Category Archives: EDTECH 531

EDTECH 531 End of term lesson

There are two parts to the end of term lesson. Both parts are done in Minecraft.

Part 1: Obstacle course

Long story…I sat in the Minecraftedu class that was held in Canvas. In week 3 I learned that there is practically no way I will be able to use the “edu” version because I am not attached to an institution. But I can still get ideas from teachers who do use the edu perks. Our server is not a Minecraftedu server, but I was still able to put in a lot of nifty things.

When I watched this video, a YouTube video link, , I knew I found part of what I wanted to do with this project. What impressed me the most is he is doing this with second graders. How awesome is that?!? I used some of his ideas and added a few of my own.

This next video is an example of what you’ll be doing in our lesson. I highly recommend you watch the video I made before class because I don’t plan on taking part of our 30 minutes to talk. I want you to have the time to play and explore. Overview of obstacle course.  I do not have all the same nifty features that Minecraft Teachr used but there are reasons. Skip over part 2 if you want to hear about what I tried that did not work, which really was not that much. Continue on to Part 2 if you want to read about the Scavenger Hunt.

Part 2: Scavenger Hunt

Each person will be transported to a biome of his/her choice. Please sign up before class at: so that things are less chaotic in class.

Everybody will be sent to a different location so that you are not all trying to find the same items in the same geographic location.

Part of my obsession with MC is finding objects or just seeing what happens when I use a shovel to knock something down or shears to trim a tree. I am fascinated with the variety of results that come from actions. You may have read my idea about testing hypotheses, and I think this fascination stems from the part where I was (and still am) hypothesizing what will happen if I…

There are two branches you can go with the Scavenger Hunt: organic or (inorganic and tools).


Organic is everything dealing with trees, flowers, mushrooms, plants, or live beings without killing them, like shearing wool from sheep. If you get flowers and can dye the wool, that would count as a separate item than fresh wool from the sheep. What I learned from the MCedu class, or maybe in the training videos, is that we don’t really want to encourage kids to kill animals. Likewise, we don’t use monsters in the beginning. There will not be monsters in our version, so if you are planning on being able to gather monster parts or skeltons, that won’t be an option. There may still be spider webs (organic), but no spiders.

Each different flower is an item. A purple tulip is not the same as a pink tulip. Collect at least 1 of each and put it in your chest. Lilacs and roses are separate items. Daisies and sunflowers are different items. Two sunflowers, however, are still one item. There are, however, two types of mushrooms: the brown ones and the red ones. If this does not make sense and you want more clarification, please let me know.

Inorganic and tools:

Inorganic items are all of the ores. Technically coal is organic, but for this exercise, it will be treated as an ore and will fall in the inorganic category. After all, is coal a renewable resource? Tools are included here because tools are better with inorganic items. It just made sense to have you collect ores, and make as many tools as you can from them. Even though a gold shovel may be not very useful in a game, it will count as one item and a wood shovel will be counted as a separate item. We’re ignoring wood as an organic asset at the moment, and are focusing on the inorganic or functional side of mining. Yes, you may count tools made of wood as one inorganic item. So a wooden axe is one item, a wooden shovel is one item, a wooden pickaxe is another item (so far that is 3 items). After finding cobblestone, an axe made with stone is 1 item, a stone shovel is another item (we’re up to 5 different items). If this does not make sense, just ask.

General guidelines:

  1. You do not have to collect more than one of an item to represent it. You may need to chop down several trees, but in your chest for display, you only have to have one block of the item to represent it.
  2. So we don’t go crazy, you will have 24 hours to complete this task. I am putting a time limit on it because there may be other people who want to do a MC activity and there are a limited number of servers students can use through BSU. I may start checking chests at 6 pm Thursday, Boise time. (5 pm Pacific, 8 pm Eastern)
  3. Put your items in a chest. I will not be able to see your inventory. I put a double chest at each destination. If you need a larger one, you will have to chop down a tree for the wood. If you make it larger, put it with the double chest I made.
  4. Make sure I know which site you transported to. If you did not sign up on the location sheet before class, be sure to put your name on the sheet before I check chests. If there is no name near a location, I will not be checking those chests.
  5. Please indicate if you want to be a part of the scavenger hunt contest or not. If I can create a badge or award and can figure out how to get it registered with our class, then I (or Dr. H) will be issuing badges or awards based on how diverse your organic or inorganic portfolio is.

