Monthly Archives: February 2015

Cameras and Kindergartens

IMG_0036Today I learned a valuable lesson: if you want to see what your students see, give them a camera. Today we went outside and took the school iPads with us to photograph what we see. I am truly awed by the images some of my students took, and I am laughing at some of the videos they filmed. I can’t post the videos on here, but let me tell you, I have some funny kids in this class. I didn’t help them with the images and none of them are edited. These are simply the things my students saw through the lens today. It has inspired me. Enjoy.

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Failure Is Not An Option

Kranz at his Console

ConsoleKranz” by NASA Licensed under Public Domain

“Failure is NOT an option” is a phrase I remember from my teen years. The movie Apollo 13 came out in 1995, two years before I would graduate from high school. Hearing Gene Kranz, played brilliantly by Ed Harris, utter those words stuck with me. (To be fair, the phrase was written for the move; Kranz admits he never said it.)  At the time, I was preparing for entrance into University, I was determined and I had been conditioned to believe that failure was a shameful thing. Fast forward a couple of decades, and I still struggle with the idea of failure. I love the new acronyms being posted online for the word FAIL; First Attempt At Learning is probably my favourite one. I, however, haven’t managed to master that mindset.

In the middle of February, Tiegrad classmate, Jake Main did something I found incredibly brave. He admitted that he was overwhelmed. He put into words, the feelings that I have been struggling with since the end of January.  I had decided to take up a MOOC this semester as a learning project for EDCI 569. The MOOC itself is one about MInecraft for Educators. What I have found time to read and learn about MIneccraft has been interesting and educational, but I realized by the end of week 2, that all of my time was going into MInecraft. That is not my focus right now. I was spending the time allotted for 569 and 515 (my courses for the term) reading Minecraft, watching videos on Minecraft and trying to keep up with the conversations and community on the MOOC. When I got sick in January, I realized something fundamentally important. I simply cannot do all of this.

I ran away instead of facing my overwhelming feelings that I was a failure. I started watching Star Trek: TNG during my illness, and I continued to escape into that for at least an hour every evening. I started to play my absolute favourite computer game, SIMS 3, again. I escaped the overwhelming reality by running away into “happy places” and then had pangs of guilt later for not dealing with my reality. I even considered dropping out of the MEd program so that I could go back to a reality where I didn’t feel confused, lost and overwhelmed. My classroom became, for those 2 weeks in February, the only place I felt in control. Then I had THE day. As a Type 1 Diabetic, everything exploded. My blood sugars had a 24 hour period fo rampant 20’s. They should be between 4-10. I had high ketones, a condition called ketoacidosis was close to occurring. I “woke” up when my endocrinologist called with real concern for my readings.  My body was telling me something: Get It Together!

I’ve taken a week to really think about what I am doing and where I am at. I am not willing to drop out. I have worked too hard, made too many sacrifices and am enjoying the learning and camaraderie of my tiegrad cohort. But I am, despite the online presence of friends and the supportive words of my IRL friends, doing this on my own. I have no family to support me in my efforts, and I have to take care of myself first. SO I am dropping the MOOC, and I am releasing the guilt I feel and the sense of failure. I hope to take it again, when I have time to really investigate Minecraft and what can be done with it in a educational setting. I made a commitment to myself on August 20, 2014 and I’ve decided to recommit myself here. My Personal Learning Journey had begun before EDCI 569 started, but I was too scared to share it here with the people who I know will treat me gently. I know now that I need to share it here. I need to let my cohort into this part of my life see the other side of who I am. It’s not a FItbit journey, nor a meditative one, and it isn’t one about healthy eating. It’s my life journey.  My skill I’m learning isn’t just for 569, it’s for my life. So my new tag and my new category will be #Liane’sLife. I suppose the title could be: How Failure Became a Search for Balance. I hope you can help on my journey.

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That Prickly Tech Feeling

Tonight I spent an hour of my evening, as I often do, engaged in the Kinderchat conversation. Tonight we were discussing Google in the Classroom. It was a quieter chat for me. I didn’t engage as much as usual, and the evening chat left me with that itchy, prickly feeling like Leonard’s sweater from a Big Bang Theory episode. (The Itchy Brain Simulation) It took a bit of DMing a couple of friends to work out that prickly feeling.

