Creating New Spaces for Students and Teachers to Learn.

The last couple of weeks have seen me working with my students on reflections on their teaching journey and the learning of their students. I am also reflecting on a range of aspects of my study as it emerges, and what I want to address in my learning journey. So it is probably no surprise to you that I’m a big fan of reflective practice.  Here is a reflection on reflective practice by an Australian educator…A PLPeep’s reflection from the Australia Community | Powerful Learning Practice. I did find it a while ago, but it still resonates with me. So have a read, then pop back here…I’ll wait for you 😀

Ok, so now you are back…what did you think? I like to think of the challenges that pop up on any learning journey as an opportunity. I also liked her lines: “Learning is the trips, stumbles and falls on the journey not the arrival at the destination.” and ” Student voice is powerful“, these are two ‘mantras’ all beginning teachers should have, and things we need to model and instill in our students also. Perhaps what I like most about the blog above is the honesty, we can see the shift in Margo’s thoughts about what the best PD is and what it really means to ‘learn’.

At this point in my journey I know how lucky I am to have this time and space to research and reflect upon education; my own (past and present), my WH’s and my sons’ (LT), and even that of my current students (young and old). I have blogged before on games, play, blogging with students and how they can be used as, of and for learning. These are all examples of things that I think are simple tools that can wield great power for students to start to build the skills they will need for their future, whatever it may hold.

Here is a link to a school in the US that has taken up this challenge. They have designed real curriculum (meets their state mandated curriculum) around World of Warcraft. It also has a you-tube of the students talking about their experiences in this class. I was excited to read and see the range of skills the students have developed by being involved in this unit, beyond just being engaged and motivated to research. The skills students have experienced include being active in an immersive world, collaboration with students in their class and students beyond, working at their own pace and challenging themselves too. Their teachers have successfully merged an online game and mandated curriculum. Most of all, they (students and teachers) have had FUN…they have enjoyed their learning experience and they want more!

This is what excites me about the future of education…it is an adventure in itself.

Fiona T

Family fun: Civiliazation 5

We have had the Civilization game for approx 2 Weeks. WH and LT have been playing at any opportunity. LT is now insisting on giving me lessons in how to play (he might even let me touch the mouse soon! LOL).

The first game LT played was very much exploratory, with WH as the guide on the side, his advice being mostly ignored as LT clicked and traded and tried out different moves. In the last few days LT has come to understand many things, including that the map he uses has real cities on it (though many are in the wrong places), and that the people/leaders of the cities were real people. This has excited him so much. The other major excitement was when he leveled up to his first Golden Age, this jubilation involved many high fives and hugs. While I still have little understanding of what this achievement actually entails, I do know just from his reaction that it is a big deal. This has flowed on to him wanting me to play too, and he has set up a game for me and is patiently showing me how to play.

WH has also reflected on how LT is playing this game. He commented that LT is more likely to trade with others, than to attack and try to take their land. LT has also found some other menus and diagrams that help give different visions of the game and it’s goals, WH was very surprised as he hadn’t found them yet!

Much of LT’s self talk while he plays is gorgeous too…he chats to the characters eg: ‘that’s not very nice, he is attacking me’, ‘these little guys are going to make a farm’, ‘yay, we got animal husbandry’ and ‘we can trade with London and we are friends’. LT is also very conscious of ‘liberty’ and this is a value he encouraged me to pursue  from the beginning of ‘my’ game. I have also noticed that the reading skills he is developing at school are transferring to sounding out the names and cities he is unfamiliar with.

LT’s other great love is still ‘gamestar mechanic’, and he has leveled up and entered his first competition. While his work didn’t exactly take in to account all the competition criteria, he loved having the focused task and was again very proud of himself when he had finished his game and submitted it. He has rung and told relatives that he has ‘done his first entry’ and is still excited about it days later.

In terms of learning, there is a lot going on here. I am excited about the wider world knowledge that is being developed, and more than that the general approach to learning and life my son is showing. He is excited about being active in producing games to show others. He is eager to show and teach others what he has learned. He is not frustrated by ‘not knowing’ how to use something new, and will happily play and explore to figure out how he wants to use it. He has confidence in his ability to ‘figure out’ what he can and looks for help files and tutorials (and yes, you-tubes too). He will also ask for help from us when he needs it.

In terms of Gaming theory (my area of current reading) the games we are presenting to him have engaged him because they allow him these spaces to learn. He is exploring and achieving in increments, operating at his zone of proximal development and getting constant feedback on his progress. He plays because it is fun and rewarding, the effort he puts in is rewarded within the game space. Failure doesn’t really factor in to these games, there is a focus on doing it better next time, and not on winning and losing.

The mere fact that LT, who is 6, can play and achieve the goals set, show his learning across many different areas and teach and show others how to play and level up suggests to me that digital natives are more willing to explore, try new things and find ways to succeed, instead of giving up at the first obstacle.  These are definitely characteristics I want all of my students to develop.

Until next week,

Fiona T

Teaching isn’t about test scores.

