Monthly Archives: November 2014

Virtual You, Virtual Me, Real Learning…


Virtual worlds…they have been around for quite some time, and are often associated with video gaming or social interaction activities. However, there is a new storm brewing on the forefront of technology. Virtual worlds like SecondLife are being used to provide an educational learning experience to students. Who would have thunk?!

Many of us have experienced some type of virtual world experience whether it be through a video game or apps of sorts. Some that come to mind are: any gaming console like Wii, PS4 XBOX, etc., Farmville, The Sims, The Simpsons Tapped Out, Second Life, etc. However, how many of you would say that you have participated in those worlds for a learning experience? I think many of us don’t tend to think about using apps or games like these for a defined learning experience. While many of those games have specific tasks that need to be accomplished, and sometimes require a certain amount of an item, like currency or points they can indicate indicated achievement and success. The same principles could be applied to a learning experience. In an educational setting, many learning activities are driven by objectives or desired outcomes. Open virtual worlds like SecondLife make it difficult to narrow down learning experiences because they are so broad. While that has it’s pluses, I think it would be difficult for a teacher to engage students in a specific learning activity with a broad program.

Currently, I do not associate learning experiences with 3D virtual worlds like Second Life, the Sims, or any other similar platform, because they are not designed to guide a participant to achieving a specific outcome or objective. They are merely a participatory experience where you can interact with others, human or AI. I believe that the education world has a while to go before virtual worlds have a place in our learning environments. I am thinking about the current struggles many public K-12 districts are going through just to get computers, SmartBoards, projectors, or other technology devices in their schools. Not to mention that IT support for districts is a large battle. Coming from the perspective of a teacher, time and training is another large issue. I think there is immense potential for virtual worlds to impact learning down the road, but it will require dedicated time and training to ensure that the teachers can successfully implement such activities to positively impact student learning.

I think there is potential for activities surround art history. Janette Grenfell from Deakin University published a paper that discusses the University’s use of virtual worlds for art based activities. “These constructed environments support interaction between communities of learners and enable multiple simultaneous participants to access graphically built 3D (three dimensional) environments, interact with digital artifacts and various functional tools and represent themselves through avatars, to communicate with other participants and engage in collaborative art learning” (Grenfell, pp. 391). I think a 3D virtual world would be a great way to introduce students to a specific culture or time period, and the art derived from it. At Newtown Middle School, we teach art through a cultural timeline, and we are always looking for a way to introduce a culture in an interesting way to the students, because it can be boring. A virtual world would allow them to interact with the culture, associated artifacts and each other to start a dialogue about what they have observed and their reactions. Something like this would require us art teachers to have the time and capabilities to develop such an environment catered to our specific needs. Currently, we are struggling just to find time to meet as a whole district art cohort to revise curriculum, so I am not too sure where we would find the time and support to develop something like this. Eventually, I think we will see this in the classroom, but it has a while to go before it gets there.

In the meantime, here are some websites on helpful tips on how you might integrate virtual worlds into learning experiences in your classroom:


Grenfell, J. (2013). The Best of All Worlds: Immersive Interfaces for Art Education in Virtual and Real World Teaching and Learning Environments. Online Submission.




I think games have an important part in the learning experience, because they provide us with a hands-on opportunity for us to interact with information either as an individual or in a team. We are hardwired to interact with technology, so why not have the content and material presented to us in a way that is native?

As an educator, one of the biggest challenges we face is finding ways to instill creative thinking and problem solving into our students so they can go into the future ready to reach new heights. Richardson points out, “They’re developing problem-solving and ‘tinkering’ skills,learning how to use trial and error effectively, and learning some basic physics principles,’ she says. ‘They spontaneously collaborate with and coach each other, and I have them write strategies for different levels to share with others, so they’re also developing their ability to reduce a series of complicated steps into a concise strategy and to communicate that clearly for an authentic audience” (Richardson, pp. 44).

As a teacher, and as a student I have interacted with games that review materials or concepts, in preparation for a test or quiz of some sorts. These are a great way for students to interact with one another, and participate in a game that supports learning. However, games like this do not require students to problem solve or actively rethink their strategies for achieving success.