There was a great deal of conversation at first about teachers using Google to collaborate with other teachers, parents and admin. I don’t have any problem with that. I love using Google with my tiegrad classmates and friends to communicate, share and do projects together, If I had parents who were willing to share their email address with the school, I would gladly start up a gmail account and Google calendar for the class.Some of the things that people were discussing were fabulous and noteworthy. My itchy sweater feeling wasn’t coming from there.

Then the discussion started to veer into how we as educators use Google and the Google Apps with the Kindergarten kids. Again, I think there are some great features within Google to use with the littles. We look for the provinces, states and towns where our twitter friends are on Google Maps. We search out places we want to travel to and places we are from on the map app. It is a great adventure for my kids to see the world spinning and to see how the other side of our planet is dark while we are sunny. So cool when you are 5 (or 41). We use Google images A LOT. Whenever we are not sure about some information or what something may look like, the cry is roused by small voices, “We should Google that!” and we often do. Google images has some amazing visuals for kids and I don’t want to stifle anyone’s passion for using Google in the kindergarten classroom.  But, when I hear of quizzes being made for and marked on Kinders in Google Sheets and the workbooks being made in Google Slides, it does makes me cringe. But again, the itchy sweater isn’t coming from there either.

Kinderchat talks a lot about issues close to our hearts. Two of my issues, play and the natural world, are topics we cover in the 8 week cycle of chat topics. My friends, Mardelle and Amy, really helped me to identify the itchy sweater tonight. When we talk about PLAY in the kindergarten classroom, there are many people who express why they aren’t able to play in the classroom: School regulations, testing, Common Core, and more. We try to provide advice, research and help for those who are advocating for play in their classes. During the NATURE chats, there are people expressing why they can’t take kids outside for play: there are no green spaces, school regulations, outdoor play is seen as unimportant and more. Again, support is provided and advice is given to those who need it.  But when the topic of technology comes up, there seems to be very little “I can’t” in the chat.  Tonight, a debate started over typing vs printing. Is typing important? Probably. Is it important to the fine motor muscles of a 4 or 5 year old? I would say no. Kinderchat co-creator Amy happened to have the research to show supporting her “teach printing” belief, and I am thankful for that. Somehow my “because my gut says so” defence seemed to lack something in the debate. But when I watch the finger muscle development of my students as they work with clay and plasticene, as they try to manipulate chopsticks this week, I know in my heart of heart, that they are not ready for typing in Kindergarten. Mardelle asked me a question that really defined my itchy sweater: “Why is tech such an easy sell when play, and being outside, is such a tough one?” The more research I read about anxiety and stress in young children, the more I wonder why we aren’t outside every single day. I am absolutely not against tech with the littles. It has it’s place in the school classroom and the natural classroom. But if it is simply becoming another workbook, worksheet, or flashcard tool, then we are not considering what is developmentally appropriate for the age. If we are willing to jump into technology with 2 feet, shouldn’t we be jumping into play and nature with our everything? I think you know where I stand. What do you think?

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Once Upon A Time…

Last week, Alan Levine (@cogdog) visited our merry group of tiegrad classmates. Although he has been mentioned in other classes, finding the time to seek out information on him or connect to the DS106 site was on the list of things to do when I had time again. In my mind, the very idea of digital storytelling seemed like something for the middle school or high school teachers in the crowd.

The Monday before Alan visited, I began a unit on folk tales in my Kindergarten classroom. In one week we focus on one story and the different versions. We act them out in little plays, use puppets, dolls, story cards and pictures to retell them. We practice the oral tradition of telling them to each other and to visitors in our room. The kids want to tell these stories and I always find it gives them that first taste of understanding that their words can be written down to tell their own stories. Oh, and did I mention that these stories grow and change beautifully. Our poor ELL teacher and principal have both been eaten by the Big Bad Wolf, but I remain safe, in the brick house.

