Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Alfie Kohn Doesn't Like Open Badges and Gamification - Do You?

Are you using Badges in your classes? 

Alfie Kohn definitely isn't using badges in his classes. He doesn't like them. 
The video above is his discussion of caution about using badges and gamification. 

As you may know, Alfi is an advocate for change in schools.  He has written a number of books about making learning more relevant to students.   In this video, however, he is talking about how using badges and gamification in classrooms are merely manifestations of the behavioralist strategy towards learning. 

Kohn begins the video talking about how badges limit education to mere skill acquisition. He points out that the Kahn Academy  uses badges and that is a limiting factor because it doesn't deal with application of the skills. He says that this is the basis for another modern educational model, the Flipped Classroom. He also questions who is going to validate the criteria that will be used to identify success in knowing and mastering specific skills. 

Later on, Kohn criticizes using gamification in the classroom because we are taking gaming aspects from video games and applying it to the real world.  He also discusses the need to build intrinsic motivation in learners rather than extrinsic motivation where every success is rewarded by points or other external awards. He points out that psychological research actually states that extrinsic rewards will damage the acquisition of internal motivation. (His emphasis on this is understandable based upon his Punished by Rewards book that he wrote in 1993.)

While Mr. Kohn brings to front many good points about things that need to be considered when using badges and gamification in learning, I think that he is missing the boat.  He is presenting this in an either/or format.
  • He presents badging as an uncontrolled system for relegating the learning experience to mastery of skills with no application.
  • He limits his scope on gamification to the use of rewards for learning.
The important thing to remember in either of these situations is that they are NOT the only strategies that need to be used in today's learning environments. Today's students need to have authentic learning situations where what they learn extends beyond master of skills. They need to be organized in a way that will provide a relevant testbed for using the skills that need to be mastered. This can be organized in a fashion where students can earn badges as they master their skills but concurrently, they are applying their skills to create things that are relevant to themselves.

This morning I came across a CNN interview with Salman Kahn where he talks about how his video instruction can be used to provide content for flipped classrooms.  This provides more context for understanding the limits of Kohn's perception of education's opportunities.

Kohn's understanding of gamification is limited by a 20th century perception of learning. Learning is an ongoing process of trying to accomplish something and then receiving feedback on your success. This feedback might be a grade on a test, points in a game, feedback from a colleague or teacher or just having the real world tell you if it worked or not. 
It IS best to have a learning situation where students have an internal need to do well on a project, but learning is a gradated process that has multiple levels of success.  Success on these successive levels needs to include feedback for the learner to gauge his/her level of accomplishment and adjust future activities accordingly.

What is your opinion about Alfie's opinions?  
Are you using badging and gamification in your classrooms?
Is it the only way your students are learning or are you integrating it into your curriculum?
How do you do this?


Monday, June 09, 2014

Zooming with Amy Kangas about SAMR & TIM


I am privileged to be Zooming with Amy Kangas and her wonderful class of educators who are spending the next week exploring what it means to be a 21st Century Teacher.  

While I will just be there to answer questions and share some experiences, here are a few resources that might be useful for our discussion.

Video Conferencing:

Technology Integration


Technology Integration Matrix:

UNI Instructional Technology Masters Program

Saturday, June 07, 2014

9 Steps for Successfully Engaging in the #IAedchat to Discuss "Math in America" on 6/8/14

You have heard about the most successful Educational Twitter Chat in Iowa. It is #IAedchat.

Every Sunday at 8:00 (except 6/8/14), the gang from #IAedchat get together and hold a discussion between educators. The topics vary and the formats vary (sometimes include video broadcast) but the excitement remains the same. 

Administrators, educators, parents and interested professionals from across Iowa and across the nation get together to discuss education and, more specifically, the topic of the day.

Get involved in this!!! You can learn about #IAedchat by visiting these sites:
  • #IAedchat wiki - This is where it all begins
  • IowaTransformED - Good intro to #IAedchat by Shawn Cornally
  • #IAedchat Storified - Aaron Becker captured each of the TweetChat sessions using Storify. You can experience sessions gone past right here.  Maybe you want some specifics about something that you remember from a previous session - Storify.
#IAedchat Begins at 7:30 this week.

Even after telling you about the 8:00 weekly sessions, I found out that it will begin at 7:30 this week. Word has it that #IAedchat will join with an Iowa Math Organization so they will be able to discuss "Math in America."
Here are the Steps for Getting Involved with the Math in America discussion on Sunday.
  1. Turn on your computer at 7:15 on Sunday night
  2. Open browser and go to http://tchat.io (This is a TweetChat tool. There are others, but I find this to be the most efficient.)   
  3. Sign in (upper right corner)
  4. Enter the hashtag  #iaedchat
    1. You will probably see older tweets.  The number at the right of a tweet (i.e., 1:09) will tell you how long ago the tweet was posted.
  5. Play with it a little bit.  Post tweets (remember that tchat.io will enter your hashtag automatically after you sign-in.)
  6. Click on the icons to the right of a posting (Reply, Retweet, Quote, Favorite)
  7. As people begin to appear, greet them with "Hello @casas_jimmy" or whoever appears.
  8. As the session begins, you will see the coordinators posting questions for the whole group to answer.  Post your own questions.
This can get a little overwhelming because it will probably become impossible to read all of the posts, much less answer them.  It is OK to lurk for a while. You will be successful if you 1) identify a few people and respond/converse with them and 2) find a few new people to follow on Twitter.

Most importantly, you want to have fun and see how your PLN can expand by attending a session like this at least a couple of times per month.

