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December 2014

VEJ        Vol.  3  Issue  5  

Virtual Education  Journal   June  2014  

Hello Everyone!       First  of  all,  we  are  very  excited  to  announce  Gord  Holden,  as  the   2014  Edovator  of  the  Year!  If  you  have  read  the  past  several  issues  of   VEJ,  you  have  already  learned  a  lot  about  his  amazing  work  through  the   interview  articles  Scott  Merrick  did  with  Gord.  The  third  part  of  his   interview  is  featured  in  this  issue  of  VEJ.  We  look  forward  to  following   Gord  Holden’s  work  in  VEJ  for  years  to  come.   Also,  huge  CONGRATULATIONS  to  all  of  our  2014  Reader’s   Choice  A ward  nominees  and  winners!    All  of  these  people  and  venues   are  doing  amazing  work  in  Virtual  Environments  and  we  highly  respect   and  commend  each  of  them  for  all  they  do  to  further  virtual  education.   We  are  excited  about  the  upcoming  2014  Hour  of  Code  global   activities  beginning  December  8,  2014.  A lthough  the  Hour  of  Code  is  a   weeklong  global  event  (December  8  –  14,  2014)  we  hope  that  you  will   help  continue  it  around  the  world  365  days  a  year.     On  their  website,  they  report  74,028  Hour   of  Code  events  happening  around  the  world  with  a  m ap  showing  where   the  activities  are  taking  place.  Anyone  interested  in  joining  the   movement  can  sign-­‐up  on  the  website.  Also  on  the  website  there  are   one-­‐hour  tutorials  in  30  languages  for  people  ages  4  to  104.  You  do  not   need  to  have  any  experience  to  participate.   For  the  first  time  this  year,  my  (rl)  school  will  be  participating  in   Hour  of  Code  activities  K-­‐5.    Several  of  the  authors  of  articles  in  this  issue   of  VEJ  share  examples  of  what  and  how  they  are  teaching  coding  to  their   students.  Be  sure  to  check  them  out.   Even  if  you  don’t  have  time  during  the  week-­‐long  global  event   to  organize  Hour  of  Code  learning  activities  in  your  classroom  or  at  your   school,  do  it  sometime  this  year.    Go  to  for  FREE   resources  you  can  use  with  your  students.  Also,  be  sure  to  check  out   where  your  state  stands  on  opportunities  for  students  to  learn  and/or   earn  credit  toward  graduation  for  computer  science  courses.  Most  of  all,   you  will  probably  be  amazed  at  how  many  jobs  requiring  a  computer   science  background  in  your  start  are  unfilled.       All  students  deserve  the  opportunity  to  get  their  hands  on  code   and  get  excited  about  learning  computer  science.  It  will  be  with  the   hands  and  minds  of  our  children  that  we  can  change  the  world!     We  hope  you  will  share  the  Power  of  Code  with  your  students   this  year!   Again,  CONGRATULATIONS  to  all  of  our  2014  VEJ  Award   nominees  and  winners!  Keep  up  the  GREAT  WORK!   Happy  Holidays  from  all  of  us  at  VEJ!    No  matter  which  world   you  call  your  home,  ALL  THE  BEST  to  you  in  2015!  

Keep smiling  J   Roxie  Neiro  (SL)   Rosie  Vojtek  (RL)  

In This  Issue:     • Gord  Holden,  2014   Edovator  of  the  Year   • Virtual  Worlds  for   Education,  Part  3:  An   Interview  with  Gord   Holden   • VWBPE2015  –  Hold  The   Date   • Power  of  Code   • Geology  Valley:  A  21st   Century  Collaborative   Alternative   • Going  for  the  “Epic  Win”  In   Computer  Science   • Understanding  Coordinate   Coding  with  Real-­‐World   Examples   • Electronic  Blizzard  Days   • Did  We  Have  Fun,  Or   What?  @  ISTE2014  VEPLN   • The  Educational  Potential   and  Difficulties  Presented   By  Massively  Multiplayer   Online  Roleplaying  Games   in  Pubic  Education   • Digging  Deeper:  Minecraft   as  a  Transition  to  Wider   Virtual  Worlds   • Eliminating  a  Headache   To  Read  VEJ  online  visit:     For  more  information  about  ISTE  SIGVE/VEN   or  to  join  the  fun,  visit:     Follow  us  on  Twitter  @VEJournal  or   #VEJournal       2  

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Gord Holden  is  an   innovator  with  a  mission.  Once   an  “intermediate  classroom   teacher,”  as  Immersive   Technology  and  Learning  Specialist  at  Heritage  Christian  Academy  in   Courtenay,  British  Columbia,  he  has  brought  3D  virtual  learning   environments  (3DVLE)  learning  to  an  entire  population  of  young  learners.         Gord  designed  and  implemented  a  groundbreaking  province-­‐wide   project  to  help  address  the  transience  of  Canadian  First  Nations  peoples,  by   constructing  and  making  available  virtual  villages  which  keep  alive  a  culture   that  the  transience  is  threatening  to  destroy.    He  now  trains  teachers  in   British  Columbia  and  Alberta  in  the  use  of  3DVLE’s  and  he  is  forwarding   their  use  for  learning  and  teaching  as  much  or  more  than  any  other  single   practioner  in  the  world.      

Gord has  been  featured  in  a  3-­‐part  VEJ  interview  series  this  past  year.   We  look  forward  to  learning  more  about  his  practices  and  beliefs  in  this   issue  as  the  series  completes  itself  with  “Virtual  Worlds  For  Education  Part    


3”. You  can  read  the  other  two  interviews  in  the  April  2014  and  June  2014   issues  of  VEJ  at  and  .       We  are  proud  to  announce  his  selection  as  VEJ  Edovator  of  the  Year   for  2015!  We  look  forward  to  following  his  work  in  future  issues  of  VEJ.    


Virtual Worlds  for  Education,  Part  3   An  interview  with  Gord  Holden  

Heritage  Christian  Academy,  Vancouver,  British  Columbia   By  Scott  Merrick      

In the  last  two  issues  of  VEJ,  we  discussed  and  toured  this  pioneer's   work  to  bring  virtual  worlds  (aka  3D  synchronous  online  learning   environments)  to  his  students  and  his  students  to  them.  Edovator  of  the   Year,  Gordon  Holden,  is  literally  leading  a  major  front  of  the  campaign  up   there  at  his   school  in   Kelowna,   British   Columbia.       Heritage   Christian   Online   School  is   centered  140  miles,  as  the  raven  flies,  inland  from  Vancouver  in  Courtenay,   BC.    Gord  works  from  his  home  in  Courtenay.    Situated  on  the  eastern  shore   of  Vancouver  Island,  he  is  surrounded  by  forests  and  lakes,  with  the  world-­‐ class  ski  hill  named  Mount  Washington  nearby  to  the  west,  and  an  ocean   laden  with  6-­‐25lb.  salmon  to  the  east.  He  has  team  members  working  with   him  from  locations  as  close  as  a  mile  away  (Ryan),  to  mid-­‐Vancouver  Island   (April),  Vancouver  (Heather),  the  interior  of  BC  (Michelle),  Sacramento   (David),  the  Silicon  Valley  (Cindy),  and  as  far  away  as  Indiana  (Scott).    

Let’s continue  the  conversation,  where  we  left  off  in  the  last  VEJ  Issue.    


GH: So,  regarding  the  discussion  on  the  dangers  of  engagement,  I’d  like  to   add  another  word,  investment.     SM:  Two  words  dear  to  the  hearts  of  the  readers  I’m  sure.     GH:  A  great  intro  to  this  is  the  recent  book  written  by  Chris  Hadfield   entitled  An  Astronaut's  Guide  to  Life  on  Earth:  What  Going  to  Space  Taught   Me  About  Ingenuity,  Determination,  and  Being  Prepared  for  Anything.   SM:  Sounds  like  mandatory  reading  for  every  teacher.     GH:  Indeed,  but  while  we  all  tend  to  value  “positive  thinking,”  the  twist  is   that  he  attributes  his  phenomenal  success  to  “the  power  of  negative   thinking.”  While  he  clearly  had  to  think  “positively”  about  becoming  an   astronaut,  he  would  have  never  become  the  commander  of  the  space   station  had  he  not  given  serious  consideration  to  every  possible  negative   outcome  in  order  to  best  prepare  for  it.     SM:  An  interesting  perspective.     GH:  It’s  one  I  was  forced  to  adopt  when  attempting  to  take  my  public   school  program  into  virtual  environments.     SM:  The  school  was  nervous?     GH:  Oh  yes,  and  for  good  reason,  I  discovered.  There’s  much  that  can  go   wrong  in  this  field.     SM:  Tell  me  about  it?   GH:  Ha,  Scott,  now  that’s  a  rhetorical  question,  if  ever  I  heard  one.     SM:  To  quote  you  Gord  “Indeed.”    


GH: It’s  simply  human  nature  for  us  to  see  the  best  in  something  that   amazes  us,  a  trait  that  becomes  reinforced  when  we  become  invested  in  it.     SM:  Can  you  give  an  example?     GH:  Sure.  I  remember  my  distress  upon  hearing  from  the  technology   department  in  our  school  district  that  “Oregon  Trails”  had  been  banned.     SM:  That’s  an  old  standby.     GH:  Yes,  but  it  turns  out  that  while  the  students  were  using  it  a  lot,  they   tended  to  get  stuck  on  the  hunting  part,  and  would  shoot  deer  until  the   keyboard  was  broken  and  needing  to  be  replaced.     SM:  Kids  being  kids.  If  they  can,  they’ll  find  a  way  to  exploit  a  resource  for   something  that’s  more  engaging  than  the  curricular  intent.     GH:  Indeed.  Ha.  For  me,  it  became  a  cautionary  tale  that  steered  me  away   from  platforms  such  as  SL  and  OS  environments.     SM:  Yes,  anyone  familiar  with  these  platforms  is  aware  of  the  potential  for   actions  that  can  be  a  diversion  from  the  intent.     GH:  Ironically,  while  the  power  of  negative  thinking  would  reveal  too  many   potential  problems,  can  I  make  it  clear  that  I  am  incredibly  grateful  for  the   amazing  pioneering  work  that’s  been  done  for  education  in  SL.  Where   would  any  of  us  be  without  it?     SM:  It’s  a  staple  in  this  field.   GH:  Deservedly  so.  It  set  some  standards  for  technology  and  engagement   that  the  rest  of  the  field  had  to  compete  with.  The  question  I’m  thinking   that  needs  to  be  considered  is,  at  what  point  does  the  strength  of   competing  platforms  make  our  levels  of  personal  and  perhaps  even   financial  investment  questionable?    


SM: Right.  A  difficult  thing  to  consider  given  the  strength  of  the   engagement  it  offers.     GH:  Thanks  for  the  segue  Scott.  I  was  recently  speaking  at  a  conference  in   Vancouver  where  the  closing  speaker  was  talking  about  the  dangers  of   engagement?   SM:  Really?   GH:  Yeah,  really  quite  interesting,  especially  given  my  passion  for  the   “Engagification”  of  education.  She  went  into  the  etiology  of  the  word,  and   definitions  for  the  word  “engagement.”  There  was  a  set  of  definitions,  the   first  being  “to  be  occupied.”  And  of  course  that  shouldn’t  resonate  with   educators.     SM:  I  hear  “busy  work.”   GH:  Yes,  or  simply  shooting  deer.  Ha.  Another  definition  was  “betrothed,”   you  know,  “in  a  fixed  relationship.”  And  again,  I  do  see  certain  dangers  in   that  when  it’s  applied  to  information  that  becomes  irrelevant  in  a  quickly   changing  world.     SM:  Text  books?     GH:  Yes.  Even  in  VLEs,  we  need  to  be  careful  that  content  providers  aren’t   feeding  students.  If  so,  then  the  content  may  well  be  irrelevant,  or   outdated.     SM:  Outdate  by  the  time  it’s  published.   GH:  Indeed.  Another  definition  included  “being  engaged  in  a  hostile   relationship.”       SM:  World  of  Warcraft?    


