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

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

Directions Optional – What Teachers Needs to Learn From Gamers

by Randy Fairfield, 12/26/18

During my last blog post in this fifteen blog series, I covered my first point, “Gamers like to be in control.” In this post, I will be addressing my second point, “Directions are optional” by discussing the way educators lead students into learning activities.

How many instruction manuals have you read before jumping in and playing a video game? Probably none. Seriously, why does anyone even bother making those things? Half the fun of gaming is jumping right in and figuring out how things work. Unfortunately, sometimes we as educators are in the nasty habit of killing the fun by overdoing it with the directions and getting in the way of students learning by doing. The jobs of tomorrow will require students to learn on the fly, and while our intentions may be good in setting students up for success by diving deep into the directions for an activity before getting started, I wonder about the unintended consequences of not giving students enough room to take a quick dive off the deep end and productively struggle through uncertainty. While some students could benefit from learning to take help from adults, particularly in the age of helicopter parenting, it seems to me that even more adults could help kids by just backing off a bit. Cue, Homer Simpson.

What happens when we overdo the directions and don’t allow enough room for self-exploration? Well, let’s just look at the adults that were taught almost exclusively with the “I do, we do, you do” model of instruction. Listen, I mean no offense here, but after spending three years as a technology/instructional coach I started to go a little crazy with an adult majority that simply refused to explore on their own and were reliant upon me for direction. Like, there was a little part of me that died inside when the same teachers kept repeatedly coming to me for technical help navigating a platform. They would take step-by-step handwritten notes on how to accomplish one specific task as their hand shook over the mouse and they made audible sounds expressing discomfort. While that’s still streets ahead of some who were outright resistant to learning something new, it still killed me because I knew that the help I provided in that moment was only going to help that day. Whatever platform they were working on that day was inevitably going to change tomorrow, and they would be back again asking for help with pencil, paper, and sticky note in hand. When encouraged to do a little exploring on their own, their response was almost always, “I don’t learn that way.” Students in our classrooms need to learn to learn that way or they will be left behind.

Snap Circuits

So what does that look like? How do we teach kids to learn by exploration? There’s much to be said here, but I’ll just share a recent example from a 2-3 STEM class that I subbed for at the last minute and didn’t really have much of a lesson plan to go off of. Besides consulting with homeschooling families, I teach a little bit of secondary social studies, so I was a bit out of my element. The students had these Snap Circuits for light and sound that neither I nor they had ever messed around with before. Instead of letting that be a deterrent, I simply let them work in groups of two or three and told them to try and figure stuff out together as best they could. They productively struggled for most of the class period, and I learned alongside them while choosing to show them nothing but encouragement. And then some lights came on. And then some sounds were emitted. And they didn’t need me or the instruction manual for anything other than the suggested builds. And it was pretty cool.


Consider signing up for my newsletter below if you’d like a reminder to check back when the next blog drops!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

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?


Consider signing up for my newsletter below if you’d like a reminder to check back when the next blog drops!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

Let Them Create!

by Randy Fairfield, 2/1/18

Kids like to make things. When I leave my kids to their own devices, my son goes off and builds stuff with Lincoln Logs and Legos, and my daughters go off and draw pictures. It’s just what they do. And of course whenever they are done making whatever it is they’ve made, the first thing they do is run up and say, “Mom! Dad! Look what I made!” Being a growth mindset conscious parent, I make sure to let them know how proud I am of all the hard work they put into their creation and then ask them reflective questions about what they thought they did well and what they thought they could make even better and so forth. Creating things and then sharing them with other people that care is a very human thing to do.

And then they get to school. And they get asked to show their learning on worksheet after worksheet and on test after standardized test. Or write papers only their teacher will ever see. And while some kids like mine are resilient enough to put up with all of these stale demonstrations of rote learning, there are a lot of kids that aren’t. And the one question just about all kids ask their teachers is this: What does this really have to do with anything? And too often the answers they get to those questions really suck. Since our assignments and tests are inauthentic and irrelevant, we have to say things like, “Stick it out and do your work to get your points so you can get good grades so you can go to college.” Why do we do this to kids?

