Thursday, May 25, 2017

Overcoming Classroom Distraction & Passivity using Gamification, Part One - Theory

Overcoming Classroom Distraction & Passivity using Gamification: Part One, Theory

What do we mean by “the distracted student”?

A couple months ago, I read an article/review by James M. Lang in The Chronicle of Higher Education, titled “The Distracted Classroom.” Lang’s piece was responding to the publication of a new study called The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World (MIT 2016) written by neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley and psychologist Larry D. Rosen. I have since purchased the book and will be reading it thoroughly in June (Yay, summer reading!). Lang sums up one of the important points of the work stating, “Distraction occurs… when we are pursuing a goal that really matters and something blocks our efforts to achieve it” (Lang). In other words, distraction is not due to a refusal or inability of the student to stay focused on a goal, but instead, it is the result of a situation where one is being prevented from staying committed to a goal that otherwise the student would find important and worthwhile to pursue. It’s not like “the distracted student” lacks the capability to stay focused; instead, something is preventing them from focusing on that which they desire to learn about. The point made the author stop to think about a certain student whose surreptitious cell phone usage was preventing her from fully engaging in the class. He writes, "[W]hen I reconsidered the experience through the lens provided by Gazzaley and Rosen, a new set of questions began to emerge: What goal had I established for [the distracted student’s] learning that day? How had I created an environment that supported her ability to achieve that goal? And perhaps most important – assuming that the class had a learning goal that mattered for her – did she know about it?” (Lang). The crux of the matter for Lang goes something like this: “The more powerful the goals we establish for ourselves, and the more we feel ownership over these goals, the more we are able to pursue them in the face of both internal and external distractions” (Lang).

I've been reflecting upon this idea (here as well as in the next post) in the context of a project I organized for the last 6 weeks of the 2016/2017 school year. It was a unit on a book that, quite frankly, can be flat-out boring for the average teenage reader: namely, Charles Dickens’s Hard Times. Some English instructors would probably encourage me to drop the text from the curriculum due to its difficulty, lack of excitement, and overall drudgery. However, I do disagree with such an assessment; I think the novel is a beautiful character study full of profoundly poetic passages, but I don’t deny the fact that most teenagers might disagree (and I have to be honest about that). So the challenge was clear: How does one make Hard Times a goal that is “powerful” enough to matter to teenagers? How do I provide an experience where students have ownership over the learning? How do I avoid making Hard Times that thing that’s getting in the way of other goals that felt more important to them?

Gaming

In his book, Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture (University of Minnesota 2008), Alexander Galloway writes, “If photographs are images, and films are moving images, then games are actions… [O]ne takes a photograph, one acts in a film. But these actions transpire before or during the fabrication of the work… With games, the work itself is material action… What used to be the act of reading [or looking] is now the act of doing” (2-3). In recent years, much has been written about the connection between gamification in the classroom and higher levels of motivation among students. Perhaps one reason for the connection is best explained by Galloway’s point. Students today live in a world ripe with opportunities to change, manipulate, and hack its contents: from Google Docs to gene manipulation to climate change, the world interacts with us, thereby beckoning us to act, but if our classrooms don’t make room for these kinds of improvisatory interactions and interventions, how authentic will the learning feel to those who are involved? Will the goals of the class be ones that capture their attention? Or will the students establish contrary aims and therefore be “distracted”? Jeffrey T. Nealon describes our culture in a similar way when he references current science: “In recent biological research, life itself is no longer primarily understood on the genomic analogy of the book (where life contains a hidden code, requiring the scientist’s interpretation), but on a model of the microscopic or molecular, the smallest particles that might be manipulated by researchers… One might say that contemporary biology is not merely interested in interpreting genes, but in changing them” (147-148). What used to be the age of interpretation is now replaced by one of manipulation, but what might this mean for pedagogy?

One answer might go like this:

-From Understanding to Manipulating: Curriculum needs to demand more than understanding of content: it needs to invite the learner to manipulate the curriculum in question.
-From Meaning to Usage: Students not only need to construct meaning when learning; they need to make use of what they study, molding its contents to their individualized path of action.
-From (Reader) Response to Play: Students need to do more than respond to curricular content; they need to subject it to play, improvisation, and experimentation.