Today’s Blog is a little late, as we were away from our usual internet connection and 130kms from home visiting family.

While taking some time out this weekend I was reflecting on blogs I have recently read. This one below, from an American Teacher, reflects on the multitude of roles a teacher takes on. It is  a nice article about the broader ideas of teaching and learning, the global citizen aspect and what a teacher has ‘gained’ from this. Teaching is not always about test scores, it is about nurturing and challenging young people to be their best. It highlights the rewards and adventures of working with students, who shape you as a person as much as you shape them. Have a read, feel free to share your reflections in my comments below.

Teaching is Beyond the Classroom | Bucket List Publications.

Until next week,



Digital Games and Building: Gamestar Mechanic and Eden World builder

We are a bit of a ‘techno geek’ family. We love technology and gaming. We love to play, but all play games differently, WH is more about the score and winning, I just want to do the best I can in the time available (story of my life really!) and LT shows sides of us both (poor kid!). My study is around Games and Learning, and this week I have been focusing on ‘play’ in my reading. Coincidentally, around 10 days ago we accessed ‘Gamestar Mechanic‘ for the first time. LT (who is now 6) and I have been playing and working on this together, but it has been mostly driven by LT.

Very briefly, Gamestar mechanic is an online game that also teaches about the prinicples of game design, it is produced by The Institute of Play.  You can play for free (there is a premium paid version too), and while LT needs some help with the tricky end parts of the levels, he is getting much better at planning his strategy and moves. He has really loved building his own games and is eager to level up so he can unlock further features to build his games with. He can’t get enough of it, and in this short time has levelled up and has only 20% of the ‘game’ component left. He is excited about collecting the last few avatars and creating more games to share in the arcade. He has also written a little book to present to his class about Gamestar mechanic, he is so excited to share this amazing creative space.

Last night we downloaded a chicken ninja game for the android, and it was nice to be playing this with LT and pointing out the features of ‘good game design’ that built the game from level 1, like making clear goals, allowing replay of levels until mastery, slowly building up a number of different moves/skills to clear a level etc.  It also helped to solidify in my mind what I have known sub-conciously as a teacher for years: making explicit connection between different learning spaces helps students to understand and make these links for themselves. We need to teach students to look for the links in the world around them to help them make sense of life. Teaching is not a random process, it is planned and scaffolded by teachers to create meaningful opportunities for learning and understanding. It is this scaffolding that is done so clearly in Gamestar Mechanic, to make it a valuable online learning environment to help create savvy gamers. Here is a link to a You-tube about Katie Salen and the Quest 2 Learn school, where the entire curriculum is designed around game principles and scaffolding life long learners.

I had also been meaning to check out minecraft, as it has been recommended to me for a while now, so LT and I took some time to have a look at this through the week too. However I couldn’t find a free version of it, or a trial version for that matter,  so this was a short lived venture.

I was reminded this week by some students I work with about ‘Eden-World builder‘ for the i-pad. There is no online version/free version I could find, so we did pay 0.99c  for it for the i-pod. It allows you to build worlds, much like I envision minecraft to does (but I may be wrong…) LT has played with this a little too, and has so far built numerous TNT towers to explode! (boys will be boys…). We have yet to explore this in depth together, but I am excited by the possibilities.It will provide opportunities for us to explore forums and help features to learn about the ‘game’. It is a different space to work in to Gamestar Mechanic, and I’m sure we will have fun exploring how this work and talking about the different environments.

WH is excited about exploring the ‘Civilization‘ and seeing what this has to offer too, from our reading it is quite powerful for learning about history, politics and economics…so I’m sure you will hear about our adventures in a future blog!

What games/spaces for learning in the digital world do you use?

Until next week, may all your games be fun!

Fiona T

Evernote story at MKA | edSocialMedia

Evernote story at MKA | edSocialMedia.

It is no secret that I love Evernote! Here is just a quick snippet post to show how one school uses Evernote to support learning and teaching in it’s school. It is a way of giving both students and teachers a way to keep track of work and developing ideas. It supports collaboration and the use of photos and audio files to track learning. I see it as a step towards supporting 21st Century learners, regardless of age, to work ‘smarter, not harder’.

How would Evernote improve learning and teaching in your school? How could it help stream line your personal life and organisation?

Fiona T

Teaching our future citizens: Engage Me! – YouTube

The link Engage Me! – YouTube gives voice to children at school today. They express their desire to learn and be challenged using the tools available to them, both in and outside the classroom. I have seen a similar you-tube, but with tertiary students as the focus.

I have been thinking deeply on the goals stated by the children, they resonate with me as I am ploughing through marking assignments and talking with teachers and student teachers about providing unique learning opportunities and personalising the learning for every student in our care. I hope this video stimulates your own thoughts and perhaps even create a discussion about catering for the learning needs of our digital natives.







Experiential Learning

This week had me lecturing and also in the audience of a colleagues lecture and for student teacher reflections. One resounding point that I came back to over the course of these opportunities was: Students can’t be expected to learn that which they haven’t experienced.

