Book Spotlight: Fly Away Home

(null) Recently I spent some time looking for picture books that tackle social justice issues in a sensitive way. Hopefully I will share several but this first one hit me pretty hard. Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting does a credible job of describing what it is like to be homeless, employed, and living in an airport. At one point in my life I experienced a similar situation. It is amazing what you can survive and how often folks will overlook someone. During my stay at an international airport (I found a roommate in another airport resident just after a week) I bought orange juice and oatmeal from the same coffee vendor every morning and evening. My lunch occurred at work, a college coffee shop.

This tale contains an unreal authenticity to my own experience and seeing other “Terminal Homeless”. It also facets the lens on what people view as homelessness. I have experienced several types and never has it included living under cardboard. Unless you count an apartment I lived in during college. I am pretty sure the roof was just tacked up cardboard with the number of leaks I experienced that winter. At any rate, sharing this picture book with your kids is worthwhile. Share a picture of what life is like for the economically disadvantaged. There is extreme difficulty in finding affordable housing at minimum wage.

Order it. Google some lesson plans for sharing in the classroom or check out this one that I found. If you need a preview before ordering there are always YouTube videos.

In keeping with a spotlight I am ending this post here but I think this book deserves a place in your social justice younger reader library.


Short Notes of a Book: How to Stop Bullying in Classrooms and Schools

Today I spent quite a while catching up on research articles themed around LGBTQ discrimination in education. Since I am taking notes I thought I might as well share some summaries here. Besides, LinkedIn and my Blog make for easy searching compared to the vast vault of my hard drive and Google Apps accounts.

Each of the articles includes a citation at the beginning and my thoughts following in italics.

Cover of the book: How to Stop Bullying in Classrooms and Schools: Use Social Architecture to Prevent, Lessen and End Bullying.Goodstein, Phyllis Kaufman. (2013) How to Stop Bullying in Classrooms and Schools: Use Social Architecture to Prevent, Lessen and End Bullying. New York: Routledge.

In general I dislike the use of bullying as a term to describe the marginalization of a student or group of students. First I will need to ignore this categorization as most articles will use terms, like bullying, that invite excuse making (my major problem with using terms like bullying and victimization. The categorizations of the forms the bullying (read: marginalization) and outcomes in the first half of the article are actually something I would love to build an infographic on. The language would be useful and easily translatable to a variety of audiences and facilitate greater dialogue. It was the second half of the article which I really found interesting.

Goodstein describes the use of social architecture theory and social scaffolding as a method for creating social change. Actually it is more of guide for educators and others. Teachers stand as role models and set up systems for pro-social classroom behaviors. There is also a description for bystanders and upstanders. The section on encouraging bystanders to become upstanders deserves more consideration as those models may apply to the design of a game intending the same outcome. To support teachers and upstanders there are two major components described by Goodstein: incompatibility and intervention. Incompatibility means creating such an environment of kindness, expectations, service learning, projects, and other things so as to make the school climate incompatible with bullying. Intervention focusses on making sure educators and upstanders, parents, and the community, administrators, and policy all take action when marginalization occurs as inaction relates to a lack of condemnation rather that “ignoring something so it goes away.”

I really enjoyed the metaphor of a broken window. If a window is allowed to sit without repair then additional windows will be broken. The same applies to marginalizing behavior. If no one intervenes and there is not a social stigma applied to marginalizing behaviors then what can be expected to occur? Maybe the broken window would be a symbol for a video game…or graffiti on a locker.


Off to ISTE!

ISTE 2013 San Antonio June 23-26

I am off to ISTE! I absolutely love this conference. This year I hope to tak advantage of the conference to launch a few projects.

The first project relates to this blog; I want to get some guest game-players in here. Hopefully I can get my first QuestGuest to play on Friday but my main goal is to recruit a few people for future shows using Google Hangouts.