Galloway, in the work cited above, makes a pretty convincing case that video games are the medium par excellence for the shifts in culture being described by Nealon, in his book, Post-postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Just-In-Time Capitalism (Stanford University Press 2012). With this in mind, I recognized what a drag Dickens’s novel had become for my recent students, which inspired me to try something new: a gamified, choose-your-own-adventure learning journey that focused on Dickens's novel. This time around, I wanted students to have more choice, ownership, and a greater sense of mastery, while increasing their levels of engagement with a challenging, canonical text. I wanted it to be a worthwhile goal for a 21st century teenager. To do that, I had to invite the students into the world of the novel (as a character!), as well as involve them in the process of mapping their personalized learning. Students needed to be less passive and more active when it came to the domain of setting their learning goals. As Alexander Galloway puts it, “What used to be primarily the domain of eyes and looking is now more likely that of muscles and doing, thumbs, to be sure…” (3). Simply put, the students needed a meaningful (and digitalcall to action. 

From Postmodernism to Digimodernism

Plenty has been written over the past decade about the decline of Postmodernism as a useful framework for understanding our contemporary times (see Jeffrey Nealon, Alan Kirby, Gilles Lipovetsky, & Raoul Eshelman). Alan Kirby employs the nomenclature, Digimodernism, to distinguish our time period's differences from the classic notion of Postmodernism, which he does by emphasizing both the manual and technological nature of human culture in the 21st century. He writes, “Postmodernism ‘is essentially a visual culture,’ but… Digimodernism favors the optical only in conjunction with the manual/digital… [T]he figure of the computer game player, fingers and thumbs frenetically pushing on the keypad so as to shift a persona through a developing, mutating narrative landscape, engaging with a textuality that s/he physically brings – to a degree – into existence,…” (166, 168). If Postmodernism was a culture of “overcoding” (as Fredric Jameson would put it) where we as recipients have the task of interpreting the layers of meaning, then Digimodernism expands a person’s horizons of possibility to include paths of action for manipulating the code in play. And this is the challenge when having students encounter an older text like Dickens’s Hard Times: How do we bring the experiences of their Digimodernist worldhood to scenarios that involve mostly traditional curricular content? In my case, the answer was to reorganize the curricular experience by gamifying it, both in terms of structure and content.

Gamification

I believe that, whatever the experience we create or design as teachers, students have to be a participatory player whose actions have impact upon the process when it comes to planning and mapping the learning. Gamification, in this case, provided opportunities for students to manipulate, differentiate, and hack the process in 2 distinct ways - namely, in terms of the project's structure and in terms of its content:

1. Structural Elements of Gamification (what Alexander Galloway calls "Non-Diegetic elements"): XP grading, Self-pacing, Choice & Nonlinearity, Leveling up & Mastery, Failure meaning "try again"

2. Content Elements of Gamification (what Galloway calls "Diegetic elements"): Avatars/Player-characters, Game narrative, etc.

Karl Kapp, in his article "Two Types of #Gamification," defines the two above categories as follows:

Structural Gamification is the application of game-elements to propel a learner through content with no alteration or changes to the content itself. The content does not become game-like, only the structure around the content. The primary focus behind this type of gamification is to motivate the learner to go through the content and to engage them in the process of learning through rewards.

Content Gamification is the application of game elements and game thinking to alter content to make it more game-like. For example, adding story elements to a compliance course or starting a course with a challenge instead of a list of objectives are both methods of content gamification. 


In previous posts, I've sung the praises of structurally gamifying one's course (go here and here), but what really gets me excited lately is what Content Gamification can add to a student's learning experience. Students live in an action-based world that is full of opportunities to manipulate its contents, and I believe Content Gamification can be a way to invite students into the worldhood of what they're being asked to study, such that they interact with, alter, and manipulate the curricular material in question. (A big shout out to Gary Nied at Cistercian for getting me to think about this; he does similar work with his students at Cistercian.)