There are a lot of things we can blame—like laws passed by politicians far-removed from the classroom and administrators handing down stale curricula and expecting it to be taught with fidelity. But for as much as teachers can control, every opportunity ought to be taken to quit “doing school” and start engaging students in meaningful learning. During my time in the classroom, the biggest challenges I faced were threefold when it came to facilitating a student-centered classroom that allowed my students to be creators of authentic content: (1) I had a hard time coming up with great ideas for projects tied to standards; (2) Coming up with a budget and the time to get materials was daunting; and (3) Finding an authentic audience for students to share their creations with was challenging. Nowadays, I don’t think any of those challenges really present much of an obstacle.

We live in an exciting age where we don’t have to recreate the wheel all the time because, guess what, there are a lot of educators out there that like to create and share stuff too. Do a Google search. Search the #pbl hashtag and follow other educators on Twitter. Check out Pinterest. There are tons of ideas and resources on Edmodo Spotlight. If your school is using Hapara, there are public Workspaces out there that teachers have spent tons of time working on that are being given away. Check out the amazing HyperDocs on “Teachers Give Teachers.” Check out Project-Based Awesome. Access to high-quality vetted content and ideas is quite literally a few searches and clicks away!

Attending a three-day Buck Institute training this past summer was also useful in helping me help teachers generate ideas for projects. There are so many different ways for students to demonstrate their learning besides worksheets and tests!!!

The best part is students are increasingly getting regular access to technology in the classroom, which gives them the ability to create stuff without the teacher having to scramble for resources. The web also gives students access to a global audience for their work! It’s far more exciting to share with the world than it is to share with just your teacher and classmates. Students can use the Google Suite almost exclusively to produce and share most of the projects listed above, and there are free web-based applications for video, photo, and audio editing that just a few years ago cost hundreds of dollars! Yet far too often, Chromebooks are used for little more than testing and Google Classroom is used for little more than digitally reproducing and distributing of the same old worksheets. Google Classroom is great and can be used for more of course, but I think the robust features offered by Hapara’s Workspace and Edmodo are a lot more conducive to the deeper learning I’m interested helping educators facilitate, which is why I’m always championing their platforms. As educators, we have a duty to prepare our students for the world they are in and are going into, and this is what the world is asking today’s students be capable of:

I like to create and share stuff with people too, which is why I just wrote this blog post, why there will be plenty more posts laden with ideas, and why there’s already a bunch of stuff I’ve already shared here on my website. Take a gander if you’re so inclined! I also really like leading professional development to help teachers help students become creators rather than consumers of content. Reach out if you’re ever interested in having me come out to your site! Have passport, will travel. 🙂

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

Changing the Rules of the Game

by Randy Fairfield, 1/4/18

Middle school and high school was just a game to be won for me, with the end goal of getting the highest possible GPA. Each teacher’s class had different rules, and I took the easiest possible path to manipulate them to end up with the lowest possible “A”. I thought things like, “I already have a 96% in math and the teacher said the final can’t hurt my grade, so I guess I’ll just skip these last few homework assignments.” The only purpose learning about quadratic equations served was to help me get that “A.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t until halfway through my senior year that my mindset started to change. Yet given the rules of the game and how the adults in my life framed “winning,” my mindset and corresponding behavior was completely rational.

All things considered, the game ended up working out pretty well for me. After all, I did end up learning about quadratic equations, I got into college, and as I matured I began to understand that there is more to life than having a good grade point average. However, I also noticed that a lot of marginalized students seemed to just disappear during the course of the game. I wouldn’t see somebody for a few months and would think, “Oh, wow… I wonder what happened to so-and-so.” And for many of them, I’d never see them again. For far too many students, the rules of the game were preventing them from feeling like they had a chance to win, and so they decided to quit playing. Can we blame them? Too often we do because it means we don’t have to change.

