Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Losing a Sister...School

I am an accidental women's college graduate. After graduating from a large state school with a bachelors in English, I packed up everything I owned and moved east...well, east is relative in this case.  East for me meant moving from western Michigan to Pittsburgh.  I didn't have a Pennsylvania teaching certificate, I didn't have a job, and I barely had a place to live.  Yet, within three days of moving states, I had an interview for a Resident Director position at Chatham College, a small, liberal arts, women's college, idyllically situated in the heart of Pittsburgh on a grassy hill between Shadyside and Squirrel Hill.  As an undergrad, I had served as both a Resident Assistant (remember those annoying college students who tried to get you to go to floor meetings and who would plan monthly programs about eating disorders or stress?  Yup, that was me) and as a hall Assistant Director (remember those
Rea Hall, Chatham College by CampusExplorer
annoying upper-level students who wore beepers and broke up the parties?  Yup, that was me). So when I moved to Pittsburgh without the proper licence to apply for teaching jobs, I applied for the jobs that I was qualified for - anything in residence life.  And within a week of moving to Pittsburgh, to a really horrible apartment in the South Hills, I packed up once again and moved into Rea Hall on Chatham's campus as the Resident Director.  I never expected to find myself living and working at a women's college.  I certainly never exected to graduate from one.  However, I would not be the woman I am today without my experiences at a women's college.

I'm not going to paint an overly idealistic picture of living and working and going to school at a women's college.  Let's face it - when you work, live, and go to school in the same place, there will be challenges.  At the time, I was the only married person living on the all female campus, which meant that my husband was the only...ONLY guy living on campus.  And while this might seem like the set-up for an adult-only film, the reality was quite different. The number of calls that we received at odd hours to help move furniture, to intervene in disputes, to ask advice were too many to fathom. But it is also what I recall fondly about our experience of living right
Photo of Rea Coffeehouse from The Communique'
above the only place (besides your own room) where you could smoke inside (of course I am speaking of Rea Coffeehouse).  The community that is almost instantly built when you join this small collective known as women's college students.  I found something at Chatham that I had missed in my undergraduate education, something that is very hard to define unless you are in the know.

One of the greats - Don Adam
For me, Chatham was not just a job.  It was a place where I got to know students from a much larger pool of experiences than I had ever known in the large state school that I attended.  Because I worked there, I also had an opportunity to take graduate courses through Chatham and completed my Masters in Liberal Arts. The stories that I could tell you!  Like the times (yes, plural) I took Japanese students white water rafting down the Youghiogeny River; it's where I learned how to yell out directions in Japanese. Hidari! Or British Literature with Don Adam (you know he was once Robert Frost's neighbor).  Remember him smoking Misti Lights all the way up Niagra-on-the-Lake to see "Heartbreak House" at the Shaw Festival?  Now, there was a storyteller.  Remember Eid dinners in Laughlin?  All day spent cooking, and all night spent eating. And the trip to Hopital Albert Schweitzer in Haiti's Artibonite Valley. I will never forget the face of the little boy who pressed his face against the screened porch of our dining room to cry "Fi! Fi! Fi!" to catch our attention as we ate breakfast. Or the little child that cried out in his mother's arms as he saw "ghosts" hiking up the mountain when we walked by. Or meeting Gwen Mellon.  I remember talking with heartbroken students at three in the morning and picking up new students from the airport, fresh off a plane from Nigeria who were seeing snow for the first time. At Chatham, I didn't just take classes.  I was engaged in a small community of women who cared, who collaborated, and who were (and still are) committed to helping the larger community they find themselves in.  And whereas some may argue that the notion of single-sex education is antiquated, whose time has passed, I know that they are wrong.  My experiences as both staff and as a student at a women's college enlarged the way that I understand and engage with my world.  I am a better me because of my experiences at a women's college.

Which is why it hit me so hard this afternoon when I received an email from Chatham's Alumni Office about the upcoming vote to change Chatham over to a co-ed institution.  Although I understand that these are difficult times for small, private institutions of high education, I am deeply saddened to hear that another one of the sister schools may be lost.  After surviving attacks on the usefulness of women's education, after surviving the Great Depression, after surviving through such a long and complex history, thriving for over 140 years, it is troubling that it has come to this.  Fortunately, Chatham's fate is not yet sealed.  There are a number of regional meetings taking place prior to the board's vote in June.  And, if you would like to learn more about the importance of Chatham, of what she means to her alumnae, and of the significance of a women's college education, I would encourage you to check out savechatham.com to learn more.