What I realized as I participated in Alan’s pechaflickr experience, was that storytelling somehow becomes this programmed piece as students get older. What begins in Kindergarten as a game, as a fun, imaginative activity, somehow becomes a formulaic story with the”beginning, middle and end” sections. I remember teaching storytelling this way, because I had been taught to teach it this way. Somehow, we lose that ability to go a little wild and crazy as we tell a story. I think about our idea of education being an inquiry, and isn’t the story part of that inquiry? Sharing what you think or see, wonder and explore. The trials and tribulations of creating a car slide from toilet paper rolls and tape becomes a narrative on the dangers of tape being stuck in your hair and the frustration of getting those blasted tubes to bend properly. I am always saying to my students, “tell me the story of what you are doing? Tell me your story.”

What I really took from listening and participating in Alan’s chat was that I need to find a way for these 5 year olds to tell their stories in a digital sense. My kids deserve the opportunity to record their ideas and stories so that they have a record of their inquiry and development, beyond the photograph or the documentation panel. Looking through the amazing assignments and projects on DS106 was inspiring, and had me looking at the ipads at school to see what we could do and how we could use them to tell our stories. Don’t be surprised if you see some interesting folk tales coming your way.

I’m not sure that I am fully prepared to use pechaflickr or the Five Card Flickr activities with my students. I still have a healthy dose of fear over “inappropriate” photos showing up. I think I can figure out a compromise though. We play similar games with calendar photos and loose treasures from the treasure baskets in the room, but maybe it’s time to bring a little bit of digital into the story play.

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Speaking Minecraft

Once again, I feel the need to explain myself pre-post. I had no clue what I was getting into. Most of the terms I heard in my MCE course today were slightly foreign. Servers, LAN hosts, Plug-Ins, Mods and more-OH MY! This truly is one of those posts written simply for my own clarification, and if it helps someone else, I am glad!

SERVERS: A computer that hosts Minecraft worlds for Multiplayer games. Defined by instructor as “software living on a computer”. It can be any computer, anywhere in the real world, not the Minecraft world.

There are 4 different ways to host a game for Minecraft:

LAN A single player game person can go to the menu and open their game to a Local Area Network. The computer (and the MC world on it) is now open to people who are on the same Wi-Fi. If you have 18 kids on iPads in the classroom, one of them can host the game so all the kids in that room play together. Lag time in the game becomes an issue if you do it this way.
Localhost The server software is on a computer, and the game players connect to that server on that computer. If it was on my laptop, I can still play the game on that computer while allowing others access to the world.  If I host a server, it allows me greater access to mods, plug-ins and more. Others connect to this game through an IP address. If you do not have a static IP address, people have to enter it every time they play.
LAN Host This is how Minecraft EDU is set up. There is a computer, somewhere in the building (perhaps in the server room) which is dedicated to running MC. This reduces load on the PC, as you are not playing and hosting, and it reduces lag time in the game. Students probably couldn’t do MC assignments at home as they wouldn’t have access to the server. However, it does protect the world and players from “outside world” players.
Cloud This is one of the more “powerful” ways to host a MC server as you pay for someone to host. They put aside space in their server for your game. You still have control of the world and can change it up, but a company has invested in the right type of server which tends to make it “robust”. This method is safe and durable, but it might not work in school settings with FOIPPA.

Server Types

Vanilla

  • Straightforward
  • Downloaded from minecraft.net
  • Basic gameplay server

Bukikit

  • Customizable gameplay
  • Can add in plug-ins, mods, protections
  • No longer in service due to US copyright laws.
  • SpigotMC.info has replaced it by stripping the illegal code and reconfiguring it
  • Not official Minecraft

Forge

  • Functionality of Bukkit
  • Minecraft EDU uses Forge
  • On the website, use 1.7.10 as recommended version

Plug-Ins

Server Side Plug-Ins

-give the server host control of areas, actions and objects

-affect everyone in the game on that server

Client Side Plug-Ins

-mods (modifications)

-each player can make a mod to his/her MC version on their computer

-does not affect game play of all

Interestingly, a host can use a Server Side Plug In to block a cheat mod such as X-Ray for all players by putting a “BLOCK X-RAY” plug in. As host you can put in protected areas in the world, and as a player, you can add a mod that others may not have.

 

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