Thursday, June 30, 2016


Spent most of my day pondering the logistics and design of a PLP game. One thing I'm rolling around is the idea that a goal is never fully finished- a skill is really always improvable so having a endpoint or place where a player "wins" isn't a good idea. Maybe a circle or an infinity loop. Maybe the final spot will be a reflection point where the player asks if they're done with their investigation or a point for sharing it out.
I also brainstormed up a bunch of cards (tasks) to lead players in different directions.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Formal Post #2

My goal has stayed the same and I'm more pumped about it after getting really positive feedback this morning. 

Action Research Project Question:
Can a board game be used to help students achieve PLP goals?

I spent some time thinking about quirky ideas for game cards. I also thought about how the goosechase app, and the book, Wreck This Journal, could be used as one of the tasks on a game card. (Wreck This Journal is an absurd journal with instructions to do things like drag your journal with a string, wear the journal for a day, etc)

The conversation I had this morning about bias, prejudices, sexism, and race had a great impact on me today. It was a great talk and got me thinking. I learned about a class that Burlington area teachers have been taking and will look into it. I mentioned the Bechtel Test and how I'd shared that with students and we used it as a way to analyze literature and movies we use in the class.


I had a great conversation with a couple classmates today about my project. They liked the game idea a lot and wanted more details. That conversation led to TEDtalks and institutional racism and bias, and Game of Thrones and sexism,  and a host of other loosely related topics. It was a very valuable conversation and I got a couple great resources and connections out of it.
I really liked the goose chase we did and can totally see using that at school.
Throwing around a frisbee was also good stuff.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Formal Blog #1

Formal Blog #1
Hmmm... How have I grown or progressed toward my goal today.... Well, I guess I've narrowed down the product that I want to make. We were talking about flexible pathways at the 3 pillars talk and an image of a board game popped into my brainball. I'm going to make a game that kids can play to find a path towards their goal. It'll  have a bit of structure and a ton of flexibility. 
I also flipped through some OBLIQUE STRATEGIES and considered how they could be used for student planning/game play. This game will totally transform the PLP experience from last year. It will be a great way to get kids out of their boxes and trying something new. 
Had a great conversation with Mary about this progress and she pointed me in some great directions. 

A strength I've demonstrated over the first two days is creativity and intertextuality. My original idea was a worksheety kind of thing that morphed into a game (thanks Jumanji!). The 3 pillars talk on flexible pathways made me think of people taking the unbeaten path, which sparked ideas like examining the lives of characters who do it their own way- what they do, why they do it, and how they do it. Paulsen's Brian came to mind. In Hatchet he learns out of necessity.  He had to learn how to survive in the wild. In later books he does formal learning about survival and even teaches others. He's a great model of an engaged student: he learns, loved learning, and learned outside of school because he loved it. Maybe kids need to be stranded in the woods on their own for a few months to do their PLP goals?
No significant challenges so far, save my struggle with caffeine withdrawal, and no breakfast low blood sugar. 
I did go through the Flexible Scheduling module to discover that it didn't really apply to my project. It did get me thinking about the constraints on flexible scheduling that I've experienced- especially recently. I was a Montessori student so my entire school day was flexible to the max. At my last school we had to at least pretend that we had x minutes of each class- especially the "important" ones (Math, ELA). I also had a student who could not handle a topic going seconds beyond the clock. 

I think I need to focus on the Flexible Pathways module. This is what I want my students to do.

Name Matt Smith
Elevator pitch for what I want to accomplish at MGI
My goal for MGI is to create worksheets that will help kids reach their PLP goals in a more organized, fun way. (I like the move from worksheets to game) PLPs have been too nebulous and wishy washy so far. (The game will definitely do this and give them a way to show/share/bounce ideas with a partner/opponent) I want to make a SMART goalish thingy that kids will actually do. The planning guides will focus on organizational concepts such as: Flexible scheduling, family engagement, and community partnerships.  

