Archive for Randy Fairfield

Gamers Like to Be in Control – Gamification and Classroom Management

by Randy Fairfield, 11/12/18

During my last blog post, I introduced my new blog series on gamification in education. In this post, I will be addressing my first point, “Gamers like to be in control,” by discussing gamification and classroom management.

Classroom Management: The Controller


Control. It’s something we as people like to have. We like to be able to make our own choices rather than having someone else make them for us. Perhaps that’s one of the the great appeals of gaming: You can choose what you want to play and how you want to play it. In fact, the more I think about it, this appeal to control and power is exactly what Nintendo was marketing to their younger audience back in the day. Consider the message: When you have a controller in your hand, you’ve got the power.

What makes this marketing strategy so effective is that control and power are not something that kids are often used to having in their everyday life. Part of the reality of being younger is that, whether it be at home or at school, you are going to be told what to do and how to do it for a significant portion of your day. While much of what adults tell kids to do is entirely appropriate, I wonder if, in general, we could do more to release some of that power and control to provide students with a greater sense of autonomy over their lives. For as much discussion is held about having student-centered classrooms, the reality is that the vast majority of classrooms are still very teacher-centered.

You know, it’s kind of funny that I’m now saying this because I’m quite literally cringing as I think about what my approach to classroom management looked like when I first started teaching. It was bad. Really, really bad. I was working with an extremely challenging group of students, and particularly as a young teacher, I felt the need to get in there and establish my authority early. I’d heard about young teachers coming in and trying to be too relational with the students, and I just didn’t want to give off that vibe. So what did I do? I took control of my classroom. Or so I thought.

38 Special: Hold on Loosely

Right out of the the gate, I hammered kids on the dress code. I stood and delivered from PowerPoints and expected silence and note taking. I frequently called home and let parents know when their students were misbehaving. There was little grace and a lot of sternness. Full transparency here, it probably wasn’t long before the sternness became meanness. I wish I could say differently, but I can’t. You see, what I was doing wasn’t working. I wasn’t happy, the students weren’t happy, and honestly I started to doubt if I wanted to teach for the rest of my life. What I didn’t understand at the time was a lesson perhaps best learned from 38 Special: “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go. If you cling too tightly, you’re gonna lose control.”

There’s that word again. Control. You know, we really desperately need to change some of the vocabulary we use in education. Why? I really think the language related to classroom management had a significant impact on my perception of what was expected of me as a teacher in the early going. I find it curious that “being controlling” is generally considered to be poor behavior, and yet that same behavior is often seen positively when describing a teacher’s approach to classroom management. That is, when a boss constantly tries to control his or her employees by telling them what to do and how to do it, we call it micromanaging; yet when an educator does the same to a group of students, we say, “Oh, wow! Mr. Fairfield has such great control over his classroom!” Do you see the problem here? Rather than teacher, I now prefer to be considered a facilitator of learning. Rather than rules, I prefer guidelines and parameters. Rather than a classroom management plan, how about an academic and behavioral engagement plan? Words convey meaning, and the words we use and the way we use them can have a significant impact on the way we are perceived by the students in our care.

Stop a moment and think: Are you in control of your classroom, or have you found ways to release as much of it as you reasonably can to your students?


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Gamification in Education: 14 Things Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers

by Randy Fairfield, 10/20/18

A few years ago I was teaching a course and noticed a curious trend towards the end of the school year: There seemed to be a direct correlation between students wearing Minecraft t-shirts and failing my class. It was uncanny. Now I wasn’t really sure what Minecraft was at that point in time, but I wondered if there might be a way for me to harness the energy these students were expending on the game and somehow get them to use it on my class instead. So I bought a copy of the game and put in a good fifty or so hours of time over the summer. In all honesty, I found the game to be fairly enjoyable; In fact, my wife had to get on my case a few times! This was all the beginnings of a great of learning about gamification in education, and I’ve finally decided to sit down and blog about my learning and experiences.

So anyways, I somehow talked my principal into letting me experiment with Minecraft Edu—which ended up largely being a failed endeavor due to the lack of support from the IT department—but I’m not sure Minecraft Edu was really the answer anyway. The more I thought about it, the “if you can’t beat them, join them” approach didn’t really sit well with me. Nevertheless, I still wanted to find ways to get kids more plugged into my class and less plugged into their video game consoles.