GH: Where  victory  is  a  goal?  Well  yes,  but  let’s  be  clear  that  this  is  not  the   primary  goal  for  the  excellent  educators  out  there  who  embed  a  host  of   valuable  goals  within  their  educational  use  of  WoW.  Given  the  lack  of   funding  for  anything  better,  this  kind  of  leadership  is  both  necessary  and   vital.     SM:  Yes,  there  are  a  number  of  names  that  leap  to  mind.     GH:  They  are  heroes  to  me.  Those  who  have  exploited  the  high   engagement  factor  to  bring  about  the  last  definition…“of  great  interest.”     SM:  Yeah,  it’s  sounding  like  we  need  to  get  a  new  word.     GH:  Clearly  you  get  it,  Scott!    Having  a  resource  or  platform  that  simply   generates  “great  interest”  is  not  enough.  I’m  not  ready  to  throw  out  the   word,  though.  I  think  we  just  need  to  ensure  that  the  resource  or  platform   lead  generates  interest  as  a  first  step,  but  then  goes  beyond  that,  to   become  educationally  valid.  If  the  goal  is  to  simply  engage  students,  we   have  fallen  short.     SM:  Exactly.  If  there  is  one  thing  I’ve  learned  over  the  decades  with   educators  parents,  administrators,  and  students,  it  is  that  what  one  says  is   not  always  what  one  perceives,  especially  when  it’s  so  connotatively  laden  –   as  is  something  like  you  are  saying  engagement  is.  And  you  know  what  they   say,  “perception  is  everything.”   GH:  Right.  Well  I  was  pleading  with  educators  over  20  years  ago  to   “engage”  children  with  the  use  of  games  in  education.  There  was  no  such   word  as  “gamification”  back  then,  and  maybe  ANY  form  of  engagement  was   better  than  having  none  at  all.  In  such  a  case,  games  like  Oregon  Trail   would  have  been  a  step  in  a  positive  direction,  even  if  I  didn’t  feel  it  was   really  all  that  educational.   SM:  Yes,  I  used  it  with  my  3rd  graders,  back  in  the  day…    


GH: Back  then  it  had  the  reputation  as  educational  software,  and  you  know.   .  .    it  was  a  start.   SM:  [Laughs.]   GH:  We  don’t  want  the  gym  teacher,  a  pinball  addict,  filling  a  gym  with   pinball  machines.  They  can  justify  it  by  saying  the  kids  are  engaged  in   practicing  balance,  fine  motor  skills,  and  hand-­‐eye  coordination  .  .  .       SM:  Well,  yeah  almost  anything  can  be  justified  as  a  learning  experience,   but  is  it  what  we  want  to  be  doing  with  our  kids?   GH:  I  was  just  talking  with  a  teacher  who  will  be  reading  this  interview.   They  shared  about  their  son,  actively  recruited  for  his  genius  by  post-­‐ secondary  schools  and  even  the  NSA.  He  had  a  full  ride,  until  he  became   involved  with  a  game  used  by  many  teachers  to  engage  students.  His  genius   was  applied  towards  hiding  his  addiction  rather  than  passing  grade  12.  He   went  from  being  a  straight  “A”  student  to  losing  all  his  scholarships.     SM:  That’s  a  horrible  story.     GH:  It’s  a  cautionary  tale.  Statistically,  some  18%  of  the  population  has   addictive  personalities.  Giving  them  something  good  to  be  addicted  to   could  be  a  good  thing,  but  anything  less  can  be  disastrous.  I  also  just  got  off   the  phone  with  a  family  who  did  everything  they  could  to  protect  their   daughter,  but  she  still  fell  under  the  influence  of  an  online  predator.       SM:  Not  a  pretty  story.   GH:  No,  but  when  we’re  using  tools  that  allow  for  this  kind  of  thing  it   means  that  we’re  going  to  wear  it.  Whenever  possible  we  need  to  move   away  from  our  only  options,  to  better  ones.  Just  this  past  week  I  was  having   a  fresh  look  at  Gary’s  Mod,  and  exploring  CryEngine  to  see  if  perhaps  they   could  convince  me  to  move  away  from  Active  Worlds  or  Unity3D.  They   didn’t.        


SM: So  you’ll  of  course  have  total  control  in  Unity,  right?   GH:  Yes.  Total  control.  No  one  gets  in  without  a  username  and  a  password   controlled  by  us.    We  can  change  that  password  day  by  day.  They  can’t  go   in  unless  we’re  there.  We  also  equip  our  students  to  be  able  to  record   anything  that  takes  place  in  there.     SM:  Sort  of  the  Quest  Atlantis  reporting  model,  where  the  students  are   invested  in  reporting  inappropriate  behaviors.   GH:  Yes.  Which  I  guess  takes  us  to  Quest  Atlantis.  Quest  Atlantis  is  really   kind  of  an  interesting  story.  It’s  a  kind  of  a  child  prodigy  of  virtual  worlds.         SM:  I  have  heard  that  they  are  concerned  with  moving  away  from  the  AW   platform  into  something  like  Unity  or  Unity  itself.  


GH: Well  it’s  interesting.  Dr.  Sasha  Barab  et  al,  at  Arizona  State  University,   developed  a  modular  version  of  QA  in  Unity.  Frankly,  it’s  gorgeous,  and  my   students  all  salivated  at  the  idea  of  being  able  to  get  in   Successful   there  to  use  it.  But  despite  the  stunning  graphics,  they   cartoons  such   lost  interest  in  it.  Successful  cartoons  such  as  The   as  The   Simpsons,   Simpsons,  Spongebob,  and  South  Park  inform  us  that   Spongebob,  and   graphics  can  be  trumped  by  content.  I  suspect  the  fact   South  Park   that  the  lack  of  engagement  with  this  new  resource  was   inform  us  that   due  to  it  being  single-­‐player  and  lacking  of  an   graphics  can  be   overarching  backstory,  rewards,  and  opportunities  to   trumped  by   gain  status.     content.     SM:  So  there’s  some  programming  that  hasn’t  been  developed  yet?   GH:  I  simply  don’t  know.  There  could  be  plans  to  go  multi-­‐player  and  more.   That  potential  exists  with  the  Unity  platform.  My  observations  are  from  a   very  small  sampling  of  students  as  well,  so  should  be  taken  with  a  grain  of   salt.   SM:  So  if  QA  is  the  child  prodigy,  maybe  Unity  is  a  baby  dinosaur,  or  a  baby   dragon.   GH:  Yes,  Unity  is  still  a  baby,  with  lot  of  promise  for  educators  down  the   road.  In  time,  a  menu  driven  system  will  likely  replace  the  need  for   programmers  .  .  .  and  assets  will  become  abundant  and  affordable.         SM:  Maybe  we’ll  all  be  Occulus  Rifting.     GH:  Yeah,  that  too,  if  they  manage  to  keep  up  with  the  new  kids  on  the   block.      


SM: As  you  know,  we  had  an  Occulus  Rift  (OR)  in  the  Virtual  Environments     Playground  at  ISTE.  Bob  Vojtek  sent  his  Occulus  Rift  and  we  let  people  try  it   out  at  our  ISTE  VEN  2014  Playground.  [This  video  was  posted  live  during  ISTE2014   Virtual  Environments  Network  Events  from  edOvation  on  -­‐]  

GH: It’ll  be  interesting  to  see  how  many  people  are  affected  by  the  motion   sickness  and  such.   SM:  There’s  a  great  article  in  WIRED  Magazine  this  month  about  the  tech   specs  and  how  the  brilliant  young  inventor  of  OR  benefitted  from  others’   research  and  innovation  to  conquer  those  issues  with  a  wonderful  kind  of   mash-­‐up  of  gyroscopes,  frame-­‐rate  enhancing  hardware,  and  other  stuff.   You  should  read  that.  It’s  worth  a  read.  I’ll  send  you  the  url.   (­‐rift-­‐4/  )   GH:  As  for  ActiveWorlds  (AW)…   SM:  That’s  where  I  started.   GH:  Well  it’s  going  through  a  renaissance.  When  you  started  in  it  there   were  a  million  users.  Over  the  years  many  were  lost  to  the  possibilities   offered  by  platforms  like  Second  Life  and  OpenSim.  I  think  AW  has  come  to   a  realization  that  they’ll  never  win  back  those  who  are  OK  with  “adult   orientated”  possibilities.  But  the  very  things  that  make  AW  weak  for  these,   makes  it  strong  for  use  with  students.  Ironically,  I  believe  Second  Life  could   recreate  itself  into  an  ideal  educational  tool,  but  while  I  hear  the  talk,  I   don’t  see  the  walk.      SM:  Second  Life.   GH:  Yes.  I  know  many  will  disagree  with  me,  and  I  want  to  say  right  now   that  I  value  that  diversity  of  opinion.  There  needs  to  be  disagreement  and   debate  for  productive  discussions  to  occur.     SM:  We  needs  us  some  pushback.  


GH: AW  has  done  this  by  opening  up  a  new  universe  at   You’ll  see  profound  improvements  in  the  graphics  and  interface.  I  often   show  what  my  students  are  doing  in  AW  only  to  find  visitors  insisting  that   I’m  showing  them  Second  Life.  And  the  tools  for  presenting  and  building   have  an  extremely  low  learning  curve.     SM:  That’s  so  important.   GH:  A  steep  learning  curve  can  bleed  time  away  from  enriching  the   educational  content.  Membership  in  AW  is  now  free,  but  in  AWEDU  worlds   come  with  accounts  for  2  teachers  and  30  students,  with  an  option  to   purchase  more.  The  worlds  can  be  open  to  other  students  and  teachers  in   this  universe,  or  closed  off.  Worlds  can  host  50  avatars  simultaneously,  but   numbers  can  be  added.      


Here are  a  couple  preview  pictures  of  the  grade  8  Humanities  Course  work  begun  by   Scott  Miller.      

SM:  So  there’s  a  whole  lot  of  development  goin’  on.     GH:  Exactly.  It  seems  like  upgrades  every  week.  We’ve  begun  creating  our   grade  8  Humanities  course.  I  say  “we”  because  it’s  the  students  creating   the  curriculum  in  the  form  of  narratives  arising  from  their  historical  


research. Narratives  to  be  sandwiched  between  the  beginning  and  end  of   the  backstory,  becoming  interactive  quests  and  exemplars  for  those  who   follow,  enriching  this  dynamic  “experiential  novel”  with  their  own  chapters.     SM:    Go,  Gord!     GH:  Well,  hoping  that  this  discussion  will  have  served  the  purpose  of  having   others  examine  both  the  purpose  of  engagement  and  the  dangers  of   allowing  an  investment  of  previous  professional  development  to  preclude   exploring  resources  that  may  be  more  student-­‐centered.     SM:  You’ve  made  a  case  for  this.     GH:  The  2014  New  Year  is  going  to  get  very  busy  for  all  of  us,  but  I’m  always   available  to  respond  to  any  questions  anyone  might  have  regarding  the   developments  in  Unity3D  and  Active  Worlds  as  educational  resources  and   platforms.     SM:  Yes,  there  may  be  some.  As  teachers  we  should  model  being  questers,   seeking  informed  movement  through  the  adventure  before  us.     GH:  Indeed.  Thanks  so  much  for  the  opportunity  to  discuss  the  direction   I’ve  taken  Scott.  I  sincerely  hope  it’s  been  helpful  to  others  to  hear  of  this   journey.                    “Always  make  new   mistakes”  is  a  wonderful   credo  for  learning,  but  there   are  of  course  more   allowances  for  this  in  virtual   learning  environments  than   in  real  life.    (Gord  Holden’s   email  signature  line.)    


Hold The Date:

The Annual  VWBPE  Conference  –  March  18-­‐21,  2015  –  Every  day  is  a  crossroad   that  intersects  a  million  tiny  events.  Most  barely  cause  a  ripple.  Some  radiate  to   lap  softly  at  far  flung  and  distant  shores.  Others  unleash  a  torrent  which  can   change  the  world.  How  we  choose  to  reflect  ourselves  in  each  crossing  has  a   bearing  on  our  society  whether  we  are  being  observed  at  each  intersection  or   not.  Challenge  yourself  to  think  on  ways  in  which  your  crossroads  creates  positive   energy.  Make  it  a  reality.  Share.  

Proposals Due:    December  14,  2014.    More  details  at­‐2015-­‐call-­‐for-­‐proposals


Power of  Code   By Kae Novak (RL) Que Jinn (SL)

Hello  World! For  this  issue  of  the   Virtual  Education  Journal,  the   Games  and  Simulations  Networked  wanted  to  share  what  some  of  our   game  based  learning  advocates  and  collaborators  are  doing  for  an   Hour  of  Code  and  why  they  feel  coding  is  important.       After  we  started  interviewing  them,  we  quickly  realized  that   their  own  words  would  be  better  than  paraphrasing  or  summarizing.   What  follows  is  a  transcript  of  our  interviews.  We  start  with  higher   education  administrators  and  instructors,  then  elementary  school   educators  to  discuss  “kids  and  coding,”  and  end  with  the  perspective   of  a  professional  development  expert  from  a  school  district  working   on  integrating  more  coding  into  their  curriculum.   Power  of  Code  Questions Each  Higher  Education  respondent  was  asked  three  questions.   These  questions  were:   What  is  the  importance  of  students,  even  those  who  are  not   computer  science  majors,  in  learning  some  coding? What  computer  language(s)  do  you  think  students  should  learn  if   they  are  just  beginning? What  trends  do  you  see  in  computing  and  computer  science?


Their responses  follow.   Chris  Luchs,  Associate  Dean  of  Career  and  Technical  Education   CCCOnline,  Colorado  Community  College  System   Project  Lead,  CCCOnline  Hackathon   ISTE  Games  and  Simulations  Network  Member-­‐at-­‐Large   Inevitable  Instructors  Gaming  Guild 1)  What  is  the  importance  of  students,  even  those  who  are  not   computer  science  majors,  in  learning  some  coding? Coding  is  everywhere  now.  It’s  in  your  webpages;  excel   spreadsheets,  games,  etc.  Coding  provides  you  with  insight  into  how   the  world  works.  We  are  part  of  the  information  age  and  most  of  that   information  is  digital.  Coding  allows  you  to  access  and  interpret  this   data  and  then  utilize  it  to  make  decisions.   Also  coding  teaches  you  logical  and  systematic  thought,  which   helps  in  a  myriad  ways.  In  coding,  the  software  will  only  do  what  you   tell  it  to  as  long  as  you  provide  the  correct  syntax  and  commands.  Any   error  causes  it  to  fail  or  generate  an  incorrect  response.  By  learning   this  process,  you  develop  a  better  understanding  of  how  complex   systems  work  and  the  importance  of  being  accurate  and  using  the   appropriate  channels.  Once  you  understand  how  a  system  works,  you   can  then  look  at  how  to  efficiently  and  effectively  use  the  system.       2)  What  computer  language(s)  do  you  think  students  should  learn  if   they  are  just  beginning? Most  programmers  know  a  variety  of  languages  so  it’s  hard  to   pin  down  which  one  is  the  best  one.  Each  language  has  its  own  unique   constraints  and  limitations.  However,  I  think  most  students  should   learn  HTML  5.  While  not  a  “programming”  language  it  is  the  base   language  of  the  Internet  and  webpages,  and  as  such,  it  is  extremely   useful  to  know  how  to  line  code  HTML.  The  most  common  languages   that  are  recommended  are  some  variant  of  C  (typically  ++  or  #),  Java,   and  then  either  Python,  PHP,  or  Ruby  on  Rails.      


