RIP: Apps and initiatives that are no longer with us.

Okay, I'm going to need you to bear with me while I rant a little bit, whine some, and cry out for help and advice.

Engaging Middle School students is hard, even in the computer lab. Most of the garbage out there that is marketed to teachers, particularly in the technology department, is not only teaching antiquated skills, but is also incredibly "edukitschy". Every once in awhile you find a gleaming diamond in the rough that is awesome and free. This rarely happens for teachers, and when it does, it becomes all the more heart-breaking when it suddenly goes away. Sometimes we only get to greet these things at a distance, and due to our circumstances never get to enter the promised land before the world has moved on. 
Project SparkProject Spark was a game creation / simple programming environment for Microsoft Windows 8.1, 10 and Xbox One, which was the very beautiful child of it's homely parent, Kodu. Kodu is a visual programming tool which builds on ideas begun wi…

Danielson is a Hard Core Gamer: Part 1 - Gamification & Classroom Environment

Okay, so I don't know Charlotte Danielson, and I cannot seriously make conjecture on her leisure activities, particularly in the realm of video games. With that out of the way, I wanted to explore some of the ways in which the use of simulations, games, gamification and game design relates to and can exemplify the four domains of Danielson's Framework for Teaching and learning.

Today, I'd like to begin with Domain 2, Classroom Environment. In future posts on this topic, I plan to explore the other domains. For those of you who are being evaluated using the Danielson framework and who also happen to be doing gamification (with or without Classcraft), feel free to steal liberally from the language in this post for your professional "evidence folder".
Gamification, Levelling up my Classroom environment with Classcraft
I've been using Classcraft off and on since last year, but I'm just now really starting to get into a groove with this thing.

I have to adm…

MS STEAM starter pack pt. 2: Design

This is the second in a 3-part (maybe 4) series on setting up a sweet STEAM classroom in your Middle School. If you want to go read part 1, it's here: MS STEAM starter pack pt. 1: Programming
Design & STEM vs. STEAM So, this topic is all about putting the "A" in STEAM. It used to be STEM, and for a brief time it was STE[A]M, but these days it's STEAM, and for good reason. Apple did not experience the massive market success that it is known for by making products that were simply functional. For better or worse, human beings are drawn to beauty. We love stuff that looks good, and I believe that any STEAM program worth its salt will cover the basic fundamentals of design.
This is much more difficult than it sounds. Somehow, whether in advertisements, user interfaces, or simple brand marks, the people who understand design wow us and suck us in with their brilliant use of typography, color, and composition. I think most of us have an inherent sense of what "l…

3d Resurrection - Getting your Cube 3 Working again

Perhaps, like us, you unwittingly chose a Cube 3d Printer for your school or classroom, either because of it's iOS air printing capabilities or because you were sold on the fantasy of it being seamless and simple. LOL... Then, when 3d Systems announced it was discontinuing its line of consumer machines, you may have felt abandoned and hurt and confused. For us, it was a pretty low blow, considering there was no prior announcement about this and we had just purchased one of these bad boys for nearly $800.00; no small amount for a public Middle School.

We may have gotten a lot of distance out of this machine, nonetheless, as we had stockpiled quite a few of the proprietary filament cartridges. If you've used one of these at all, though, you know the filament cartridges are crap, and definitely the weakest link when it comes to this printer. The filament is terrible and you're constantly disassembling and reassembling cartridges. The filament cartridges are also this printers…

MS STEAM starter pack pt. 1: Programming

This is the first in a 3-part (maybe 4) series on setting up a sweet STEAM classroom in your Middle School. I will link all three parts here when they're finished.
MS STEAM starter pack pt. 2: Design
The Premise
I am a middle school computer science teacher. It's what I do. I LOVE my job. I also often speak at universities, blog, tweet, and just generally build as many relationships in the education world as I can. In my travels, I have heard the following scenario at least a dozen times (probably more, but I am prone to exaggeration, so I'll stop at a dozen). 
Hi, Clint. I'm a Librarian for Generic Area School District in Upper Generic County. My school is phasing out the Library curriculum and turning our Libraries into [ultimate action-packed / STEM / cafe-related / Multi-media adjectives] Centers. I'm being asked to teach a Middle School [Coding / Game Design / STEM / STEAM] Class, and I know nothing about this stuff. I think they're trying to get rid of me. …

My first real foray into Classcraft...

I’ve been blogging here about gamification for years. I’ve read and watched just about everything Gabe Zichermann and Jane McGonigal have said about human motivation and how games motivate us*. I've spoken at conferences, workshops, and in-service events about gamification. Despite all of that, I have not tried Classcraft until this school year.

Classcraft bills itself as a game-based approach to teaching, but it is basically a gamification tool (see my Gamification / Game Based Learning / Game Design disambiguation here). It was designed to encourage participation, good behavior, and collaboration and at first, seemed like the secondary version of Class Dojo. In some ways it is, but it does a lot more. Basically, Classcraft’s goal / premise is to help me manage, motivate and engage my students by transforming my classroom into a role-playing game, which should be right up my alley. Anyone who has spent any time reading my blog knows that I love RPG’s. Heck, I even joined the OP T…

New Post on the GSM Teacher Blog: Game of Sprites

Hey, all. Go check out my latest post on the Gamestar Mechanic Teacher Blog

Game of Sprites – An epic adventure in STEAM learning.

The Holidays are upon us! The students are restless… It’s time for a new challenge! Starting November 18th, the awesome team at Gamestar Mechanic began releasing a series of brand-new Challenges for your students to play through. These challenges will not only allow your students to unlock new sprites and gear but also provide them with a great lead up to a new Contest that will task them with creating their own... More