Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Disaster in Haiti: Response and Reflection

For weeks now we have been awash in news regarding the devastation in Haiti. People all over the world have been amazing in their empathy and response. I am sure that we have also seen how quickly and decidedly our students have responded in our schools. At Capital, the student council has been coming to homerooms on a near daily basis to collect donations. My students have emptied their pockets in response. I think it is equally important to think about humanitarian aid in all its forms.

Money is a wonderful way to help from a distance but not the only method. Another way our society can help is to educate. That is a strength of the Globaloria program: using socially responsible games to enlighten and inspire.

Title screen from Ayiti: The Cost of Life

A perfect tie-in for our students is the game called Ayiti: The Cost of Life, supported in part by UNICEF. This game is set in the rural regions of Haiti and shows just how hard life is in that country even prior to the earthquake. Playing this game has put Haiti's tragic current events in context for myself and my students.

First-year teachers: as your classes come to the "Playing to Learn" unit, direct your students to try playing Ayiti. It will help connect our use of the term social-issue game with an actual social issue that they are all aware of today. Experienced teachers: you can offer playing this game as a suggestion for students who have completed their work for the day.

Please encourage your students to visit the following organizations:
Save the Children
Help Haiti Now
Famine Relief Foundation
Doctors Without Borders
Mercy Corps

Even though this is a terrible disaster with massive damages and loss of life, it is a perfect example of how people from around the world can come together to make a difference.

Let's help our students understand their place in the world and think critically about how they might assume responsibilities as Global Citizens.

Until next time, the soap box is yours.


images courtesy U.S. Armed Forces and are part of the public domain

Monday, January 25, 2010

Starting out the Spring Semester

Heather McChesney shares images from her first day of class

From a read of the Globaloria community's blogs, it looks like the spring semester is off to a great start!

Our conversation at the January Academy on student motivation was extremely fruitful, inspiring such insights as Tracy Halsey and Larry Thackett's ideas about relevancy and feedback.

Tracy writes, "One of the reasons I applied to the Globaloria program is because I knew students would be interested and therefore hoped student motivation would be increased. For the most part, it has proven to be true. If you can see a relevancy to your life then you become an active participant. Another thing I try to do is provide feedback to my students."

And Larry resolves, "to help [my students] keep that motivation by:
  • Involving them in the learning process by stressing the importance of collaboration and teamwork. Letting them know that their input is important to everyone's success.
  • Relating the work they will be doing, and how they do it, to the real-world of work they will face after they graduate.
  • Stressing that their success, or failure, is in their hands. I am there to help and guide, but they will have to work to succeed."
Dionne added to the discussion by stressing the importance of getting to know the specific needs of your students:
To foster student motivation, it is imperative that I know my students: their strengths, areas of improvement, and how they feel about school and learning. As I learn about my students, I begin to understand what they need to be successful, and am able to set SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goals with them and help to provide them with the knowledge base and skills necessary to accomplish those goals. As they see small levels of success, and we recognize their accomplishment, they have an internal sense of gratification, and they continue to work, thus becoming more successful. After all, like success, motivation is continuous.
These insights and more were extremely helpful, and already they seem to be paying off!

A Spring-start educator, Heather McChesney had a great first day, and has already posted some pictures of her Globaloria class on her blog. And Tracy, starting her second semester, shares some gorgeous game scenes from her talented students.

Larry has hit the ground running, exclaiming, "Wow! Just finished my first Globaloria game design class and I am nothing short of amazed!"

It's exciting to see you all applying your new abilities and rejuvenated verve to in your classrooms. Fostering student motivation certainly can be hard, but judging from your accomplishments this week, I have to second Jim Allder's advice that motivating yourself can be infectious:
As a Globaloria educator, I have found that the more I invest myself in self-learning, the more motivated I become to teach the next lesson. It is exciting to share new information. (why do you think gossip shows and magazines are so popular?) And those around us are sure to pick up on this excitement and become more self motivated.

This comes a little "back to the basics", but I believe the best way that I can motivate others is by being prepared and learning the skills myself. In music, this involves studying scores, listening to professional recordings, in some cases communicating with the composer, and researching the story behind the composition. In Globarloria, it is accomplished by taking on personal flash projects, finding tutorials, looking for things to blog about, and keeping up the wiki.