I may be an accidental women's college graduate, but I am a damn proud one.

Excluding Grammar

“...unless you also felt sure both that what you had to say would be listened to seriously and that you weren’t likely to commit any egregious nails-on-the-chalkboard kinds of mistakes (c’est je, that sort of thing) in trying to speak or write it.” Joseph Harris, "Error"
Picture from Creative Education
I recently read noted compositionist Joseph Harris's essay "Error" on the polarized nature of teaching grammar. In summarizing an example Mike Rose offers in his work Lives on the Boundary, Harris points out the precarious position that writing teachers find themselves in every day when facing a classroom of eager students: how do we grow our struggling writers by pointing out areas for improvement while also providing a safe writing space for them to make mistakes. Students come to us from a variety of experiences and backgrounds, but upon entering the writing classroom, there is a collective fear of the red pen that unites writing students. That marking of mistakes and grammatical errors that has publicly defined our profession. However, in quoting Mina Shanughnessy, Harris points to a need that we do need to provide space for beginning writers to make mistakes “because they are beginners and must, like all beginners, learn by making mistakes” (Johnson, Teaching Composition 419).

Photo from Toward A Simple Life blog
I agree with Harris’s position that the binaries of teaching grammatical correctness versus eschewing grammar in order to teach writers about idea construction limit the conversations about how both perspectives are much needed in our composition classrooms. I find that very few teachers would disagree with Harris. However, pedagogical beliefs and practice are two very different things. Whereas I wholeheartedly agree with his assertion that “To teach such a ‘communicative competence,’ teachers need to move beyond a fetishizing of correctness and instead focus on the more substantive, difficult, and rhetorical” (423), this is at odds many times with what happens in the high school writing classroom. Although I attended undergrad where Constance Weaver developed and taught (and still does) on the Whole Language approach and am thoroughly indoctrinated in the National Writing Project model of developing emerging writers (steeped in the expressionist and post-process approaches), I still have a grammar workbook that I have to go through with my 10th grade students. Their midterm and final exam contains questions that lack context about prepositional phrases, comma splices, and pronoun-antecedent disagreement. I am well aware that teaching grammar divorced of context, without a connection to the actual writing that students are engaged in, does not improve their understanding of “grammatical correctness.” Yet, because of its easily identifiable rules, grammar is easy to grade (yes, I am being a bit facetious here), much easier than whether or not a student has undermined the credibility of his writing. And so many elementary and secondary schools have adopted a model of writing instruction that spends more time focused on correctness than on how student writers “acquire a rhetorical ease and power, an ability to write persuasively as well as correctly” (428).

I find it interesting that the Common Core State Standards for teaching composition do not emphasize grammar heavily over the time they spend developing the standards for focus, organization, and style (yes, still very current-traditionalist in its focus). However, when I ask my students about where they need help in their writing at the beginning of each semester, an overwhelming number of them mention grammar. When we peer edit, most of my students want to focus on editing grammar and mechanics instead of revising content. Clearly school has taught them that writing well is about using correct grammar. But what is the alternative? How else can we teach early writers - first, second, third grade students - to spend more time supporting their ideas and developing their style, not dismiss grammar, but to be less focused on it to the exclusion of everything else?

Friday, February 21, 2014

I Have It All Wrong...But I Have An Idea To Fix It

Graphic from SHSU
A few days ago, I posted a research idea  to investigate better ways of giving feedback to my student writers using digital tools.  The problem? I was going about it with my research end already in mind. I know from my work with students and from research already done by so many others what I would find: the students who are not as confident in their writing skills do not feel confident giving feedback on their peer's writing.  And the fix that I had in mind was that I would use the features of Google Docs to comment and give more feedback. But this is no different that what I am already doing!  Simply writing more on a student's writing piece is not going to necessarily ensure that they do something with that feedback.  It just makes more work for me as the teacher. I need a better idea for how to help students engage with meaningful revision of their written work.