Change is uncomfortable. It’s hard. Most people do not like change, even when it serves to make things better for themselves and for everyone else. A perfect example of a rule change that most people hate is, “no trade, reverse robber” in Settlers of Catan. This rule change makes the game become far more strategic and largely prevents people like Cody (see below) from going on suicide missions to take out the best player. Please be gentle, it was my first of many embarrassing attempts to go viral…

Rule changes aren’t always for the better. A teacher I once worked with made participation a full fifty percent of his students’ grades so that, and I quote, “If they’re acting like little s***s in my class I can just fail them.” True story.

I can’t help but consider: What “rules” can we change to make our schools and classrooms better, and how can we frame the conditions for winning in a different way so that everyone feels like they have a chance? I think I’m better at asking questions than I am at giving answers, but as a recovering video gamer and current board game enthusiast, this is one I have some unique insight into. I’ve been working on a keynote titled, “What Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers” that I’m dying to give. Dee Lanier (@deelanier) has some pretty awesome thoughts on “hacking learning” too. I’d also love to hear some of your thoughts on Twitter if you’re open to sharing! Just tweet me at @RandyFairfield and you’re sure to get a reply.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

Balancing Pedagogy and Andragogy

by Randy Fairfield, 12/11/17

Nobody wants to be told what to do. I don’t, you don’t, and—guess what—your students don’t either. Yet if you were to spend a day in the life of the average student, you would likely find that most of your school day was spent being told what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. Perhaps this is because we as educators know a lot about pedagogy and perhaps not enough about andragogy.

The word pedagogy literally means “leading children” and came before the lesser known term andragogy, which means “leading adults.” An adult educator named Malcolm Knowles theorized nearly forty years ago that, as learners, adults have different characteristics than children do. As such, Knowles believed adult educators should take these differences into account when designing learning activities:

  • Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
  • Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
  • Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
  • Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented. (Kearsley, 2010)
  • Yet as I look at that list, I can’t help but see a number of lesson design principles that I wish were more evident at the elementary level and especially at the secondary level. Why shouldn’t students be involved in the planning of their instruction to increase their level of buy-in? Why shouldn’t students’ experiences (including mistakes) provide the basis for learning activities? Why shouldn’t students be learning about subjects that have immediate relevance to their personal lives? Why shouldn’t students be learning content in the context of real-world problems? Do you see what I mean?

    Particularly as students emerge into adulthood, their learning needs demand that educators adopt lesson design principles that strike a balance between pedagogy and andragogy. It is true that students often don’t have the necessary experience to draw from to form the basis of some learning activities. Sometimes they need to hear the message that what they are learning about today might not now be immediately applicable to their lives. And, yes, there are times where students need to be explicitly led—but we also need to teach them to lead as well. What I’m advocating for here is for educators to strike a developmentally appropriate balance.

    Given the name of this website, at this point you might be wondering what this kind of reflection has to do with educational technology. Frankly, I am too as this blog post went a much different direction than I originally intended! I guess all that to say that to me the Chromebook represents an opportunity for educators to shift up as they find balance between pedagogy and andragogy. Though Chromebooks are not required, there are countless ways in which they can be leveraged to help educators plan learning activities that give students a bit more ownership over what, when, and how they learn and demonstrate their learning. Two of my favorite books from educators that embrace what I’m talking about are Dive Into Inquiry by Trevor Mackenzie (@trev_mackenzie) and The HyperDoc Handbook by Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill). And in case you were wondering, no, I don’t make any money if you click on their links and buy their books—I just think they’re worth taking a look at if you haven’t yet already! 🙂

    Source: Kearsley, G. (2010). Andragogy (M.Knowles). The theory into practice database. Retrieved from http://tip.psychology.org

    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

    Teaching Entrepreneurship with AwesomeTable

    by Randy Fairfield, 12/1/17

    The ability to find and solve problems both feeds and is driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. That is, a successful entrepreneur is someone who looks for and can find problems no one else has solved—and then comes up with a marketable solution to the problem. In the rapidly changing economy our students will soon be competing in, being adept at finding problems and coming up with creative and innovative solutions will be paramount. So how do we teach students these skills?