3) What  trends  do  you  see  in  computing  and  computer  science? One  of  the  biggest  trends  is  Hackathons.  These  are  gatherings  of   programmers,  graphic  designers,  hobbyists,  and  anyone  else  who  has   an  interest  in  developing  solutions  to  problems.  They  can  take  place   in  people’s  homes,  schools,  community  centers,  hotels,  almost   anywhere  there  is  a  wifi  connection  and  space  for  people  to   collaborate  in  large  groups.  Some  of  these  events  are  funded  by   software  companies  and  venture  capital  groups,  but  many  are  just   people  getting  together  to  solve  a  common  issue/problem.       There  are  many  instances  of  cities  hosting  Hackathons  to  allow   their  citizens  access  to  city  data  to  come  up  with  ways  to  help  the  city   provide  better  service.  Typical  products  of  these  types  of  civic   Hackathons  are  mobile  apps  for  bus  times,  complaint  registration   (take  a  picture  and  submit  a  complaint  for  pothole  repair),  and  those   that  show  city  investment  in  projects  and  infrastructure.  These  apps   serve  to  promote  more  citizen  buy  in  and  investment  into  the   community,  as  well  as  give  greater  transparency  on  how  the  city   spends  tax  dollars.   Erica  Liszewski   Computer  Science  Instructor   University  of  Denver/Arapahoe  Community  College   Classes:  Intro  to  Game  Design  7  Development,  3D  Programming,   Advanced  3D  Programming,  Analytical  Inquiry  and  World  Wide   Web  Programming     1)  What  is  the  importance  of  students,  even  those  who  are  not   computer  science  majors,  in  learning  some  coding?   As  technology  becomes  more  and  more  pervasive  in  our   everyday  lives,  I  think  it's  useful  for  everyone  to  learn  at  least  a  little   about  how  technology  works.  There  are  a  lot  of  misconceptions  about   technology,  especially  when  it  comes  to  security,  freedoms,  and   rights.  Many  laws  are  being  put  into  place  by  people  who  don't   understand  how  technology  works,  or  how  those  laws  will  affect   actual  people.    


On a  more  social  level,  because  technology  is  becoming  so   important  to  how  we  live  and  work,  those  who  know  how  to  make   and  fix  technology  will  have  increasing  power.  If  certain  people   understand  technology  and  other  do  not,  those  in  the  know  will  have   increasing  power  over  those  who  aren't.  This  could  easily  create  large   gaps  between  those  with  the  power  and  those  without  –  which  will   become  increasingly  difficult  to  cross  for  those  who  are  born  on  the   wrong  side.     On  a  personal  level,  being  able  to  code  gives  a  person  a  new  and   powerful  form  of  creative  expression.  Just  as  painting  and  making   videos  have  been  ways  of  expressing  one's  self  in  the  past,  digital  art   and  games  are  new  forms  of  creative  expression.   2)  What  computer  language(s)  do  you  think  students  should  learn  if   they  are  just  beginning?   This  kinda  depends  on  the  eventual  goal  of  the  student.  Do  they   want  to  become  a  programmer/computer  scientist?  Make  games?   Make  art?   My  general  favorite  right  now  would  probably  be  JavaScript.  It's   reasonably  simple,  requires  only  a  text  editor  and  web  browser  to  get   started,  and  it's  easy  to  share  the  things  you  make  online.  If  the   student  has  any  goals  of  doing  programming  for  the  web  (server  or   client  side,  games,  apps,  etc.)  JavaScript  is  probably  the  most  popular   and  commonly  used  programming  language.  There  are  a  ton  of  online   resources  for  learning  JavaScript,  and  when  combined  with  things   like  the  CSS3  or  the  HTML5  canvas  you  can  make  neat  visual  things   pretty  quickly.   Java  or  C++/C#  are  good  general  purpose  languages  for  just   about  anything.  These  are  probably  the  most  common  languages  for   programming  "real"  software,  including  games.  One  or  the  other  of   these  is  usually  the  starting  language  for  most  computer  science   programs.  For  students  who  want  to  become  programmers,  you  can't   really  go  wrong  with  one  of  these.    


3) What  trends  do  you  see  in  computing  and  computer  science?   This  is  a  very  broad  question,  and  a  bit  difficult  to  answer.   Programming  is  definitely  getting  more  general  interest  now  than  I've   ever  seen  before.  When  I  was  an  undergrad,  computer  science  was   kind  of  a  niche  things,  that  "smart"  people  did.  Or  it  was  something   you  did  because  it  paid  well.  Now  I'm  seeing  programming  promoted   as  more  of  a  general  skill.  Digital  art  is  becoming  a  big  thing,  and  so   "artists"  are  learning  to  program.  This  is  really  neat  to  me,  since  I've   always  been  both  "artist"  and  "programmer,”  and  this  was  seen  as   something  impossible  because  the  emotional  arts  and  the  logical   programmers  couldn't  possibly  mix.       Kids  and  Coding

Picture 1:  Project  Dungeon,  Nathan  Sands  and  Randi  Egan,  Intro  to  Game  Design   &  Development,  Stencyl

Each K-­‐12  respondent  was  asked  three  questions:   Could  you  tell  us  a  little  about  kids  and  coding  at  your  school?


What programs  are  you  using  at  your  school  for  coding?  What   the  age  and  grade  level? How  is  your  class  or  school  participating  in  hour  of  code? Their  responses  follow.   Trish  Cloud   Technology  Associate   Grand  Oak  Elementary   Huntersville,  North  Carolina   ISTE  Games  and  Simulations  Network  Member-­‐at-­‐Large   Inevitable  Instructors  Gaming  Guild 1)  Could  you  tell  us  a  little  about  your  students  and  coding  at  your   school? A  couple  of  years  ago  when  I  was  working  solely  with  iPads,  I   discovered  these  new  coding  apps  that  were  appearing  in  write  ups   in  articles,  so  I  took  a  look  at  them.  There  were  a  variety,  but  the  main   ones  that  I  came  across  were  Kodable,  Hopscotch,  and  Daisy  the   Dinosaur.  I  spent  the  spring  of  that  school  year  (2013)  teaching  the   students  in  my  school  (K-­‐5)  how  to  use  all  three.  By  far  the  most   popular  was  Kodable.  That  summer  when  our  district  had  its  annual   Summer  Institute,  the  creators  of  Kodable,  Jon  Mattingly  and  Grechen   Huebner,  came  to  talk  and  show  us  their  app.   Since  that  time  I  have  moved  to  a  new  school,  but  I  still  use   Kodable  with  all  my  students  and  they  love  it.  I  particularly  use  it   with  K-­‐2  as  it  is  fun  and  accessible  for  them.  Last  year,  my  first  year  at   my  new  school,  I  decided  to  introduce  a  Coding  Club  as  an  afterschool   club.  I  was  pleasantly  surprised  when  I  had  20  students  sign  up.  They   ranged  in  grades  1-­‐5.  At  that  time  Tynker  had  a  great  thing  going   using  blockley  style  chunks  to  do  the  coding.  You  could  get  as  many   licenses  as  you  needed  and  the  leveled  lessons  worked  really  well   with  the  students.  First  graders  had  some  difficulty  with  the  reading   but  brave  4th  graders  stepped  up  and  helped  them  through  the   difficult  parts.  We  spent  the  year  in  Tynker  and  Gamestar  Mechanic   on  the  computer,  and  Kodable  and  Hakitzu  on  the  iPads.  


As we  progressed  through  the  year  my  students  had  access  not   only  to  coding  but  the  programmers  and  entrepreneurs  who  created   the  programs.    In  the  fall  I  Skyped  with  Jon  and  Gretchen  from   Kodable  in  California  where  they  made  this  statement  on  the  power   of  code  on  Digital  Learning  Day.  I  held  a  Google  Hangout  with  the   creators  of  Hakitzu  from  England  (Video  here).  My  students  loved   everything  they  did  in  any  and  every  program  we  used.  The  power   they  felt  they  had  to  create  was  more  fun  to  them  than  anything  else.   This  year  I  am  doing  the  Coding  Club  again  and  I  have  31  students   and  a  waiting  list  of  10.   Unfortunately  Tynker  has  changed  their  options  for  how  you   purchase  licenses  and  I  have  had  to  choose  alternatives.  So,  once   again  I  have  ranges  from  first  to  fifth  grade  and  some  have  never  been   in  coding  and  some  are  veterans  from  last  year.  I  had  quite  the   quandary  when  I  was  setting  up  how  to  implement  the  club.  For   brand  new  beginners,  I  am  using  the  curriculum  they  have   developed  for  all  grade  levels.  I  started  the  brand  new  1st  graders  on   the  lowest  level,  2nd  graders  who  were  veterans  from  last  year  and   new  3rd  through  5th  graders  were  started  on  level  two  to  get  a  feel   for  the  coding.  My  upper  grade  veterans  from  last  year  are  using   Codecademy.   I  am  very  fortunate  this  year  in  that  I  have  a  high  school  senior   coming  to  help  who  is  using  the  Coding  Club  as  part  of  his  senior  exit   project.  I  also  have  a  parent  who  just  happens  to  be  a  Computer   Science  graduate  from  MIT  who  comes  in,  too.       The  veterans  are  working  on  HTML/CSS  and  it’s  definitely   HARD  FUN.  They  get  stuck  and  they  have  to  find  where  the  mistakes   are.  For  9  and  10  year  olds  this  can  be  daunting  but  I  have  to  say  their   perseverance  is  admirable.  I  still  have  days  to  when  I  give  them  a   break.    They  go  to  Gamestar  Mechanic  or  they  can  go  to  Hakitzu  or   Kodable.  I  have  my  eye  on  Alice  which  is  3D  object-­‐based   programming.  I  don’t  know  if  we  will  get  to  it,  but  next  year’s   veteran’s  (they  will  be  5th  graders  and,  if  they  return,  it  will  be  their   3rd  year  in  Coding  Club)  will  be  ready  to  handle  it.


2) What  programs  are  you  using  at  your  school  for  coding?  What  the   age  and  grade  level?  1-­‐5 Light  Bot  1-­‐5 Kodable  K-­‐5 Scratch  3-­‐5 Hakitzu  Coding  Club Gamestar  Mechanic  Coding  Club Codecademy  Coding  Club 3)  How  is  your  class  or  school  participating  in  hour  of  code?     Well,  we  have  testing  from  December  1  thru  19  so,  like  last   year,  I  will  run  the  Hour  of  Code  for  an  entire  week  in  January.  We   will  do  some  unplugged  activities  and  plugged  on  the  computer.      

Picture 2:  Unplugged  Activity  Hour  of  Code,  Grand  Oak  Coding  Club


Laura Briggs   Technology  Resource  Teacher John  W.  Tolbert,  Jr.  Elementary Loudoun  County  Public  Schools,  Virginia STEM  Camp  Director STAR  Summer  Camp   ISTE  Mobile  Learning  Network  President 1)  Could  you  tell  us  a  little  about  kids  and  coding  at  your  school? At  my  elementary  school,  students  are  actually  doing  two  weeks   of  coding  and  programming  activities  in  December  as  last  year  was   such  a  success  and  students  loved  the  programming  activities.   Students  were  excited  about  these  activities  and  participating  helped   many  gain  confidence  as  they  learned  and  progressed  through  the   activities.  Even  first  graders,  six  year  olds,  could  code  and  learn  about   programming.  It  was  a  highlight  of  our  year  and  we  are  excited  to  be   expanding  with  many  different  activities  this  year! 2)  What  programs  are  you  using  at  your  school  for  coding?  What  the   age  and  grade  level? We  are  using  a  combination  of  several  activities  for  the  first  two   weeks  in  December.  We  are  using,  iPad  apps,  BeeBots  with   mat  grids,  and  the  Robot  Turtles  Programming  Board  Game.  We  are   also  using  various  websites  to  practice  coding  and  programming.   Activities  by  Grade  Level Kindergarten  (Age  5-­‐6)   Week  1  -­‐  Students  will  create  a  custom  robot  at  Make  a  Robot  and   print.  Students  will  also  work  on  programming  language  by  walking   on  a  physical  grid  on  the  floor  dressed  like  a  bumblebee.  Students  will   then  use  BeeBots  to  program  paths  reviewing  letter  sounds  on  a  grid   on  the  floor.  


