New Jersey & Elizabeth Morrow School

2014-04-22 20.31.28

This building in New Jersey, sorry about the blurry image, just radiates charm and welcome with soft music and a hubbub of conversation below while a lone light shines above.

Previously on Rurik lives on the East Coast: “New Jersey? No thanks! Traffic and madness!!”

Currently on Rurik lives on the East Coast: “New Jersey? Bicycling around and to work at a wonderful school this summer! Also, New York City is soooo accessible!”

I always enjoy when my prejudices, whether towards a concept, group, or inanimate object, are challenged. Maybe not during the challenging. The entire time I was moving here I did it heels dragging. Post-challenge I love it. Moving to New Jersey has caused some major growth and a new appreciation for this state that I previously thought of as densely over crowded and full of frustratingly limiting highways. Fast-forward ten years and I am biking around quiet North Jersey villages and crossing the George Washington Bridge whenever I want some city life.

This experience has reminded me of when I watch a reluctant educator approach technology. At first there is trepidation, then some basic use. If they keep it up they have problems and need support but eventually they get to this place where that “new-fangled device” is an unconscious tool in their daily practice. As an educational technology coach I try to keep this in mind and build more playful environments for the initial experience. Elizabeth Morrow School did the same for me. What a great group of educators and adults!


Wanna Win a Free Book?

Instagram Image of the authorI have never done this before but for the ISTE Conference I have been afforded the opportunity to give a prize as part of my blogging/vlogging efforts. I value silliness so here how this will work.
Take a selfie with me either at the conference or by searching Google Images or my blog for a picture you think goes well with your hair or edutech rockstar self. Most entertaining selfie as voted on by a panel of me, myself, and that other person wins.

What do you win?

Your choice of five new ISTE titles – check them out in the bookstore!
Flipped Learning (Link)
Teaching Literacy in the Digital Age (Link)
Bring Your Own Learning (Link)
Web 2.0 How-to for Educators 2nd edition (Link)
Teach Math with the Wii (Link)
Be sure to post your selfie to instagram and hashtag it BOTH #iste2014 and #rurutheruiner. Check out the competition on the sidebar as these thing heats up!
I will contact the winner through their account with directions for collecting their prize and feature their Instagram Profile on my last conference post for ISTE 2014.

Guest Appearances!

This is going to go down as my favorite week for blog connections. While my own blog (this spot here in case you are confused) enjoys unprecedented neglect, one friend, Amanda, decided to include me in her xoJane Post and I am guest blogging for the International Society for Technology in Education. A confluence of my identities, something I am striving towards, seems imminent!

Nevermind, it has occurred:

One of my professors/mentors/colleagues included a brief mention of me in her recently released book. Check out Olivia Murray’s tome entitled Queer Inclusion in Teacher Education: Bridging Theory, Research, and Practice. Click the link to help support my V/Blog delusions as well. If you buy it for me as a gift I promise to go vegetarian for a week.

I have to thank Amanda for re-locating these praise worthy images of me as well:
Image of the author looking goofy with a green plastic halo, plastic star glasses, and a rainbow feather scarf.

This is my serious look.

I swear I am dancing but it looks like I am lifting a leg to go potty, dog style.

It looks like I am in need of a fire hydrant.


In better news, my totally serious vlog post for ISTE is complemented with a marginally useful 460 word ISTE EXPERIENCE REVOLUTION!!! Alright, maybe more along the lines of, “Ideas for educators interested in games for learning.” Check out below for an excerpt and video!

I am excited about games in education. Games offer a learning environment that privileges creativity, problem solving and collaboration. It is true that some educational games act like worksheets in terms of repetition and compliance. Despite this less-than-engaging genre, games — especially those designed by students — offer a unique space for constructivist education. This year in my research I explored unique applications of game principles in gaming and non-gaming contexts. ISTE will play a big part in my future direction.
Using 3DGameLab, a platform represented in the exhibit hall at ISTE 2014, I taught faculty, teacher candidates and students. While not as intensely exciting an experience as Marianne Malmstrom’s teaching with Minecraft or the use of World of Warcraft in schools through the visionary efforts of Peggy Sheehy — both presenters at the conference this year — this let me experiment and discover how deeply I appreciate the potential of games in education. I also realized that gamification was not enough to feed my passion for games in schools……   (READ MORE)

Happiness Stats According to People Who Come Up With This Stuff

This is the widget that I learned how this works from.

As an experiment in web design and relating back to my prior post I thought I would put up the graphic below. This is a bit of coding that give the look, through html5 of a chart loading as you scroll down to it. Pretty dramatic and exciting for a boring old graph.

This put me in mind of ways in which games can be built for professional workshops. The drama around seeing current progress might be an effective tidbit towards motivation.  Reload the page and pan down if the chart has already shown up.

This is an ordered list of the “Happiest Nations”


Data from the World Happiness Report


Happiest Nations

Image of Earth at night with a sign saying "Party"Random Research

Today I was searching the web for news around housing inequity and how that relates to (dis)satisfaction in major cities. While this is not an area where I am actually doing any work it is something that I have been curious about. Especially if there were a game design idea that might lead to recognizing or changing inequities.

Saturdays have been notorious for this. I do not feel the work-week pressure to stay on task so I explore things outside my normal bounds: Games for learning and social justice, LGBTQ advocacy and educational contexts, educational technologies, exciting new user interface ideas, art work, and improving my technical skills in videography, visual design, research methods, or other scintillating tasks like staring at spreadsheets (though I do admit an unhealthy fascination for pivot tables).