Ironically enough, when I taught my digital design courses, the introduction level course had a final at the end of the year. As a teacher, I had no interest in giving them a test to complete, or a short two-hour project. I wanted to give them a project that provided them with guided creative freedom and required them to demonstrate all of the skills they have acquired over the year. The final project required each intro student to develop and design a new board game that was to be played by their peers on the final exam day. This project was perfect for a few reasons:

  1. The students had to develop all of the components for the game: the logo, the rule book, the board, the cards, the player pieces, and anything else their game required that I couldn’t provide (I provided dice, player pieces, chips, etc.). This component forced them to use all three software programs that were covered over the course of the year, and they had to dig deep to achieve results that were aesthetically pleasing…because we all know that looks are important when it comes to advertising, sales and playability.
  2. The students had to play their peers games. This forced the students to problem solve. They had to figure out how to create a game that actually worked. They had to take into consideration numerous factors and potential outcomes and find ways to make sure the game was playable.
  3. Their final was self and peer evaluated. I supervised their final period, and guided them through the expectations of the 2-hours. They had to complete evaluations of the games after they played them. And, who doesn’t like to play board games? Board games instead of a multiple choice final….I think yes!

While this wasn’t  any type of digitized game, the idea of playing games was still incorporated along with the added element of developing and designing a game from scratch. I felt that this particular project really highlighted what the students took away from the course. As the article stated before, the students were coaching each other, and I saw the same effect in the classroom when my students were completing their final projects in the 5 or 6 weeks prior to the final exam period.

When I think of gaming in the classroom, I think of board games or video games. Some of the software platforms that are available to us to make our own are not as adaptive as I wish. Many of them act like an interactive quiz, as opposed to a game like Angry Birds. There are many apps on mobile devices that teach core academic principles. For example, Angry Birds allows for students to apply their knowledge of physics in order to beat each level. I strongly believe that over the next few years, we will see games and apps that allow for us to connect core academic areas to gaming in an educational setting.

In the meantime, here are some websites that highlight some learning games for kids. I think they are geared towards elementary levels, but there are no reasons why games like The Sims, Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, etc. couldn’t be worked into a higher level educational setting.


Richardson, W. (2012). Gaming GAINS Respect. District Administration, 48(7), 44.


large ferris buellers day off blu-ray4


It seems in the 20+ years I have been in school, I have come across my fair share of boring presentations. I distinctly remember sitting in numerous college course, namely the large lecture ones, thinking….”Why am I paying for this? The professor posts all of the presentations and slides on their website. Why do I even bother coming to class?”  I think as education forges ahead, we really need to rethink our method of information delivery. There are so many more engaging ways to share and present information.

Now, I am not saying that presentations don’t have a place in education, they most certainly do. However, they should not be the sole practice. We each learn and obtain information through various ways, and a presentation would only cover one of those ways.

Presentations are an important part of our learning process and journey. The true definition of a presentation has to do with the presenting of ‘something’ to another person. I think often times, especially in today’s society, the term ‘presentation’ is associated with a PowerPoint or Keynote slideshow. However, in reality, information can be presented to us through a multitude of venues like a book, a slideshow, a paper, images, verbal communication, videos, music, etc.

I believe that a presentation is a valuable part of our learning experience as long as the information is clear, and that is not the ‘be all, end all’ for a learning activity. I have found myself in many situations that a presentation, namely a slide show, was the ONLY means of a learning activity. Additionally, the presenter read all of the information right of the slides. One of my goals when I present information in my classroom, is to keep it short and sweet. I want the students interacting with each other and researching their own information. Art is a kinesthetic experience, therefore, presentations should serve the purpose of inspiring my students and providing them with foundational information. There are many benefits of PowerPoint presentations, they help the students with “understanding the content, in memorizing the content, the facility of presenting the content with the help of figures, tables, drawings, signs and symbols. The responses have proved that the entire teaching – learning process becomes interesting, live, meaningful and effective” (Indumathy, pp. 1).