First Grade  (Age  6-­‐7)   Week  1  -­‐  Students  will  use  the  activity  with  Anna  and  Elsa   from  Frozen  to  make  ice  fractals  and  skating  patterns  using  basic   coding  skills.  Students  will  use  BeeBots  to  program  paths  reviewing   counting  coins. Week  2  -­‐  Students  will  use  the  iPad  app  Daisy  the  Dinosaur  and  the   website  Fix  the  Factory  to  complete  coding  challenges.   Second  Grade  (Age  7-­‐8)   Week  1  -­‐  Students  will  use  the  activity  with  Anna  and  Elsa   from  Frozen  to  make  ice  fractals  and  skating  patterns  using  basic   coding  skills  -­‐  and  students  may  also  choose  the  Angry  Birds  coding   activity  if  they  would  like.  Students  will  use  BeeBots  to  program  paths   reviewing  counting  coins. Week  2  -­‐  Students  will  use  the  iPad  app  Hopscotch  and  the  website   Lightbot  to  complete  coding  challenges. Third  Grade  (Age  8-­‐9)   Week  1  -­‐  Students  will  use  the  activity  with  Anna  and  Elsa   from  Frozen  to  make  ice  fractals  and  skating  patterns  using  basic   coding  skills  -­‐  and  students  may  also  choose  the  Angry  Birds  coding   activity  if  they  would  like.  Students  will  use  BeeBots  to  program  paths   reviewing  continents  and  oceans. Week  2  -­‐  Students  will  use  the  iPad  app  Kodable  and  the  website   Lightbot  to  complete  coding  challenges. Fourth  Grade  (Age  9-­‐10)  -­‐  Fifth  Grade  (Age  10-­‐11) Week  1  -­‐  Students  will  use  the  activity  with  Anna  and  Elsa   from  Frozen  to  make  ice  fractals  and  skating  patterns  using  basic   coding  skills  -­‐  and  students  may  also  choose  the  Angry  Birds  coding   activity  if  they  would  like.   Week  2  -­‐  Students  will  use  the  iPad  app  Scratch  Jr.  to  develop  a   programmable  holiday  card.  


3) How  is  your  class  or  school  participating  in  hour  of  code? Students  will  be  participating  in  a  variety  of  engaging  activities   during  the  first  two  weeks  in  December.    Students  will  earn  coding   certificates  and  we  hope  to  develop  a  gallery  of  student-­‐created   projects  on  our  website.  Teachers  will  also  have  coding  activities   available  in  classroom  centers.     Patricia  Ruiz   Computer  Science  Teacher  &  Department  Head   Sacred  Heart  Schools   Atherton,  California   ISTE  Games  and  Simulations  Network  Communications   Committee 1)  Could  you  tell  us  a  little  about  your  students  and  coding  at  your   school? In  the  9th  grade,  students  learn  basic  HTML/CSS,  and  Python.  In   addition  to  the  2  weeks  that  we  spend  on  each  of  these  languages,   students  also  use  outside  of  class  if   they  are  interested  in  learning  more  on  their  own.  This  9th  grade   course  is  a  modified  version  of  the  Exploring  Computer  Science   course  developed  through  an  NSF  grant  -­‐  you  can  find  that  curriculum   here: 2)  What  programs  are  you  using  at  your  school  for  coding?  What  the   age  and  grade  level? In  class  we  use  for  the  HTML/CSS.  It  is  a  tool   developed  by  computer  science  instructors  that  minimizes   distractions  for  students  and  maximizes  their  ability  to  collaborate  by   sharing  trinkets.  This  is  a  new  tool  and  I  have  found  that  the   developers  are  very  interested  in  making  it  work  well  in  MS  and  HS   classrooms.    In  addition  to,  students  find   helpful.


3) How  is  your  class  or  school  participating  in  hour  of  code? We  held  a  large  assembly  last  year  and  had  a  speaker  come  to  present   to  students.  This  year,  we  will  use  the  momentum  from  last  year  and   work  with  students  in  classrooms.  We  will  provide  a  variety  of   options  to  our  students  for  participating  in  hour  of  code  and  make   announcements  and  provide  spaces  for  students  to  work  in.

Picture  3:  Patricia  Ruiz’s  9th  grade  Computer  Science  1  course  -­‐  Exploring   Computer  Science

  Hour  of  Code  in  a  District For  our  last  segment,  we  wanted  to  bring  a  professional   development  perspective  to  coding  and  the  hour  of  code  events.   Luckily  we  were  able  to  find  someone  whose  school  district  was  in   the  process  of  integrating  Hour  of  Code  into  the  classroom   curriculum.  Our  respondent  was  asked  three  questions:  


Why should  teachers  be  bringing  coding  into  their  classroom?   Can  you  tell  us  about  your  institution’s  involvement  with   and  coding  as  part  of  the  curriculum? What  events  are  you  planning  for  hour  of  code?   Tanya  Martin   Coordinator,  Professional  Development  Support   Broward  County  Schools,  Florida   ISTE  Games  and  Simulations  Network  Professional  Development   Chair   Inevitable  Instructors  Gaming  Guild  Director  of  Recruitment   1)  Why  should  teachers  be  bringing  coding  into  their  classroom? Coding  is  a  literacy  needed  in  this  century,  regardless  of  what   career  a  student  is  pursuing.    Teaching  coding  is  actually  teaching   problem  solving.  It  increases  computational  and  critical  thinking   skills.    Additionally,  Computer  Science  is  a  field  that  is  growing  and  is   driving  innovation.       Regardless  of  career  paths,  computing  jobs  will  be  incorporated   into  those  career  paths  including  medical,  manufacturing,  defense,   finance,  and  government.    Coding  used  to  be  a  niche  class  considered   an  "elective"  and  taught  to  a  very  small  group  of  students.    This  is  no   longer  acceptable,  as  we  are  doing  our  students  and  our  country  a   disservice  by  not  preparing  future  employees  in  a  skill  they  will  need   to  have.       Coding  is  incorporated  into  multiple  software  applications  from   the  use  of  a  spreadsheet  or  database  to  coding  a  macro  in  a  game.    As   digital  devices  and  software  become  ubiquitous  it  is  becoming   essential  to  understand  how  to  "talk  to  a  computer"  and  give  it   instructions  in  code.


2) Can  you  tell  us  about  your  institution’s  involvement  with   and  coding  as  part  of  the  curriculum? Broward  County  Schools  has  partnered  with  in  providing   Professional  Development  to  instructional  staff  including  teachers   and  administrators.    Our  district  has  a  3-­‐year  partnership  to  provide   2  cadres  of  high  school  and  middle  school  teachers,  guidance   counselors  and  administrators  with  the  professional  development   necessary  to  schedule  and  instruct  students  in  the  area  of  coding.       Our  agreement  began  in  2013  and  will  conclude  in  2016,  in   time  to  have  students  ready  for  the  new  AP  Test  in  Computer  Science.   The  new  AP  Test  will  be  in  Javascript.    We  are  using  the  curriculum  in  middle  school  math  and  the  Project   GUTS  program  in  middle  school  science.  provided  all  the   support  and  organization  for  the  professional  development.     Middle  school  math  and  science  teachers  are  teaching  the   regular  math  and  science  standards  with  a  unit  of  study  in   Bootstrapworld  and  Project  GUTS  which  incorporates   coding.    Incorporating  these  coding  activities  in  regular  classes  serves   to  encourage  middle  school  students  to  consider  pursuing  computer   science  courses  in  high  school  as  they  study  the  math  and  science   standards.     High  school  teachers  are  using  the  Exploring  Computer  Science   (ECS)  curriculum  with  a  focus  on  expanding  Computer  Science  to  all   students.    Guidance  Counselors  and  school  administrators  who   handle  scheduling  are  involved  in  the  professional  development,  as   they  are  the  ones  who  guide  students  in  making  course  selections  and   actually  develop  student  schedules.    The  focus  is  to  encourage  all   students,  especially  underrepresented  populations  in  computer   science  (females  and  minorities).     Beginning  in  the  spring  of  2015  our  first  cadre  will  been  the   "Principles  in  Computer  Science"  course  while  the  second  cadre  will   begin  the  ECS  course.    The  intent  for  these  students  is  to  ultimately   participate  in  the  AP  Computer  Science  course  and  test  in  2016-­‐ 2017.    The  District  has  independently  incorporated  the  


curriculum in  elementary  grades  through  our  science  curriculum   requirements.             3)  What  events  are  you  planning  for  hour  of  code? Broward  County  Schools  led  the  nation  in  the  number   of    students  participating  in  Hour  of  Code  in  2013.    One  of  our  high   schools  won  a  laptop  cart  with  a  classroom  set  of  laptops  as  part  of   the  involvement.    We  will  have  a  district-­‐wide  involvement  again  this   year.    Classroom  teachers,  schools  and  district  departments  are  all   participating.    I  am  personally  planning  an  event  for  my  division,  "The   Office  of  Talent  Development.”    Individuals  who  work  for  the  division   as  well  as  those  who  may  be  on  our  campus  on  the  date  of  our  event,   will  be  spending  an  hour  coding  in  Scratch.    Last  year  we  participated   in  an  unplugged  activity  requiring  logic  and  problem  solving.    The   activity  was  one  suggested  by     In  addition  to  the  activity  I  have  planned  for  my  division,  I  am   also  involved  with  an  event  sponsored  by  the  Games  and  Simulation   Network  and  the  Inevitable  Instructors  of  the  Inevitable  Betrayal   Guild  in  WoW.    That  event  will  take  place  online  in  The  World  of   Warcraft  MMO.    On  December  10  at  8  PM  EST,  educators  who  have  an   interest  will  be  logging  into  WoW  into  the  Cenarion  Circle  Realm,   creating  a  Blood  Elf  and  joining  the   Hour  Of  Code  Guild  as  we  code   some  Macros  and  have  fun  with   basic  coding  to  animate  our  WoW   characters.    The  event  will  be   livestreamed  via  Google  Hangout   and  YouTube  on  the  Games  MOOC   channel.       Macro:  Piece  of  Code  used  by  players  to   extend  the  basic  functionality  of  a  game   like  World  of  Warcraft.  



In Conclusion As  you  have  read  there  are  many  reasons  to  bring  coding  into   the  classroom.  There  are  also  many  tools  that  make  coding  more   accessible  and  easier  to  complete.       Coding  is  changing  from  a  niche  skill  to  a  new  literacy  and   maybe  even  art.  If  you  haven’t  seen  it  before,  on  Wordpress  the  footer   is  “code  is  poetry.”  That  echoes  game  design  instructor,  Erica’s   thoughts  on  how  coding  and  art  are  beginning  to  combine.       Coding  languages  change.  Currently  the  popular  coding   languages  are  Java  and  Python  and  computer  science  instructors  also   recommend  a  scripting  language  like  Java  script.  What  doesn’t  change   is  the  computational  thinking  required  to  successfully  use  these   languages.  It  requires  the  ability  to  work  with  complexity,  persistence   in  the  face  of  difficult  problems,  and  logically  organizing  and   analyzing  data.   The  one-­‐hour  unplugged  activity  that  both  Trish’s  elementary   students  and  Tanya’s  teachers  did  is  called  Traveling  Circuits  and  the   full  tutorial  is  listed  here.  It  is  a  hands-­‐on  programming  logic  activity   that  has  learners  using  plastic  cups  as  circuits.       Is  it  a  game?  Well  there  is  a  challenge,  the  ending  part  has  a   time  limit,  there  is  scaffolding  and  maybe  you  can  bring  a  prize  or   two?  I  will  be  doing  this  challenge  with  my  instructional  design  team   for  our  Hour  of  Code.   Sincerely, Kae  Novak   Instructional  Designer   Information  and  Technology  Literacy  Mentor   Front  Range  Community  College ISTE  Games  and  Simulations  Chair   Inevitable  Instructors  Gaming  Guild      



Geology Valley:   A  21st    Century  Collaborative  Alternative   to  Conventional  End  of  Course  Testing   By  Dr.  William  Schmachtenberg,     Sl:  Dae  Miami           Like  most  teachers  in  a  few  weeks,  I  will  be  preparing  my  students  for   their  end  of  course  test  in  Earth  Science.  Those  students  will  be  sitting   down  at  a  laptop  in  a  cubicle,  and  answering  multiple-­‐choice  questions   hoping  to  get  a  passing  grade  and  a  verified  credit.  Students  need  6  verified   credits  for  high  school  graduation.  They  will  not  be  allowed  to   communicate  with  each  other.       In  the  October  5,  2014  edition  of  the  Roanoke  Times,  Annie   McCallum  wrote  an  article  entitled  "Crystal  ball  for  SOLs  is  cloudy”  which   critically  examined  our  current  means  of  testing.  She  quoted  Ben  Williams,   Roanoke  County's  associate  director  of  testing  and  remediation  as  saying   "What  we're  finding  right  now  is  that  businesses  are  telling  us,  the   community  is  telling  us,  that  getting  students  prepared  for  multiple  choice   questions  isn't  helping  us  prepare  students  for  the  next  phase  in  their  life."   He  continues  to  say  that  today's  tests  don't  measure  well  what  skills  are   important  for  students  in  the  future,  such  as  communication  skills,  ability  to   collaborate,  and  thinking  critically.  This  is  certainly  no  surprise  to  DOE  as   they  have  incorporated  the  twenty  first  century  skills  of  online   collaboration  and  problem  solving  into  the  new  technology  standards  over   a  year  ago.  So,  the  question  remains  how  to  assess  these  skills.       As  part  of  the  STIC  (Student  technology  Integration  Challenge)  for  the   VSTE  (Virginia  Society  for  Technology  in  Education)  2014  Annual   Conference  in  Virginia  Beach  this  December,  my  students  and  I  have        


created a  prototype  of  a  new  assessment  program  called  Geology  Valley.     Kevin  Tweedy,  with  Extreme  Reality,  graciously  provided  the  multiplayer   software  needed  for  our  simulations.  Students  log  into  a  server,  select  an   avatar,  and  log  into  the  Geology  Valley  simulation.           Students  Explore  Geology  Valley      As  they  approach  boulders  in  the  sim,  they  are  given  a  question  about   geology.  The  question  appears  on  all  the  computer  screens  for  all  the   students.  Students  may  discuss  the  question  via  chat  in  the  sim.  


Students, however,  may  pass  incorrect  information  or  incomplete   information  amongst  themselves.  It  is  up  to  each  student  to  answer  each   question  and  scores  are  calculated  individually  for  each  student.      