PNW Tecmo Super Bowl

The truth is, I have more than a little experience to draw from to relate to my students. Indeed, about 90% of my misspent youth was playing the good old Nintendo Entertainment System. While my days of hardcore gaming are now largely behind me, I feel no shame in admitting to winning a few Pacific Northwest Tecmo Super Bowl Championships over the past few years.

A few weeks ago, I had a fantastic conversation with Peter Grostic, Director of Professional Learning for CBD Consulting, and we discussed gamification in education. Gamification is the process of taking the design elements of game play and applying them in another context, and I think I have a unique perspective on the topic. Feel free to listen if you’re interested!

During our conversation, we talked about some things I’ve learned from incorporating elements of gamification into my own classroom. By better understanding what motivates gamers, we as educators can do a lot to keep our students more engaged with our classes. Over the coming months, I’ll be blogging once every few weeks about each of the points raised below. Stay tuned if I’ve piqued your interest! You can subscribe to my newsletter if you’d like a reminder to check back every once in awhile. 🙂

Gamification in Education - Keynote Overview

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Building Meaningful Relationships in a Digital Classroom

Hapara Icon

by Randy Fairfield, 3/28/17

As technology becomes increasingly prevalent in our schools, workplaces, and everyday lives, many educators feel the pressure to make the shift to a more digital classroom. The threat of automation is a workplace reality in many sectors, and it is more important than ever for teachers and students to learn to leverage technology to add value to their work.

Does technology hurt relationships?

One of the biggest concerns expressed by educators over the influx of devices in classrooms is that something is being lost—particularly, that students are losing the ability to communicate and collaborate with their teachers, and with one another, face-to-face.

Consider the following piece of spoken word poetry by Prince EA:

It’s true that, if not used intentionally, technology can add a cold and disconnecting element to our classrooms. However, it’s also possible for technology to be used to add value to our relationships and bring teachers and students closer to together.

Watch how Ms. Kornowski uses Google Forms to connect with students:

Using tech for good in a digital classroom

When you consider both Prince EA’s spoken word poetry and the example from Ms. Kornowski, it’s clear that the problem is not so much the technology itself, but how we use it. Both you and your students can learn to use technology to better communicate and collaborate in the digital classroom.

If your school has adopted Hapara and Google Suite for Education, then you and your students have a bevy of tools at your disposal that can be used to improve communication and collaboration.

Consider the following example of a Hapara Workspace that does just that:

Hapara Workspace

Hapara Workspace

In Hapara Workspace, both teachers and students have the ability to collaborate by adding resource cards to support student learning. Students can add a card while they are in class or out of class. You can then use the resources they add as a jumping off point for discussions about whether or not the resources are relevant, helpful, or credible.

Teachers and students can also use Workspace cards to link to other collaborative tools like Google Hangouts. This allows students to collaborate via video chat while working on a group project outside of school. A teacher could also conduct class from home on a day when school is closed due to inclement weather.

Hapara Highlights Activity Viewer

Hapara Highlights

Hapara Highlights provides teachers with visibility into what students are looking at online. This could help or hurt teacher-student relationships. If you’re using Highlights in your digital classroom, the following tips will help you ensure it contributes to a positive classroom culture that is conducive to healthy communication and collaboration:

Be upfront and transparent with students. Show students what kind of visibility you have into their Chromebook usage, and let them know that you trust them to make good decisions too! This proactive and positive approach will solve the vast majority of issues you may run into in a digital classroom.

Start Highlights tracking at the beginning of the class period, and use the Activity Viewer to check it again at the end. If a student or two is having a hard time following your classroom expectations, even after you’ve taken positive and proactive steps, you can use the Activity Viewer at the end of the class period to identify those students and pull them aside for the one-on-one conversation they need about digital citizenship.

Technology doesn’t have to be cold. There are many ways to use it to connect with students and support their learning!

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If a Picture Speaks 1,000 Words, an Animated GIF Speaks 10,000!

by Randy Fairfield, 3/21/18

No, students will not be asked to effectively integrate Animated GIFs into their writing on their high stakes standardized tests. They probably won’t be asked to analyze questions related to the author’s purpose in using Animated GIFs in a blog post either. And that’s a shame. It’s a shame because Animated GIFs have become an increasingly important way that people communicate, and it’s a shame because there is a whole lot of higher order thinking that goes into this whole Animated GIFs thing. Just think about it!