So this is where I started when designing the Hard Times game I called "Adventures in Coketown" (yes, the students snickered when they heard the game title...). Just like I've done in the past, I structurally gamified the unit, which could be summed up by game's following rules:
  • Grading will be different: You do not start with 100% average; instead, everyone begins with ZERO XP points.
  • There are no due dates for particular assignments; instead, you have 6 weeks to earn as many XP points as you can.
  • There are 5 levels, and you have access to level one. Earn XP points to level up and beat the game.
  • Each assignment is worth a certain amount of XP points. To earn the points, you must master the assignment (no mistakes); there is no partial credit. You may try to master an assignment as many times as it takes. Failure simply means try again.
  • There is no 1 way to earn an A; one simply needs to earn enough XP points at the end of the 6 week unit.
  • There are smaller, "grind" assignments that you may complete anytime to earn more points
  • Each level also has certain required assignments that must be completed to make it to the next level.
In terms of embedding skills and content into the scaled levels, it looked something like this:
  • Level Zero: Introducing Dickens, Industrial Revolution, and other key concepts; Practicing research & documentation
  • Level One: Chapters 1-9 of Book 1st; Practicing character and theme analysis; Body paragraph composition; Expanding vocabulary
  • Level Two: Chapters 10-16 of Book 1st; Practicing character and theme analysis; Body paragraph composition; Expanding vocabulary
  • Level Three: Chapters 1-6 of Book 2nd; Practicing character and theme analysis; Thesis statement composition; Expanding vocabulary
  • Level Four: Chapters 7-12 of Book 2nd; Practicing style analysis; Defining and learning literary terms & devices
  • Level Five: All chapters of Book 3rd; Practicing style analysis; Constructing argument (logos, pathos, ethos); Practicing empathy; Evaluating theme and character 
The major development for me, however, was writing a "game narrative" and inviting the students to become a character in the world of the novel. The basic premise went something like this: 

You are a French sociologist who recently graduated from the Ă‰cole Polytechnique where you studied under the famous Positivist, August Comte. Your career's research thus far focused on one important question: What is the secret to human happiness? And you've been researching societies in the northern region of France where there has been a tremendous amount of social change due to the developments of the Industrial Revolution. However, you soon find out that your former professor has mysteriously disappeared, and you suspect that it has something to do with the secret war that's been spreading across Europe, battling for the hearts and minds of all citizens, namely the war between the Friends of Fancy and the Philosophes of Fact. Finally, the conflict arrives at your front doorstep in Nancy, France when you receive a cryptic telegram asking you to travel to Coketown in northern England to help "a friend in need." Of course, you agree to go as it will afford you the chance to study England's industrial transformation as well as opportunities to meet the likes of Friedrich Engels and John Stuart Mill. Thus begins your journey called "Adventures in Coketown."



I was afraid that high schoolers would find the idea to be a bit hokey, but instead, they totally bought in. Students only had to reach 300XP to make an A+, but many of them went way beyond that threshold, just so they could see how the story ends. Making them a character and having them interact with personalities and events in the novel directly improved students' creative and critical thinking skills when performing literary analysis. Of course, the structural elements contributed to this as well because grading was affirmation-based, making failure something that no longer needed to be feared. Students had a significant amount of choice as well both in terms of the game narrative and in terms of setting deadlines and selecting assignments. It was a huge success!

In a few days, I'll be publishing the 2nd part of this post as I'd like to share more details about the actual unit and provide some essential questions for anyone who might want to design a similar gamified module. In the meantime, I've provided some links below for those who'd like to explore "Adventures in Coketown" in more detail:

Adventures in Coketown - Spring 2017

Gamification: The Basics (a resource)

Gamification Google Slide Show from ATLIS 2017

Here's a link to resources for a Gamified Macbeth Unit

Previous Post on Gamification

Another Previous Post on Gamification



Works Cited:

Galloway, Alexander. Gaming: Essays on Algorithmic Culture. University of Minnesota, 2006.

Kapp, Karl. "Two Types of #Gamification." http://karlkapp.com/two-types-of-gamification/

Kirby, Alan. Digimodernism: How New Technologies Dismantle the Postmodern and Reconfigure Our Culture. Continuum, 2009.