For each goal state the goal and also note overarching connections (e.g., to MGI 2016 MG Teacher Standards). Please make sure your goals contain the components of the SMART goal format.
S-Create planning guides to help students make PLPs happen.
M-Compare PLP engagement/accomplishment from last year to next.
A-1 year goal. I plan to make them available to other teachers (I will not be in the classroom)
R-There was a lot of failure/time wasting last year. I want these guides to motivate/gameify personal learning plans.
T-I hope to have them rolling by beginning of next school year.

Plan for the Week
What learning opportunities will you pursue to help you meet your goals? List known or possible activities, such as MGI 2016 Modules, student consultations, workshops that you would like to request, etc. Provide details as appropriate, such as sequence, when each module will be tackled, with whom, etc. It’s ok to note that you would like us to pair you with someone or a small group.
I plan to explore the modules and use what I glean from them to help create the guides. I will try to fit in a module every day or two this week and then sporadically during them summer. (Did one, wasn't the right one for me but got me focused on the next one to look at)

Action Research Project
Note the main questions of your Action Research project and provide a link to your site/proposal.
Does gamification help students organize, focus, and have more enthusiasm independent learning?

4 Pillars

Just attended the 3 Pillars talk and finally got my pillar of coffee- man, I needed that! Was a fantastic conversation that gave me a bunch of ideas.
An idea that really resonated with me is that MS is an important time to provide opportunities for students to do more independent learning through service learning and field opportunities so that they aren't shocked when they arrive in HS. We have college prep and MS needs a HS prep. I'd love to see more opportunities for students to shadow at the HS earlier than 8th grade (as we currently do at NSS). We also need to do better at getting kids to shadow good models instead of their buddies who graduated recently. They usually come back with the discovery, "dude, there's a lot of homework her!" instead of, "wow, there are a lot of opportunities to do your own thing here".

The discussion of the flexible pathway gave me an idea for a way to gamify some PLP planning.
-create a board game where they move a piece or fill it in with activities they use to move towards an end goal. The activities could be self selected or drawn from a stack of cards if they're stuck (Watch a Youtube video on your subject, search for a TEDtalk on the topic, Ask a friend what they know about it, etc). That led me to thinking about the app Oblique Strategies by Brian Eno that is essentially a stack of cards that get you to look at things in different ways (highly recommended).

I would also like to explore examples of characters finding their own flexible pathway to learn a skill through a read aloud. Gary Paulsen's Brian certainly finds his own way and learns what he needs to to survive.
I also liked the discussion about community partnerships. It extended what I thought of as "community". I'd had the idea that the Newark community was the families and businesses in the immediate area. Silly, old-fashioned way to think about "community" in this day and age. I need to expand that a la Internets. A bunch of groups that like to partner with schools was given.

We also talked about how kids are tasked with demonstrating mastery, which got to thinking about  badges and our experimentation with Badges would be a great way to motivate kids to strive for mastering new skills. Just googled learning badges and there seems to be no shortage of ways to add them to blogs or get physical copies. Will investigate further.
It's no easy task for teachers to know how/what to assess all the time so kids will definitely struggle if asked to show what they know without a ton of guidance. The challenge of it has to be discouraging and keep them in their just listen to the teacher and parrot back the key points for grades mode. I'd love to create some way for the report card to reflect standards met by independent means. Maybe something color coded like a pie chart (I learned this on my own / My teacher taught me this).

Talk finished up with a great discussion of how to organize class/teams for self regulation / indy work and all the pre-teaching/modeling that goes into that.
And a plug for modules that I should check out: Flexible scheduling, Flexible grouping, Facilitated Personal Learning, and Service Learning.

Monday, June 27, 2016

MGI Day 1 Biopost


I'm Matt. I teach middle school but next year I'm going to be stay at home Matt. Woot! Pretty psyched. I'll be working on the house and taking care of a wee one and the 3 medium sized ones. I'm from Buffalo, NY, but I escaped that industrial armpit after high school. Now I live in beautiful Barnet, VT with the fam and a ton of animals. I enjoy working on the house and yard, reading, watching movies, snowboarding, and frisbee.
My latest obsession is carving wooden spoons.