What’s the point?

Understanding how organic and inorganic items exist can be tricky, especially since we use wood in so many items. Even though I am not including tools in the organic side, technically tools made out of wood would be organic.

Doing this type of expedition could lead to a discussion about renewable and non-renewable resources. What did students find as they mined? If they were to wait a year and let the area repopulate, what would mining in that area be like? Would the iron ore return? Would the trees regrow?

The concept of biomes is still taught in biology classes. Perhaps instead of a contest, students could compare the organic items found in specific biomes. Notch actually did a good job of trying to get biomes to match their description. I did not grab the coordinates for a savannah, but there is also a savannah biome. The tiaga looks like a tiaga, and the forests have a different name than “deciduous” forest. I like how UCMP decided biome classifications, It turns out that MC has those 5 designations, too: aquatic, deserts, forests, grasslands, and tundra. (The frozen lands are like tundra.)

Even though this differentiation (organic vs inorganic) may seem very simple and not worth the time it would take to do the scavenger hunt, there may be other ways to use this activity to teach about organic or inorganic items, or the idea of scarcity. If you have ideas on how you can adapt this lesson to meet a teaching expectation, please share it with me.

Resources I looked at and may have used

Obviously the Minecraft Teachr video, .  Please note, YouTube gave me the wrong URL twice. This should be linked to part 2 of his introductory video. I have no idea why it sent me to other videos done by this person, but that is what was happening when I tried to put links in here.

How to work with water:

How to control minecarts:

I tried using switches to activate the redstone powered rails, but I could not get them to work. I ultimately decided to have the rails permanently turned on and powered to help the cart speed down the track. I wanted to have switches control the starting point because the minecarts would just spontaneously start rolling down the track. It did not matter if I was using a powered rail or a regular one- the carts liked to roll. I found this site:

The restraint idea came from that website and it is the only thing I have found to stop the Minecart from spontaneously rolling down the track. This is why the track needs to be reset if more than one person wants to visit the same place. Then again, you could just run down the track, but where’s the fun with that?

How to teleport

This took a couple days of looking at things- I found ideas from building my own transporter, which I tried to do only to learn that the 9 square crafting table I was using was not designed to make certain objects (maybe because it is version 1.7.10?). I eventually came across these websites:

This one told me how to acquire command blocks:

I had no problems acquiring the command blocks. The first time I tried to program them, they did not work so Dr. H. had to make some changes to the server. Please do not change the commands in the command blocks. I am hoping that feature is turned off when the world is open to students, but in case that gets overlooked, please don’ t mess with the locations.

Fortunately there are many helpful people who have answered questions about teleporting:


If you have any questions about how I figured out how to do something, just ask. I may have lost track of some of my bookmarked sites.

EDTECH 531: SL Building Basics

Video of objects

This video focuses on the objects I created.

Video of objects under dome

At first I made a huge dome and then started filling it with objects. The switching from in and outside the dome was starting to drive me crazy so I deleted the dome and made the rest of the objects I wanted inside the dome.

I enjoyed playing with the skewing of objects, but had more fun decorating them. At first I was using library images, which were amazing. Then I found the “local” option. So I resized some of my images and put them on different objects because I was curious how they would be displayed. I think the cylinder is my favorite.

After I had all the objects I wanted to create, I made another dome and positioned it over the objects, but still had the hollow cylinder (don’t know the real name of it) sticking through the dome. This was fun. I have no idea how people manage large builds or do things like the Smithsonian did.

EDTECH 531: VW Design for learning: tour

This is a quest I really want to do because it should help me not only figure out how to maneuver better in SL, but it should help me see how SL can be used for classroom situations.

I first tried NOAA, but is no longer in service. I then went to the International Space Station. Along the way I stopped off at the Smithsonian’s Dia de los muertos, which was absolutely amazing and beautiful.

I get to answer:

1.what you find engaging, what do you do, see, or experience there?