Lang, James M. "The Distracted Classroom." The Chronicle of Higher Education. 13 March 2017. http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Distracted-Classroom/239446

Nealon, Jeffrey T. Post-postmodernism, Or, the Cultural Logic of Just-In-Time Capitalism. Stanford University, 2012.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What Should We Do with Our Classrooms? Make Them Mobile and Plastic.

The brain is plastic, free, [yet] we are still always and everywhere in chains.   -C. Malabou



In What Should We Do With Our Brain? (a pdf version can be found here), Catherine Malabou examines certain metaphors and models that are commonly used for making sense of the organization and function of one of the human body's most perplexing organs. Midway through the book she makes the claim that "Any vision of the brain is necessarily political" (52) because "[how we make sense of] neuronal functioning and [how we make sense of] social functioning inter-determine each other and mutually give each other form, to the point where it is no longer possible to distinguish them" (9). More specifically, she posits that "There is today an exact correlation between descriptions of brain functioning and the political understanding of commanding" (32). Basically, how we talk about political power and social organization directly mirrors how we talk about brain organization, and vice versa. What we've discovered, however, is that we don't really understand brain organization, but we still rely on "so many unsettling metaphors in the register of command and government: a controller that sends orders down from on high [like] a central telephone exchange..." (4). Current research into neuroplasticity, however, demonstrates that the brain is not nearly so rigid and hierarchical (or could one say arbolic?) as the centralized command models suggest, which means we need a new language for talking about the brain, a reassessment that also could give way to more suitable metaphors or models for rethinking the politics of power socially and historically speaking. When rethinking language about both the brain and politics, perhaps the key is taking seriously their inter-determinable quality and exploring that relationship as a new model for both, a quality Malabou refers to as plasticity.

Plasticity is the ability to both receive and give form, meaning the brain gives form (much like the command center idea) but the organ is constantly modifying, repairing, and making new connections as well. Much of these modifications are shaped and impacted by environmental conditions, meaning the brain can receive form from factors outside its neuronal network (and how we organize power in our societal institutions, for instance, could serve as one of the many environmental factors which give the brain, as well as our conception of it, form as well). There is an inter-determinable relationship, in other words, between brain and world, and command center models miss this truth completely. What's most interesting is plasticity as a concept resists or subverts all models (if we are to assume that a 'model' is a rigid, unchanging form): "The word plasticity thus unfolds its meaning between sculptural molding and deflagration, which is to say explosion. From this perspective, to talk about the plasticity of the brain means to see in it not only the creator and receiver of form but also an agency of disobedience to every constituted form, a refusal to submit to a model" (6). A "centralized command center" not only fails to grasp the functionality of the brain: it presents a picture that is totally opposite of how our brains essentially and actually operate. And perhaps the command model also gives us a contrary picture of how political and social power could be rethought and redistributed: "It is thus not just a matter of uncovering, in the name of brain plasticity, a certain freedom of the brain but rather... to free this freedom, to disengage it from a certain number of ideological presuppositions that implicitly governs the entire neuroscientific field and, by mirror effect, the entire field of politics" (11). This got me reflecting upon the following question: How can we rearrange or reorganize power relations in our classrooms, for instance, to emancipate the student brain, to free it up such that it not only receives form but gives it as well, in our classroom environments and beyond?

He who bends others best is he who bends best himself.   -J. Ranciere

To see how our metaphors and models for political power permeate all levels of human existence (from brains to schools) take a look at the following image of a classroom from Nick Sousanis's Unflattening:

Nick Sousanis, Unflattening, Harvard University Press, 2015
The teacher, of course, serves as "the brain," commanding and giving form through his one-directional, neural networks which transfer data to the various receivers of information (namely, the students). The organization of the classroom mirrors the command center model of both politics and the brain, and it's obvious who's empowered and who's not in the above image. But what if we took the concept of plasticity more seriously? What can plasticity tell us about rethinking classroom politics & power relations?