Not convinced yet? Just consider how my use of Animated GIFs supported my response to a small kerfuffle that unfolded over an email chain at my church this past week. There were some concerns expressed that some children had gotten in the habit of taking the gluten free snacks provided during coffee hour, and as the email chain started to get a little too snippy for my liking, I decided to try and diffuse the situation with a little humor.

The following is a true story about the last 24 hours of my life:

​​Opens email from the rector.

​​Closes email. Goes about my day.

​​Opens reply all emails.​​

Considers whether or not 1 Cor 11:17-33 has any relevant wisdom.

Says a short prayer.

​Considers the following passage from Proverbs 32:​​​

Oops. I accidentally on purpose slipped a meme in there at the end instead of an Animated GIF. I actually thought about renaming the title of this blog post to, “If a Picture Speaks 1,000 Words, a Meme Speaks 10,000, and an Animated GIF Speaks 100,000.” Then I decided that would be a bit too wordy. In fact, I’m being a bit too wordy now! Moving on…

So, yeah, I had to put a lot of thought into which animated GIFs I selected for that email. It took a number of different searches on Giphy for me to find the Animated GIFs that precisely communicated the feelings I wanted to convey. Perhaps we should be teaching our students how to do this stuff, eh? As a reader, did you find yourself watching and then re-watching the Animated GIF loops to see what I was going for? What do you think I was thinking? Deep questions. Maybe ones we should be asking our students? Just a thought.

Animated GIFs can be used as a one-off to convey humor, help tell a story, draw attention to a social media post, and so much more! When I was in the classroom as a teacher, sometimes I would often send my students assignment comments on Edmodo with Animated GIFs and memes to give them feedback on their work and to encourage them in a fun way to keep working towards mastery. Sometimes I would include these images in assignments I posted on Edmodo to keep the group from being nothing more than stale and uninviting text. Here is one I used to send my students when they didn’t capitalize “I” in their essays:

Below are some resources to help you begin using Animated GIFs and memes. Some of the content found on these resources is not suitable for children, so curating resources for students use and putting it in a shared Google Drive folder is probably the best way to proceed.

• GIPHY – https://giphy.com/
• Cut duration of Animated GIF – https://ezgif.com/cut
• Blank meme templates – https://imgflip.com/memetemplates
• Meme Generator – https://memegenerator.net/
• Google Draw meme template – Link
• GIPHY CAM (Android)
• Meme Generator (Android)
• Video & GIF Memes (Android)

SESSION EVALUATION: http://gsummit.link/eval

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Edmodo Certified Learner Course

The Edmodo Certified Learner Course is run by Edmodo, and I can tell you from my own experience that going through the course was super helpful! Registering for the Edmodo Certified Learner Course through MisterEdTech gets you one-on-one coaching support from me as you go through the coursework—and, if you’re an educator in Washington State, you can get STEM and TPEP clock hours too! Details here:

Date: Can be taken any time
Costs: $79 to MisterEdTech + $40 for clock hours
Clock Hours: 20 STEM and TPEP Clock Hours (WA State only)
Course Details: click here
Steps to Sign Up:
1. Create an account on Edmodo if you don’t have one already.
2. Register for the course on Edmodo Spotlight.
3. Optional. For clock hours and coaching support, submit $79 payment to MisterEdTech via PayPal or credit card
4. Optional. Register for clock hours on pdEnroller.
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Hapara Certified Champion Educator Program

The Hapara Certified Champion Educator Program is run by Hapara, and I can tell you from my own experience that going through the program was super helpful! Registering for the HCCE Program through MisterEdTech gets you one-on-one coaching support from Randy as you go through the coursework—and, if you’re an educator in Washington State, you can get STEM and TPEP clock hours too! Details here:

Date: Educators must apply to the Hapara Champion Educator Program by 3/19/18. If accepted, the program runs for four weeks beginning on 4/9/18.
Cost: $69 to MisterEdTech + $10 to Hapara + $40 for clock hours
Clock Hours: 20 STEM and TPEP Clock Hours (WA State only)
Course Overview: click here
Program Details: click here
Steps to Sign Up:
1. Apply to the Hapara Champion Educator Program by 3/19/18.
2. If accepted, pay $10 program fee to Hapara
3. Optional. For clock hours and coaching support, submit $69 payment to MisterEdTech via PayPal or credit card
4. Optional. Register for clock hours on pdEnroller.
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How I Googled My Way to an MBA from Western Governors University… in Six Months!

by Randy Fairfield, 3/8/18

So, yeah, this happened. I’ve mostly kept quiet about my studies because I didn’t want to give off the impression that I was leaving education for business. So, here’s an interview with myself to clarify:

So why did you get an MBA in the first place?