At first I was bored, but once I remembered I could get places by flying, it became more interesting. I did not figure out how to fly in a rocket, though. I looked for where the rockets or the shuttle may be launching, but all of the objects I found were static.  There was one display you can walk in and it was nifty because you could see inside the cockpit (for lack of a better word) of a shuttle (?).  I liked how they tried to illustrate the distance of planets from the sun. They had the distances marked off which reminded me that Sac State has the same type of thing on campus. They have marked of distances to represent a scale drawing of how far planets are from each other- the same thing was on the ground in the International Space Station area. There are a couple things I found odd, they kept saying they were not funded by NASA, but they seemed happy to use NASA images.  All NASA images are free b/c they are a gov’t agency, but it just seemed odd that they were asking for donations because this was not a NASA project. Another thing I found odd was the sign from the Exploratorium, which is a local science museum for me. I am pretty sure the Exploratorium did not make this website area.

2. what looks visually appealing, why?

Seeing the various rockets is interesting. They are displayed well so you can see the difference in sizes. The cherry blossom trees blooming in front of the school are pretty. The roses look similar to Minecraft roses.

3. what elements of the builds would you like to learn to create yourself?

I need to learn everything about the builds. How to mess with texture. How to add words to signs or the title of the building. I still need to learn how to walk around without getting motion sick. I want to learn how to walk smoothly through scenes. I like the science room, with the Geiger counter and all, but I have no clue what I was supposed to do with it.  Apparently they bought the desk because it thought I wanted to buy it.

EDTECH 531: Virtual Worlds and Reading Levels

I totally agree with the article,, because if there is an interest, kids (even everybody) will read. I can’t verify the reading levels they quoted in the article, but I would pretty much bet the online educational guide sites are written higher than a 4th grade reading level. The irony with me, however, is that I have been avoiding the wiki sites or anything that gives away real secrets. Yes I have consulted the crafting guides, but other than being able to make a bed, I don’t really know why I want wool. When I was building in crafting mode for my epic build, which I am still working on, wool came in handy to soak up the miniature river I created in the middle of my store, but otherwise I am not quite sure what to do with it.

I am still spending hours just mining, and am hoping it will get boring so I’ll stop. If anything, I am starting to become motivated to read about things I have not figured out on my own. Because I want to approach Minecraft as a way of experiencing the scientific method, I’m “testing” myself to see if the hypotheses I have been making are accurate. This means that I do the research by experimenting, however, a part of the scientific process includes doing research on published materials to help me understand what my data may mean. I think I am coming close to having to seek out the published data and figure out what I can do with the animals that spontaneously show up other than scare the begeebers out of them or in the case of sheep, shear their wool.

The article mentions the short stories that have been created by teenagers. I downloaded a few of them anticipating we may be asked to read them during this class. So far we have not  been asked to read one, but I may now that I have learned teenagers are writing these books. That is so cool! I keep telling myself to stop being lazy and write a book about something I know, not necessarily a Minecraft story, and here there are kids 1/4 to 1/3 my age already being published. Imagine having a student who you inspired to write Minecraft novellas being able to pay for college from what she earned by selling her books online. That would make me very happy.

EDTECH 531: Virtual Worlds and Their Inhabitants

I know I must come off as the crankiest person on Earth at times, but I am actually quite picky with my enthusiasm and what I am asked to do. At the moment, I’m in a quest that is asking me to analyze Chapter 2 of Communities of Play by Celia Pearce. The chapter is about virtual worlds and the characters that are in them.

At first I was excited that I’d have an opportunity to read some theory to go with all the Minecrafting I’ve been doing. After all, this is a course for graduate school. Well, I had forgotten my biases when reading published works. It drives me nuts to read something written by an author who is continuously quoting her own publications. Sure, rank up that citation count, why don’t you. Are there no other people who have found data to agree with yours? Is it because what you are doing is so new and novel nobody else has figured it out like you are able to?

So, my first negative impression was because I kept hearing “Pearce” as the citation. You see, if I can get Kindle to read to me, I do. I will also read along while it talks to me, but sometimes my eyes just don’t want to work so I listen. This is not the best chapter to listen to if you don’t want to hear the same person being cited repeatedly. Now that I can be more focused with my reading, I need to rescind this impression. She does a good job of gathering several citations that go beyond her name.

My second negative impression is using the words ludisphere and paidiaic. I’ve heard the words luddite and pedantic before. Are they related to these “new” words? I actually had to run a Google search on the words so I could get a clue what they mean. As brilliant as Pearce is, I did not find a dime store explanation of these words. That is not to say it wasn’t there. It is saying I did not decipher it. Fortunately, Rob MacDougall blogged about this in May, 2010.

