Working through the Tribes module in the “5 Habits of Highly Creative Teachers” MOOC, had to create a couple lists, here they are:

3 Lists

Things I would tell my 16 year old self

  1. Get a job
  2. Don’t measure the skills you pursue in terms of perceived future financial gains
  3. Journal
  4. Stop and look around.  Don’t get too caught up on what will be happening next.
  5. Do something that scares you as often as you can
  6. Don’t worry about what other people think.  Be true to yourself.

Last Week’s Grocery List – probably forgot a few things, these were the main items

  • kale
  • honey nut cheerios
  • apples
  • cherries
  • bananas
  • granola bars
  • salted chocolate
  • tomatoes
  • celery
  • rice
  • yogurt
  • cheddar cheese
  • milk
  • hot dogs
  • hot dog buns
  • rice cakes
  • peanut butter
  • ham and smoked turkey for sandwiches
  • chocolate chips

If I didn’t have to go to work – well, I am actually on strike right now, I work in the Victoria school district, British Columbia, Canada, and we have been on strike for the past 2 weeks, fighting for smaller class sizes and more support for our students.  I have had a bit more extra time because of this.

  • sign up for a course (another MOOC perhaps)
  • hike
  • spend time tending to the garden
  • play guitar
  • read comic books (and book books)
  • build something out of wood.

Thinking about Tribes

So the focus of this week is on Tribes.  One of the first projects was to brainstorm the many different tribes that each of us belong to, and try to define the parameters of these different tribes.  Here are the four that I came up with.  I am sure there are many more tribes that I could come up with, but these were the easiest to define!
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A second task for this week was to create a collage of some sort that represented what our unique tribe might look like.  I used Pearl Tree to put together a list of websites that I enjoy, or represent people who I find inspiring, or who have influenced me in some way.  Still a ways to go to putting these disparate websites into something that could create a coherent framework for a tribe, but I guess that is what it means to be a unique individual.  I think all of us have different facets of our personalities and interests that would make us eligible for any number of tribes.  The tricky part of defining a tribe based on your own qualities is it has the potential to become so specific that it precludes all others!  Anyways, here is a screenshot of my Pearltree, and a link here.


Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 12.40.18 PM


Another project inspired by the Daily Create Assignment Archive.  Celebrity Timeline / Progression.


Copy, Combine, Transform

Onto the next activity!  Yesterday we had to pick a topic and search the web for examples of this topic.  I used an old Pinterest board a had title “things”.  My collection was of other people’s collections!

Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 7.49.04 AM


After creating this we had to brainstorm a number of words to describe our topic of investigation.  My Pinterest board was originally entitled “things” but my idea that I am focusing on is collections.  Here is the results of my initial 90 second brainstorm:


Screen Shot 2014-06-15 at 8.02.15 AM

I then had to select three words that I felt most represented my topic, which are highlighted in green.

From those three I had to select one, and write about it.  I selected Rules:

Behind each of these images there was a hand that collected and placed each object.  Some of these collections have objects that have been ordered in a particular way, some seem more random.  I think that the curator of each of these had reasons for the placement of each object, whether they were fully aware of them or not.  These reasons, or “rules” could be based on physical appearance, texture, time they were discovered, or any other distinguishing factor.  As observers we can deduce some of these hidden rules by searching for order in these collections.  Not all collections wear the author’s reasons on their sleeves, these rules may be obscured to a viewer, but still present in the author’s mind.

The last part of this project was to sum up my topic (collections) in 6 words, and present it using a tool I haven’t used before.  I chose haikudeck, and my 6 words are linked below:


“I Invented Nothing New”

I’m onto the second module, which is entitled “Remix, Copy, Combine and Transform”.  The prompt for this activity was as follows:

Step 1: Take a favorite poem (or song)
Step 2: Think about  how long you want to make the remixed version
Step 3: Take some scissors.
Step 4: Cut-up the original work into separate lines. Put them all in a bag.
Step 5: Shake gently.
Step 6: Next take out each cutting one after the other.
Step 7: Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.
Step 8: Share the final version.  Embellishment and rule breaking is optional and will not be penalized because we understand that there are rebels in the group!


I decided to pick the most famous They Might Be Giants song “Birdhouse in you Soul


Here is the song all cut up:IMG_4918


And here is what I ended up drawing out:



This was an interesting exercise.  I was struck by the powerlessness that I felt, giving in to the random nature that each line of the song might appear.  I felt more like a curator than a creator, and must admit, that I made a couple of redraws to suit my tastes as the poem started to come together.  I was surprised at how melancholy this rearrangement seemed to me, contrasted with the exuberant nature of the original song!