Through this preparation, we make ourselves more confident, proficient, and MOTIVATED. This type of motivation is sure to rub off on others.
Keep up your self-learning as the year progresses, and don't hesitate to reach out to your peers, mentors, or the Foundation team for support when you need it!

Good luck!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rewards of the Journey

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."

Scaling a mountain begins with a small step and ends with a great accomplishment. Sometimes the target at the end can seem so far away that we neglect the milestones, which make the journey worthwhile. To help keep you and your students fresh and excited, make sure to celebrate the "footholds" along the way. Each step, no matter how painful or stressful, brings your classroom a little closer to your goals.

It's the week after our January 2010 Academy, and it's clear we are really reaching the peak. You can especially see this in the Spring-Start educators' fantastic game demos. Their game ideas, presentations, and Flash skills represent less a small step, than a giant leap!

Another accomplishment is the community we have established. We look to each other for encouragement, advice and collaboration. From mentors to mentees, educator peers to educator peers, teachers to students, students to one another and the Foundation staff to us all, the Globaloria community is truly a united support system.

Transferring this ethic of support to my classroom is my goal-- and just as challenging as it can be to really hone my abilities with the Globaloria program and platform, I am gratified that my students are taking their own small steps forward right beside me. Together, our achievements (be they footholds or peaks) offer deep and lasting rewards.

Never forget: the hard-earned steps of your journey are as important as the destination.

Until next time, the soap box is yours.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Fostering Student Motivation

Greetings Globaloria Educators and welcome to the January 2010 Mid-Year Academy!

As Bill has pointed out, it’s the New Year and time to make our resolutions; not just for change in your life, but positive change in your Globaloria classrooms. Many of you have been extremely proactive in responding to Bill’s challenge on your own blogs—and it's been remarkable to see how many of you have “resolved” to give your students exactly what Bill has given you: motivation.

As leaders of a program designed to foster the power of self-learning, you know that student motivation is a key component of success. But it's not always clear how best to generate a culture of passion in the classroom, and (harder still) how to sustain it through the many challenges students and teachers face in the process game-creation.

Your overnight blogging assignment tonight is to reflect on your own struggles with student motivation (in Globaloria and throughout your teaching career) and share strategies you've developed to ignite passion and channel it into productive learning.

Good luck, and happy blogging!


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

It's early January and time once again to make our resolutions. We all have different goals: to spend less, to save more, to eat healthier, to live fuller, and to break a sweat at the gym--knowing all too well that our success will vary. The fact is, it's a struggle to make lasting changes in our lives; but these resolutions are made year after year because we know that whatever the outcome, the most important thing is to keep trying.

Luckily, we in the Globaloria community have a special advantage. As teachers, we make changes all the time. We try to change the way students learn, to turn indifference into passion, to broaden views of the world; and in some cases, offer support in the classroom when there is none at home. As many of us know first hand, a dedicated educator can change lives.

Globaloria is a resolution too: to change the way we teach and learn in the 21st-century. Through successes and setbacks, our classes have surprised and inspired us with all we've been able to accomplish. So here we are in January 2010 and the school year halfway over, but as those of us who have been here before know, it isn't all downhill from here. There are plenty of Globaloria challenges--and rewards--to come. This halfway mark is a great opportunity to reflect, adapt, and aim higher.

In fact, I think I'm going to make a few more resolutions:

I resolve to think about what I've done well and figure out how I can perpetuate my successes in the Spring semester. I will not feel defeated about the struggles I've faced. I will take on old challenges with new perspectives. I will commit to helping my students, my school and my community leap into the digital age. Finally, I resolve never to forget why I became a teacher in the first place--to make change.

I propose a blog prompt for all Globaloria educators: Update your blogs with your own Globaloria resolutions for next semester. I extend the challenge to our new Spring Start educators as well. What are your goals for Globaloria in your classroom?

I'm inspired by the accomplishments of the Globaloria community so far this year, and can't wait to read about all you plan to do in the months to come!

Until next time, the soap box is yours.

Bill Dorsey