Pelican i1065 iPad Case Review

After about a month with the Pelican i1065 case for the iPad, the Pelican brand lives up to its name and I now have a better sense of where this case can be used both in and out of the classroom.

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PELICAN PROTECTION

If you are already familiar with the Pelican line of protective cases and storage units, the i1065 does not stray far from its siblings. The i1065 sports a solid hard case with soft fabric lining along with strips of high density foam for added protection. This particular model also comes with a rubberized insert that the iPad (iPad 2, 3 & 4) slides into. The case seals nicely and the latch does a good job of securing the case closed without being cumbersome or difficult to operate. With the Pelican brand comes the claim that the case is watertight, crushproof and dust proof. As I do not have a sacrificial iPad to test this claim, I will simply have to take Pelican at their word.

USING THE i1065 CASE

Considering its lineage of bulky cases and the type of protection that it is offering, the Pelican i1065 is thin and light enough to easily slide into a laptop or messenger bag. However, the relatively thin form factor comes at the price of not having a lot of additional space for anything else but an iPad. Even the presence of a SMART Cover poses some problems as the rubber sleeve inside the case really does not allow for the additional thickness of a cover or protective case. Having said that, I was able to fold the SMART Cover back on itself and essentially squeeze in the cover without having to unattached it from the iPad.

Those looking ahead may also want to use this case with the iPad Air. Based upon the reduced dimensions of the iPad Air, the newest iPad will indeed fit inside of the case but its narrower and slimmer form factor may impact how well it is secured inside the rubberized sleeve. Those looking for a very snug fit for their iPad Air may find it unsettling to have their iPad Air shifting inside of the case.

In my use of the case, I found it easy enough to slide my iPad in and out of the case when I wanted to simply use the iPad on its own at home. However when at work I tended to keep it in the case where I used the integrated stand/easel feature to prop up the iPad. When using the easel feature on the i1065, I could either lay the hinged lid flat on the table or have it resting on the top edge of the iPad to serve as a bit of a hood for my tablet. I preferred the latter simply because it minimized the amount of desk space that it would take up when in use.

FOR USE IN THE CLASSROOM?

I really like this case. It provides very good protection and yet the case is light and the form factor is relatively slim. However it is important to consider how this case will be used and integrated in the classroom. If you are looking for iPad protection where students can carry and simultaneously use the iPad they may find the i1065 case to be somewhat awkward with its attached, hinged lid. Where this case really shines is in situations where students are carrying the device to a location (in or out of the classroom) and then using it on some sort of table or surface. I envision this case being extremely useful in school labs, workshops and in learning that is taking place outdoors.  The ability to open up the case, prop up the iPad and then rest it on the ground, workbench or lab counter is extremely useful to the active learner.

This case provides fantastic protection but before making the purchase, teachers will need to consider how they intend on using the iPad in their classroom. There is no shortage of protective options for your classroom iPad, so you want to be sure that you invest in the most suitable, protective option.

– K. Takahashi

Designing an Online Learning Experience: Using Windows Movie Maker 2012

In completing my CSU course on Web Pedagogies, my second assignment will revolve around designing and creating a lesson or group of lessons that make use of a web tool (ex. Blogs, Wikis, Social Media etc.) and an online learning resource (ex. Websites, YouTube, Google Maps, etc.). When it comes to content and focus, the assignment asks us to support a learning goal or objective that supports a curriculum area in our current line of work. With my current position as a Learning Technologies Coordinator, my focus is not directly linked to a classroom or course or subject area but rather the support and development of educators and their integration of technology in their respective classrooms. As a result, my topic will focus on teaching educators about a particular piece of technology.

Identifying a Need

Over the next few months, our school district will be moving on to the Windows 8 operating system. Up to this point, part of my work has been to help facilitate the switch to this new operating system. Identifying software and hardware that will be carried forward as well as marking technology that will need to be dropped in favour of this version of Windows has been a slow and challenging process. Consequently, there is also a need to support teachers and students with new software applications and programs. One such program is Windows Movie Maker 2012 which presents a drastic departure from its XP version.

The use of video in the classroom provides a wide range of opportunities to support learning and instruction across many subject areas and grade levels. Podcasting, presentations, story-telling and self-reflection can all be documented with video and provide choices for students to engage and demonstrate learning. Developing a lesson or series of lessons supported through online tools and resources will help acquaint teachers with this new video editing software and hopefully encourage educators who are not currently using video production in their classrooms to now jump in with Movie Maker 2012.