Share with us your past experiences with #IAedchat or come back and talk with us after this session.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

How to Fake a 21st Century Classroom

I was just browsing the web when I found this wonderful posting by Terry Heick on Teach Thought entitled "10 Ways to Fake a 21st Century Classroom." Terry does a wonderful job of identifying some indicators that are often seen as landmarks for 21st Century Learning. Once they have been listed, he explains how even these activities could be hollow hosts when it comes to actually providing a transformative environment where students are truly engaged in learning.

I am going to list the 10 ways but you will have to go to Terry's posting to see how they are fake.  This way I am not taking credit for something that he has done.

  1. "Do Projects"
  2. Create a class twitter account
  3. Force Collaboration
  4. Video Conference with Strangers
  5. Be Dramatic
  6. Buy iPads
  7. Make Students Blog
  8. Apps on Apps on Apps
  9. Blend, Blend, Blend
  10. Add a column for creativity on every rubric. 
I must admit that I do every one of these. I have students do projects but it is usually to solve problems. All of my classes have twitter hashtags. We work in Collaborative groups. We video conference with experts in the field when it pertains to our topic or we have been following their blogs. I am NEVER dramatic!!!! We are trying to get folks to get ipads. I make students blog but I hope that we are doing it for more than just going through the motions. We use apps. Fortunately we all have access to the resources needed to watch YouTube videos for flipped classrooms. And I have added creativity to my rubric.

Am I faking a 21st Century Classroom?  I hope not.  I believe that my students are involved in the learning process to a level that they are creating and learning materials that are relevant to their real-world classrooms and everyday lives.

What do you think?  Are you faking it?  If so, how and why?  If not, how do you know?

BTW, I just did a search on Terry Heick's postings on TeachThought and he has a number of postings that I have found interesting. You might enjoy them too - Heick's postings.

Please leave comments with your feedback.

Sunday, April 27, 2014


I was just reading Shannon Doak's G+ postings when I found her posting about Christopher Emdin's TED talk called Teach Teachers How to Create Magic.  In this presentation, he talks about using Hip Hop Pedagogy to engage students in learning.  He is a dynamic teacher who knows how to talk with people.

I must admit that I was a little disappointed in his work because he was just talking about teachers talking with students. His Hip Hop talk was about how to make lecturing more engaging. My question is that maybe the problem is in the pedagogical structure where the basis of the teaching is lecturing. I would like to see less lecturing and more student-based interaction with content.

I found his Dr. Emdin's website and Dr. Emdin is a prolific writer and engaging speaker who makes learning interesting. The only question that I have is that if the students are just listening to a teacher rap, where is their proactive learning occurring? I watched another of his videos where he talked about students sharing their ideas on a blackboard wall, but what were the projects that they were completing? Should a learner's sense of engagement be based upon how well a teacher can speak or how well teachers can challenge students to create projects to solve problems.

I watched another of his videos and he talked about more student-based learning:

I don't know much about Dr. Emdin's Hip Hop learning, but he appears to be a man who is addressing change in education and will be well worth following.

What else should we know about his work and vision?

What do you know?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Looking for a Career? Join Us for the UNI Connect-A-Tech Webinar Series: Instructional Designers

This marks the beginning of a series of UNI Connect-A-Tech Webinars where we will be talking with Instructional Technology alumni who are working as professionals in their fields of choice.

You will have the opportunity to interact with them through a video conferencing system.  Read the information below to see how you can be involved through a video conference, on your phone, or come to our classroom at UNI (Schindler Education Center 405).

If you have questions:  Contact Nikki Lyons or use the comments below.

UNI Connect-A-Tech Webinar Series:
Instructional Designers
Wondering what it takes to be an Instructional Designer?  Here is your opportunity to meet with successful instructional designers and ask them the questions you want to know about the profession.
You can connect with UNI Instructional Technology alumni who work in fields that you plan to pursue after graduation. Through talking with the professionals, you can develop an understanding of the skills and perspectives necessary for pursuing your career. This webinar will feature:
  • Nelson Rokke, Instructional Designer with WebFilings, LLC, http://www.nelsonrokke.com/
  • Isandra Martinez-MarreroLead Instructional Designer, Division of Continuing Education, University of Iowa

When:  Thursday, April 17  from noon - 1:00 (Central Daylight Time)

Where:  You will be able to experience this online, on the phone or in a 
UNI classroom (SEC 403)

      Or, go to https://uni.zoom.us/join and enter meeting ID: 647 853 488
  • Dial-in Phone:   Dial: +1 (415) 762-9988 or +1 (646) 568-7788
    Meeting ID: 647 853 488
     Participant ID: Shown after joining the meeting
International numbers available:  
  • UNI Classroom:  Schindler Education Center 403

Follow Us on Twitter:  #UNIConTech

Saturday, April 12, 2014

8 Biggest Challenges that Teachers Face Today

The folks over at Emerging Ed Tech recently did a survey of their readers to find out what they wanted to know about education and Instructional technology. They had 160 replies which is a good response.  

This table is a list of their results.  Some of the issues are standard issues, but it looks like they are feeling the challenges of integrating 21st Century Learning strategies in their classrooms.  Admittedly, this is not a cross-section of all teachers, because there is a specific group of teachers who read their website.  These teachers are forward looking.  They are the ones who are trying to improve their leaching/learning environments. They are the ones who go to conferences and are continually reading and watching and connecting. 

I look at the list and and all of them are concerns of mine.   How does this fit what challenges you in your teaching?