Aaron Sams at PAECT event, Oct. 2013
Something I heard Aaron Sams talk about when I ate lunch with him at a PAECT event in October has been kicking around in the back of my mind.  A small group of us were discussing how we tackled grading issues when much of our planning time was used to created the resource materials that students use to learn our materials at home.  In the flipped learning approach, students learn from our instructional materials as homework while classtime is used to practice, collaborate, and workshop.  What this looks like in my high school English classroom can be a bit chaotic at times.  The big switch for me came when I asked students to complete their written work in class rather than in isolation at home.  This made a significant difference.  Students work on their writing with me in the classroom acting as their coach, they can ask questions of their peers, and they see models for how writing happens all around them.  But when do you grade all this work?  Aaron Sams' response: "I never take grading home."  WHHHAAAT??!!  Instead, he grades every assignment with the student in the classroom through a one-on-one conference.  Sounds awesome, right?  My first thought was, "Wow, I wish I could do that, but I don't have time enough in class."  After all, I'm and English teacher and Sams is a science teacher.  I just don't have time to conference every essay.

Wait!  Yes I do! So what I hoped to encourage was student engagement with the feedback they received on their written assignments.  Conferencing does this.  How many times on this blog have I mentioned the work of Lucy Calkins and Kelly Gallagher and Troy Hicks and the fantastic work done by all the National Writing Project educators, all of whom have shown again and again how conferencing with student writers not only helps the writer better understand her process and writing choices but also encourages a deeper level of reflection on where revision (not just editing) needs to happen.  And not only that, but conferencing with students while other students are in the room serves as a model for everyone on how we talk and think and support writing.  What would be a better use of our classtime? So I need to make time to conference/grade every essay in class.  And, I have an idea for how to do it.

Photo by Laurie Sullivan
My students are already using Google Docs and shared folders to turn in their essays.  The shared folder makes it easy for us to give feedback on each other's work throughout the drafting process since we can access each other's writing at any time either in school or outside of it. We use the comment feature in Google Docs to give written feedback. And as I handout the grading rubric the day a writing piece is assigned, we use the rubric to guide how we give peer feedback. But when it comes time to grade the essays, traditionally I have written all my feedback out on a printed grading rubric, not on the student's actual document.  Well, I'm going to change that up a bit, and here's how:

Audio recoding app in Google Drive
On the day that students are to turn in a completed writing piece, I'll call them up to the teacher's computer where I can already have the student's essay pulled up on my screen.  I'll have the grading rubric on my desk, and the student and I will use it to go over the writing piece together with the student making notes on the rubric as we discuss her piece.  There's a handy little tool in Chrome called Kaizena (formerly 121Writing).  When you are in Drive, click on "Create" and at the bottom of the options you will see "Connect More Apps."  Use the search box to find and install Kaizena.  What does it do?  It allows a user to record audio while looking at a specific Google document.  So, while the student and I are conferencing and collaborating over the grading rubric, I can record our conversation so that when the student goes back to her seat or goes home, she can access a recording of our conversation about her writing piece any time she wants!

Graphic from SHSU
Of course, there is no way that I will be able to conference with a class of 20-30 students in one 90-minute class period.  It will likely take three class periods.  However, as I'm conferencing, students can be using feedback to revise or make further edits or work on another piece.  Trust me, it took me a lot long than three days to get graded essays back to students using the model that I was working with. And the part that I am most excited about - not only will individual students have the ability to go back and listen to the audio record of our conference, but because their work is shared in a class Google folder, other students in the class could access the conference and learn from it as well.  I leave it up to the individual student on whether or not to leave the privacy setting open so others in the class can see and comment on their work, and surprisingly most leave their documents open for others to comment on. Using this conferencing model, I could end up with four or five essays from each student with audio conferences for each, and at the least that's 80 recorded conferences for students to use as models to improve their own writing.

There is some research being done on the effectiveness of using audio to record feedback for student writers.  Dr. Jeff Sommers at West Chester University has been publishing on this idea for the past couple years. His article in the Journal of College Literacy and Learning titled "Response 2.0: Commentary on Student Writing for the New Millenium" addresses how audio recordings can be a more effective feedback tool for student writers than the traditional written feedback.  So I am encouraged by this new model for grading student writing.

I am interested in how other teachers are using both conferences and digital tools to give student writers feedback.  Have you used audio tools to give your student writers revision suggestion?

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Can "I" Fit In?