One of my mantras for the year is the following quote from Jacques Ranciere's The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation: "He who bends others best is he who bends best himself" (85). (a pdf version can be found here). In the above picture, the only things that are demanded to bend are the students. It reminds me of Felix Guattari's distinction of Subject Groups and Subjugated Groups: the Subject Group (Teacher) has manifest power because they can demand to be heard, whereas the Subjugated Group (Student) doesn't necessarily have to be heard (however, the subjugated group does have latent power, if they were to act collectively for instance...). Classroom designs announce loudly for our students what models we're employing when it comes to distribution of power, and the design illustrated above messages clearly that students are to be told what to do, think, and learn. The teacher is the explicator of truth, and the students are to trace the teacher's path towards that truth: however, "It is the explicator who needs the incapable," writes Ranciere, "and not the other way around," (6). The explicator monopolizes power at the risk of disempowering and anesthetizing the students, meaning what we need instead is a pedagogy of student empowerment, which is another way of saying a "Pedagogy of Plasticity."

Each one of us describes our parabola around the truth - no two orbits are alike. And this is why the explicators endanger our revolution.   -J. Ranciere

Last spring, I had the fortunate opportunity to order new furniture for my classroom, a privilege I realize most teachers don't get, and I only had one serious request: I wanted everything to be mobile, which led us to select Learn2 desks made by KI:


Everything in the classroom, except the bookshelf, has wheels, including my desk, the students' desks, as well as the podium. As a result, everyday the relations among participants in the classroom shift and morph, depending on the activity; everyone is bending, giving form, and receiving it, including me. The design model is one of plasticity, and this change in the classroom arrangement helps give form to a new kind of pedagogy, an approach to teaching and learning that one might describe as andragogical. Already in the first 2 weeks of school, learning has taken some of the following forms:


There's no singular teaching style for all occasions, just as there's no singular learning style that proves better than all other methods. Just as plasticity as a model for the brain resists or even subverts all permanent forms so must our teaching methods. Mobile furniture is only one strategy for moving towards this realization, and it's been exciting to see it happen in my classroom this year. It's not the furniture that matters so much as the message we're sending in terms of who has the power over the learning process in our classrooms. To put it in Felix Guattari's terms, I hope the redesign of my classroom contributes in some way to removing the blinders from both the teacher's and students' perception such that the latent power of learning, that is autonomously in all of us, becomes manifest. The student doesn't trace the teacher's path to truth; everyone maps their individual journey together as a community.

They say classrooms are still always and everywhere in chains, but we know they can be plastic & free!

Works Cited:

Guattari, Felix. "Transversality." Psychoanalysis and Transversality: Texts and Interviews, 1955-1971. Trans. Ames Hodges. Semiotext(e), 2015.

Malabou, Catherine. What Should We Do With Our Brain? Trans. Sebastian Rand. Fordham University Press, 2008.

Ranciere, Jacques. The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation. Trans. Kristin Ross. Stanford University Press, 2007.

Sousanis, Nick. Unflattening. Harvard University Press, 2015.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Planning The Oakridge School's 2017 Inter-Institutional Colloquium on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - Entry 2, August 18, 2016

On January 30, 2017, The Oakridge School will be hosting a colloquium on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, giving high school students the chance to present papers, works of art,  films, and more on one of British literature's most thrilling and horrifying novels. 

After much discussion with teachers in the DFW community, the consensus was clear: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein should be the focus for the 2017 Metroplex Colloquium, to be hosted by The Oakridge School on January 30, 2017. I can't think of a better choice considering the fact that we're approaching the novel's bicentennial! Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein in 1816, and it was published for the first time in 1818. We look forward to welcoming students and faculty from various schools to join us in a celebratory conversation about one of literature's most influential novels.

We'll be reading the significantly revised version of the novel that was published many years later in 1831. At Oakridge, we're using the Penguin Classics Deluxe Ed., which looks like this:

After deciding upon a specific text, I invited faculty members from different schools in the surrounding area to join me on a google doc to plan and write collaboratively a call for papers for the 2017 Frankenstein Colloquium. I want to thank the following people for contributing to that endeavor: Jennifer Bonner at The Oakridge School, Joel Garza at Greenhill School, Christopher Schmidt at Parish Episcopal School, Chris Renshaw at The Oakridge School, and Jenny Fast at Founders Classical Academy.

As a result of everyone's creative input and suggestions, this year's colloquium will offer some excellent options for paper prompts as well as opportunities for 2D Art, Film, and MakerSpace submissions. The theme for January's colloquium is "Frankenstein 200 Years Later" and the prompts invite students to write about topics that range from literary and historical concerns to ones of a more scientific and philosophical nature. All the prompts are relevant to our experiences 200 years later in the 21st century, so go here to read more about the 2017 Frankenstein Colloquium's Call for Student Papers.

This year, we're excited to expand the invitation for student work by offering 2 new additions for the upcoming colloquium: (1) a Call for Student 2D Art & Film and (2) a Call for Student MakerSpace Designs & Products. To find out more about opportunities to showcase art or film inspired by Shelley's novel go here. And go here to learn more about the call for student MakerSpace creations (that are inspired by one of literature's greatest and most terrifying creations, namely Frankenstein's "monster").

The submission form for all student work can be found here, and all submissions must be turned in by Nov. 22, 2016.

So What Happens Next As We Wait For The Arrival of January 30, 2017?

Once the Call for Student Work was completed, I put together a blogspot as well as an official twitter account for the colloquium:

#Frankenstein200
The idea behind the blog is to provide a space where students and faculty from various campuses can come together to collaborate, share ideas, and respond to each other's work online while reading and studying Shelley's text this fall well before we meet in January 2017. In previous years, Joel Garza of Greenhill School and Deborah Moreland formerly of Hockaday School have joined me and my classes on other blogs (go here and here) to study collaboratively the texts we've chosen for previous colloquia. I think Joel and Deborah would agree that the collaborations on the blogs added so much to the overall experiences, so I encourage readers (both remote and local) to think about joining us this year online. It's worth the risk and adventure; just go here to see what I mean.

At Oakridge, we'll be reading the novel during the month of September, so most of our activity on the blog will happen then. However, other schools will be reading the text later, so activity will continue on the blog as we move into the fall and winter seasons. We'd love for you to get on the site this semester to join our conversations or to just leave a comment.

A Call for Faculty Readers and Evaluators to Help Select Submissions for the 2017 Frankenstein Colloquium

Again, submissions are due Nov. 22, 2016, meaning I need to start putting together the committee of readers and evaluators who will determine which submissions should be accepted to be showcased at the colloquium on Monday, January 30, 2017. I plan to enlist readers and evaluators from various campuses, which we've done in the previous years as well. The other task at hand is to determine what other kind of special programming do we want to include for the colloquium in January: Keynote speaker? Special panel sessions? Creative writing workshops? Theatre workshop with 1 of the many play renditions? There's so many ideas to consider, which makes the task of putting the schedule together an exciting and rewarding challenge. Please stay in tune to learn more about plans for the schedule and program! 

If you have ideas for programs or special workshops, OR if you want to be a reader or an evaluator of submissions, OR if you want to join our collaboration on the blog in a deeper way, please contact Jared Colley, English Chair, The Oakridge School, at jcolley@theoakridgeschool.org or @jcolley8.

2017 Frankenstein Colloquium's calls for student work:
1. A Call for Papers
2. A Call for 2D Art & Film
3. A Call for MakerSpace Designs & Products
4. Submisstion Form for all student work (Due Nov. 22, 2016)

Contact Info.:
Jared Colley
Chair, English Department
The Oakridge School
jcolley@theoakridgeschool.org
@jcolley8
frankenstein200.blogspot.com


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Resources from Lausanne Learning Institute - July 10-12, 2016 - Memphis, TN

Lausanne Learning Institute, July 10-12, 2016, #LLI16

Last week I had the opportunity to attend one of my favorite summer conferences: the Lausanne Learning Institute in Memphis.  If you've never had the chance to go, I highly recommend LLI for the educator interested in current conversations about educational technology and student-centered learning. There's no better place to have such discussions than in a city like Memphis with its fascinating history, rich musical culture, and savory southern cuisine. For 3 years now, I've had a blast attending Lausanne, and it's exciting to hear that they'll be growing their brand as well as their reach as a professional development institute as soon as next year.
Beale Street, Saturday evening
The Oakridge School is the 2016 Spotlight School

Attending this year included the added privilege of representing the 2016 Spotlight School of the Year. The Oakridge School was recognized as "the most innovative independent school, from technology integration to student-centered curriculum" by the Lausanne Learning Institute based on its extensive review of schools across the nation. I was proud to be a part of such an impressive team of collaborative, student-centered educators: all in all, we hosted around 20 sessions at the conference on topics ranging from maker spaces to authentic learning to writing across the curricula. Below you can watch the acceptance video that was shown at the opening banquet when Jon Kellam, Headmaster of The Oakridge School, accepted the award on behalf of the school. (The video was made by Oakridge upper school students...)



Resources for the 4 Sessions I Hosted:

Over two busy days, I hosted four sessions, two with Claire Reddig, Writing Specialist at The Oakridge School, and two on my own. Day one, I facilitated a conversation titled, "Rhizomatic Learning & Disrupting School Silos." Most of what was explored in this session stems from my interactions with the #Rhizo16 community as well as my work with Joel Garza and Seth Burgess (including our "Ignite" Keynote from OESIS LA 2016). Go here to read more about my thoughts on how "Rhizomatic" thinking could provoke a radical shift in mindsets in terms of how we rethink school organization. Below, I've provided an embedded version of the Google slides (contact me if there's any questions):


Unfortunately, my first session on "Rhizomatic Learning" was not very well attended, but those of us in the room, perhaps due to the smaller size, had a great conversation. One of my administrators joked that I've got to quit putting obscure words in my session titles if I want more people to attend. That's fair advice, but esoteric word choices didn't stop people from attending my second workshop: "Pwning the Humanities: Gamification in the Classroom" (for a definition of "pwning" go here...).  One of the best parts of the session was the fact that students attended, and they weren't afraid to join the conversation and give feedback.
Although I don't have a "slide show" for the session on gamification, go here to find resources, related content, and links based on what was discussed, and again, contact me if there's questions.
"Pwning the Humanities..." | Mon., July 11th, 2016
Day two, Claire Reddig and I hosted two sessions related to writing. Our first workshop was titled "Connecting Writing with Authentic Audiences," where we facilitated a conversation on what it means to connect student writing to an authentic audience as well as what strategies we could employ to make it happen in our classrooms tomorrow. I've embedded the slide show for this session as well; feel free to take a look:


After lunch, we hosted another workshop on a similar topic, called "Writing Across the Curricula at The Oakridge School," and we were blown away by the turnout for the final session. It was standing room only, which made clear to me that this is a timelessly valuable topic: how do we integrate one of the most important, transdisciplinary skills across the departments in way that is intentional, clear, and collaborative? Much of what we shared was based on the hard work done by the Oakridge English department (and beyond) in recent years to improve the execution of writing instruction across the campus, K through 12. Below, I've supplied the slides to this one as well, and I urge anyone to take a look and give feedback:


For more resources related to the sessions I hosted at #LLI16, go to my google site, which can be found here. There's many more links and useful content to be found there.

On February 23-24, 2017, The Oakridge School is hosting the first LLI Southwest Conference!

Jon Kellam accepting Spotlight Award
Another exciting development related to last week's conference was the announcement that The Oakridge School, LLI's 2016 Spotlight School, will be hosting the first southwest regional gathering for LLI in February 2017. One of the main themes we keep returning to as we begin to plan February's conference is the idea of "Making Good Teaching Visible." With this in mind, we plan to schedule two kinds of session formats: (1) the traditional 1hr. block workshop for presentation & conversation and (2) what we're calling "fishbowl" sessions, such that the first 45mins will include a lesson with students in the room, followed by a 45min presenter-led debrief without the students in the room. We're excited about the 2nd format because it allows teachers to see each other's craft in action: it makes good teaching visible for everyone to see! We hope to have educators submit proposals for both kinds of formats, and we hope attendees and presenters come from all over the nation. Make sure you go here to submit a proposal for next February, and hopefully we'll see you in Arlington!


Submit proposals here for the 2017 LLI Southwest Conference at The Oakridge School!