Things to Consider

Course notes and resources identify some important features to consider when developing an online learning resource or tool (Nelson, 2007). Some features that I found particularly compelling were:

1. Linked to curriculum standards – an obvious point but it can easily be pushed to the back burner when the tech fun begins. I also felt compelled to have this placed first on the list (although the list does not really present these in features in any particular order of importance) because it is inline with the critical question, “What do we want our students (kids or adults) to know and do?”.

2. The task or activity presents a worthy challenge that is not too easy nor impossible to solve or overcome. What makes this more difficult is that different students will most likely be capable of handling different levels of challenge that will be linked to their own relative ability and prior knowledge. Tiering and choice is a strategy or feature that one can use to accommodate different levels of ability but how will I execute that support structure within my own lesson or series of lessons?

3. Opportunities for collaboration – this feature is particularly challenging for me as my particular line of work is in supporting and teaching teachers. Traditionally my time in supporting educators is limited to one, perhaps two workshops with very little opportunity to reconnect together as a learning group.  This is a challenge that I particularly look forward to addressing as their are a number of different online platforms that may provide the opportunity for collaboration to continue.

4. A clear and final product presents another opportunity to infuse some choice for the participating learners/educators. Whatever the product, it again brings me back to the first point of linking it to a curriculum or learning objective.

OK, Now What?

Moving forward, I need to think more on isolating two or three learning goals or objectives for this lesson or series of lessons. Linked to these objectives will be the final product(s) that I intend to have my learners create as a way to document learning.

I hope to have the opportunity to better document my progress throughout this assignment and perhaps post my thoughts on this blog. Again, perhaps this serves as yet another opportunity to investigate another interest of mine, podcasting.

Reference:

Nelson, K. J. (2007). Designing internet-based activities. Teaching in the digital age: Using the internet to increase student engagement and understanding (2nd ed.) (pp. 1-17). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Top 5 New Features in iMovie for iOS

Released in October 2013, the new iMovie application for iOS 7 brings with it a new look and many new features.  After having a chance to explore this application, I focus on 5 new features that substantially improve this video editor.

Gamifying the SOLE for Teachers: Reflecting on my Learning

The early stages of envisioning, planning and designing a gamified learning experience for teachers was exciting and invigorating for me. Trying to articulate the medium and scope of this PD resource made me rethink my approach in supporting teacher learning. In one way, gamification gave me permission to throw out what had been previously done to develop teacher learning and start from a fresh new perspective. Rather than developing a teacher workshop session on the topic of self-organized learning environments (SOLE), I instead wanted to create an online learning environment that would allow teachers to access the learning environment in a way that best fit their own schedules as well as support their own unique learning needs and strengths. In my attempt to incorporate elements of gamification, I wanted to create a learning environment that would allow teachers to access content at different levels of readiness and experience. I also wanted to provide a social element in this gamified learning experience to promote sharing of experiences, resources and products. Ideally, accessing this network would also serve as a meaningful reward for teachers completing their work around the development of a SOLE learning experience. Furthermore, it was also hoped that observing the work of others would encourage teachers to try this process again and hence “level up” on their learning.

Although the original plan was to have this resource released by the beginning of October, the release of the All-in-One PCs that were to serve as an example of a self-organized learning environment was delayed due to imaging issues around the new Windows 8 operating system. Furthermore, rethinking the support of teachers new to the concept of inquiry-based learning and SOLEs, it was decided to have a system-wide release of this resource on November 22, 2013. Howeverm since this online, gamified resource was near completion, I opted to share the resource with a small group of teachers in order to gather their feedback. As a result, I have had the luxury to spend more time revising this resource as it has since gone through of a number of changes and tweaks. Even with the delay of officially releasing this resource to the system, in meeting and collaborating with others I have had a chance to reflect upon my work and appreciate my own growth throughout the entire process.

 

The use of info graphics seemed to fit the spirit of th gamified learning environment.
The use of info graphics seemed to fit the spirit of th gamified learning environment.