There are a lot of reasons I decided to pursue this degree! The situation would have to be right, but I would be interested in working remotely for an edtech startup at some point, and I’m hoping that adding an MBA to my teaching experience, consulting experience, edtech certifications, and Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning will make me an attractive candidate. I love learning, and as I’ve been haphazardly picking up all kinds of business skills through my consultancy, the timing just seemed right for me to dive in and learn more!

What led you to Western Governors University?

There were a lot of things that attracted me to WGU. I loved the competency-based model, which allowed me to speed through courses I was already knowledgeable in and spend more time and energy on concepts I still needed to learn. Additionally, I’ve been working on developing online edtech courses for teachers, and I thought going through some online coursework myself would give me perspective as I try to make my courses as meaningful and accessible as possible. I also liked that WGU assessed tuition based on the amount of time spent in the program rather than charging per credit. Because I busted my butt and got all my coursework done inside of six months, my total costs for the program were just under $3,400.

Wait, you got an MBA inside of six months for $3,400? Sounds fishy.

I was admittedly suspicious when I first heard about WGU, but I did my homework and learned that WGU is regionally accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation, so that put me at ease. While I was able to complete my program inside of six months, that is generally not true for most people going through the program. Having already had a strong background in academic writing as well as a schedule that permitted me to devote a sizable portion of time to my coursework helped me fast track things quite a bit.

So how exactly did you “Google your way to an MBA?”

I started with the assumption that there would be very little knowledge contained within the course materials provided by WGU that could also not be found on the web, so I set out to prove a point. Using how to search Google and make meaning of your findings is an incredibly important skill, and for the most part this skill was all I needed to help me learn the concepts I needed to demonstrate competency in. I’m amazed at how often people ask me questions that have answers that are just a Google search away, and I try to refrain from being snarky and referring them to LMGTFY. 🙂

All that said, there is value in having someone curate and organize course materials. Early on in my program, I probably spent more time than I needed to doing Google searches for content that was just a few clicks away in the course materials—but I was out to prove a point, remember! As a started to butt up against the six-month deadline, I will admit that I accessed the course materials and even reached out to a few course mentors to help accelerate my learning. Generally, though, I’m intrinsically motivated to figure stuff out and solve problems on my own, so I tried to go that route as much as possible.

I don’t know, I’m not sure I’m really buying into the whole thing, man.

I recognize that, for some, this blog post might diminish the value of the degree I just earned. If I’m an employer and someone is telling me they Googled their way to an MBA at some university I’ve never heard of, and that they did it inside of six months—well, I’m thinking diploma mill. I get it.

To that, all I can say is my program is fully accredited, I worked my butt off, and I learned a lot along the way—not just about business administration, but about myself. There are several skills and personal qualities I demonstrated throughout the course of my program that I think a potential future employer would find valuable. Believe me, what I did was no easy feat—but I’m the type of guy that likes to take on a good challenge. I have no problem setting ambitious goals and working independently to meet them. Sure, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life getting up super early and (sometimes) staying up late, but I am willing to bust my butt to meet goals and deadlines if need be.

All right, I think I get it now. Way to go, man! So now what?

To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure where all of this is leading! I know one thing is for sure: I am not going to just sit back and rest on my laurels. I expect great things of myself, and right now I am really focused on my health! I’ve lost almost twenty pounds since Thanksgiving, and I’m looking forward to losing at least that much more by June.

I might do a little job hunting here and there, but I am really intrigued by the idea of finding more ways to help educators get high quality professional development online. I am stubborn to a fault about figuring stuff out on my own, but teachers are busy, busy people, and they don’t always have the time to be messing around with stuff. When I first dove into edtech, I took a half-time contract and spent a lot of time holed up in a public library cubby just figuring stuff out. Most teachers don’t have that luxury, and most are not given nearly enough professional development to help them learn to leverage technology in ways that lead to student-centered outcomes.

In the absence of another opportunity that really blows my mind and aligns with my mission and vision, I’m going to keep plugging away at building online courses. If you’ve read this far and are interested, keep up with my progress by subscribing to my newsletter! Additionally, if you’ve got a super cool opportunity you want to share with me, feel free to reach out and let me know what you’re thinking.