In the  example  shown  above  the  correct  answer  is  Granite,  since  it  is  an   intrusive  igneous  rock.  In  chat,  the  message  that  Basalts  are  igneous  may   lead  students  to  click  on  that  answer.  Basalt  though  would  be  wrong  as  it  is   an  extrusive  rock.  The  message  that  schists  are  igneous  is  also  incorrect  as   they  are  metamorphic.       You  can  access  Geology  Valley  on  the  web  at:  .    Firefox  seems  to   work  best  on  the  pc  and  safari  on  the  mac.  I  encourage  teachers  to  try   Geology  Valley  with  their  students  and  let  me  know  how  the  lesson  went.  It   is  free  of  charge.   Special  recognition  to  the  following  students  who  worked  on  Geology   Valley:  Matthew  Brosinski,  Mariah  Boone,  Ethan  Frazier,  and  Noah  Flint.   You  can  contact  Dr.  Schmachtenbert  at  the  following  email  address:    

Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins (2nd edition): Create Flaming Cows in Java Using CanaryMod e2/learn-­‐to-­‐program-­‐with-­‐ minecraft-­‐plugins


Going for  the  “Epic  Win”   In  Computer  Science  

By Dr.  Amy  Fox  

I  have  been  teaching  computer  science  for  22  years.    Having  taught   five  high-­‐level  programming  languages,  five  programming  learning   environments,  and  working  with  games,  robots,  and  animations,  I  would   like  to  share  my  experiences  and  observations  teaching  computer   programming  to  students  of  all  ages.         Programming  is  very  much  like  gaming.    Jane  McGonigal,  a  lead  game   designer  and  author,  in  her  2010  Ted  Talk,  explains  that  when  gamers  are   given  the  right  challenge  at  the  right  time,  they  are  willing  to  work  hard   because  that  hard  work  will  result  in  success    -­‐  an  “epic  win”    (McGonigal,   2010).    I  have  found  the  same  to  be  true  with  programming.    Giving  the   developmentally  appropriate  learning  environments  and/or  languages  to   students  where  they  can  be  challenged  but  meet  success  is  as  effective  as   going  on  an  epic  adventure  in  World  of  Warcraft ™.    They  are  willing  to   work  hard,  but  can  see  the  results  of  their  hard  work,  motivating  them  to   work  even  harder  for  the  next  “win”.       I  would  like  to  share  with  you  the  different  learning  environments   and  languages  I  have  used  in  my  classroom  for  students  at  different   learning  stages  and  abilities.    Our  youngest  and/or  least  experienced   students  work  with  Scratch  (MIT),  GameMaker  (YoYo  Games),  or  other   similarly  developed  2-­‐D  drag  and  drop  environments  where  students  can   visually  learn  about  objects,  attributes  and  behaviors,  logic,  and  control   structures  in  a  fun  and  non-­‐intimidating  environment.    They  have  the   freedom  in  these  environments  to  create  movies,  animations,  and  event-­‐ driven  games,  and  tell  stories.    They  are  intrinsically  motivated  to  work  hard   for  two  reasons.    First,  these  are  their  creations  –  their  own  ideas  hard  at    


work.  Second,  they  will  be   successful  because  they   are  working  to  their  best   ability;  they  are  in  a  self-­‐ differentiating  learning   environment.           With  intermediate   and  high  school  level   students,  I  have  found  a   great  deal  of  success  using   robotics  to  learn  about  the   engineering  and  design  cycle  as  well  as  programming.    We  use  Lego   MindStorm  robots,  which  can  be  programmed  using  the  Lego  software   (block-­‐coding)  or  another  language,  such  as  Java.    Students  are  able  to   design  and  program  their  robots  using  light  and  motion  sensors,  and  the   mechanical  structures  of  their  build.         With  older  high  school  students  or  with  students  who  have  already   been  exposed  to  the  basics,  I  have  worked  in  two  different  3-­‐D  virtual   environments:    Alice  (CMU)  and  virtual  worlds  (OpenSim).    Alice  is  another  


drag and  drop  environment  that  is  based  on  Java;  students  can  toggle   between  the  dragged  code  and  Java.    This  gives  them  an  environment  in   which  they  can  learn  a  more  sophisticated  high-­‐level  language  without   having  to  tackle  the  syntax  while  they  learn  the  constructs  of  the  language.          Again,  they  have  the  freedom  to  work  on  a  variety  of  different   projects.  In  two  different  virtual  worlds  (both  created  using  OpenSim),  my   students  were  able  to  create  3-­‐D  objects  and  animate  them  using  scripts   written  in  LSL  (Linden  Scripting  Language).    They  began  by  using  and   modifying  existing  scripts,  and  some  students  were  able  to  take  it  farther   and  write  their  own.    These  are  also  self-­‐differentiating  learning   environments.    In  my  2011  research  study,  I  noted     Students  in  the  treatment  group  (in  the  virtual  world)  appeared   to  be  more  engaged,  meaning  they  were  not  only  focused  on   the  task,  but  also  committed  to  successful  completion  of  the   assignments.  This  was  demonstrated  by  the  enthusiasm  with   which  they  interacted  with  each  other  when  working  on  an   assignment  and  the  quality  of  work  that  was  produced.   Students  were  on  task,  and  interested  in  the  subject.  They   looked  forward  to  coming  to  class  and  were  more  immersed  in   the  content  since  they  were  interacting  with  it  in  both  the  real   and  virtual  worlds.    (Fox  Billig,  2011,  p.  81)     Many  of  my  students  continue  in  my  computer  science  program  to   the  college  level  courses  I  teach  as  part  of  a  dual  enrollment  program  with   the  local  community  college.    The  students  who  enter  the  first  of  those   courses  with  some  prior  background  in  coding  tend  to  have  an  easier  time   adjusting  to  learning  the  syntax  and  structure  of  the  language  (C++).    Some   of  those  who  don’t  come  to  that  course  with  any  background  have  to  work   harder,  are  sometimes  more  frustrated  than  their  counterparts,  and  don’t   always  meet  with  the  same  success.    They  have  to  try  harder  for  that  epic   win  and  some  give  up  before  obtaining  it.            


Over the  years,  I  have  learned  a  great  deal  about  what  students   actually  gain  from  learning  computer  programming.    Although  striving  for  a   successful  program  is  a  terrific  goal,  it  is  not  the  only  outcome.    In  my   experience,  computer  science  and  programming  teach  logic,  reasoning,   problem  solving,  higher-­‐order  thinking  and  higher  mathematics  skills.    All  of   these  are  skills  necessary  for  success  in  the  “real  world”  regardless  of   profession.       While  its  extremely  important  that  my  students  be  motivated  to   learn  computer  science,  I  am  also  mindful  of  the  Common  Core  State   Standards.    As  it  stands,  almost  every  single  one  of  the  Computer  Science   Teachers’  Association  (CSTA)  K-­‐12  Computer  Science  Standards,  which  I   have  been  following  since  its  inception,  maps  onto  a  Common  Core  State   Standard.    These  include  reading,  literacy  in  science/technical  subjects,   writing,  literacy  in  history/social  studies,  science  and  technical  subjects  6-­‐ 12,  speaking  and  listening,  language  and  mathematical  practice   (CSTA/ACM).       I  am  fortunate  to  be  in  a  district  that  offers  a  computer  science   program.    Only  10%  of  schools  offer  such  a  program  (    We  have   recently  expanded  from  strictly  high  school  offerings  to  now  offering  an   after-­‐school  program  to  our  grade  four  and  five  students  using  many  of  the   resources  from  as  well  as  CS  Unplugged.    I  am  advisor  to  four  high   school  computer  science  students  who  run  the  after  school  program  twice   each  week.           This  year,  we  are  embarking  on   our  first  Hour  of  Code,  sponsored  by    At  the  elementary  school,   our  high  school  students  will  be   working  with  the  students  on  some  of   the  more  basic  tutorials  offered  by  for  the  hour.        


At the  middle  school  and  high  school,  we  will  work  together  on   beginning  and  intermediate  level  tutorials,  given  each  student’s  prior   background  and  interest.           All  of  these  events  will  take  place  after  school  during  our  10th  period   after  school  extra  help  hour.    We  are  very  excited  to  be  a  part  of  the  largest   learning  event  in  history  and  are  looking  for  an  “epic  win”  for  our  students!       References:  website.    Retrieved  11/4/14  from­‐3.jpg.   Computer  Science  Teacher  Association. CSTA  K-­‐12  Computer  Science   Standards:  Mapped  to  Common  Core  State  Standards.    Association   for  Computing  Machinery.    Retrieved  11/2/14  from ped_to_CommonCoreStandardsNew.pdf.     Fox  Billig,  Amy.    The  impact  of  integrating  a  virtual  world  into  a  federally   mandated  digital  citizenship  and  cyber  safety  unit  on  student   achievement,  higher  order  thinking  skills,  and  test  motivation,  2011.     Retrieved  11/2/14  from on.pdf.     McGonical,  Jane.    Gaming  can  make  a  better  world.    Ted  Talk,  2010.     Retrieved  11/2/14  from    


Understanding Coordinate  Coding  with   Real-­‐World  Examples   By  Fleet  Goldenberg  of  Sambiglyon   (     Almost  anything  in  a  program  that  involves  moving  or  positioning   something  –  whether  it  be  an  on-­‐screen  game  character  or  the  location  of   an  on-­‐screen  button  –  involves  direction  coordinates.    This  has  been  true   for  as  long  as  computer  programming  as  we  know  it  has  existed.     In  a  two-­‐dimensional  program,  these  coordinates  are  described  by  the   horizontal  'X'  value  and  the  vertical  'Y'  value,  while  in  a  program  involving   three-­‐dimensional  depth,  a  third  'Z'  coordinate  is  added.    An  example  of  a   2D  program  is  an  operating  system  such  as  Windows  or  Mac  OSX,  while  3D   is  most  commonly  used  by  game  programs.     These  coordinates  can  be  further  sub-­‐divided  into  'positive'  and  'negative'   directions.    Going  upwards  ('Y'  movement)  or  rightwards  ('X'  movement)  is   a  positive  direction  that  causes  the  values  of  those  coordinates  to  increase,    


whilst moving  downwards  or  leftwards  is  a  negative  direction  that  causes   the  values  to  decrease  until  they  pass  zero  and  become  minus-­‐values.         Moving  toward  the  front  of  the  screen  or  toward  the  back  of  it,  meanwhile   (three-­‐dimensional  'Z'  depth  movement)  causes  the  value  of  'Z'  to  increase   or  decrease,  respectively.    

For  instance,  if  the  famous  videogame  character  Mario  was  running  right   along  a  flat  horizontal  surface  in  a  2D  game  such  as  'New  Super  Mario  Bros'    


then his  'X'  value  would  be  increasing  and  his  'Y'  value  may  be  zero  (ground   level).    If  he  jumped  up  onto  a  teleportation  'warp  pipe'  then  his  'Y'  value   would  increase  as  he  jumped  upward,  decrease  as  he  fell,  and  then  become   static  as  he  landed  on  top  of  the  pipe.         If  entering  the  pipe  caused  him  to  travel  down  to  a  secret  room  beneath   him,  then  his  'Y'  value  in  the  game  world  would  become  a  minus-­‐number   because  the  on-­‐screen  character  representing  him  had  moved  below  the   zero-­‐height  of  the  ground.    When  he  found  the  exit  pipe  and  returned  to   the  upper  level,  his  'Y'  value  would  become  positive  again.  

The  developers  of  software,  such  as  games,  sometimes  program  an  X-­‐Y-­‐Z   coordinate  read-­‐out  to  be  displayed  on-­‐screen  while  they  are  working  on   the  game  to  see  how  objects  placed  on  the  screen  are  behaving  and  then    


remove that  display  before  the  program  is  released  to  the  public.    Likewise,   young  coders  who  are  just  starting  out  in  programming  can  understand   coordinates  easily  by  using  visualization  to  assign  X-­‐Y-­‐Z  directions  to  objects   moving  in  the  real-­‐world.     Let's  look  at  a  couple  of  practical  examples  of  how  a  budding  coder  could   imagine  coordinates  in  real-­‐life  situations,  using  the  three-­‐dimensional  axes   of  X,  Y  and  Z  that  allow  us  to  move  in  any  direction.     The  Running  Track     Sporting  activities  are  an  excellent  cross-­‐curricular  way  to  teach  coordinate   coding  principles  to  young  students,  because  the  physical  movement   involved  in  those  activities  can  make  use  of  all  three  of  the  directional  axes   simultaneously.     To  take  just  one  example:  on  an  athletic  running  track  with  hurdles,  at  the   starting  position  of  a  race,  a  runner's  X-­‐Y-­‐Z  values  might  all  be  at  zero.    This   is  because  they  have  not  moved  from  the  start  point  yet  (so  'X'  is  0);  their   feet  are  on  the  ground  (so  'Y'  is  0  because  they  are  not  jumping  upward);   and  'Z'  is  0  because  they  are  not  moving  sideward  on  the  track  at  present.  


As the  runner  runs  along  the  track  in  a  straight  line,  their  'X'  value  will  be   continuously  increasing  as  their  distance  from  the  race's  start  point   increases.         When  they  jump  over  a  hurdle,  their  'X'  value  will  continue  increasing  as   they  leap  forwards,  but  their  'Y'  value  will  also  increase  as  they  jump   upwards  before  decreasing  as  they  fall  back  towards  the  track  and  become   '0'  again  as  they  land  on  the  track  surface.    