5 x 5 Curiosity Challenge

This was a very interesting exercise.  I put on Animal Collective’s “Campfire Songs”, and spent the duration brainstorming, and fine tuning my ideas.  I was in a state of flow, not worrying if my initial thoughts made perfect sense, refining as I went, and trying to connect ideas as best as I could.  My initial five headings to encourage my own curiosity were to Question, Reflect, Test Assumptions, Go Deeper and Broadcast.  Using these I created a table, and started to expand on each.  This was my initial table:

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 8.49.08 PM

After creating this first table I started to tweak things to create a logical progression from one idea to the next.  It became apparent from my brainstorming that this chart was more concerned with systems of thought than physical exploration.  I decided to restructure things so that each heading appeared twice, once on the horizontal, and once on the vertical, leading to something that was more of a matrix than a table.  I had to eliminate a number of my initial ideas to refine things, but I think everything became much stronger when simplified.


Curiosity and Problem Solving

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 8.49.01 PM

Going through each row and column, some have a more logical progression than others.  I’m not sure if making some of the language more generic would help with the flow, but I’m fairly happy with this as a working draft, and will hopefully add to it as I reflect on what works and what doesn’t.


Reflection on . / ! / ? Qualities

This post is in response to this prompt:

Investigation One: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall … Who am I really  Yes, we are talking about you. Your challenge is to take the time to reflect and look at yourself, as an (.)person, a (!) person and a (?) person. In other words, the passive and indifferent you, the dogmatic and inflexible you and the inquisitive and curious you. How do those three views of looking at the world affect your curiosity habit? Where has this created a barrier to being curious and where does it act as a motivator and spark your interest and encourage you. Knowing this about yourself, think about what you can do to change the first two and emphasize the third way of viewing the world with a growth mindset of curiosity.


I think I have a tendency to become passive in my attitudes towards anything that I am familiar with.  I have the tendency to become dogmatic in anything that I perceive to be “working” even if it may not be working as well as it could, and I’m curious of anything that isn’t working, or is novel in some way.

I have never thought of having a “curiosity habit” before, and find it odd to think of curiosity in this way.  Often I think of habits in terms of either the consumption of some product, or a set of actions, but not so much in terms of perception and thought processes.  It is an interesting idea, and something that is causing me to examine how I think about my own thinking.  I guess anything can be curious if approached from a novel direction.  Nothing is curious in and of itself I suppose, and only becomes this way when viewed through our own particular world views, formed through past experiences and social and cultural norms.  Bill Watterson sums it up quite well:

Being curious about something means questioning those practices that many may take for granted.  It can lead to innovations, successes and failures.  I think the key to a curious life is to try and live in the present moment as much as possible, devoting your attention to the experience at hand.  It is something that I will be trying to do more of in my own life, and in my teaching career.

Who Stole Curiosity?

With OLTD over I seem to be suffering some sort of school withdrawl, a condition I never thought that I would develop!  My cure for this has been to enroll in a MOOC titled “5 habits of highly creative teachers”.  I came in a couple days late, so I’m having to play catch up to a certain degree.  This first week is all about curiosity.  We have been asked to think about the different ways that our own curiosity can be effected.  I whipped up this little graphic to represent my thinking on the matter: were also asked to design our own investigation on curiosity.  After some thought, it was clear that I needed to channel my inner 6 year old, and start investigating some bugs.  After looking under a couple rocks and coming up empty handed, I found a couple samples under an old bucket and created this little document of the experience:CuriosityBugs


OLTD 508 – Post #4

What I loved most about this course was how often I would find myself in a state of flow while working on our assignments.  Whether it was watching James Paul Gee’s video, researching mobile apps for inclusion in my group’s rubric, or my current fascination with trying to harvest crops in minecraft, I find myself spending a lot more time than I initially planned on this course.  It has been challenging at times, but mostly a fun and engaging experience that I will be striving to replicate with my students in the future.

I had a major “aha moment” while watching James Paul Gee talk about the “pleasantly frustrating” principle of games design,  that hard to achieve level of difficulty that makes a problem hard to solve on the first playthrough, but becomes easier as players become progressively more comfortable with the particular challenge they are trying to overcome.   MineCraft has been pleasantly frustrating to me for about 2 weeks now, with no sign of the frustration abetting.  It started with simple things such as how to set up my keyboard so that I was able to access the “use item” key (I don’t have a right mouse button, which is the default button for this option).  Once I got that sorted out new problems kept coming up:  How do I turn on the switch? How do I make a craft table?  How do I make an axe?  How do I get access to my axe?  Where do I go at night?  How do I plant crops?  How do I harvest crops?  How do I get my food meter back to full?  The food meter problem is the one I am currently grappling with, as there are no animals to eat, so I have to wait for my crops to be ready.  It has been quite a process, but no matter how annoying not knowing can be, I find that I keep coming back better prepared and more fluent in the minecraft world each time.  Any concept that I need to know is just a youtube video, or wiki entry away, and because each problem is a pressing concern in the moment, I am very motivated to seek out the answer on my own.