In Theory VS In Practice

Throughout the entire process, research served to both inspire and challenge my action plan to gamify teacher learning. In their respective research, the parallels between gamification and the intent behind the use of SOLEs were an encouraging parallel that initially strengthened my resolve that creating this learning experience would be a natural and symbiotic process. Moving away from learning that is solitary and moving instead towards a collaborative and intrinsically motivated path of discovery are inherent in the use of both Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs) and gaming.

The challenge inevitably began to arise when attempting to facilitate this path of discovery in an online forum. Moving teachers towards formulating and developing their own goals and objectives is difficult when trying to articulate and design an interface that is supportive but not prescriptive. It is also one thing to understand and even envision the interactivity you would like foster in a learning environment but for me, actually infusing that interactivity within the fabric and context of my online resource was also very challenging. Even with the wealth of well-established social media platforms and Web 2.0 applications, leveraging these resources into a gamified, online learning environment presented the risk of merely becoming items of novelty rather than critical tools of creation, exploration and communication. Simply embedding a Twitter feed or button on a webpage or blog post, does not ensure nor motivate collaboration. In attempting to find appropriate web applications and social media platforms for this online resource for teachers, the services needed to carefully fit this purpose and intent of the gamified environment. For this project, I was looking for a platform that I could use to provide a virtual space to share the work of teachers in classrooms across the system. I also wanted to have a fairly quick and automated way for teachers to submit their work and then grant participants access to submissions from other participants as a rich and meaningful reward.

 

Know Your Stuff

At some point between identifying gaming elements that I wished to employ and actually implementing these elements into my teacher resource, I had to revisit my content and ensure that I had a deep understanding of what it was that I wanted to cover within this gamified learning experience. In this particular case, I had to revisit the concept of the self-organized learning environment (SOLE) and dig deeper into the purpose behind this concept. At its heart, the SOLE is a tool and resource to support inquiry-based learning and as a result the focus of this resource now had to account for this critical concept. Failing to address and explore the concept of inquiry-based learning would deprive the SOLE of its intent to support student-initiated questioning and exploration.

I met with our science learning coordinators to discuss their work in supporting inquiry-based learning in science classrooms. Their work in supporting teachers with student-driven learning meant developing teacher skills around generating questions of curiosity that ultimately arise from the student. This observation required me to update the content of my resource and as a result, alter the gamification of this learning experience. Rather than focussing on the topic of self-organized learning environments, I now had to address and link the concepts of SOLEs and inquiry-based learning. Gaming elements now had to account for both concepts to be explored in my learning resource.

Feedback from the science learning coordinators also profoundly changed how this online resource was going to be delivered. Ultimately, I had to concede that this resource alone would not adequately address the critical groundwork of changing how we as educators engage students through inquiry. This type of shift requires time, discussion and ongoing trial and error on the part of teachers. In the end, it was beyond the scope of this particular online resource and I had to rethink the system-wide delivery of this gamified learning experience. It was decided that this resource would instead be released in conjunction with a system-wide technology workshop where teachers would be supported in exploring inquiry-based learning first before referring to this online resource that they could then build upon within their own schools and classrooms.

 

Keep it Simple and Managing Expectations

Reflecting back towards the beginning of this project I had a number of gaming concepts and mechanisms that I wanted to explore and implement. Looking over my completed teacher resource on self-organized learning environments and inquiry-based learning, I admit that I was expecting the resource to be more dynamic and completely different than any resource that I had created before. I appreciate now that my work and exploration of gamification will take time and perhaps it was ambitious of me to expect a complete transformation in the way that I teach and support teachers. But perhaps more importantly, this was a reality check for me and my own misconceptions around gamification.

With the appeal and prevalence of video games, I still struggle with the idea that gamification is the use of gaming elements to support learning in classroom rather than simply incorporating a game into the fabric of a lesson. As a result, gamification may result in changes to instruction that are more subtle where the focus remains on deeply engaging content and learning rather than playing a game about the content. Another misconception that I struggle with is that gamification is accomplished through the use of technology. As I was reminded in an online discussion with Allen Goode (Lead Game Designer, Digital Extremes) technology is not a prerequisite for gamification. In fact the concept of gamification is not new as teachers have long been using gaming elements to try to connect and engage students in learning. The use of “bump it up” walls and even points or rewards systems are but a few of the many well established gaming mechanisms employed by teachers. Although it is tempting for me to want to see major changes in the complexion of my instruction through gamification, I concede that it is more appropriate to regard gamification as a more integrated element that supports rather than take over classroom instruction and learning.