    Before tackling that question, I think we first need to consider beliefs that drive practices that hold kids back. The bone I’d like to pick here is with differences often cited between children and adults as learners. While there are clearly differences, they should be seen and presented along a continuum. In no way, shape, or form should curriculum or instruction at the secondary level assume more to be true of students in the left-hand column below than in the right-hand column. Just consider the learning theories below and how damaging lower expectations can be to creativity, innovation, and problem finding and solving:
    Source: Teaching Adults: What Every Trainer Needs to Know About Adult Learning Styles

    So, with that out of way, let’s talk about AwesomeTable, which is a web application that transforms data from Google Sheets into a variety of pleasant views. The number of templates that AwesomeTable has to offer are extraordinary, and when I started exploring my imagination was immediately stoked with all kinds ideas for how students, teachers, and administrators could use the templates to solve numerous problems. I’m sure your imagination and your students’ imaginations will run wild too!

    The first thing I recommend you do when you go to AwesomeTable’s website is expand the template gallery and just explore. Might there be a way for you to design a project that allows for student agency in exploring and deciding which template to use to meet the objectives of a project?

    Once you’ve explored the template gallery and found one you like, simply click on it and then click the “use template” button. At that point, a copy of a Google Sheet that’s generating the template will be added to the root of your Google Drive. You can then go to the Google Sheet by clicking on the file name.

    Once you’ve gone into the spreadsheet, you can then make edits that will immediately be reflected in the AwesomeTable view in real time! When you or your students are finished taking a template and making it your own, there are number of different ways to share it:

    The number of different uses here are too many to count, but just off the top of my head, here are some ways students could use AwesomeTable:

    • Create a student store with the Product Catalog template and embed it into the school’s website.
    • Use multiple templates embedded into a Google Site to create a fictitious business.
    • Populate the Geochart Demo template with locations of key WWII battles.
    • Use the Marvel Movies template to create biographical profiles of historical figures.
    • Tweak the code that’s in many of the AwesomeTable templates to participate in Hour of Code during December 4-10, 2017.

    Finally, I’d like to share one way that AwesomeTable got me thinking about solving a problem in a creative and innovative way.

    This past spring I set out to solve a problem that had been plaguing me for over a decade: That is, I collect sports cards—especially Dominique Wilkins basketball cards—and I was getting really tired of the tedious process of manually updating my website whenever a new card came in. After complaining on some sports card forums, I found few solutions and a number of other collectors with the same problem. Just weeks later, I stumbled upon AwesomeTable and realized I had found the solution I was looking for.

    Rather than making things easy on myself and just using the AwesomeTable templates as-is, I used every ounce of coding ability I had, taught myself a few more things, created HobbyDisplay, edited the code in the AwesomeTable templates, and then embedded a number of different AwesomeTable views into HobbyDisplay. What I’ve come up with really isn’t economically viable, but it was a heck of a lot of fun to build out over this past summer, and it’s been fun to share my solution for free with a handful of different collectors that have found it useful. That, and I really like the way my Dominique Wilkins collection looks on the website. 🙂

    If that use of AwesomeTable feels a little overwhelming to you, no worries! I used the template provided by AwesomeTable to create this list of Summer Camp opportunities for youth. I didn’t spend much time on the Google Site and basically just tweaked the data in the spreadsheet provide by AwesomeTable to make this happen: https://sites.google.com/rsd.edu/summer-camps-2018/home

    Resources:
    • AwesomeTable’s website – Link
    • RSD Summer Camp website – Link
    • HobbyDisplay Dominique Wilkins collection – Link
    • The Google Sheets driving the HobbyDisplay – Link 1
    • The Google Sheets driving the HobbyDisplay – Link 2

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

    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

    The Greatest Scandal of Teaching

    by Randy Fairfield, 11/9/17

    I’ve heard many people say that the most important thing they learned from college was how to learn. That got me thinking: Why does learning this incredibly important skill have to wait until college? Is it possible to empower students by teaching them this skill during high school? Middle school? Elementary school? Even younger? I believe it’s not only possible, but that it’s of the utmost importance.