My grade 4 and 5 students think it is absolutely hilarious that I am learning about minecraft in school.  Whereas my approach has started from a place of academic curiosity, theirs has come from a place of pure fun and exploration.  I was playing with my whole class in a mine craft world last friday in the computer lab, and it was the funniest thing watching them build and explore, help and annoy one another.  It was like being with them at recess.  Students more likely to get into disagreements on the playground had the same struggles in the minecraft environment.  Students who were able to compromise and work in groups created some amazing things with their classmates.  There was a lot going on, and it was hard to keep track of half of it.  It was really neat to see how easy it was for some students to self organize and tackle projects with a division of labour that I didn’t think them capable of in the classroom environment.  Sometimes all it takes is the right motivation and the right environment I guess.

I can see myself using Minecraft with my students in the future.  I love how it encourages you to explore and create, with very few limitations on what you can do within the virtual world.  I am excited by the premade worlds on offer through MinecraftEdu, and I plan on exploring these resources more in the future.  I would love to contribute my own worlds at a later date, but still need to figure out how to harvest my crops at this point!


OLTD 508 Blog Post #3

I have mixed feeling about about the amount of violence found in video games.  I am often shocked when I hear my students (grade 3) talking about how they watched an episode of “The Walking Dead” on the weekend, and describe all the gory details to their classmates, or when they write a journal entry detailing their entire winter break glued to a screen playing “Call of Duty”.  They often seem to have a better knowledge of some of these franchises than I do, which just seems crazy!  I don’t really have a problem with all of these first person shooter games, I’ve played them a lot in the past, and enjoy them quite a bit.  What worries me though is when kids are playing these games unsupervised, and at such a young age.

I grew up on Wolfenstein, Doom and Quake.  Each Iteration of these first person shooter games became more gorey as the graphics and computing power improved.  From my first experiences with Wolfenstein I was navigating mazes and killing blocky Nazis with a variety of military weapons.  By the time I got to Quake I was dealing with a number of undead zombies and grotesque nightmare creatures.  I feel like I was lucky because by the time these games improved to the point where they could realistically represent the violence they allowed you to engage in I was mature enough to draw that line between play and reality.  I was a shy, sweet, obedient kid who loved to go home at the end of the day and save the world through a computer screen.  Most of my friends were the same way, and none of the violence from these video games transferred over into our adolescent lives.  Would things be different if I had started earlier, or been introduced to a game like Quake before being gradually eased in through Wolfenstein and Doom?  I’m not really sure, but I do know that even with these experiences, it still makes me uneasy when I see young kids playing these types of games on their own.

I’m not sure how young is too young when it comes to violent games.  I started with Wolfenstein when I was roughly 10 or 11.  I see my grade 3s playing Minecraft, which has equivalent blocky graphics and the potential for a certain degree of violence (I just recently watched a number of grade 3 boys go on a bunny killing rampage within this environment which we had to have a talk about) and I’m ok with it as long as they don’t get too carried away.  Minecraft to me seems more about building and creating then anything else, so I really don’t have a problem with it.  I would have a problem with a game being played in class thats only focusing is on shooting bad guys.  I think I learned a lot of good things from playing Doom – spatial awareness, basic math, mapping skills and basic hand eye coordination.  It also taught me a lot of computer skills that I don’t think I was even aware I was learning.  I probably learned just as much typing cheat codes into Doom and Wolfenstein as I did using “all the right type”.  These games don’t need to be vilified the way they often are.  I’m sure Call of Duty is teaching kids today all the things I learned from Doom, and expanding on them in all kinds of ways.  The problem is that these games are teaching them a lot of harmful things as well.  What worries me the most is that kids are being parked in front of these games unsupervised and left to their own devices.  There are so many great conversations that we can be having with our students around these games and I think it is important to teach kids to think critically about their behaviour in an ingame environment versus their real lives.  They need to realize the many consequences that their in game actions may have if tried out in real life.  There are so many teachable moments in these games.  The trick is to identify them, and have our students take a moment to consider them when they are immersed in that gaming world.