In the end I did bring in many features and elements that I had never really attempted in my previous work supporting teachers. Creating a learning experience that was to be experienced completely online rather than a blended model of face-to-face instruction with online supplementary materials was a bit of a departure for me. Likewise, the design and creation of infographics to better match this gamified learning environment forced me to rethink my approach in presenting content and to be concise with my delivery through the use of both words and graphics. Finally, the integration of social media and Web 2.0 platforms to create an online and automated collaborative space was something that I have never attempted before in a learning environment. Utilizing an online dropbox with the  services of Google, If This Then That and Tumblr, I was able to create an automated way to collect input and contributions from teachers and then have them posted online for other participants to see.

 

Gamification is not easy

I must admit, I am still coming to grips with my end product. Although I understand that gamification is not the wholesale change of teacher instruction whether online or in person, I believe this also illustrates the idea that gamification is not easy. Deeply integrating gaming mechanisms within the ebb and flow of instruction and exploration will require time, patience and a lot of trial and error. I would also posit that gamification requires the careful evaluation and assessment of various online tools and platforms. Similar to the planning practice outlined in the TIP process (Robyler & Doering, 2010), one would have to thoroughly screen and consider how each gaming element would work and support the learning environment. There would also be the ongoing need to reflect and evaluate how the gaming elements are supporting student learning and to be always on the look out for better and more appropriate alternatives. For example, the tools and features inherent in a learning management system may serve as a more stable and customizable platform for gamification compared to bringing together and coordinating a collection of individual Web 2.0 applications and services.

However, acknowledging the challenges and difficulties inherent with trying to improve teacher instruction whether it be through the integration of gamification or the move towards inquiry-based learning, one can consider the goal of reaching and inspiring every student as the ultimate gaming objective for teachers. This is not to suggest that building the future of our students is a game, but rather the objective to be a better teacher is this goal that drives educators to “level-up” on their knowledge and skills surrounding pedagogy. The engagement and performance of our students provide us the instant feedback that let us know if we are on the right track or if we need to start over. In the end, it is their success and engagement that serve as powerful motivation to move forward and ultimately keeps us coming back to the game of improving teacher practice.

 

HabitRPG – Gamify Your Life

HabitRPG takes gaming mechanisms and applies them to your daily life where rewards and experience points are given (and taken away) for the actions and activities that you complete (and do not complete) during your day. You progress as you to level up and in keeping with the social aspect of gaming you also have the opportunity to compete with others as they navigate their own gamified life. HabitRPG is playable through their website as well as on the app available for both Android and iOS devices. After having a chance to use this application in my own daily work and play, here is what I have learned about gamification through HabitRPG and how gaming mechanisms in general can be better applied to education?

In order to maximize access to your gamified life, HabitRPG is accessible via the website and the iOS & Android application.
In order to maximize access to your gamified life, HabitRPG is accessible via the website and the iOS & Android application.

Accessibility – If the intent of HabitRPG is to gamify your daily life, then it is critical that the application is available and accessible at any point during your daily routine. The ability to record completed habits and tasks on a mobile device increased the likelihood that I would remain engaged in this gamified experience. This dynamic would be completely different if I could only record or view my progress on a single computer or device. In such a circumstance, I would probably lose interest in staying connected to this gamified approach to life. To ensure that this gamified interface to life is always nearby, HabitRPG is now playable on iOS, Android and pretty much any device with a web browser.

So what does this mean for me as an educator? If I am gamifying a learning experience, the elements need to be easily accessible and present where the learning is taking place, as it is taking place. Moving the gamified learning experience online allows students to engage this new learning environment at school, home and everywhere in between.

 

Breaking up your tasks and activities according to habits, dailies and "to do" items is entirely determined by the user.
Breaking up your tasks and activities according to habits, dailies and “to do” items is entirely determined by the user.

Rewards need to have value to the player/learner – This application nearly fell apart for me very early in this gamified experience as I found that the rewards did not hold a lot of value for me. This in itself illustrated the importance of the reward system and the need to establish rewards or badges that are of value to the user. Fortunately, HabitRPG allows me to create my own rewards that hold greater value and incentive for me. Rather than working towards rewards such as virtual weapons, armour and potions, I found it much more motivating if I were looking to reward myself with a “dessert-based” treat for completing a full workout, or some earned gaming time for achieving a certain level of experience points.

