The great Year 10 Blogging Review

thinking-please-be-patient-thecuriousbrain.com_Image: Simple Life Strategies

My last post Why blog? was written live in class with my Year 10 students. This is the last week of Term 1 and we needed to review what we have been doing. I decided we’d do it as a blogpost fest with one post about why we blog and the other post about how we’d gone in French. Each post had 6 questions and an image and they were only allowed one sentence answers. I did the first post on my interactive whiteboard at the same time with them. One question at a time. I could show them how to do bold text. I  also wanted to show them how to backlink, make sure they ticked categories, tagged the post and then could change an image size and know how to acknowledge it properly. A number of them are really good at tagging and come up with some inventive and interesting tags. They are getting really good at picking interesting images too. I was doing my answers at the same time to take the strain off those who  were still finding blogging baffling.I did not want them going on holidays with bad feelings towards blogging. It took the pain away for them and they felt comfortable. All the class responses tell me they like and value blogging and can see worthwhile learning outcomes for themselves.

These are the questions I asked about their French for the second post:

1. What have you done this term in French that you are proud of?
2. Tu aimes le français? (Do you like French?)
3. Qu’est-ce que tu as planifié pour les vacances? (What have you planned for the holidays?)
4. Why do you need to be enthusiastic about learning languages in 2015?
5. We did Bretagne, comic characters, phone conversations and houses. Which one did you like the best and why?
6. What is one thing you can do next term to improve your French?

As for the responses to Why blog?

This is from one of the girls on her blog Pic Boisé :

Questions asked by my teacher:

1) What is the best thing about blogging?

I can voice the things I want to say online in an easy way. It is easy to write information that I gather and to show people what I know and what I do.

2) Why do you think blogging is so important in 2015?

Blogging is important in 2015 to share opinions and inform people. It is important to share ones knowledge with others in one way or another. The internet is used greatly so this is one of the best ways of informing people.

3) What is the best blog post you have written this year?

My two best blog posts are Les marchés d’Adélaïde or Bretagne! Brittany! I think the les marchés d’Adélaïde is good as it shows many things the Adelaide Markets has that is French. Bretagne! Brittany! is a good blog post as it informs people how to say common words in English, French and Breton.

4) What does blogging teach you?

Blogging has taught me just how simple it is to get your information and knowledge out to the world. Many people overseas have visited my blog which I was excited about. I didn’t think that this blog would be viewed internationally!

5) Are short blog posts or long blog posts more popular on your blog?

Long blog posts are more popular I have found as they have more information. As long as the blog post doesn’t drag on and get boring then long ones are more visited. They have more information from different sites with much relevance. Most of my blog posts are rather short but the longer ones are more viewed.

6) What is one of the things you can do better on your blog?

I think that I can improve my blog by adding more information on each topic.

This is a response from one of the boys on his blog Jbelf in France:

1. What is the best thing about blogging?

Sharing interesting info to the world and hearing feedback

2. Why do you think blogging is so important in 2015?

Most things are online or electronic now so if you want to connect with other internet blogging is great

3. Whats the best blog post you’ve written this year?

Montrer ma Maison because it was most viewed and I enjoyed having a really expensive house with a pool inside and living in the snow

4. What does blogging teach you?

On a couple of my posts about France and French life there have been comments that give me feedback but also teach me new things about France that I never knew

5. Are short blog or long more popular on your blog?

I find that short posts are more popular because they display the info without being too long that people will start getting bored

6. What’s one thing you can do better on your blog?

Post more frequently instead of once or twice a week and do post about things outside of the french classroom as well

The blog review has helped them to get a perspective on what we are doing and has underlined that all the hard work, fun and , at times, frustration have led to something they can now appreciate and value . They have also discovered the world cares about what they say and do. It has opened their eyes to the fact they can connect globally.They can even see their own way clear to the next step now. Reviewing blogging helps clarify the picture. At times, when you are new to it , it can be like working in the fog. High level learning is like that. Sunshine and blue skies in the learning arena now we have done our reviews and I have some valuable feedback to build on for next term.

What will you do with Watson?

What would I do? I would put it into the hands of secondary school students. All secondary school students. Not just the anointed. I have learned over all my years in teaching that the best laid plans of mice , men and teachers can be totally thrown on their head when you get a school full of  secondary students onto a new approach, gadget or pathway. Secondary students are marvellous crap detectors. “What is the point?” “Why would you?” “But what if…”. They are also very good at interpreting things in ways you would never imagine. This can be hugely creative but it can also show up the loopholes, the weak spots and the deficits of any model or gadget you are trying to introduce to “the masses”. If Watson were to be put into the hands of a planet full of secondary students, they would soon sort it out. They would learn to work with it, undermine it, create with it, find the anomalies, ways of misusing it, ways of improving it. They would give Watson a run for its money. So why would you do that? Watson is one of the biggest programmes underpinning cognitive computing. Our secondary students are the ones who will be benefiting from it and who will add to it. They need to know how it works. They need a deep understanding of Watson and they need to be able to grow it into the next generation of cognitive computing software. If cognitive computing is about computers learning from humans and vice versa, then field work needs to be done with the young. Older people will bring their skills, expertise ,perspective and knowlege to bear to create a system which is more reliable, functional, dependable and adaptable. This really is the future and it should not be held back. Right now is a good time to genuinely collaborate on authentic learning for all. So, how would I put Watson into schools? I can’t answer that question at the moment. I am still learning about cognitive computing. They have put Watson up against humans in Jeopardy so they are still learning about it too.