"This ‘rhetorical identity’ - the presence invested in the text, developed by the writer to accomplish particular persuasive effects in the minds of readers, not only contributes to the writer’s authority/credibility but also helps build a mutual relationship to readers as fellow scholars. Effective rhetorical identity defines a textual voice that is at once distinctive and strongly resonant with readers,” writes Juanita Rodgers Comfort in her essay "Becoming a Writerly Self: College Writers Engaging Black Feminist Essays" (532-3).
I teach 15 and 16-year-old students non-Western literature. Throughout our semester we read a variety of African short stories and essays, poems from India, and novels set in Afghanistan. And as a white, female, middle-class teacher who grew up in the Midwest, I struggle to help students see beyond the “otherness” of the texts we read, to stop holding these texts at a distance, to stop reading them as exotic. The strategy of using model texts that employ the personal as a tool for teaching emerging writers to identify and also write with their own clear “rhetorical identity” (532) is intriguing, especially given that as essayist Juanita Rodgers Comfort points out, many teachers at the secondary level and beyond view the disclosure of the personal as “incompatible with the critical detachment valued in much disciplinary discourse” (527). We teach our secondary-level writers to leave the first-person out of the essay, give them easy rules to remember: spell out contractions and numbers under 10 and never use I, me, my, mine. We religate the role of student writer to outsider, making them “others” as well. We hinder not only our students’ critical engagement with content but also their greater understanding of their own developing identities as thinkers and writers when we forbid the personal stance in their writing. Comfort writes, “If imagining, through composing, is something more significant to students than exercises in critical detachment, and if we do not expect them to remain essentially unchanged by the encounters with the ideas they write about, then composing text must be for the purposes of these students’ education, becoming insurgent intellectuals (to use a term coined by West and bell hooks) who are personally invested in the world of ideas” (521). I want to teach insurgent intellectuals.

Photo by Steven DePolo
Bringing the personal into essay writing, when done with the help of carefully selected model texts, can help our students better understand their voice as thinkers and writers. “Rhetorically,” Comfort writes, “self-disclosures foreground the embodied nature of the self, which, through selective, insightful sharing, can build connections between writers and readers that authorize the writer to make claims to ensure the acceptability of those claims” (522). And so in using these rhetorically sophisticated texts that incorporate personal disclosures, we can also teach emerging writers to understand the personal voice as a persuasive writing technique, a rhetorical strategy and position that writers use for a variety of reasons (523). In doing so, students become a part of the conversation about composing rather than left outside of it. “I am convinced that significant problems arise with student writing precisely when they have not defined and located themselves as effectively self-authorized knowers for their evaluative audiences,” Comfort writes (529). No where is this more true than in the high school writing classroom where students are working not only on defining who they are as readers, writers, and thinkers, but where they are also really beginning the work of understanding their own unique cultures, positions, and identities. And it is in our classrooms, where students have already been told multiple times and multiple ways that their understanding of the world is incomplete, students crave opportunities to make sense of their learning and demonstrate it in personally meaningful ways. Teaching students to recognize and utilize their “rhetorical identity” will serve them well as they write to “assess, define, and assert who they are becoming as knowing beings” (534).

But this will not be easy work. Toward the end of the essay, Comfort suggests that utilizing the work of black feminist essayists is a way of helping increase student sensitivity to the writer’s ethos and better understand why and when writers invoke the personal (533). I wonder if this can be done effectively with high school writers, many of whom have been told time and again to disavow the personal stance, and who when given opportunities to write using first-person strongly lean toward confessional writing. Although I love Comfort’s call for writing instruction that enables “students to recognize the writerly self as a persuasive instrument that can be strategically deployed and to learn to make effective use of their own multiple locations to take personal stands on public issues that transcend the confessional” (531), I wonder if this can be done well with emerging writers who do not have a clear idea of their own locations.

How can we best help our emerging writers understand and develop their "rhetorical identities"?

Essay taken from Teaching Composition: Background Readings, third edition, edited by T.R. Johnson.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Gimmie Feedback

Photo by Avolore
So with a bit of a stutter start due to a freak number of snow days this month, I've gone back to school. Full-time. My sabbatical this semester has me in three graduate courses, one being my required research methods course. Now, I just need to decide what I want to research. In the past, I've done action-research on mastery grading and written some about my interest in engaging student writers with authentic audiences. This time around, I want to spend time thinking about ways to grow stronger writers through feedback.

I’m hoping to conduct my research on student writing and ways in which I can help students better understand their own process of production and engage more deeply in their reflection and revision process. This is a topic that has been written about extensively by many others, and the works of Ralph Fletcher, Kelly Gallagher, Troy Hicks, Penny Kittle, and Nancie Atwell have certainly shaped how I interact with my student writers. However, I want to take some time to focus specifically on what is happening in my classroom, what I’m actually doing to teach and support my emerging writers, and reflect on my teaching strategies and assumptions of how my students learn their writing skills.