He defines ludus and paidia in a way that makes sense to me! Thank you Mr. MacDougall. Simply put, ludus are serious situations where when in such a situation, a sense of humor is not necessarily an asset. Paidia, on the other hand, concerns that sense of humor. If the situation is or can be frivolous, then it has paidia characteristics.

Now that I understand this part, maybe I will be able to actually do the quest I have been asked to complete.

I made a set of slides in ppt because I was going to just submit that for the quest. Unfortunately I am required to make a video. So I used 4 of the slides and what was supposed to be a 3 min video became 7 min. I’m must not psyched to make a video at the moment. Last night I made the slides thinking I’d do the recording today. Silly me, I forgot I’m a pinhead on Tuesday nights so wearing a headset to talk is less than comfortable.

Communities of Play

truncated slide show community of play


The 7 min video with my babbling.


EDTECH 531: MC build something epic

The Epic Build is finally done. Here’s a video of it:

Epic Build

What is written here is somewhat of a diary of the process.

I am building a store called Purse-n-Boots as my epic build in MC. It may not be as amazing as others’ will be, but I want to take an approach that is not conventional. I’m still convinced that not enough girls are playing MC because it is a boy thing. The skills in MC really don’t require a gender.

As I build the quest, I’m taking snapshots. I want to start loading them so it won’t be a menace later once I’m really ready to post.

Screenshot 2014-10-09 20.47.15 Screenshot 2014-10-09 20.47.21 Screenshot 2014-10-09 20.49.44 Screenshot 2014-10-09 20.51.43 Screenshot 2014-10-09 20.54.20 Screenshot 2014-10-09 21.09.03 Screenshot 2014-10-09 21.16.03 Screenshot 2014-10-09 21.19.42 Screenshot 2014-10-10 18.54.54 Screenshot 2014-10-10 19.00.53 Screenshot 2014-10-10 19.26.15 Screenshot 2014-10-10 19.28.06 Screenshot 2014-10-10 19.49.46 Screenshot 2014-10-10 20.21.12

Screenshot 2014-10-10 21.25.14

Starting to put in the spruce wood floors. (Captions tend to take images out of sequence. Sorry)

Screenshot 2014-10-11 19.56.13

No roof (or full walls) yet. So when it rains, it rains.

image of epic build Screenshot 2014-10-10 20.48.03 Screenshot 2014-10-10 20.47.24 Screenshot 2014-10-10 20.58.11 Screenshot 2014-10-10 20.58.21 Screenshot 2014-10-10 20.58.32 Screenshot 2014-10-10 21.25.09 Screenshot 2014-10-10 21.28.05 Screenshot 2014-10-10 21.40.58 Screenshot 2014-10-10 21.43.37 Screenshot 2014-10-10 23.55.58 Screenshot 2014-10-10 23.56.54 Screenshot 2014-10-10 23.56.38 Screenshot 2014-10-10 23.56.16 Screenshot 2014-10-10 23.57.23 Screenshot 2014-10-10 23.57.31 Screenshot 2014-10-11 00.05.23 Screenshot 2014-10-11 01.06.42 Screenshot 2014-10-11 01.10.11 Screenshot 2014-10-11 01.10.17 Screenshot 2014-10-11 01.10.24 Screenshot 2014-10-11 01.10.38 Screenshot 2014-10-11 19.57.48 Screenshot 2014-10-11 19.58.33 Screenshot 2014-10-11 20.53.12

Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.25.44

Yellow blocks of wool (I forgot there is a sponge) were thrown down to absorb the waterfall I created.

Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.25.12

Yellow blocks of wool (I forgot there is a sponge) were thrown down to absorb the waterfall I created.

Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.21.38

Guess what? Ice melts! When it melts, a spontaneous water flow happens. Note: don’t make shoes out of ice.

Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.07.58

I put in a partial 2nd story. I’m thinking it is going to be a cafe. Why put a cafe in a shoe store, I don’t know, but I had the space and was not convinced I really needed to make more shoes.