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Online Course: Hapara Champion Educator Program

The Hapara Champion program is designed as a series of leveled certification courses focused on creating skilled Hapara users with a positive, transformative outlook on instructional technology.

Most of the content and activities will be asynchronous; approximately 5 hours of each course will be live, synchronous. Scheduling will be flexible to accommodate participants from around the world.

Throughout your participation in this program, you will receive 1:1 support from Hapara Certified Trainer, Randy Fairfield.

The courses are intended to be completed in order (Educator, Scholar, then Trainer). Applicants with no previous Hapara certification will only be accepted to the Champion Educator program.

The Hapara Champion program is highly-selective, and applicants are not guaranteed to be admitted, particularly at the higher levels of certification.

There is an additional $10 examination fee to be paid at the end of the course.

Educators must apply to the Hapara Champion Educator Program by 3/19/18. Applicants that are accepted and then eligible to receive clock hours in Washington State and coaching support from Randy.

Hapara Champion Educator Application link:
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSeySV6NISBgntkALJt5nGE0dZqCpcgCKQL103x6St1M5SRacQ/viewform

ESD 171 registration link (for clock hours)
pdEnroller link…

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Online Course: Google for Education Level 1 Certified Educator Exam Prep

Course Description:
This course focuses on the Google Suite for Education to help teachers prepare for the Google for Education Level 1 Certified Educator exam. While most of the attention will be given to learning the tools themselves, the course will also ask teachers to reflect on pedagogical uses and best practice. The research basis for these best practices is John Hattie’s Visible Learning, which is a synthesis of 800 meta-analyses related to student achievement.4 The tutorial videos, coursework, and individualized support provided in this course are intended to supplement the fundamentals training experience that the Google for Education team has already created to prepare educators for the Google for Education Level 1 Certified Educator exam. This course can be taken at any time and can be completed at whatever pace you feel comfortable with!

Course Goal:
Teachers will be able to lead their students into transformational learning through their use of educational technology—particularly the Google Suite for Education—and will have the confidence they need to pass the Google for Education Level 1 Certified Educator exam by learning the skills specified on the skills checklist created by Google for Education Certified Trainer, Eric Curts.

Links:

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Using Flipgrid and HyperDocs with Hapara Workspace

Hapara Icon

by Randy Fairfield, 2/14/18

Ever since last spring, Flipgrid started showing up all over my Twitter feed. Prior to #FlipgridFever, it seemed like every other tweet I saw had something or other to do with HyperDocs. So what is it about Flipgrid and HyperDocs that educators find so appealing? I think the draw is that they can be used to empower students by providing them with voice and choice in the classroom which, in turn, leads to increased engagement. For teachers already using Hapara, where do tools like Flipgrid and HyperDocs fit in?

With Flipgrid, teachers add a grid (basically a class) and post some topics or questions. Students then click on a link to get to the grid and reply to the topics or questions with short video clips that are shared to the grid. If a teacher has students who are not yet comfortable with speaking up in front of the rest of the class, Flipgrid can be used as a scaffold to make sure that all student voices get heard. So, what is the best way to lead the students into Flipgrid?

Well, in Hapara Workplace, teachers can create a card in the Resources or Evidence column and include a link to the Flipgrid they’ve created for their students. Workspace gives a nice jumping off point for students to get to Flipgrid, and linking from Workspace also helps students see their Flipgrid responses in the larger context of a learning cycle that includes standards as well as a rubric for how their Flipgrid response can be assessed.

HyperDocs isn’t really a tool per say—really, it’s more of an idea; and the idea is this: teachers can facilitate learning by engaging students in the 5E’s (engage, explore, explain, extend, and evaluate) by providing them with links on a Google Docs, Slides, or Sheets file to all kinds of different online resources. Since teachers using Hapara Workspace can already post a variety of links to their Workspace, should they be using HyperDocs as well? Really, the answer to that question really depends on how the teacher feels the content they are linking to can best be organized to meet the needs of their students. If there’s just a few links, posting them to Workspace as resource cards would be sufficient; but as the list of resources grows, organizing them in a HyperDoc and then linking to the HyperDoc from a Workspace card might be the better option.

If you’re excited about starting to use HyperDocs and Flipgrid in your classroom as a way to give students voice and choice in your classroom, a great place to start is to consider your students’ interests. You can grab a free copy of a Google Form with a Student Interest Inventory on my website, see what your students are interested in, and then start creating some Flipgrids and/or HyperDocs that take your students’ interests into account!

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