As the  runner  reaches  a  curve  in  the  track,  their  'Z'  value  will  move  away   from  zero  as  they  deviate  from  traveling  in  a  straight  line.    Depending  on   whether  the  curve  bends  left  or  bends  right,  their  'Z'  value  will  either  fall   below  zero  and  become  a  minus  number  or  increase  above  zero.         Once  they  have  taken  their  first  corner  then  their  'Z'  value  will  not  become   '0'  again  until  they  loop  around  to  the  start-­‐point  of  the  track,  as  they  will   be  in  a  position  that  is  adjacent  to  where  they  began  the  race  from,  when   'Z'  was  0,  rather  than  directly  aligned  with  that  directional  axis.    


When the  runner  has  taken  the  first  couple  of  corners  of  the  track  then   they  will  effectively  be  running  back  towards  the  start  point  of  the  race  in   the  opposite  direction  on  the  other  side  of  the  track.    When  they  begin  this   phase  of  the  race,  their  'X'  value  will  begin  decreasing  because  they  are   moving  back  towards  the  start  position,  where  'X'  is  0.         In  the  final  quarter  of  the  race,  they  will  pass  adjacent  to  the  start  point  on   the  opposite  side  of  the  track  and  their  'X'  value  will  become  a  minus  figure,   before  they  take  the  final  corner  and  they  are  running  in  a  straight  line   toward  the  start  on  the  side  of  the  track  that  they  began  the  race  on.      


'Z' will  also  become  zero  again  once  they  are  facing  the  start  line,  because   their  position  on  the  track  is  no  longer  off  to  the  side  of  the  point  that  they   started  from.     Once  they  are  running  toward  the  start-­‐point  from  behind  it  on  the  final   stretch  of  the  race,  their  negative  'X'  value  will  decrease  until  they  cross  the   line  and  their  'X'  value  becomes  zero  again.    If  there  is  more  than  one  lap  to   the  race,  their  'X'  value  will  begin  climbing  above  zero  again  as  they  pass   the  line  and  the  cycle  described  above  will  begin  anew.    


The equations  become  a  little  more  complex  if  you  are  taking  more  than   one  runner  into  account.    Only  one  runner  can  have  a  'Z'  value  of  zero  –   other  participants  in  track  lanes  to  the  left  and  right  of  the  zero-­‐‘Z’  person   would  begin  the  face  with  a  'Z'  value  larger  or  smaller  than  zero  depending   on  what  side  of  the  track  they  were  on.    When  they  had  run  all  the  way   around  the  track  and  reached  the  start  point,  they  would  have  the  non-­‐zero   'Z'  value  that  they  began  the  race  with.         They  could  not  ever  achieve  a  'Z'  value  of  zero  unless  they  moved  lanes  into   the  lane  that  the  runner  who  starts  with  'Z'  =  0  and  became  aligned  with   their  Z-­‐axis.    And  that  kind  of  lane-­‐hopping  is  forbidden  in  athletics.       The  Train  Station     Another  way  to  look  at  the  athletics  track  metaphor  is  in  terms  of  a  train   pulling  into  a  train  station.         If  we  assume  the  train's  horizontal  'X'  value  to  be  zero  at  the  moment  the   front  of  it  enters  the  station,  then  by  the  time  it  passes  a  passenger  waiting   on  the  station  platform  then  its  'X'  value  may  be  well  into  the  positive   region  as  the  value  climbs  past  0  and  it  moves  forward  through  the  station.     If  the  zero  point  of  the  vertical  'Y'  value  of  the  station  is  its  platform,  then   the  train  would  have  a  negative  'Y'  value  because  its  wheels  would  be   below  the  height  of  the  platform.      


The 'Z'  depth  value  would  probably  be  zero  while  the  train  is  on  a  straight   length  of  track  in  the  station,  just  like  our  runner  on  the  straight  line  of   running  track  at  the  start-­‐point  of  the  race.    

  As  the  train  decelerates  pulling  into  the  station,  the  rate  at  which  the   horizontal'  X  value  increases  would  be  continuously  decreasing  as  the  train   braked  and  its  forward  motion  was  reduced.    It  would,  however,  still  take   some  time  to  come  to  a  complete  halt,  especially  if  it  had  a  large  number  of   carriages.    



If the  train  is  a  type  where  the  driver  goes  to  a  control  cab  at  the  opposite   end  of  it  and  drives  it  out  of  the  station  in  the  opposite  direction  along  the   same  stretch  of  track,  then  the  'X'  value  of  the  train  will  decrease  as  the   train  travels  back  towards  the  zero-­‐point  at  the  station's  entrance,  and  then   attain  a  negative  'X'  value  as  it  leaves  the  station.    

The  'Y'  value  of  the  train  would  remain  consistent  until  the  gradient  of  the   terrain  that  the  track  was  laid  upon  changed.    If  the  landscape  dipped  then   the  'Y'  value  would  descend  further  into  the  minus  range.  If  it  climbed  a  hill,   it  would  ascend  past  zero  into  the  positive  number  range  (remembering   that  in  our  example,  '0'  was  the  height  of  the  station  platform.)     Most  train  stations  have  a  minimum  of  two  tracks,  side  by  side.    This  is   where  the  'Z'  depth  value  comes  into  play.    A  second  train  that  is  alongside   the  first  one  would  have  a  'Z'  value  other  than  zero,  because  its  position  is   offset  from  the  '0'  position  of  the  Z  coordinate.          


Like our  multi-­‐lane  athletics  track  example  earlier,  the  side  of  the  station   that  the  train  is  on  will  also  influence  whether  the  train  has  a  positive  or   negative  Z-­‐value.    If  the  station  was  a  three-­‐track  one  and  our  'Z  =  0'  train   was  in  the  middle,  then  a  train  on  the  left  side  of  it  might  have  a  negative   'Z'  value  and  a  train  on  the  right  side  of  it  might  have  a  positive  (above  zero)   'Z'  value.         Even  the  train  that  has  zero  as  a  'Z'  value  will  lose  that  status  however,   when  it  leaves  the  station  and  turns  a  corner  in  the  track,  as  the  train  will   no  longer  be  aligned  with  the  axis  where  'Z'  is  zero.  This  is  just  like  the   runner  that  lost  his  zero-­‐Z  status  when  he  turned  the  first  corner  of  the   running  track.     Conclusion     A  young  student  trying  to  understand  how  to  code  movement  and  the   placement  of  on-­‐screen  elements  need  not  struggle  to  visualize  precise  X-­‐Y-­‐ Z  numerical  coordinates  for  an  object  or  mentally  track  their  changing   values.    Even  professional  developers  rely  on  their  creation  software  to   automatically  generate  those  values  and  display  them  on-­‐screen.     All  they  need  to  know  is  where  the  zero-­‐point  for  the  X-­‐Y-­‐Z  coordinates  in   their  program  is  located  and  how  the  values  will  change  when  they  move  in   a  particular  direction  and  change  their  height  and  3D  depth  in  relation  to   that  source-­‐point.    Once  they  learn  how  to  do  this  with  one  object  then   they  can  apply  the  same  principles  to  any  other  object,  whether  in  the  real   world  or  a  digital  one  inside  a  program.      


When you  read  the  latest  news  in  education,  you  may  stumble  upon   the  notion  of  students  having  school  at  home  during  winter  blizzards  in  the   north.  You  may  have  also  heard  of  professional  development  days  being   done  online  with  teachers  from  various  locations  also  from  their  house.     As  a  futurist,  I  chuckle.  We  were  discussing  this  concept  5  to  10  years   ago.  That  is  what  a  futurist  does.  We  try  to  consider  what  the  future  will  be   like  in  5  to  10  or  more  years.     I  have  a  new  prediction  for  you.  I  am  predicting  that  within  the  next  5   years,  schools  will  be  having  class  via  technology  during  hazardous  weather   conditions.   As  schools  are  starting  to  take  seriously  the  concept  of  virtual  classes   during  those  blizzards  and  other  days  off  of  school,  I  believe  they  will  need   a  more  modern  version  of  accountability.  The  standard  concern  that  I  hear   when  discussing  these  “Blizzard  Days”  is  how  we  make  sure  the  students   have  done  enough  work  and  learned  enough  content  to  be  able  to  mark  it   as  a  successful  8-­‐hour  day  of  school.    


I think  that  answer  is-­‐-­‐  you  can’t—and  actually  you  shouldn’t.  Truly,  it   is  near  impossible  to  judge  the  amount  of  time  a  student  needs  to  spend  on   an  assignment.  Time  varies  with  individual  students.  We  need  to  think  in   terms  of  accountability  not  time.   Enter  Virtual  Worlds.  This  is  where  the  electronic  “Blizzard  Days”  and   a  source  of  accountability  becomes  a  marriage  of  technology.     Consider  the  virtual  classroom  for  a  moment.  You  have  an  avatar  as  a   student  and  one  as  a  teacher.  You  can  have  a  teacher-­‐directed  lessons  and   student  responses.    For  example,  the  teacher  can  create  ahead  of  time  a   journey  through  the  virtual  worlds  where  students  can  experience  all  sorts   of  things,  from  history  to  physics  and  from  art  to  math.     High  School  students  can  go  to  Second  Life  where  they  can  visit   Deadwood  in  1876,  and  then  go  to  vehicle  sims  where  they  can  test  their   science  skills  in  creating  new  vehicles.     Middle  School  students  could  go  to  World  of  Warcraft  where  they   can  use  the  innovative  teaching  strategy  of  quest-­‐based  learning.  And  for   the  elementary  students,  we  have  Minecraft.  Students  can  work  on  simple   math  problems  using  the  blocks  in  Minecraft  or  have  their  own  version  of   quest-­‐based  learning.   When  I  started  to  work  on  this  prediction,  I  wanted  to  take  that  hard   look  at  accountability.  I  believe  that  this  is  why  the  virtual  worlds  will  be  the   platform  for  these  “E-­‐Days”.  The  accountability  is  virtually  built  in.     Teachers  know  their  students  better  than  anyone.  We  have  seen   teachers  without  even  turning  around,  know  which  student  is  out  of  his/her   desk  bothering  other  students.  We  have  watched  teachers  know  who   completed  the  paper  without  a  name  on  it  or  any  other  identifying  factors.     The  teacher  has  always  been  the  school’s  best  weapon  in  the  fight   for  accountability.  With  Virtual  Worlds,  the  teacher  is  still  “in  the  room”   with  the  students.  The  teacher  still  sees  the  students,  in  avatar  form.  The    


teacher still  hears  the  student’s  responses,  be  it  in  chat  or  live  voice.   Because  the  teachers  knowing  their  students  as  well  as  they  do,  they  will  be   able  to  evaluate  the  students’  work.     This  virtual  world  experience  becomes  a  true  electronic  school  day   (E-­‐Day)  with  full  accountability.   You  can  read  more  of  Rob  Furman’s  work  on  his  website  at­‐furman  and  his  blog            

Did  We  Have  Fun,  or  What?   @  ISTE  2014  VEPLN  


I began  my  thesis  research  as  a  result  of  something  I  had   contemplated  for  a  long  time.    Would  MMO  (massive  multiplayer  online   role  playing  game)  video  games  be  effective  educational  tools?    As  an   avid  MMO  gamer  for  the  past  10  years  I  have  often  been  told  that  I  was   "wasting  my  time"  but  personally  I  have  always  felt  the  experience   enriched  my  life.  I  presumed  to  find  what  I  am  guessing  most  people   reading  this  would  presume  to  find  –  a  medium  that  would  be  well   received  by  students  from  a  gaming  generation  but  have  very   questionable  academic  value.    However,  after  over  a  year  of  research  I   walked  away  not  only  feeling  like  I  had  been  mislead  by  the  media  but   that  the  misperception  I  had  brought  into  this  project  was  likely  stifling   one  of  the  most  "game  changing"  educational  tools  available  to   educators  in  the  21st  Century.     The  research  I  conducted  set  out  to  answer  several  questions:       1. What  do  21st  Century  students  need?     2. What  are  the  potential  academic  benefits  of  playing  a   educational  MMO  video  game?       3. What  are  the  danger/difficulties  in  using  MMO  games   in  a  public  education  setting?      


While the  dangers/difficulties  were  somewhat  predictable,  what  I   found  in  relation  to  the  first  two  questions  was  shocking  to  me.    The   verbiage  used  to  describe  21st  Century  student  needs  matched  almost   word  for  word  with  the  supposed  benefits  from  active  participation  in   MMO  video  games.       As  I  continued  my  research  I  almost  felt  as  though  I  had  been  set   up.    Virtually  every  example  I  was  able  to  find  of  MMO  games  being  used   in  a  educational  settings  resulted  in  resounding  educational  gains.     While  research  in  the  field  is  young  both  theory  and  practice  all  pointed   to  one  thing,  MMO  games  have  enormous  academic  potential.         Armed   with  the   information   from  my   research,  I  set   out  to  survey  a   public  school   near  me.    The   survey  asked   questions   related  to  my   research  in  an  effort  to  determine  the  perception  individuals  at  this   school  had  in  relation  to  the  use  of  MMO  games  in  public  education.         While  the  surveys  were  limited  to  one  school  in  northern   California,  the  student,  counselor  and  teacher  results  suggested  that   there  is  a  significant  measure  of  support  and  readiness  to  embrace  the   medium.    Survey  results  also  suggest  that  school  administrators  may  be   much  more  apprehensive  about  the  medium  being  used  in  a  public   school  setting.      