Screenshot 2014-10-10 20.48.03 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.17.15 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.17.09 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.15.45 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.07.49 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.07.36 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.07.12 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.07.06 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.06.56 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.06.42 Screenshot 2014-10-11 20.54.25 Screenshot 2014-10-11 20.54.29 Screenshot 2014-10-11 23.06.36 Screenshot 2014-10-11 20.53.51 Screenshot 2014-10-11 20.53.28 Screenshot 2014-10-11 20.53.12

I am not sure where my words will land because this is a WordPress site that I haven’t figured out how to fully control, or how to put in a carriage return after the last image. So my description and narrations may go in random places.

I did a videotape of quickly putting in wooden floors. ht


I don’t know how to get text to align with the images, so please bear with me while I add commentary and more pics.

After cleaning up the water spill, I worked on the walls. Here are some shots of putting up walls and putting blocks that glow in the letters of the name of the store.

I created a video to show a fast way to put in floors. Essentially it involves chopping up the line of blocks you want to replace, and then hit the S (backwards) button and your drop button quickly one right after the other and the row will fill easily. It works best if you have blocks on either side of you while you do this so that you don’t go off course.

Putting in Floors Screenshot 2014-11-02 01.24.12 Screenshot 2014-11-02 01.32.17 Screenshot 2014-11-02 01.46.26

2014-11-02_2-06-39 2014-11-02_2-06-57 2014-11-02_2-17-04

Look who joined me as I was building!

Look who joined me as I was building!


Building the roof

2014-11-02_2-02-54 2014-11-02_2-03-10

2014-11-06_23-40-58 2014-11-06_23-41-19 2014-11-06_23-52-06 2014-11-13_15-42-40 2014-11-13_15-42-54 2014-11-13_15-43-30 2014-11-13_15-43-41 2014-11-13_15-43-54 2014-11-13_15-44-10 2014-11-13_15-44-31 2014-11-13_15-44-39 2014-11-13_15-45-14

EDTECH 531: First impression of SecondLife

My first impressions of SecondLife:

I am still going to be nauseous in SL until I get used to the controls. I hope I acclimate to SL sooner rather than later.

I don’t like that all female avatars have amazing figures and large boobs. I want to be a female, but not because I look like some dramatic sexy creature. My real ones are enough to deal with; I don’t need virtual ones, too. I think I have managed to subdue my Avatar as much as possible,  but I have not figured out how to change the red hair to brown hair yet.

SecondLife Avatar

My avatar from the front.





I am not completely sure how I will use SecondLife (SL) in the classroom because I don’t have enough experience with it yet. I tried a SL quest and can’t figure out how to add myself to a group. I am very much in the Noobie stages.

So in a nutshell, I think the female avatars are too sexy, I am still new at the controls so images fly fast in front of my eyes, making me motion sick, and I don’t think I have an audience yet for whom I should create a world. Maybe in the next few weeks as I learn more about how to actually use SL, my learning curve will prove to be as amazing as it has been for MC.

EDTECH 531: Full Immersion

Quest: Full Immersion

I actually have to make a video response to what I learn in this quest. Being me, however, I will also be taking notes here so that when I go to make the video, I remember what was important to me.

I wrote a paper on the Community of Inquiry for a class a couple years ago. Chris Dede’s paper starts off talking about an Immersive Presence. Although he has citations for explaining the immersive presence, it is new to me. Cognitive, social and teaching presences make sense to m,e and I have often tried to find them happening in discussions I have with classmates. Sometimes I even ask questions to try to stimulate a teaching presence. Now I’m thinking, though, about an immersive presence. It goes beyond a social presence. A social presence validates that a person is a person who has something to offer the group. In contrast, the immersive presence is the feeling of physically being in the alternative environment. (I wrote about this, too, in a paper for the Edutainment class.)

The immersive presence uses tools that allow for sensory information to be transmitted to the player. It is being able to feel resistance when trying to push or pull on an object. The sound is in stereo as if you are among the noise. Actional immersion translates the player’s actions into real life happening in the virtual world. If my character can fly, then somehow I get a perspective that is commensurate to a person who is flying. The creators of the virtual world also utilize symbolic immersion which is designed to evoke emotional responses from the participants. In many cases, they are creatures or features that stimulate fear.

I am glad I’m doing this quest after having spent a few weeks being addicted to Minecraft because I can relate to what is being said in the paper. While Minecraft is not fully immersive, it uses sounds to warn me of danger, and I really do feel anxiety when I’m chopping blocks above a possible lava pit. It is strange how I can experience fear in a game where the worst thing that happens is I die, lose all of my possessions, and then have to start over if I choose to respawn.