Last week I tried starting a book review vlog series and ran into a problem of time and organization. It is quite easy to discuss chapters from a book but editing things together takes a larger chunk of time which I lack. One of my goals is to ask more experienced vloggers how they handle their workflow and get shows posted regularly.

Finally the last project, and perhaps most important, getting my dissertation topic off the ground. My dissertation relates to games for learning in some way but the details have remained fluid. Back when I thought I might end up in a classroom again I thought I could do a case study. Now I am thinking about the potential for an empirical study of WoW in Schools across the classrooms adopting this curriculum in some form. Hopefully I get a chance to talk with folks more intimate with the curriculum and get their ideas.

Currently Reading….

Kid starts strong to demoralize the competition.A couple weeks ago I went to the AACTE conference in Florida as well as the Intel Teach Summit 2013. Both were interesting but something that remains on my mind is a conversation I had with representatives for Harvard Review. They suggested I write an article about what I am currently reading in relation to Game-Based Learning. Since I work through articles, books, and media regarding this curricular movement on a daily basis I have a hard time even quantifying my reading. On the other hand there are a few professional development activities that include reading which I am currently involved with:

Level Up Gaming: I really need to get my act together and share my first posting here.

Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): I am also taking a workshop series related to the science standards.

Courses at Portland State University:

Doctoral Studies Pro-Seminar – This course provides an interesting springboard for a variety of topics. I never quite know what we will end up with at the end of class.

Ed Policy & Politics – I am extremely excited to start this course. Politics are always interesting if often frustrating. The potential for wild discussions is pretty high considering the make-up of my cohort.

Leadership Seminar – We are going back to working on our research commentaries which means I can continue exploring research and literature; something I haven’t been able to do winter term.

LGBTQ Advocacy K12 – This experimental course for the department offers some interesting possibilities. We only meet three Saturdays but I am sure they are going to involve some interesting conversations and struggles.

Graduate School: My Future Help Sheet

Doctorate School Looms

My doctoral program looms this fall and in order to prepare myself I am collecting several motivational artifacts. Below I have pasted and linked one (PHD Comic). When I think about school I hope my students can take a humorous look at their own situation as I do. Developing an in class comic strip might help all my students actually…future plans…

Until then I will read some more Surviving Your Stupid Decision to Go Back to Grad School.

Formative Assessment Thoughts Today

 Formative Assessments Available in the Curriculum I Am Required to Use?

Over the last few months I have been looking at how I can use the assessments developed in the online curriculum that I am required to use. Frustratingly most of the assessments ill-suit using the data to improve learning outcomes. Most of the quizzes and tests deliver a summarize evaluation with data that does not address decisions I should make about learning goals.

This is not to say the curriculum I am working with is bad. The content attempted shows exemplary value. Pedagogically the format leaves room for more engaging experiences yet still offers some level of interaction. The assessments that would better enable me to examine whether students grasp the exemplary content packaged in substandard formats provide little useable feedback. Data pulled from the daily quizzes, biweekly labs, and end of unit exams test student semantic skills rather than content understanding.

Another thing that seems out of place is the brick and mortar style of assessment and instruction in an environment where students move at their own pace. In a Traditional school the style of instruction and assessment could be used to develop interventions on a daily basis but in this situation data about student understanding of concepts can sometimes take a month to collect. Instead of providing student with immediate feedback or allowing me to spot discrepancies in content and understanding and fill the gap – the content plunges onwards and leaves students with gaps in their understanding.

What I would love is to have several months to take the current content and redesign the student user experience so that they are constantly assessed and when they miss some component of the knowledge – they have immediate feedback that loops them into further lessons on the deficit area. I try to do this on several levels by providing discussion forums for peer evaluation and by developing interactive live-labs.

The problem is that many of my student do not show up or have yet to participate in any of the live curriculum. In these cases I have no clues to their understanding except through the assessments already in the course. If I were able to invest some time into better formative assessments I think I could pick up these students. It would also refine the decisions for all students and hopefully derive improved outcomes on the summarize assessments.

Still working on it all – with high hopes too.