Photo by Mortsan
For the last seven or so years, I have almost exclusively taught tenth grade English at a suburban high school just outside of Philadelphia. With about 450 students per grade level at our high school, I usually end up teaching somewhere between 140-170 tenth graders each year, about a third of the grade level. I am generally teaching either honors level or academic level students, though those distinctions are often blurred as our district does not have true levelling system in that students with their parents self-select the level of the course they will take. My classes are diverse in that our district brings together students from a wide socio-economic range, and it is not unusual to have students who come from homes where both parents have advanced degrees and students whose parents did not attend college in the same class. That said, although our cultural diversity is increasing in the district, the majority of students identify as Caucasian, and I would guess that about 80% of my students started in the district as kindergarten students. As such, most of my students have come through a system that focuses on teaching the basic expository paragraph which culminates in writing essays formatted on the five-paragraph style of writing. However, as students get into their sophomore year, that formula for writing breaks down. Content teachers across our high school complain that student writing lacks analysis and critical thinking. So I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on how to teach writing that both encourages students to engage deeply with their content materials as well as reflect on how they are organizing their message.

In my classroom, I have moved away from writing on paper, finding that using online spaces to write, namely blogs and shared Google Docs, allow for greater feedback and for me to act more as a coach during the writing process rather than simply responding to student writing after the final copy has been turned in. I can give feedback as they write. When it is working well, students are not simply writing their own work, but engaged with their peers in a collaborative feedback process. This, however, has been difficult to manage. Generally speaking, the students that enjoy writing, who already write well coming into my classroom, are the same ones that spend the most time engaging with their writing and with the writing of their classmates. The students that need the most support are also those that rarely take time give to feedback to other students. This makes sense. The students comfortable and confident with their writing also feel comfortable helping others. However, the students that need more support, who would benefit from both giving and getting feedback, are those less likely to get it. And as a teacher of about 70 students each semester, I find it difficult to give feedback at multiple points to each student during their drafting process. So even though I know from research that students benefit from feedback during their writing process rather than after they complete it, I struggle to make that happen consistently for all students. This is where I would like to focus my research: How can I use digital tools to provide feedback on student writing that encourages revision and reflection on the writing process? And, how can I get all students involved in that process of feedback as well?

Here's where my research starts - with questions:
  • How do I get all students involved in the process of giving feedback to their peers?
  • Is it helping or hindering the giving of peer feedback that I do not grade peer feedback?
  • What types of feedback do students find most helpful during their writing process?
  • At what point in the writing process do students find feedback most helpful?
  • What inhibits students from giving feedback to their peer’s writing?
  • If my goal with feedback is to get students to go back into their writing to make content revisions and reflect on their writing process, should I grade student interaction with the feedback that I give?
  • How much is access is reliable wireless devices an issue?
  • How might the use of digital tools help the feedback/revision process become more transparent for both the student writer and the teacher?
As a National Writing Project (NWP) fellow, I am invested in students exploring their process of writing. In fact, on the very first day of each semester, the students and I begin by writing a short piece describing a metaphor for our writing process. How do we come up with and then refine our ideas through composition? I clearly approach the teaching of writing from a post-process approach, which means that I share with students, both explicitly and subtly, my understanding of writing as a non-linear process that is public, interpretive, and situated. My understanding of teaching writing influence by this post-process approach as well as by critical theories and is steeped in the writing of Alfie Kohn, Paulo Freire, Grant Wiggins, Allen Webb, and most recently by Troy Hicks, another NWP teacher who has focused his recent work on crafting digital writing with student writers.

And my own writing experiences have shaped how I teach writing. Many of my secondary school teachers and some of my undergraduate professors would share feedback in the form of one or two sentences and a grade at the end of my essays, which did little to encourage reflection on my own writing process. Yet, I was always writing, both for school and for pleasure. It really wasn't until I attend a small liberal arts college for my Masters in Liberal Arts that I began to reflect on how writing happens. My graduate professors gave extensive feedback not on my grammar or sentence construction, but on the content of my writing, talking back with me about how I constructed my ideas and rationales. And, our writing assignments were many times for larger audiences. We were sharing our essays with the other students in class, and many times we were submitting out for publication as well. It was in this program that I learned HTML code, not because I took a course but because I needed to create a website to share a few of my essays for a course on American women writers. And it was this experience of writing for a real audience that changed how I thought about my own writing and about teaching writing. When I started receiving emails from people who were reading my work online, I went back and made deliberate revisions (I even noticed this past week that one of my pieces was referenced in a book). And, I also sought out more opportunities to publish. I've been fortunate to have a couple of my poems published, my essay for This I Believe published, and of course I blog. So in teaching writing, I have sought many opportunities for students to write for larger audiences, not just for me as their teacher.