So what does this mean for me as an educator? Experience points, rewards or badges will hold little appeal for students if they do not hold some value to the student trying to achieve them. What would be a true reward or compelling badge for students to achieve? Perhaps this is a worthwhile discussion to have with my class. More on this later.

 

Goals and levels of appropriate challenge – In HabitRPG you also set the challenges or goals in the form of “habits”, “to do” items and “daily” tasks. Completing these tasks can earn you experience points or rewards, however failure to complete these tasks may result in penalties. Setting challenges at an appropriate level is critical as goals that are either too difficult or too easy will simply frustrate or bore the participant. Furthermore, in order to maintain the interest of the “player”, goals and challenges need to change and adapt as the player continually progresses and improves.

So what does this mean for me as an educator? This concept of appropriate challenge reflects the principles underlying Vigotzky’s zone of proximal development (Hume, 2011). The idea of building upon one’s current knowledge base and understanding is another element of good game design. Arguably, good games find ways of offering levels of challenge that serve to motivate rather than frustrate the player (McGonigal, 2011).

In the classroom, achieving a learning environment that offers appropriate levels of challenge for students is reflected in the concept of differentiated instruction (Hume, 2007). Tiering is a specific strategy that attempts to engage students at their appropriate starting point with course content. Gamification of instruction through the use of structures or “levels” that allow students to either select the learning pathway that is most suitable for their current level of understanding or quickly access content and media that supports the struggling student. Similarly, gamification also involves providing increasing levels of challenge for students as they progress and master content and concepts.

 

Social – The ability to share with and compete against other HabitRPG “players” is another compelling motivator for this platform. The ability to measure your progress with the progress of your peers is in another form of feedback that can help you determine where you are doing well and where you could improve. In one way, this gamified approach encourages players to talk about their triumphs and challenges as well as their strategies or approaches to overcome failure and achieve success (McGonigal, 2011). In this particular case, it also raises an interesting scenario where participants can be trying to achieve different goals and objectives. This raises another powerful social interaction where participants may need to collectively determine common or at least comparable objectives and goals so that levels of achievement hold a consistent value across the field of “players”.

So what does this mean for me as an educator? The social aspect and potential of gamification can be quite extensive and powerful. For the learning environment, this offers the chance to go beyond playful, competitve banter (or “trash talk”) between students and instead encourages deeper conversations about their own respective experiences with the content. Currently, we can see this powerful social connection behind many of today’s popular video games where there are players continually posting tips, guides and strategies in the form of blog postings, videos, etc. Coming back to the classroom, this offers the opportunity for students to participate in setting the goals and objectives for the gamified learning experience as well as the criteria for success and the resulting rewards and achievements at the end.

 

So what is next? Linking this back to my desire to gamify a learning experience for teachers on the topic of Self-Organized Learning Environments (SOLEs), HabitRPG presents some features that I would want to have in my gamified learning environment. It also made me consider how I will actually execute and provide these gaming mechanisms in my work. Is there a pre-existing platform like HabitRPG that I can use as a gamified framework supporting my work with teachers? Or do I need to create my own gamified platform? Is so, how? I am not a programmer and as a result I feel that I would be needing to bring together various online elements and applications to create a way to bring these gaming mechanisms to life. At this point I am leaning towards creating my own gaming platform through a collection of online applications and services. On this preliminary list of applications are Google Docs, Gmail, Tumblr, Storify and IFTTT. I would use our school board’s website host as the hub and then branch out from their to these other online services. But that is for another post… stay tuned.

 

References:

Hume, K. (2007). Start where they are: Differentiating for success with the young adolescent. Toronto, Ontario: Pearson Canada Inc.

Hume, K. (2011). Tuned out: Engaging the 21st century learner. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Pearson Canada Inc.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

The SOLE of Gamification

The Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE) is a concept that we have been exploring throughout our system. The idea of approaching classroom technology as a way to provide learning experiences that are student-driven is an attempt to move away from simple “drill and kill” activities. The SOLE supports a process of learning that is facilitated through exploration, posing questions, gathering new information and sharing findings with others.