I liken the exocentric and egocentric descriptions to being outdoors in Minecraft, wandering around the land in daylight being exocentric, and falling into a pit and exploring the inside of a mountain or cave being egocentric. I’m not sure they intended this parallel to be created when they wrote the paper, especially since the paper was written before Minecraft existed, but I can relate much easier to Minecraft examples than I can the ones provided in the paper. I can’t really tell from the perspectives that one is outside Newton’s world and the other one is inside it. Maybe it is that spatial thing again? I like how he goes on to relate the exocentric perspective as seeing the forest instead of the trees because that is a component of Minecraft. Now I’m thinking about how the distant biomes that show up do contribute to my motivation. I find part of my addiction is being curious about what I will find if I…

They mention Second Life in the article. Maybe it is not as old as I first thought. The paper discusses how they used River City to gather data. I’ve actually heard of River City, but can’t place it at the moment. This also sounds a bit like IMMEX, which I was remotely involved with about 15 years ago. I don’t know what has come of IMMEX. (KIE became something else- need to look that up, too.)

I am not sure I am pleased with the phrase “academic loser”, but I know what they are trying to say. Personally I want avatars to not have to look like people and if they do, I want to not have the pressure of feeling like I have to pick a white female to represent me. I am genetically a white female, but why do I have to be one online, too? With respect to their other “findings”, I am not convinced that the student identifies with being a scientist in the virtual environment as much as it is he is no longer himself wearing dirty clothes and possibly needing a shower. The avatar is clean (unless he chooses it not to be). In the virtual world, the student can be the image s/he has always wanted to be.  Students also don’t have their peers necessarily looking directly at them like what happens in a face to face classroom. Some of my best class sessions were with the “academic losers” who did not get to go on a field trip that the college-prep students got to attend. The pressure to prove themselves or perhaps it was the fear of making mistakes, I’m not completely sure why the classroom atmosphere changed, but it did. My non-college-prep students behaved as if they could do anything on those days, and quite often they did.

While I want to see what technology can do to supplement hands-on learning, I am still skeptical that it will ever be as good as having students do real labs. There is just something about using a micropipettor for real that you can’t feel when you do it virtually, unless you can figure out how to hook up some equipment to the game that mimics a micropipettor. Feeling the spring and learning how to control it is critical to having good micropipetting techniques. Then again, with the way things are becoming automated, I don’t know if researchers will still have to do their own pipetting in the near future.

Toward the end of the paper, they pose 4 questions, of which some I share. I’m not too sure what they mean by bicentric frames of reference, so I can’t claim that question to also be a concern that I have. I also wonder if having a virtual persona enhances one in the real world or if it causes a bipolar type of personality. This is very close to their 2nd question, “To what extent can the successes of one’s virtual identity in immersive environments induce greater self-efficacy and educational progress in the real world?” Has my success in Minecraft done anything to help me feel more successful as a person?

About the video part of this assignment…

You believed so you’d belong.

As he talks about “belief” I keep thinking of how people ask me if I believe in evolution. Evolution is not a belief. It is a scientific process that is supported by data and evidence.

Where is fiction allowed to exist? When is role playing effective?

Comparing the video and the paper:

Both want to take people beyond the chair they are sitting in and have them be physically involved with the content they are learning.

The paper wanted to have students be immersed, totally surrounded, by the learning environment. They wanted to include some authentic examples in the learning process.

The video stressed suspending the disbelief we have with fiction. I am not completely sure why we are watching a video that stresses fiction whereas the paper seemed to want to make the learning process more realistic and like non-fiction.

My quest submission:

I decided to make cartoons that I’ll videotape with narration. If you’re curious about the cartoons:

Full immersion and reality

Full immersion and reality

The first image reflects what is said in both the video and the paper. In each situation, they want the reader or participant to be engaged to the point it feels like reality.

The second image has to do with allowing fiction to feel like reality. What can we do to fully manifest what we are experiencing in a virtual world?


cartoon of theories

When fiction becomes reality

The last image is a challenge to the idea of climate change. People are still arguing if it is real or not. I could have done a cartoon with evolution. During the video I kept thinking about how people think evolution is something to believe in, when it is not. Yes it is a scientific theory, but it is based on scientific evidence. You don’t “believe” in evolution. It is not a religious argument.