Okay, I’ll play your game

game earningsActually, I probably won’t. The one thing about people who play games is that they are very particular about which games they play and which device or devices they use. Some play Facebook games, others console games. Some just want to play on their smart phone. Some want simple games, others action and multiuser games. We all have very strong preferences and so it comes as a surprise in some ways that some games make squillions of dollars and there are gamers out there who can make huge amounts of money from their gaming when the opportunities arise. Those who invested in Grand Theft Auto 5 a while back would have found it sucked up their bandwidth and their money in excess usage charges. Those on unlimited broadband would not have had a problem, but those tied to a capped plan were finding no one else in the house could do anything because the data allowance had run out. Grand Theft Auto 5 is a high performance, cutting edge, state of the art game. The graphics and everything else to do with it are top of the range awesomeness. It is why it was awaited with great enthusiasm by those who play it. Game developers have a significant impact on hardware and software development because their games test what we can currently produce and their ideas drive the creativity to develop better components and ways of doing things. So take a look at the numbers:

1. 10 highest grossing free to play gaming apps
2. Top Grossing iPhone Games – by country (You will need to log in.)
3. 10 highest video games ever

Games are about the money, the market and what people seemingly want to do. Clash of Clans can earn nearly 200 000 million dollars a day in the US at the moment. The money around games is huge, the market penetration massive and our willingness to play never ending. So , what does all this mean for education? We really do need to start that discussion and robust debate. Game companies are not going to be at all worried that students are playing games in class or endlessly at home. My first thought as a teacher is we need to get some balance into usage first of all. Then we need to deconstruct games to see what educational purposes they serve and what technology skills they develop. We need to think about putting our teacher input and  making observations about what games do and mean. We probably need to teach the skills to create games and have some educational input there. We need to understand what games are, what purposes they serve and what the impacts are and then contribute to what they can become and how they can be used. We need to play games ourselves and talk to people about the games they play. Until we start doing these things it will take more than me to look at games and gaming in education.

Should we teach games?

50 millions usersThis is a really interesting graphic which I found on ScoopNest. It took 75 years to get 50 million phone users. It took 35 days to get 50 million users onto Angry Birds. Today we can’t live without our phones or our games. Should we teach games, though? Should we teach the skills for creating games? Currently, we always tend to look at education from an economic rationale point of view . There is little room for learning and intellectual development for the sake of it. games jobsToday on SEEK there are 1008 jobs for games. If you look up Games Developer you only get 157 so the key word search has to be accurate. It’s only Thursday in Australia and already there are over 1000 jobs for games this week.I have been teaching long enough to know we had schools with rooms full of the new, mysterious golf ball typewriters which we used because everyone needed keyboard and typing skills to get a job. There were big discussions as to how much time would be allocated to keyboard skills and typing practice in the curriculum and then students were separated into separate classes so they could become executive in their office skills. I have heard no discussions like that about games and games development.

I read a heartfelt piece on TechCrunch the other night: Dear Teacher, A Video Game Developer Is A Real Job And Should Be Celebrated where a father talks about the need for teachers to recognise games developer as a future career. Matt Burns was clear and made some valid points. Teachers constantly need to shift their headsets into what are currently the job skills sets for any given decade.

Looking at all of this from an education, classroom stand point is matter for some big, robust discussions. It’s not just about games, edutainment, keeping the students occupied. It is about deconstructing games and their impact and looking at their educational value and the skills they teach and use so that we can have some valid input as teachers into this whole industry. It’s about thinking , creativity, collaboration, coding, maths, algorhythms, art, design, literacy, social skills – and that is just off the top of my head. I need more than one post and we need more than one thought.

One for the developers

Put people in an office where they are all teaching the same thing and inevitably the ideas will blossom and grow quite naturally. Our conversation started with the flipped classroom model which the school Level 1is working on this year. It moved very quickly to virtual classrooms and what that might mean and whether you could simultaneously teach a real classroom and a virtual one or whether some students would prefer a virtual classroom and whether that was a good thing and how that would look and work. The consensus on that was it would be a reasonable option but we liked our real classrooms. We then started talking about the Statements and Profiles where South Australia was the first state to get serious about that curriculum approach and we did a lot of work around it but  it all came to nothing and we had to move on. One of the real advantages of that was that it described in detail the LEVELS of learning and you would assess students according to levels. It meant classes would have become Level 1 classes or Level 6 classes in any given subject and students would have been grouped according to their level and not their age. We were talking about the advantages of that for Languages. We then somehow connected that to the flipped classroom and the virtual learning we had been talking about and decided we needed a language game with level so that students could work on core material and level up as they do in games. It would be familiar ground for students and the concept would need no hard work in terms of introduction. We were looking at how a game could introduce the core vocabulary and expressions for that level and the students could even be engaged in the game in conversations for that level. We have voice synthesizers. We have video. We have microphones, cameras and keyboards. A game could follow the format of a text book and introduce new things at each level, practise the grammar expressions, have little audio comprehensions, video instruction and enrichment. It could be used in and out of class and would be valuable for the wider community too since there is a need to learn languages and a decent game platform with kudos would be one way of showing you had a certain level of learning in that language. We need the developers to get onto it for us, please !