In a recent SOLE Challenge through TED Conferences, LLC, Sugata Mitra posted a SOLE Toolkit to help educators and parents create their own Self Organized Learning Environment. Participants were encouraged to share their SOLEs and provide feedback on how this learning environment encouraged student- or child-driven learning. In his toolkit, Sugata Mitra identifies 7 qualities or characteristics of a SOLE mindset.

  1. Child-driven – elements of choice and interest motivate student learning
  2. Collaborative – learning is further reinforced when there is a chance to share and engage socially
  3. Curious – tapping into our innate sense of wonder
  4. Open-Minded – allow for flexibility, provide opportunities for experimentation and understand that making mistakes is part of the process
  5. Transformative – opportunities to think critically and learn quickly
  6. Encouraging – finding answers and problem solving takes time and encouragement from parents and teachers
  7. Patient – this is a new way of learning for the child/student as well as parent/teacher

Interestingly, these characteristics or traits offer a striking resemblance to many of the critical elements behind effective game design. The list above touches upon some important concepts and the mindset behind gamification where the child or student is now regarded as the “gamer”. Gaming elements such as collaboration, social interaction, and the creation of engaging challenges (Byl, 2012; Deterding, 2011; Kapp, 2012; McGonigal, 2011) draw immediate comparisons to the learning experiences offered by the Self-Organized Learning Environment.

Jane McGonigal (2011) identifies a gaming quality that perhaps best summarizes the SOLE mindset. She explains the notion that games engage the player in work that is satisfying. Players achieve a genuine sense of satisfaction as they accomplish clear goals and objectives through actionable steps and hands-on work. This is similarly echoed in the use of the SOLE to seek out answers or solutions to high interest questions or challenges (Mitra, 2013).

In supporting the use of SOLEs in schools, my attempt to gamify this support for teachers seems like a natural fit that will hopefully illustrate the intent and spirit of this Self-Organized Learning Environment.

 

References:

Byl, P. (2012, November 25). Can digital natives level-up in a gamified curriculum? Retrieved May 15, 2013, from Ascilite: http://www.ascilite2012.org/images/custom/de_byl,_penny_-_can_digital.pdf

Deterding, S. (2011, January 24). Meaningful play: Getting gamification right.Retrieved May 22, 2013, from Google Tech Talks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZGCPap7GkY

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

Mitra, S. (2013, February 27). Are you inspired by child-driven learning? Download the SOLE Toolkit. Retrieved August 24, 2013, from TED Ideas Worth Spreading: http://www.ted.com/pages/835

Gamification: Determining My Learning Objectives

Since an earlier post regarding the importance of content connecting to the gamified learning experience, I felt the need to rethink, prioritize and identify the various learning expectations into one of two groups. By identifying learning expectations as either a specific learning expectation or an overall learning expectation, I hope to create a learning task that manages to address all expectations in an experience that is both focussed and straightforward.  The need to provide support surrounding some of the new features within Windows 8 as well as the new hardware features presented with the HP All-in-One PC fall under the more specific learning expectations in this learning activity. These specific expectations go on to support the greater overall learning expectation of exploring and understanding the potential of the PC as a Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE).

How Will I Approach Or Gamify Specific And Overall Expectations?

This resource was a supporting document in a recent SOLE Challenge from Sugata Mitra and TEDTalks
This resource was a supporting document in a recent SOLE Challenge from Sugata Mitra and TEDTalks

Similar to the driving experience that I experienced in the Toyota RAV4, I want to keep the learning objective closely linked to gamified learning experience. If the overall learning expectation is to begin using the PC as a Self Organized Learning Environment with our students then I feel as though the gamified learning task itself should essentially involve teachers engaging the HP All-in-One PC as a SOLE. Sugata Mitra’s work on this topic will help to ensure that the gamified task upholds the fundamental tenets of the Self Organized Learning Environment. (Here is a link to a SOLE Toolkit for a recent TED Talks SOLE Challenge)

The specific learning objectives will also be addressed in this learning activity involving the Self Organized Learning Environment. However, I hope to cover these learning expectations as they naturally occur in the gamified experience. Rather than explicitly setting aside a series of small tasks focussing on the specific learning expectations surrounding Windows 8 software and the All-in-One hardware, the learning of these skills and features will inherently take place as teachers work to complete the learning task.