Children are learning all the time, both in and out of school. They learn from teachers, friends, parents and the new technologies and media they are surrounded by. Even the shows presented to children these days have changed, they are no longer limited to colourful and fanciful stories, they almost all contain puzzles and games and invite children to a participant in the story. For example “Sesame Street” and “Guess with Jess” all have a variety of elements that challenge children to think about the world around them and how to solve problems within their own world.  Have a look at the sites linked and the videos and games provided, there are quite a variety of games at these sites that challenge children to think about the world around them.

In my Colleagues lecture she reflected upon her grandson, now two, who since 6 months of age has been pressing buttons. Anything round  and ‘button’ like, he will press to see what it does, he is often rewarded with lights, music, or some other effect. Sometimes nothing happens, like when he presses a knot in a paling of wood. Still he is aware that, more often than not, buttons do great things, and by pressing them, he can control the world around him. He is actively experiencing the world around him. Given an I-phone he is able to find and play games too. He reminds me of my son, LT who from the time he was approx 18 months he could type on a keyboard to get his favourite game sites up, including Pocoyo, nick jnr and Starfall. He could also operate our DVD player and the three remotes needed to get it to play his DVDs…but that’s a sideline. My point remains, if these children had been told “no” and “don’t touch that” they would not be able to do any of these things, as we had not allowed them the opportunity.  Children can only learn about the worlds in so far as they are allowed to experience it.

I remember sitting with another parent when our children were barely one year old. We were chatting and showing the toddlers books. I invited the toddlers to feel the page of the book (it was fuzzy) and the other mum was surprised when LT immediately reached to stroke the page, then sat back again. Her child didn’t move. The mum said that she had never thought to do that, she had assumed her child might rip or wreck the book. I replied that we had lots of ripped, chewed and well loved books at home, but they were all those belonging to my son. He no longer chewed books, he had passed this stage, and now touching books was a part of his book experience. In reflecting on this now I can see that sometimes our fear of what our children may experience (hurt, illness, failure) might stop us from encouraging them to try new things. I really don’t want my child to fear failure, or the world around him. So I try to keep in mind how I can help him rather than wrap him up in cotton wool. He needs experiences to develop as a learner and a person.

As a teacher and a parent I am constantly trying to scaffold and provide opportunities for students and my child to experience new things and master new ways of thinking about the world.  I am aware that many children today are entering preschool with an understanding of new technologies and how to manipulate them. There are a large number of these children who will be ‘digital natives’, using technology easily in many aspects of their lives (LT is currently playing words with friends, he also knows to google things he is not sure of, or look on you-tube to help solve levels of the video games he plays).

If someone doesn’t know something, or how to do something, then it is obviously because they haven’t experienced it yet. How might you help them experience this new thing?

Until next week

Fiona T



Games and Learning

This week has been exciting on a number of fronts. I have been writing my Expression of Interest for my PhD application and getting paper work in order. I have also been working with a friend of mine on a lecture about games, ICT and learning for a tertiary lecture. I have heard back from an international conference that I will be involved in. And on Friday I finally got to use ‘Elluminate’ and join 11 others for an international meeting in relation to Games and Learning. It has brought to light something I have been mulling over in my mind for a long time: how can you learn to use something if you are never given the opportunity?

“Elluminate” has been around for a while, I have known about it for at least a year but haven’t had the opportunity to use it. Until this week. The Games and Learning meeting was based in the UK, it was scheduled for 10am their time so worked out to 7pm here in Australia. The previous meeting was very late at night, something I couldn’t commit to with my family at this stage. So I was excited to finally be able to join in and hear what is happening in this group. I logged into the meeting 15 minutes early, followed the prompts to set up my microphone and then sat looking at the screen. My WH was explaining the finer points (he has used it for the last few years at work) and then someone else joined the room. Instead of talking she started drawing on the ‘board’…naughts and crosses, so I found a pen tool and started playing. As more people joined we played paddocks too. What a way to start, relaxed and fun.  Once the meeting started we all got a chance to talk and introduce ourselves. It was great to hear from people with similar interests in education and games. The great thing for me was I was able to use “elluminate” confidently by the end of this meeting.  If I hadn’t had this opportunity (and this friendly environment) I would still be waiting for a time to find out about this program. And without this program and technology, I wouldn’t have this network of kindered spirits opening up before me.

I look around at my tertiary students, mostly confident with technology, and then at the children coming through schools. These students will be digital natives, those with no concept of life without technology and the connectedness it offers. Then I am frustrated by hearing management in some schools refusing to support their teachers and their students to use the technology available to allow our students opportunities to grow and shine (eg some schools not allowing junior primary students to access computers other than for literacy use, or funding, tagged for technology, spent on grounds maintenance instead of things like electronic white boards). As a teacher I firmly believe it is our job to provide students with opportunities to experience the world in many ways, but if we are limited in our resources this is a difficult task. I am reminded of the points from my post last week, especially Sugata Mitra’s work: if given the opportunity children (and teachers) are capable of amazing things.

Teacher or parent: How will you encourage your kids to shine?

Until Next Week



Past Posts

May 2021
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