The school  survey  provided  valuable  information  to  me  as  I   prepared  to  defend  my  thesis.    My  defense  would  be  presented  to  a   majority  of  former  school  administrators;  a  demographic  my  research   suggested  would  be  apprehensive  towards  the  medium  and  possibly   find  some  of  my  conclusions  to  be  contentious.       During  my  defense  I  detailed  what  an  MMO  game  was  and   presented  my  research  suggesting  the  medium  to  be  one  of  the  most   powerful  educational  tools  available  to  educators  in  the  21st  Century.     The  information  was  well  received  but  questions  remained.       I  was  asked,  "If  MMO  games  are  used  in  public  school  how  can  we   be  sure  it  won't  lead  to  more  delinquent  behavior?"    It  seems  to  be  a   widely  circulated  idea  that  video  games  lead  to  delinquent  behavior  in   youths.    I  already  knew  there  was  a  plethora  of  conflicting  research  data.   A  Google  search,  for  example,  yields  literally  hundreds  articles  arguing   either  side.    There  seems  to  be  no  universally  conclusive  results   suggesting  video  games  do  or  don't  lead  to  delinquent  behavior.    

Figure 1:  US  Violent  Crime  Rates  

I  paused  contemplating  the  best  answer  to  the  question.  Finally,   what  came  to  mind  was  a  statistic  I  had  read  about  outside  of  anything    


having to  do  with  my  research.    My  retort  to  the  question  was  to  ask  a   question,  "Has  violent  crime  gone  up  or  down  in  the  past  20  years?"       As  people  looked  around  the  room  the  consensus  seemed  to  be   that  it  had  gone  up.    I  then  asked  them  if  they  would  believe  that  it   hadn't  just  gone  down  but  had  gone  down  dramatically  in  the  past  20   years  (See  Figure  1  above).     My  following  question,  "Have  video  game  sales  gone  up  or  down   in  the  past  20  years?"  The  answer  here  was  obvious  (see  Figure  2   below).      Causation  does  not  mean  correlation  but  looking  at  large  social   trends  logic  would  seem  to  suggest  video  game  use  in  a  public  school   setting  would  lead  to   less  delinquency  not   more.       Figure  2:  US  Video  Game   Sales  (from  

  I  don't  have  any  empirical  data  to  tie  the  statics  sited  in  these  two   figures  together.    What  I  do  have  is  life  experience.       When  I  was  young  my  friends  and  I  would  get  into  "delinquent"   behavior  when  we  got  bored  .  .  .    stealing  baseball  cards  from  a   convenience  store,  going  out  late  at  night  and  spray  painting  the  side   walk,  throwing  rock  filled  snowballs  at  cars  and  the  like.    Then  one   Christmas  I  got  a  Nintendo.  I  distinctly  remember  my  time  spent   figuring  out  the  best  place  to  throw  rocks  at  cars  was  quickly  replaced   with  trips  down  to  the  local  video  rental  store  to  find  a  new  video  game.      


After my  research  I  look  back  at  this  "time  wasting"  activity  in  my   life  with  new  insight.    Video  games  forced  me  to  think  creatively,   improved  my  critical  thinking  and  problem  solving  skills,  introduced  me   to  new  vocabulary,  taught  me  to  work  together  with  others,  and  it  was   all  in  8  bit!       Now  we  have  large  immersive  worlds  that  teach  all  of  that  and   more.    MMO  games  specifically  teach  corroborative  team  play,  21st   century  literacy,  how  to  analyze  various  decisions  in  complex   environments,  and  ethical  and  social  repercussions  to  choices  that  are   made  –  the  list  is  exhaustive.    All  of  which,  are  educational  objectives   imperative  to  the  success  of  a  21st  Century  student.       My  research  sites  many  educational  experts  claiming  that  there   are  vast  educational  benefits  to  MMO  gaming.  From  my  personal   experience  I  can  definitively  say  these  benefits  are  not  hypothetical.    I   have  frequently  felt  a  lot  of  guilt  and  shame  at  being  a  30  something   gamer.  I  have  actually  tried  to  quit  gaming  multiple  times  in  my  life  but  I   always  felt  like  something  was  missing  when  I  did.       This  research  has  helped  me  re-­‐evaluate  my  mindset  towards   gaming.    I  have  come  to  realize  my  gaming,  particularly  during  the  past   10  years  that  I  have  spent  as  an  avid  MMO  gamer,  have  changed  my  life   for  the  better.    I  believe  MMO  gaming  has  brought  me  to  higher  levels  of   self-­‐efficacy  than  would  have  ever  been  possible  otherwise.       While  there  are  certainly  difficulties  that  need  to  be  addressed,   my  research  and  my  life  experiences  suggest  that  viewing  video  games,   as  a  waste  of  time  and  brain  energy,  is  very  archaic  perspective.    Yet   sadly,  it  seems  to  be  a  prevailing  perspective  found  in  the  educational   world.    Why  not  assign  some  summer  video  games  instead  of  just   summer  reading?       Reading  is  important  but  the  sedentary  activity  of  book  reading  is   viewed  in  an  entirely  different  light  despite  its  inability  to  help  students   learn  the  hard  to  teach  21st  Century  skills  that  are  inherently  taught  by  


many of  today's  video  games.    Assigning  summer   video  games  would  at  least  give  educators  some   influence  in  this  area  of  student  video  game   selection.       The  problem  is  most  educators  are  such   neophytes  in  this  area  they  would  be  unable  to   create  a  list  of  good  titles,  let  alone  enter  into   meaningful  academic/educational  dialogue  with  a   student  about  the  video  games  they  were  playing.     It  is  much  easier  for  an  educator  to  chalk  off  video   games  as  something  that  leads  to  "delinquency".    

Reading is   important  but  the   sedentary  activity   of  book  reading  is   viewed  in  an   entirely  different   light  despite  its   inability  to  help   students  learn  the   hard  to  teach  21st   Century  skills  that   are  inherently   taught  by  many  of   today's  video   games.  

I would  suggest  it  is  this  mindset  in   educators  .  .  .  an  unwillingness  to  meet  students   where  they  are  with  what  they  need,  that  is  far  more  likely  to  lead  to   delinquent  behavior  in  our  youth.    Despite  an  educator’s  view  of  video   games,  21st  Century  students  will  continue  plunging  ahead  into  a  cyber   world  filled  with  new  technologies,  new  video  games,  and  new  dangers   while  our  educational  institutions  are  left  behind.       My  research  suggest  that  introducing  MMO  video  games  into  a   public  school  setting  may  be  the  educators  greatest  tool  in  reversing   this  trend.     James  Crockett’s  Thesis  is  at  or  as  a  slideshare  at­‐final-­‐37431591     James  Crockett  is  the  GM  of  the  game  community  that  was  created  partially  as  a   response  to  his  research:  http://eternal-­‐     Personal  contact:  


Digging Deeper:   Minecraft  as  a  Transition  to   Wider  Virtual  Worlds   By  Keith  David  Reeves,  M.Ed.,  a.k.a.  Loren  Alunaia  

“It’s like  virtual  Legos®.”     The  first  time  I  saw  Minecraft,  I  figured  it  had  tremendous  potential,   but  like  so  many  educational  technology  tools  that  catch  fire,  its  simplicity   is  elegant  in  a  way  I  could  not  have  anticipated.  “Left  click  breaks,  right  click   builds”  is  about  as  straightforward  an  interface  as  one  could  imagine,  and   as  such,  the  “technology  overhead”  we  often  encounter  in  virtual   environments  -­‐  the  learning  curve  required  to  learn  how  to  maneuver   within  and  interact  with  the  simulation  -­‐  is  practically  minimalist.      


That’s the  beauty:  Content  shines  through.     “VSTE  in  Second  Life”  has  been  an  active  and  innovative  presence  in   the  virtual  environments  education  world  since  roughly  2008,  with  a  strong   focus  on  professional  networking.  Starting  about  2012,  the  focus  of  the   group  was  becoming  more  and  more  interested  in  learning  and  instruction.   Serendipitously,  this  growth  coincided  with  the  introduction  of  Professional   Learning  Networks  by  ISTE,  and  so  VSTE  in  SL  became  VSTE’s  first  PLN,  the   VSTE  Virtual  Environments  PLN.    

  Minecraft  is  our  first  major  focus  after  Second  Life.  It  is  a  logical   starting  point  for  a  variety  of  reasons,  not  the  least  of  which  is  its  easy   application  into  elementary  school  educational  technology  work.  Whereas   Second  Life,  as  a  highly  sophisticated  simulation  platform,  is  somewhat   more  appropriate  for  learners  at  the  high  school,  college,  and  adult  levels,   Minecraft  lends  itself  well  to  immediate  application  for  younger  learners   because  of  that  “low  overhead.”  


Minecraft does  what  it  does  brilliantly,  even  if  it  doesn't  do  much.   That's  the  beauty  of  the  platform,  and  the  fact  that  it  is  both  secure  and   stable  on  so  many  platforms  -­‐  including  an  iOS  version  for  mobile  devices!   All  of  this  makes  Minecraft  an  ideal  choice  for  many  virtual  building   applications.  There  is  absolutely  no  native  inappropriate  content,  zero   advertising,  and  zero  links.  While  a  student  could,  theoretically,  build   something  that  might  be  inappropriate,  this  is  both  unlikely  and  unseen.   Minecraft  is  one  of  the  most  intuitive,  simple-­‐to-­‐use,  and  easy-­‐to-­‐ engage-­‐with  virtual  environments.  For  teachers,  the  experience  is  identical    


to students'  experiences.  As  there  is  no  hierarchy  in  the  base  (non-­‐Edu)   version  of  Minecraft,  the  teacher  experience  mirrors  that  of  the  student   experience.  One  need  ask  but  one  question  to  integrate  it  into  one's  lesson:   "What  would  students  build  or  make  without  a  computer  in  this  lesson?"   One  need  only  say  "then  build  that  here,"  and  one  has  Minecraft  within   reach.  

  The  edtech  developers  in  the  VSTE  VE  PLN  have,  thus  far,  built   houses,  taverns,  overlooks,  farms,  lighthouses,  treehouses,  and  most   recently,  an  integrated  railway  system  spanning  hundreds  of  blocks  (the   fundamental  building  “block”  of  Minecraft,  of  course)!  We’ve  tunneled  and   bridged  our  way  across  the  sim,  through  subterranean  passages,  under   waterways,  over  mountain  –  we’ve  created  ramps,  spirals,  elevators,  you   name  it!     This  trial-­‐and-­‐error  experimentation  mirrors  precisely  what  one   would  expect  from  an  authentic  problem-­‐solving  and  construction  learning   activity.  With  the  most  rudimentary  of  interfaces  (pick  a  block  and  place  it,    


or destroy  a  block),  one  can  detach  from  construction  and  attach  to  design.   For  example,  I  set  out  to  reproduce  the  Hotel  Roanoke,  one  of  the  most   popular  VSTE  conference  venues.  I  had  never  built  anything  remotely  like  it,   so  I  simply  selected  the  colored  blocks  that  mirrored  the  exterior  of  the   Tudorbethan-­‐style  landmark,  and  set  about  building.  At  one  point,  I  ran  out   of  space  for  a  wing.  Well,  only  one  thing  to  do:  I  had  to  clear  some  space.  It   took  a  lot  of  clicking,  but  I  mined  out  the  side  of  a  hillside,  and  kept  on   building  the  hotel.  

My  objective  was  to  replicate  an  environment  for  purposes  of   demonstrating  my  comprehension  of  the  Hotel  Roanoke  as  an  architectural   landmark.  My  method  was  to  build  it  in  Minecraft.  My  process  was  a   discovery-­‐based,  entirely  free-­‐form  exploration  of  the  virtual  environment   simulator  to  accomplish  that  task,  with  very  little  scaffolding  or  guidance.     This  same  pedagogical  process  could  be  used  in  any  number  of   applications.  Ask  yourself,  as  a  pedagogue,  what  artifacts  a  student  might  


produce in  “First  Life”  (a.k.a.,  physical  consensus  reality),  and  then   entertain  the  ways  by  which  that  artifact  might  be  created  in  a  virtual   reality,  be  it  Second  Life  or,  in  this  case,  Minecraft.   While  I  am  a  resident  of  and  a  major  advocate  for  Second  Life,   building  in  SL  is  becoming  increasingly  sophisticated.  I  had  just  started  to   figure  out  how  to  manipulate  basic  prims  when  along  came  mesh,  and   wiped  the  slate  clean  of  “top  tier”  designers,  who  now  had  to  master  3D   rendering  applications  like  Maya  or  Blender.  Well,  sorry,  kids,  I  don’t  know   how  to  do  any  of  that!  I’m  a  music  teacher  by  trade,  not  a  computer   programmer,  and  having  sat  through  a  few  less-­‐than-­‐spectacular-­‐result   Blender  classes,  I  can  tell  you,  that’s  not  a  simple  tool.     However,  Minecraft  inverts  the  relationship  between  the  person   behind  the  avatar  and  the  avatar’s  ability  to  build.  Blender  and  Maya  take   extraordinary  amounts  of  technology  “overhead”  for  building;  one  could   study  these  applications  for  years  and  never  master  them.  However,   Minecraft’s  most  sophisticated  building  techniques  can  be  mastered  in  a   matter  of  days,  and  its  most  essential  building  skills  mastered  in  minutes.   This  liberates  the  VE  participant  from  the  daunting  and  sometimes  


frustrating task  of  learning  the  interface  “language”  and  allows  that  person   to  focus  on  design,  content,  and  application.  