This morning I logged in with the intent to forgo all the above distractions and read some online comics and the aforementioned housing equity research curiosity. Instead I stumbled onto this video and decided I needed to post something:


What stands out for me is how the commentator talks about first economics and then life expectancy. These seem like strongly western-centric ideals for happiness. I think having a job and predictions of a long life would probably contribute to overall happiness but what are the more visceral factors in achieving happiness?

There are a tons of articles and “Self-help Gurus” out there selling twelve step plans to happiness. We also have a wide variety of religious and philosophical guides on this topic. Still, when it comes down to it I think happiness is an intensely personal pursuit. Especially as I interrogate myself.

Financial equity in society would definitely help me to feel confident in some facets of life but having overwhelmingly more than others around me would be very dissatisfying. Partially because economic status helps guide ways I can related to others. If we can afford a bottle of wine together we may have other things in common. If they buy 100 year old scotch and pass it around I feel out of my depth (but I would love a glass). Often shared activities and exploring something new bring me temporary happiness. Currently I am trying to figure out how to make that my career.

Social interactions + plus exploring new ideas & places x longterm career = happily helping society.

Recently I applied to a position that appears to solve several of these needs: outreach to the LGBTQ education community, a little travel, building new curriculum, working with some of the greatest people in a city housing some of my most cherished memories….I refuse to jinx this much more by actually state the position. Besides I am also looking at positions in addition to this one and they have just as many components of the formula though they lack the…je ne sais quoi…of the position I am currently having nightmares about. (Yes. In my heart this is a dream position. So wonderful that my subconscious is providing night time entertainment such as getting lost at an airport before an interview. Somehow I am also getting horrible directions from someone who has nothing to do with the dream-job).

Back to the topic: National Happiness…or who is the happiest nation?

The United States is ranked 17 out of 34. This is a drop from 14th apparently. Not unexpected really. There is a lot of room for improvement in life expectancy (health care, housing, food etc) and wealth equity. Greece, Hungary, and Poland score at the lowest end. Also not that unexpected given their respective struggles. At the top were Norway, Switzerland, and Canada as well as a few other countries where I am currently exploring immigration requirements.

I can’t remember if Australia was on the list. That would be another place I would go. Mexico was in the top ten. Way to go Mexico! I am not immigrating to Mexico though – my Spanish is terrible and I would feel guilty if Mexico’s ranking dropped because folks were mad an a crazy American butchering local dialects.

Bhutan’s former king was really into the gross domestic happiness idea. Excuse me – I have more research to do.


Games, games, games, games….comics?!

This blog will certainly become dominated by posts about games, theories of game design, and research insanity in the near future. I should probably change the name. Possibly even the domain. As I delve into designing games for social change some of the education oriented content will undoubtedly slack. Please accept my apologies.

katzenjammer_kidsNow – on to the topic! As I delve into games I have also immersed myself in related “pop” media. I quote pop because there are comic books that rival “classic” reading for longevity and time-based distortion that forces the reader to do as much heavy research as reading Tom Sawyer. Don’t believe me? Check out The Katzenjammer Kids. If the picture of the cover on the right isn’t confusing you are probably over 40. That is not a picture of sadism. Apparently public flogging of children was okay in 1897. I think I vaguely recall naughty students who were foolish enough to get caught getting sent to the principals office for a spanking when I was in kindergarten but that may have been child rumor. I would love to teach late 19th, early 20th century history with this comic series as a guide. How fun would that be?

Check out some samples and possibly even order a book or two here.

There are other long running comic series like Dennis the MenaceB.C.(one of my favorites), Beetle Bailey, Blondie, and others. In terms of oldest comic books there were “Pulps” which also had radio shows. Yes, actual radio. Back when that was entertainment and news. Very little content creation and large audiences due to limited distribution. Newspapers were also big back then. From my limited study the first American costumed super hero was the Phantom. 1936 I think. Someone fact check me on that. At any rate, the social commentary and reflections of social beliefs embodied in these comics are really interesting and sometimes much more critical, if a bit absurd in the portrayal, than literary texts. (Totally my opinion – biased). I like to think that the comic writers today continue to reflect attitudes and social change through their work. X-men is often referenced as a parallel to various civil rights movements and definitely has some interesting things to say if paired with current LGBTQ struggles with child abandonment (kicking a gay kid out of your house is still abandonment), the struggle to hide what you are (in the closet), and the empowered sense of self that I, at least, gained when I came out professionally and to my parents.

For this reason I wanted to share some of the queer comics that have been hitting the net. I am not even going to try critiquing or discussing these. They are all amazing for various reasons and there are plenty of people already providing critical analysis at a level I do not need to compete with.

Adventures in Gay ComicComics I Love:

Adventures in Gay

14 Nights

Blur the Lines

Chaos Life

Check Mate

Girls with Slingshots (Not really my thing but one of my friends loves it).

Kate or Die (I really relate to the main character sometimes)

Ruth & Annabel Ruin Everything


LGBTQ Comic Presses:

Northwest Press

Prism Comics

Comic Book Queers



Geeks OUT


Comic Book Artists & Writers:

Tony Breed

Rachel Dukes

Jess Fink

Melanie Gillman

Kori Handwerker

Kate Leth

Sfé Monster

Hazel Newlevant

L Nichols

Sasha Steinberg