If you find yourself in need of presenting a presentation, check out this article by Forbes on various ways to make sure your presentation is NOT boring:



Not so far, far away….

www image blog 3

The world wide web has created this space to house a wealth of information that one could have only dreamed of prior to 1989. Our students can now access data and materials on a global scale, foster connections with people who are hundreds of miles away from them, and even interact or participate in classes or discussions that are taking place in different countries. For some, these can be quite intimidating to navigate if they don’t have the proper skills and ‘know-how’ to be successful.

To me, this is one of our greatest challenges in education at the moment. How do we educate our students on the use of the world wide web as a learning tool? Well, for starters, as a teacher, one of the best ways of achieving this is to develop learning activities that incorporate the use of legitimate data, and require the students to conduct their research using the internet. In my last post, I discussed some questions that would serve as a great base for students as they start their research. Questions that they can ask themselves as they come across data and other resources.

It’s time to put your teacher hat on…even if you aren’t one. What type of learning activity might you create that incorporates the use of data and research found online? Take into consideration the different levels of students…how might you differentiate the level of the activity to accommodate an independent learner, a learner who requires some support and a learner who might complete the activity at a participatory level? How will the students turn the collected data and research into a project or activity that requires them to perform at the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy…create?

Here is a learning activity I created for the art room:

learning challenge _ museum curation

As you start to plan your activity, you may want to read this article by Scholastic. It does a great job of breaking down what you may want to consider, and the type of project.

Happy planning! I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Yes, no, maybe so…

Last week’s blog post was about whether or not social media has a place in the classroom. This week we will explore how we can better equip our children with the tools to decipher if the resources they find are credible.

As an adult, I would like to think that we are better equipped to differentiate between legitimate and illegitimate sources. Seeking out the best, most reliable resources requires a bit of footwork. As educators we must teach our students how to go about that footwork to make sure that they too can find credible resources. “The plethora of information available online, coupled with heavy reliance on the Internet by information seekers raise issues of the credibility or quality of information found online” (Metzger, pp. 2078). Not only is the large amount of information that can be accessed, it also allows for any person to be an author. There aren’t as many guidelines that regulate publishing online, so credibility is in question there as well.

These issues can create a difficult challenge in an educational setting. Our students have multiple ways to access information now, but they don’t have the skill sets to make the most informed decisions about resources and data. The new Common Core State Standards are challenging students to be able to:

  • Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  • Gather relevant information form multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  • Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research (Common Core State Standards, 2014).

In order to teach our students how to determine the legitimacy of resources. Here are some questions you can ask your students:

  • What is your topic?
  • What is the URL?
  • Is the extension appropriate to the content?
  • Who is the author?
  • Is there contact information for the author?
  • What are the author’s credentials?
  • Does the site appear to be professional?
  • Are there typos and other errors?
  • What is the purpose of the sire?
  • Is there bias? If so, what is it?
  • Is this a primary or secondary source?
  • Are the citations or a bibliography?
  • Is there a date for the publication/revision of the page?
  • Does the information seem in depth and comprehensive?
  • Overall Evaluation…

(Gutherie, 2013).

If we can get our students into the habit of running through this process as they are researching resources, then they will be well on their way to exceeding the Common Core State Standards.

To find out more about what people’s thoughts were on the use of social media in the classroom were, I conducted a survey. If you view the mind map image, you can see the results.


Here is a link to some questions you may want to have your students ask themselves before they start exploring what they have found:



English Language Arts Standards » Anchor Standards » College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing. (2014, January 1). Retrieved October 30, 2014, from

Gutherie, E. (2013, August 27). Teaching Students to Determine Credibility of Online Sources (Free Student Handout!). Retrieved October 30, 2014, from

Metzger, M. (2007). Making sense of credibility on the web: Models for evaluating online information and recommendations for future research. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 58(13), 2078-2091.

Tucker, C. (2014, June 20). Common Core: Evaluating The Credibility of Digital Sources. Retrieved October 30, 2014, from