The  VSTE  server  has  served  as  a  tremendous  sandbox,  allowing  us  to   discover  the  “facts  of  life”  in  Minecraft,  just  as  students  would:  a  pushed   minecart  can  travel  about  12  rail  lengths  if  preceded  by  6  powered  rail   lengths.  A  powered  rail  needs  a  redstone  torch  to  light  up  and  work.   Redstone  appears  to  be  a  power  source.  Redstone  also  appears  to  be   conductive,  like  an  electric  wire.  Buttons  don’t  just  toggle  redstone,  but   they’re  a  power  source  of  their  own.     These  little  factoids,  as  discovered,  naturally  connect  to  other  ideas,   and  the  learner  forms  a  unique,  individualized  comprehension  of  those   ideas  and  relationships,  in  the  course  of  building.  The  train  lines  have   served  as  a  great  vehicle  not  only  for  connecting  the  geographic   environments  on  the  server,  but  connecting  ideas  about  how  the   components  within  the  VE  work  and  how  those  overarching  ideas  relate  in   a  more  complex  system.      


As a  member  of  the  executive  committee  of  the  society,  I  consider   PLNs  to  be  an  exceptionally  positive  development  in  our  field  –  a  great  way   to  allow  ephemeral,  serendipitous,  and  evolving  interest  groups  to  seek  and   receive  the  support  of  their  parent  organizations.  As  the  board  liaison   between  the  VSTE  Virtual  Environments  PLN  and  the  VSTE  Board  of     Directors,  I  think  the  PLN  serves  as  an  exemplar  in  terms  of  its  organization.   However,  as  a  long-­‐time  VE  resident  and  advocate,  I’m  most  pleased  and   passionate   about  the   VE  PLN   because  it   sees  the   potential  of   platforms   like   Minecraft,   and  throws   itself  into    


exploring it,   working  with  and   in  it,  and   discovering  the   countless  ways   in  which  it   relates  directly   to  student   learning   outcomes  and   teacher  instructional  practices. Minecraft’s  simplicity  and  immediate  applicability  as  a  building   sandbox  has  made  it  the  ideal  “entry  level”  choice  for  our  newest  virtual   explorations,  and  we  believe  it  could  be  the  ideal  “entry  level”  VE  for  your   teachers  and  students  for  precisely  the  same  reason    Keith  David  Reeves,  M.Ed.,  a.k.a.  Loren  Alunaia  is  Treasurer  and  Director  At-­‐Large,   Virginia  Society  for  Technology  in  Education  and  the  Senior  Coordinator  of  Instructional   Technology,  Arlington  Public  Schools.  You  can  learn  more  about  his  work  at      


Eliminating a   Headache   Faced  By  ALL   SL  Virtual  Educators!    

By Carmsie  Melodie  (SL)   Carmel  Hill  (RL)    

I just  want  to  teach!     One  of  the  most  common  issues  raised  by  virtual  teachers  in  Second  Life   (SL)  is  how  to  get  new  students  up  to  speed  with  the  fundamentals.  You   know  -­‐  walk,  talk,  navigate  –  that  stuff.  For  those  with  little  or  no   experience  in  3D  environments  it’s  not  easy  to  pick  up  SL’s  basics,  however,   these  are  the  skills  that  underpin  everything  a  resident’s  avatar  does  in   world.       Needless  to  say  a  solid  set  of  foundation  competencies  is  vital  to  the   success  of  any  learning  endeavour.  The  problem  is  that  eradicating  SL   newbie-­‐ness  takes  time  -­‐  many  would  argue   lots  of  time.       Virtual  teachers’  estimates  vary  widely  on  this  point,  ranging  from  2  hours   to  8  hours.  The  bottom  line  is  that  regardless  of  the  amount  of  time  an  SL   educator  decides  to  dedicate  to  up-­‐skilling,  it’s  precious  time  they  could   have  spent  on  their  real  teaching.      


But they’ve  been  to  Learning  Island  and  they’ll  pick  up  the   rest…   Poor  Mervin!  He  decided  to  enhance  his  students’  learning  with  some   virtual  classes.  He  worked  hard  creating  the  lessons  and  setting  everything   up  in  Second  Life  but  there  was  limited  time  left  in  the  semester.  Mervin   asked  his  students  to  complete  SL’s  Learning  Island  training  so  that  he  could   forego  the  basics  and  get  down  to  real  teaching  right  off  the  bat.     Mervin’s  first  lesson,  so  carefully  planned  and  well  thought  out,  quickly  slid   into  mayhem.  His  students’  chat  text  reeked  of  desperation,  “What’s   this…?”,  “I’m  lost…”,  “I  can’t  work  this  out.”,  “How  do  I  …?”,  “OMG  these   menus…!”,  “HELP!”.     Mervin’s  result  was  far  from  the  positive  introduction  to  virtual  learning   that  he’d  hoped  his  students  would  experience.  The  first  destination  for  all   new  SL  residents  is  Learning  Island.  It’s  there  that  they  pick  up  some   introductory  skills,  but  this  approach  has  its  limitations.  Unless  educators   offer  their  students  additional  guidance  they  tend  to  blunder  around   confused  and  frustrated.     The  golden  rule  is:  better  prepared  students  means  less  virtual  drama!    

So what’s  the  solution?   Many  virtual  educators  in  SL  create  their   own  introductory  sessions  and  learning   resources,  which  is  great.  But  for  those   who  have  nothing  in  place  yet,  and  are   looking  to  embellish  their  own  materials   or  want  a  flexible  alternative,  then  the   Second  Life  basics  series  may  be  just   what’s  needed.  It’s  new,  it’s  different,  it’s    


flexible, and  all  the  work  has  been  done  for  you!     Hosted  by  the  University  of  Western  Australia  (UWA  in  SL),  the  series   contains  5  modules,  founded  on  a  blended  learning  model  -­‐  eLearning  and   virtual  learning.      

A two  tier  approach   The  SL  basics  series  imparts  key  newbie  skills  using  a  two-­‐tier  approach:       1. Knowledge     The  core  learning  concepts  are  covered  in  interactive,  online  modules   that  are  accessed  on  our  Moodle  MOOC  site,  The   modules  contain  explanations,  demos  and  tips  on  a  wide  range  of   fundamental  SL  skills.  Each  main  module  is  supplemented  with  a   matching  Cheat  Sheet  and  other  helpful  info  that  can  be  downloaded.       2. Practice  and  mastery     But  it’s  not  all  theory.  The  main  modules  incorporate  in-­‐world  Practice   Activities,  giving  the  learners  the  opportunity  to  apply  and  master  their   new  skills  as  they  progress.  To  assist  the  learners  there’s  an  Activity   Station  in  world  that  aligns  with  the  modules.  When  clicked,  it  gives  

people module  information,  URL  links  that  open  the  online  materials   inside  SL  and  lots  of  other  helpful  resources.        


SLeducate's Activity  Station  in  Second  Life     Some  of  the  key  features  of  the  Second  Life  basics  series     • Centralised  and  accessible   The  site  stores  a  wide  range  of  SL  beginner  information  at  a  single  web   destination.  Yep,  no  more  jumping  all  over  the  net  hunting  things   down!  This  is  accessible  by  anyone,  anywhere  and  at  any  time  –  virtual   teachers,  students  and  those  who  are  simply  curious  about  virtual  life.   • Engaging   The  SL  basics  series  is  fun,  interactive  and  encourages  learning  via   experimentation  and  play.     • Thorough  and  sequenced     The  series  imparts  a  comprehensive  set  of  fundamental  Second  Life   skills  in  a  logical,  sequential  order.  There  are  5  modules  that  contain   further  bite-­‐sized  elements  called  main  modules.  The  series  does  not   pay  lip  service  to  SL’s  basic  skills;  it  treats  them  as  vital  prerequisites  but   it’s  also…       • Flexible   Flexibility  underpins  every  aspect  of  the  SL  basics  series.  It’s  almost   made  of  rubber!  The  modules  can  be  introduced  and  undertaken   different  ways  to  cater  for  a  variety  of  learning  needs  and  preferences,   for  example:  complete  everything  in  the  series  or  do  a  selection  of  the   modules;  complete  an  entire  module  or  only  the  parts  that  you  need;   learn  solo  or  as  a  group;  self-­‐directed  learning  or  entire/partial  teacher   led  instruction;  explore  the  additional  optional  resources  or  skip  these.   • Ease  of  navigation   The  overall  series  and  each  main  module  have  a  summary  so  end  users   can  see  where  skills  are  covered.  Once  a  main  module  is  accessed,  a   table  of  contents  and  other  built  in  navigation  tools  enable  users  to   view  a  topic  list  and  skip  from  screen  to  screen  with  ease.       • Resources   The  website  contains  helpful,  optional  materials  that  can  be  viewed   online,  downloaded  by  users  or  used  as  teaching  aids,  e.g.  Cheat  Sheets   and  shortcut  key  lists.      


• Practical and  effective     The  series  integrates  fun,  SL  Activities  that  allow  learners  to  practice   and  master  the  skills.  The  skills  covered  in  the  modules  are  generic  but,   to  ensure  the  activities  really  hit  the  mark,  teachers  are  able  tailor  them   anyway  they  like.  They  can  simply  provide  students  with  customised  or   alternative  module  activities  outlining  what,  how  and  where.     • Pulling  it  all  together   Each  module  covers  a  discreet  set  of  skills.  The  final  activity  is  a  Finders   Keepers  Hunt  that  ties  everything  together  by  drawing  on  all  the  skills   covered  throughout  the  series.  Using  clues,  the  learners  find  items   hidden  in  various  SL  locations.  Of  course  there  are  rewards  -­‐  each  item   gives  them  gifts!     • Timing   The  maximum  duration  of  any  main  module  in  the  series  is  15  minutes   and  the  majority  are  less,  excluding  the  time  to  complete  the  activities.   As  a  rough  rule  of  thumb  we  recommend  allowing  a  minimum  of  2.5  to   3  hours  to  complete  the  series.  Some  will  find  they  require  more  or  less   time  than  this.    Timing  varies  between  individuals  and  on  the  basis  of   the  delivery  approach.     • Community,  support  and  help   Learners  don’t  feel  isolated,  even  if  studying  is  asynchronously.  There’s   a  supportive  SLeducate  group  they  can  join  in  world.  As  a  member  of   the  community  they  are  able  to  approach  the  group  for  help  and  advice   whenever  needed.  Teachers  can  join  this  group  too  or,  if  preferred,   students  can  join  a  group  their  teacher  establishes  and  discuss  the   modules  or  seek  assistance  that  way.     • SL  glossaries   SL  is  full  of  odd  terms  and  phrases.  To  help  with  this  the  site  has   comprehensive,  searchable  SL  glossaries,  known  as  SLictionaries,  which   cover  a  wide  range  of  SL  terms  and  text  chat  abbreviations.     • Educators’  resources   The  SLeducate  website  contains  Virtual  Educator  resources  that  offer  SL   teachers  and  corporate  trainers  helpful  info,  ideas  and  tips  in  .pdf  and   video  formats.     • Techy  stuff   A  viewer  is  the  software  users  install  on  their  computer  to  drive  SL.  The  


module demonstrations  are  based  on  the  Firestorm  viewer.  The  SL   basics  series  can  be  viewed  on  any  flash  enabled  device.    

Delivery options     One  of  the  big  advantages  for  virtual  educators  is  that  the  SL  basics  series   can  be  successfully  implemented  without  taking  up  a  lot  of  precious   teaching  time.  However,  if  a  hands-­‐on  role  is  preferred,  that’s  also  easy  to   achieve.  Some  of  the  delivery  alternatives  are  listed  below.  There  are  pros   and  cons  to  each  option  so  teachers  need  to  decide  which  is  best  for  them,   their  learning  strategy,  and  their  students.       A. Set  the  entire  series  or  a  selection  (modules  and  activities)  as   prerequisite  learning  for  students  to  complete  before  in-­‐world   classes  commence.       B. Run  the  entire  series  or  a  selection  (modules  and  activities)  in  a   classroom  setting,  with  students  learning  at  their  own  pace  or  with  a   display  on  a  central  screen.  If  using  this  method,  you’d  need  to  allow   individuals  to  complete  the  practice  activities  in  Second  Life.  With   access  to  a  computer  lab,  this  could  be  done  with  all  at  the  same  SL   location  and  at  the  same  time  or  in  the  learner’s  own  time.       C. Ask  the  students  to  complete  one  or  several  modules  themselves  by   a  set  date  and  then  complete  the  associated  SL  practice  activities  in  a   classroom  environment.       D. Complete  one  or  several  modules  in  the  classroom  and  ask  the   students  to  complete  the  associated  SL  practice  activities  themselves   by  a  set  date.          


Want to  check  it  out?     The  website  and  all  its  resources  are  available  to  help  anyone,  anywhere   and  at  any  time.  There’s  lots  to  see  so  here  are  a  few  links  to  get  you   started.    


• • • • • • • website   SL  basics  series  web  page  (use  Guest  access)   Avi  to  avi  –  let’s  chat  sample  module  (use  Guest  access)   Virtual  educator  web  page  (use  Guest  access)   SLeducate’s  Activity  Station  in  Second  Life   Get  started  in  Second  Life  a  brief  overview   SLeducate’s  YouTube  Channel  

We hope  this  is  a  helpful  tool  for  virtual  teachers,  students  and  others.  All   the  best!         Jay  Jay  Jegathesan  (Jayjay  Zifanwe  in  SL)  is  the  Coordinator,  UWA  in  SL   Manager,  School  of  Physics,  University  of  Western  Australia.  Be  sure  to  check  out  the   recent  blog  post  that  takes  a  fairly  close  look  at  the  SLeducate  site  and  SLbasics  series.   Here's  the  link:­‐a-­‐sl-­‐resource-­‐for-­‐ educators-­‐students-­‐and-­‐new-­‐users/  


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©Vej is  an  Edovation     Publication  


VEJ December 2014  

Congratulations to Gord Holden, 2014 Edovator of the Year and the 2014 Reader's Choice Award nominees and winners. All students deserve the...

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