to the person, we discuss the choices related to each person–the chooser and the recipient–and so learn more about each other.

7. Winner: 1) Everyone wins who tries; 2) The person who makes the most appropriate choices.

So have fun, learn about each other, and enjoy the music.

#clmooc #toyhack Being Yourself

Week 2 of #clmooc is #toyhack provided us with a chance to hack something tangible and familiar. Its purpose was to help us stretch out to experience “the make.”

In the Twitter Chat, Joe Dillon reminded us that we are “developing a habit of mind, or an ethos, with students or colleagues, that rules, norms,traditions can be remixed and tinkered with… to develop an ethos to do things for ourselves to share, to make the community better.”

Terry Elliot explained that “Hacking is a stance, literally a place where you stand. And that can be very idiosyncratic.” He also reminded us that “Improvisation is hacking, right. The hacking attitude is already inside us.”

cattaghackMy family are innovators — we constantly hack that which isn’t working the way we need, or hodge podge repairs as needed with the tools at hand. For instance, we live a very old house, and I needed the hall light to stay on for the grandkids. But the string touched the light bulb, so I grabbed what would work — a paper clip and an old cat tag to hold the string away. My husband wasn’t very happy with the looks of it, but it worked.

So this #toyhack seemed like an easy task, but then the task must fit who you are and your needs, or your community’s needs.

I picked up so many toys, but literally hacking of body parts was not something I could do to change what my grandkids already imagined new characters and stories with. So I enjoyed the stories by Joe Dillon and Karen Young, but I wanted to hack some real thing. I was inspired by conversations about different types of hacks, like Alison Coombs’ masks. Face painting is a favorite past time in this house for grandkids. Then several people mentioned games, and Michael Buist started a community hack for his 10 sticks: Splinters. Since I couldn’t edit the original document, my version is here, a game that could be a cooperative learning discussion during debriefing about the game. I began thinking of a hack for a favorite card game, but then a Teddy Bear caught my eye.



I like how the #clmooc and this #toyhack includes this: to develop an “ethos to do things for ourselves to share, to make the community better.”

So I thought of a way to make this toy, which could travel home with families from school, into one in which parent and child learn together through talking about seasons. I made the toy a storytelling game. It could be hacked more, but I wanted to preserve the purpose: understand the seasons.

Here’s my process and plan:

I hacked the books to use as sides in the die, adding two options: 1) a chance to choose one’s favorite season and 2) a time to practice reciting the seasons in order.



The rules are simple, designed to engage young children in conversation and story about seasons:









As you can see, I stayed true to spreading compassion and to make the world better in both games. And when we teach students, we need to remember their frame of reference and honor the culture and personality that helps the child grow. Diversity makes us stronger.

So, what did I learn?

What does it mean to be a maker? Why make? Why now?

A maker creates from need and neighborhood — what is needed? We need making now to grow our world from individuals consuming to groups considering and creating solutions to group needs.
What happens when makers converge around shared interests and purposes? What opportunities might we seize? What barriers do we face?

I enjoyed all the toy hackers, movie makers, game developers, mask makers. Who knows how each of those processes may help the world. People were commenting on what worked and hacked together. I saw us in the #clmooc community finding the path that fit the person, joining in projects that felt comfortable and challenging. What is important is the coming together, seeing the possible, and trying what we could. For learners, can you see how an example shows them the task is possible, and in all our different “makes,” we demonstrated both the individual and the collective? For learners, we show opportunities and scaffold the challenge to success. The barriers are our own limitations and fears, but by coming together to support each other, we overcome these. That is the power of convergence.
How do we find and build  diverse and inspiring networks of people, resources, and places that support our making and learning?

In Twitter and Google Plus I find information, resources, support, and collaboration. I revisited my #f5f from last week (will blog about that next) and found new connections. The people of my connections are diverse in their talents, careers, and purposes, but by exposure to their ideas, I grow more of my own to bring back to my local PLC and community. I think Twitter and Google Plus offer us the true network of connections that cross and build, connect and refresh, backtrack and regroup. We form communities in Google Plus, collaborate in Google Docs and Wikis, and share in all areas. Isn’t the network amazing?

If you ask, the answers arrive. If you answer, your help is thanked. If you share, your share is rebuilt. We are building the networks ourselves, “to make the community better.”