K. Takahashi

 

Rugged Rukus Review

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The Rugged Rukus by Eton is a speaker system that I really want to recommend and for the most part it delivers on what it promises but there is a persistent recharging issue that continues to dampen my enthusiasm for this portable speaker.

 

Pros:

– great battery life

– loud sound for a small device

– recharges other portable devices via USB

– connects to audio devices via Bluetooth or audio jack

Cons:

– solar panel seems prone to scratches despite solid build quality for the rest of the unit

– solar charging fails to charge internal battery

 

Last word:

Great idea in concept but issues surrounding the solar charging of this device has essentially taken away the most compelling aspect of this product.

2 out 5

Elements of Gamification: Connection to Content

While out in Vancouver I came across two contrasting examples of gamification. One example illustrated the power to engage and educate while the other example arguably served to engage the participant. As I look to create a gamified learning experience, the end goal is to engage and teach rather than to simply entertain. The connection and integration of learning goals will be critical as I design my gamified learning experience for teachers.

Example 1: Efficient Forms of Transportation – Telus Science World

Whenever visiting Vancouver with the kids, a popular stop for us is Telus Science World. Located in the beautiful False Creek area of downtown Vancouver, it offers a great assortment of displays and activities for kids and adults alike. I highly recommend it!

The Gaming Element

Roll the ball and advance your character down the track by scoring more energy efficient methods of transportation.
Roll the ball and advance your character down the track by scoring more energy efficient methods of transportation.

One particular display offers a hands-on, competitive game to illustrate different methods of transportation and uses a common midway, derby game to promote energy efficient ways of moving around a city. Up to 5 participants compete against each other in a race where they each advance their character or avatar along the board by scoring points in this bowling-type game. More points are earned by sinking the ball in holes that are attached to more efficient methods of transportation. The more points earned results in your character advancing quickly across the board compared to a player who is scoring less energy efficient modes of transportation. Scoring a car as a mode of transportation will earn you 1 step forward, public transit will earn you 2 steps forward and biking will award you 5 steps forward. The contestant who is able to move their character across the finish line first wins the race and competition.

The Connection to Content and Learning

The element of competition and the simple rules of gameplay make this a popular and engaging exhibit for kids (and adults) of all ages. The graphics and theme of this game attempt to generate a greater awareness of energy efficient modes of transportation. Unfortunately in this particular example, I feel as though the content takes a backseat to the game. When I asked my kids about efficient modes of travelling around the city, they were unable to tell me why biking to work was a more energy efficient way of transportation compared to commuting with a vehicle. Assuming that the learning goal for this activity was to have players understand energy efficient modes of transportation, the design of the game failed to effectively connect to the content.  For me, this is an outcome that I want to avoid in my support of teachers and students. If I am to illustrate the power of gamification in supporting learning, then I need to ensure that my gaming elements do more than simply entertain my audience.

Example 2: Driving Behaviour and Mileage – 2013 Toyota Rav4

The dash mounted LCD panel displays both historical and real-time data on your fuel economy.
The dash mounted LCD panel displays both historical and real-time data on your fuel economy.

I had a chance to use a 2013 Toyota Rav4 while travelling around the Greater Vancouver area and I became engrossed in a built-in feature that serves to inform the driver on their fuel economy in real time. Using the LCD display mounted in the dash, drivers (and passengers) can quickly see their overall fuel economy (l/100km) for a trip, follow a minute-by-minute break down of their fuel economy  over the last 15 minutes of driving as well as check their current, real-time fuel economy statistic that will literally change based upon the action on the accelerator and the resulting engine revolutions. In essence, this instant feedback and data on your fuel economy and driving habits gamified the driving experience. I admittedly referred to these statistics several times and became engrossed in how my use of the accelerator impacted the fuel economy. Basically, it became a game of trying to better my fuel economy over my previous trip.

The Connection to Content and Learning

This feedback feature helped inform and encourage driving habits that maximize fuel economy. In this particular implementation, gaming elements and content were intimately connected. Since the content or learning goal was to identify and establish fuel efficient driving practices, the use of both collected and real-time data on fuel consumption served to gamify the driving experience. In a way, trying to determine accelerator habits in order to improve one’s fuel economy was the game itself.