    For me personally, I started to feel empowered to take charge of my own learning during my senior year of high school. My mom pulled my sister and I out of school to go on a three week road trip to visit family in early January right before the conclusion of first semester. Most of my teachers grimaced that I’d be missing so much school, but since I was generally a stellar student they decided to just give me the grade I’d already earned. That is, except for my calculus teacher. He gave me an incomplete and assigned me a whole bunch of chapters to do on my own. What a jerk, right?

    Once I finally mustered the intestinal fortitude necessary to teach myself calculus, I made a shocking discovery: Not only could I teach myself, I could also learn at a far quicker pace without all of the distractions and limitations that are an inherent part of being in a classroom full of students. Since I had taught myself, I felt a greater sense of pride in my understanding, and I found that my level of retention increased as well.

    The discovery that I could be my own best teacher had a cascading effect on my life that reached far beyond calculus: I spent Spring Break teaching myself how to build my own website with HTML code; When a Rubik’s Cube craze hit our senior class, I figured out how to solve it on my own while the rest of the students were looking it up on YouTube; When the time came for me to file my taxes for the first time, I didn’t take them to a tax prep guy—I solved my own problem. I found some of my greatest joy simply in self-discovery and learning. What a shame that it took me so long to find it!

    Now, am I advocating that the best way to teach students is to hand them a textbook and wish them well? Certainly not. Given a similar situation at a different point earlier in my life, I can’t say with certainty how I would have responded. Yet I do wonder what more my teachers could have done in response to this strange truth:


    I can’t remember when or where I heard a quote like this, and I couldn’t find it with a Google search. If you can help with attribution, that’d be great.


    While I sometimes feel that I was often robbed of the joy of discovery during school, I did find that joy through other outlets—video games, in particular. I’m dying for a chance to give this keynote on “What Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers”. It does not surprise me that a game like Minecraft has become so poplar, for at its core Minecraft is a game about limitless discovery.

    There are a number of practical ways in which educators can tap into this human desire to discover and learn in the classroom, but it really starts with looking in the mirror. When is the last time you got excited about something and learned about it on your own? Tell your students about it! They need to hear these stories. Yet too often I hear educators complaining that they don’t have enough time to learn this or that, or that they aren’t going to attend professional development unless they’re paid. If we want our students to take ownership of their learning and become lifelong learners, we must first do so ourselves.

    So with that, I encourage you to click around my website and learn a thing or to. Better yet, shut this blog off, open an application you’ve been meaning to learn, and just start clicking around and figuring stuff out on your own. It’s fun!

    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin

    Reflection on Google Classroom Promo Video

    by Randy Fairfield, 5/19/17

    For every three likes this Google Classroom promo video has, it also has one dislike. Seeing all the dislikes got me wondering why so many people were turned off, so I decided to investigate! If you would, watch the video and let me know what you think on Twitter (@RandyFairfield)!

    My feelings on the video are mixed. Here are some reflective questions I think the video begs:

    • Are you intimidated by all the devices coming into classrooms?
    • Do you feel like you should retire if you don’t “get it”?
    • What problems can devices help solve?
    • Can the use of educational technology help close the achievement gap?
    • Is it a waste of time to write on paper instead of typing something out?
    • Will students’ “beautiful thoughts just come out” because they are using Chromebooks and Google Classroom?

    At first I thought the negative comments about the video would be coming from teachers offended by the implied answers to some of questions begged by the video. What I found instead surprised me:

    Reading stuff like that from kids really gets me thinking about a previous blog post I made about what kind of backwards planning needs to be done by school districts to lessen the likelihood of this unintended outcome on students when it comes to district and building technology initiatives. If this kind of planning does not take place, unfortunately, students are the ones that ultimately end up getting hurt.

    When integrating technology in the classroom, best practices and student-centered outcomes need to be at the forefront! A tool like Google Classroom is great, but only if used intentionally.

    Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestlinkedin