It's been a while since I've had the chance to blog about my progress but I have been making some significant progress since I last checked in. I now have a system that creates randomized movement for the human "prey" that the player (zombie) chases around the map. I decided to build in natural "breaks" for the human movement so that it is more possible for the zombie to catch up to them. I have also created a simple list of statistics that can be modified on the zombie to match specific playstyles. A player has the option of placing a limited number of points into Speed (affecting how easy it is to chase down humans), Sight (how easy it is to find humans on the map), and Infectivity (how likely you are to turn a human into a zombie once you have caught them).
In all I feel that the majority of the background work has been completed as far as building the "engine" that the game is built upon. I'm now working on trying to make the game a little more user friendly as far as giving information on how to play and adding a little more in game flavor. All that said, please feel free to try what I have so far and take a look around my programming if you are interested. I may have to lock out the programming while I am working on it but please let me know if you have any feedback.
before Youtube an Eastern European band had its song Numa Numa cartoonized by Korean artists and then those videos made it across the ocean to an American boy who lip-synced the song and became an internet sensation. His lip-sync could have been a totally humiliating but instead people all over the world started making videos in imitation of him and it became a shared experience for people all over the world.
What eventually came out of this very interesting video was the idea that a new world exists, or is starting to exist, where meaning and identity are totally different things than in the "real" world. What struck me was the power of this community where people who would never interact in real life are able to start building connections in ways that would have been impossible fifteen years ago.
with hashtags that correspond to the word, the month and the class. The simple use of Instagram transforms a fairly basic teaching strategy into something that is innately collaborative, creative, and fun. This also turns the student's phones from something that is often unwelcome in the classroom into a valuable teaching tool. What I feel is truly great about this idea is that it is tapping into something that students already love to do. Students enjoy taking pictures and using Instagram in this manner helps create a streamlined way to get students thinking about content, actively learning, sharing with a global community and get the photos somewhere the teacher can see them and assess.
The next article I came across was an Instagram Scavenger Hunt where a teacher who was planning on sending students on a field trip used Instagram in order to document the students' participation in the field trip. The students were visiting Chinatown following a unit spent reading Joy Luck Club. I won't be likely to have students reading literature and visiting pertinent locales in my content area. However, one place where I currently struggle in my subject area is getting students to recognize that chemistry is all around them. I think that it would be awesome to have students take pictures during a unit on phase change of various liquids, solids and gases or during a unit on ionic, covalent and metallic bonding to have students take pictures of substances that have those types of bonding.
The last article that I recently read through that was Instagram-related was the article 3 Ways Colleges Use Instagram. My biggest takeaway from this article was that Colleges are using Instagram to get students excited about coming to their campus (by showing pictures of campus and campus life) and using Instagram to reach out to past students to keep them involved. I think it might be neat to use Instagram as a way to start building interest and rapport with students by having them follow me before they start summer vacation and then using Instagram to continue to challenge and interest past students.
The article "Kids Speak Out on Student Engagement" found on edutoptia provides a much needed perspective. It seems like we often assume that we know what students want or we use data-driven studies to deliver students the things they actually need (since they obviously have no idea what is good for them). I'm not disagreeing with these methods of finding out how to engage students. I rely on my own ideas and reading through studies myself to find out the best ways to get students interested and motivated in learning. Sometimes, though, I feel that giving the students a voice and having a check in with them about where they are at is a great way to bond with my students and to fine tune the broad ideas that I have. This article was a great read that gave me the chance to have one of these check-ins.
The author of the article noted 10 themes that her 220 students repeated over and over again.
I have been busy with my 20% project and I have progressed well in overcoming some of the programming challenges that have come up. One of my largest challenges was figuring out how to create a way for only a certain portion of the map to show up at a time based on the position of the character on the map. I ended up creating a few extra sheets in order to make this possible and I have only a few cells import centered around a central cell.
Another programming goal that I was able to achieve was making it possible to move the player avatar around the map. I've included a video below that shows exactly how I am able to do just that. I ended up using quite a few new commands in order to pull off the movement including a command to split the cell designation, some if commands based on the directional inputting and a few new formulas I learned that convert letters to unicode and back.
Moving forwards I plan to populate the map with the human "prey" that will move around the map and I hope to find a way to "infect" them when the player avatar moves onto the same tile or they move onto the same tile as one another.
Wagner puts together in his book a very compelling argument for sweeping reform in education. He points throughout the book to the gap between what we are meaning to teach students according to what educators, business and community leaders are looking for and what is actually being taught in the visible and invisible curriculum of our current school system. Wagner descrbes this as the "global achievement gap... the gap between what even our best suburban, urban, and rural public schools are teaching and testing versus what all students will need to succeed as learners, workers, and citizens in today's global knowledge economy" (Wagner 8). Wagner distills the skills that we need to develop into our students into seven core survival skills. These skills are: 1) Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, 2) Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence, 3) Agility and Adaptability, 4) Initiative and Entrepreneurialism, 5) Effective Oral and Written Communication, 6) Accessing and Analyzing Information and finally, 7) Curiosity and Imagination. Those of you who have been keeping count may notice that this is suspiciously closer to thirteen survival skills than seven.
In substance I agree that all of these are highly important skills for our future generations. In reality these skills don't really prepare our students for the 21st century, they prepare our students to prepare themselves for the 21st century. I feel that six out of seven are dead on- exactly what our students need, and focused enough that we can look at and work on each. I feel that skill six is redundant. Par of having students being able to collaborate and lead by influence is getting them the communication skills they need to be successful. In place of this skill I would insert the skill of resilience. This makes my list of survival skills:
Motivating Today's Students- and Tomorrow's Workers
"Hand a manual or suggest a course to 15-year-olds and they think your a dinosaur. They want to turn the thing on, get in there, muck around, and see what works" (Wagner 181). This is a great line. But I'm not sure its really true. I'm not a 15 year old and yet this is still how I like to learn. When I read about the great chemists, physicists, geologists and engineers that are responsible for cracking open the ideas we currently have of how chemistry works I can't help but think that a lot of the things they did happened while they were just mucking around. I think that the problem is, in a way, the reverse of what Wagner is writing about. We all naturally want to get in there and get our hands dirty, but a combination of harsh criticisms from others (friends, co-workers, teachers, bosses, etc.) is making us less and less willing to take the risks inherent in mucking around and making us want to wait for precise instructions so that we don't have to deal with the backlash of criticism if we end up "doing it wrong." I see this in my classes now. The students I am working with right now that are doing the best in the class are also the ones that require the most maintenance. They want to be told exactly what and how to do everything to get an A in the class, keep their parents happy, and keep participating in whatever extracurricular they are most passionate about.
Where Wagner is hitting the nail on the head though is that being able to muck around is exactly what our students need in order to get truly self-motivated. My "great" students right now aren't really all that interested in science or their own learning. They are just a lot better at playing the game of school than their peers (or myself most of the time). I feel, as it seems Wagner does, that if we can recenter our curriculum on the experiences that we can give to our students then we can get them enrolled again in the curiosity required for true learning. And one thing that would look like, at least to me, would be taking away the shackles of our cookbook activities and letting students just muck around.
Closing the Gap: Schools that Work
I would love the chance to work at High Tech High. I really enjoyed the chance to listen to their "principal" talk about the goals and thinking of their school. I think that the idea of project based learning is exactly the type of mucking around that I want to give to my students. I am also impressed by the focus that they out on liberal arts fields. While the school is named High Tech High they are not ignoring the potential that exists in non-STEM related areas, something I find admirable. I really liked what Wagner wrote about how HTH handles school arrival. Students get to class on their own without a principal or security guard yelling "Get to class!" Seriously, I feel like the schools I am in are really dehumanizing to our students and treat them like a terrific inconvenience, at best, or inmate, at worst. It would be nice to work at a school that treats students with respect and gives them the tools they need to earn that respect from each other and themselves.
Testing 1, 2, 3
Recently I had the wonderful chance to take my fifth and sixth CSET exams in order to round out my credential with a little Physics know-how. It was actually a good opportunity for me to brush up a little on some of the Physics concepts that I haven't really looked at for 5+ years. But what I really got out of the experience was a profound frustration that I was jumping through yet another hoop, and yet again, paying for the privilege. The testing company, Pearson, has quite a few different ways to remind you that they can make you do whatever they want. For instance, you must bring a printed ticket to the testing site that you submit to the proctor. It cannot be a digital copy. The proctor, of course, has several testing documents and a list with your name on it and will require your legal ID card to remain on the desk throughout the test, but despite all of the many ways the proctor can verify that you are where you should be you must have your printed ticket or you cannot begin the test. Pearson does not allow labels on water bottles and your water bottle must be clear plastic. Sorry DejaBlue. Only one person from a testing class may visit the restroom at a time (but there were dozens of rooms testing- leading to a line at one point for the women's restroom). No mechanical pencils. Sit in the chair with your testing number on it. Raise your hand when you are done and the proctor will excuse you.
I bring all this up because it reminded me what my students must feel like when they take tests in the courses I'm participating in right now. They also have a long list of dos and do nots that were created in the interests of preventing cheating and providing a seamless experience for the teacher. But that's the rub. This is all for the teacher. These incredibly convoluted systems are often created more to avoid extra effort than to provide a better learning experience for the students. Don't get me wrong. Scantron forms are incredibly easy and convenient to grade and it's lovely to have 100+ tests graded in minutes. But it seems as if this new testing culture is forcing students (and student-teachers!) to jump through more hoops without offering any more, and often less, of a benefit.
I guess what I am really getting at, and where I fully support Wagner's position in chapter 3, is that the tests we are giving students and the courses they are taking are not in line with the education that we are trying to give. We are teaching students to memorize, solve by rote, and jump through hoops. The ideas of what education is need to be transformed from the bottom up.
Reinventing the Education Profession
I've heard a lot of talk recently about the tendency of teachers to carve out their own private kingdoms. As one would imagine this has not been said to speak well of the teachers in question. I've seen it too. Teachers have their own classrooms, their own curriculum and their own ideas of what education should mean and it would be all too easy to allow all of it to form a rigid little bubble that the teacher can refine and perfect. This seems like a natural consequence of how I have seen my own training as a teacher take place. We are taught to teach by individuals who have their own little kingdom as part of the credential program. Most of us are sent to classes with master teachers who have already defined the borders of their kingdom and when we get a class of our own I think it is really easy to just do what we have seen.
But what if things could be different? If I could re-imagine what education and the credential program would look like it would center fully around the experiences taking place as we teach. Instead of doing pet project and listening to private crusades each week the course would be designed around the experiences the credential students are having in the classroom. I currently feel like there is a huge disconnect between what is occurring in the classrooms I sit in on Mondays and the classroom I teach in the rest of the week. I think that having the US who observe us come in and work through the coursework alongside us would be a huge benefit so that we could have experienced colleagues who have actually seen us in action provide insight and advice would be a huge boon. Currently, much of what I am doing is trial and error and I rarely get any useful feedback on how to actually improve (I've gotten advice on what I'm doing wrong but little on how to improve). I would also break cohorts more strongly into subject matter groups. It's great to talk about the need for literacy or argumentation in our classes but literacy means very different things in different courses.
The last thing that I'd love to see change about our course is having the chance to see GOOD teachers doing GOOD teaching, preferably in our own subject area. I've read a lot about good teaching but reading and doing are two different things and the few times that I have attended a seminar or watched a video where good teaching is being demonstrated I feel like I've been able to take huge strides forward in my own teaching abilities.
Stop telling us to be good teachers. Stop telling us what good teaching is. Start showing us what good teachers do and helping us learn from OUR experiences (not yours).
I'm a recent CSUSM graduate in General Chemistry and I'm currently enrolled in a 1-year teaching credential program.