Photo from Flickr Creative Commons
Technology has made this increasingly easy to do. My students blog, submit for publication through websites and emails, and create their own web pages. And this has had an impact on what they select to write about and share. However, many students still seem to view the writing that they do for school as school writing, meaning it is only important insofar as the grade they receive. I don’t know if this is because students are used to using digital tools (Google Docs, blogs, etc.) to share their work and so the unique sense of an audience has disappeared for them or if perhaps they are so disempowered by the types of circumscribed writing that they have been asked to do that by the time I get them as tenth graders they don’t see the relevance of the writing we are doing. Maybe a combination of the two. But whatever the reason, my students do not seem to engage in reflection and revision as deeply as I would like to see them do.

So this is where my research into using digital tools to provide feedback to student writers begins. I hope to share with other teachers how using digital tools to give feedback makes the writing process more transparent for the students and the teacher and can grow student investment in building their writing skills. To this, my goal is not just interview my students, but students from a variety of schools and settings about how they engage with feedback on their writing. If you are interested in helping (or know someone who might be), reach out! I'd love to make new connections!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Google Glass Goes To Class

Just the other day I received my email invitation to join Google Glass Explorers. I have so many ideas about how to bring Glass into my classroom, and I would love your help in bringing this wearable technology to my 10th grade English class. So I have set up a crowdfunding site on IndieGogo to help me raise the necessary funds. I would love your help!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Game Time

At this point last weekend, I was sitting in Philip Vinogradov's session on Gamification and Flipped Instruction at the DCIU Google Symposium.  But to say that I was just sitting there would be inaccurate.  Instead, shortly after Philip's opening remarks, we split into small groups and my teammates and I, who did not know one another prior to the presentation, read through the first directions which happened to refer to rolling some dice using Dungeons and Dragons lingo.  It took only a few seconds for us to realize that all of us understood the directions; we all had played D and D. We were united, we were nerdy, and we quickly set to work completing the first task. It took a little while longer to realize that we had completed the first task of Philip's presentation prior to him explaining it to the rest of the educators in the room.  And it was that moment that got me thinking more seriously about gamification. We were engaged from the introduction to the close of his presentation.

Photo by peddhapati
I am new to the idea of gamification.  As a high school English teacher, I used to think that gamification referred to the use of online avatars and badges to reward student progress, which sounded a bit too much like the stickers given to elementary students, too much like an extrinstic reward.  Although I have seen a number of gamification sessions listed on recent conference programs, I must confess that I dismissed it as just an educational fad inspired by teachers who had grown up playing a few too many role playing games (which I should also confess that I would be included in that group as not only did I play D and D with an actual group but also played all...yes, all...the D and D inspired video games).  But when I saw that Philip's presentation also included elements of flipped learning, I was intrigued.  And now I must admit that I am a bit ashamed that I had so quickly dismissed gamification as a fad. As Philip's presentation demonstrated, the principles of gamification are not simply to have fun or hand out rewards.  Instead, the principles of gamification include engaging students in higher order problem-solving skills, both collaborative and competitive learning, placing learning opportunities in the students' hands.   So if this skeptical teacher was engaged in the first few minutes, imagine the possibility that gamification holds for classroom planning and instruction.

Philip's presentation had our group of teachers reflecting and discussing the possibilities of implementing gamification in a variety of classrooms, from elementary math classes to high school English courses.  And something that I have found myself returning to over the course of this week is Philip's helpful heuristic - Q.U.E.S.T.T.  I would highly encourage teachers to review his presentation materials below for a better introduction to the principles of gamification than I could give. I also found that participating in the #levelupEd Twitter chat this past week was another good introduction to teachers in various stages of using these principles in their lesson design.  The interest in incorporating the principles of game-play into lesson design is growing, and it is easier for me now to see why.  The ideas of gamification and game-design thinking are not simply about rewarding players, or in this case students.  Instead, the same principles that underpin problem-based learning, flipped learning, and mastery learning are also at the heart of the gamification movement.  It is about inspiring and empowering learning at all levels.

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