This experience illustrated a critical concept for me and my understanding of gamification. The learning was based in the gamified experience where in this particular instance the participant discovers firsthand how driving habits impact fuel consumption and perhaps more importantly, serves to potentially impact how we drive in the long term. The learning was active and facilitated through the gaming mechanisms displayed in the dash of the car.

What this means for me and my project

Content and Context:

If I hope to have teachers learn more about this All-in-One computer (see my proposal to gamify a teacher research) and how it can be used effectively to promote collaborative learning then:

– the gaming elements need to facilitate the learning on the HP All-in-One itself
– there needs to be an element of instant feedback
– there needs to be an element of discovery and play

Next Steps:

–  I will need to spend some time with the hardware (HP All-in-One) and software (Windows 8) and determine the specific concepts and content that I want to address and cover with teachers.
– I need to find or create a system or platform that I can use and customize in order to provide instant feedback to the teacher who is navigating my resources on the HP All-in-One. My early research on a potential platform seems to be pointing me towards Google docs and perhaps Google+.
– Determine a task or set of tasks (that is accomplished through using the HP All-in-One) that allows for and promotes discovery and play. A lot of research surrounding gamification identify the concept of appropriate challenge and/or problem solving in effective gaming (Byl, 2012; Deterding, 2011; Kapp, 2012; McGonigal, 2011). Based on that, I would imagine that creative tasks or challenges that reflect activities in the classroom would be of greater interest to the teacher.

 

References:

Byl, P. (2012, November 25). Can digital natives level-up in a gamified curriculum? Retrieved May 15, 2013, from Ascilite: http://www.ascilite2012.org/images/custom/de_byl,_penny_-_can_digital.pdf

Deterding, S. (2011, January 24). Meaningful play: Getting gamification right. Retrieved May 22, 2013, from Google Tech Talks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZGCPap7GkY

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: Game-based methods and strategies for training and education. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

My Gamification Attempt: The HP 8300 Elite

Here it is.

This is it.

As part of my learning action plan for my CSU course (EMT501), I want to research and apply the concept of gamification in my work as a Learning Technologies Coordinator. My proposal initially indicated that I would attempt to gamify a technology workshop or resource that I would facilitate or use in supporting the professional development of teachers. The actual subject or piece of technology was to be determined at a later date once I had a better idea on the topics and resources that I would be supporting in the fall of 2013.

Well that time has come and I have decided to gamify the support and training surrounding the release of a new piece of PC hardware that will soon be available to our schools for purchase. It is the HP 8300 Elite All-In-One Personal Computer (PC)!

What? Why?

I chose this particular technology because of the circumstances surrounding its upcoming availability for schools around our district.

– All schools will have a chance to get hands-on time with this PC

– This particular PC is the first touchscreen PC available to schools and classrooms

– This is the first PC that comes in an All-In-One form factor

– This PC will be the first to usher in the Windows 8 platform into our schools

Needless to say, the new features in both hardware and software will require supporting teachers and students in its use to support learning. More specifically, this is the opportunity for us to begin rethinking how schools envision the use of PCs in the school. We want to move forward from the commonly held concept that the personal computer is simply a one-to-one, media consumption device. With a large touchscreen that can handle up to 10 points of touch and an operating system that is designed for a touch interface, the All-In-One presents the opportunity to create a centre of learning where groups of students can collaborate and create together. This concept echoes the research and work of Sugata Mitra surrounding his concept of the Self Organized Learning Environment (SOLE).

OK, Now What?

Early in these stages of planning, I am still unsure as to what this gamified learning experience will look like. I am beginning to work through Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken and I must admit I am left with more questions than answers. I am struggling with the definition and difference between the terms “game” and “gamification”. In trying to envision a gamified learning experience, I am trying to move beyond simply offering badges or rewards to help motivate teachers to engage in the professional development surrounding the HP 8300 Elite All-In-One computer. In trying to implement McGonigal’s gaming concepts of challenge and feedback (McGonigal, 2011), I am concerned in having gaming mechanisms that may serve to distract rather than enhance the learning environment. Is this an indication that I am still in need of more research and information or am I simply getting cold feet?

K. Takahashi

 

References

McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken; Why games make us better and how they can change the world. New York: The Penguin Press.

Mitra, S. (2010, September 7). TEDTalks. Retrieved August 17, 2013, from YouTube: http://youtu.be/dk60sYrU2RU