To accompany the climate change as a debatable theory idea, I had to capture an image of an article that came out in last week’s Nature.

More climate change arguments.

More climate change arguments.


The video I made:


EDTECH 531: Blow up the gradebook

In 1996 I was a first year teacher for the second time (long story). Being the new teacher, I was given the classes that nobody else could teach or wanted to teach. This means I think I had 5 preps that year. One thing that I learned about the kids at this school was how thick the fear of failure was for them. They would rather fail because they did not try at all than to try even a little and fail, or possibly not fail. So many students just accepted they were going to fail no matter what they did. The system socially promoted them for 8 years so for many of them, in the 9th grade, they were actually being held accountable for their actions or inaction. I forget how many students failed the 9th grade and had to repeat it, but it was a high percentage. I did not want to see students who had been channeled into the non-college-prep track get stuck in classes with the unmotivated teachers. You see, if they failed my 9th grade physical science class, it was very unlikely I would ever see them as a chemistry student. Without taking chemistry in high school, the chances of getting into a public 4 year college in CA are very slim. Where am I going with this? I had to find a way to stop kids from giving up even before they had a clue how much cool stuff they could do, if only they would let themselves do some work.

I admit that I was the worst physical science teacher on earth my first semester (year on a 4×4) teaching it. I have the credential for it because I took physics  and chemistry in college, but at that time I completely stunk with explaining physics without equations. Physical science was pretty much non-math based physics. Putting numbers on the board shut down so many kids that I had to be very careful with how and when we did math in class. I had zero support from my teaching colleagues. They did not want me to be there, plus rarely did a science teacher last past one year so why would they want to invest any time, energy, or equipment in me. Pretty much for the first couple years of teaching, if I could find the items we needed for a lab at Home Depot or the grocery store, we were good for the lab. eBay did not exist yet.

When I was getting my teaching credential, one of my professors suggested that we do a grading system where everything was based on the lowest possible task we could ask students to do. For me, that was homework. Homework was always an effort grade. They got credit whether they did it correctly or not. It was a part of the learning process. I also put up signs celebrating mistakes, but that does not necessarily belong in this thread. For me, homework was weighted as 1x. Labs were weighted as 2x through 4x depending on how difficult they were and how much work was involved. Quizzes were usually 2x, and tests were often 8x or 10x depending on how much homework had been assigned. After about 5 years of teaching, I figured out how to map questions directly to content standards so sometimes the grading had content standards weighted instead of questions.

This sounds very confusing, doesn’t it? That was my point. I loved the way this grading system worked because the kids could not figure it out. To calculate a final grade, you add up all the points and divide by the number of x values you have. So final grades ranged from 0 to 4.0.  OH, I forgot to mention, with this grading, if students did A work, they got a 4 on the assignment. B work was a 3. C work was a 2. D work was a 1. F work or nothing turned in was a 0. As long as something intelligent was turned in, the student automatically earned a 1 for the assignment. With homework, the stamp for completeness was worth 4 points. If they did not complete it on time to earn the stamp, they could earn 2 points by doing the homework and turning it in on the day of the test. Earning 2 of 4 points seemed much nicer (?) than earning a 50%. There is more to this system, but I don’t want to go off topic of the prompt too much.

Why change the numbering system? These numbers don’t look at all like percentages so the students don’t know what to do with them. They would, however, see they had a 1.7 which was a D, but because 1.7 is so close to 2, they would not automatically shut down. They still thought they could get to where they wanted to be. It was possible. On a percentage scale, the 1.7 could have been a 40%.  Seeing 40% for a grade often shut down the students. Even if they only had 3 assignments turned in out of possibly 20 or 30 they would have during the quarter, seeing the 40% they decided they were failures and it would not be worth their time to even try. Going to what I referred to as a rubric based system, they were too confused to know if they should give up. Fortunately many students who otherwise would have given up seeing a 42% did not give up when they saw 1.7.

What Dr. Haskell does with quests is somewhat similar. It is a new numbering system that does not align directly to percentages. I do not know how he determines his breaking points for classification of status or for final grades, but it does not really matter. As his student, I know there have to be opportunities for me to earn more points because there are more levels of recognition I can gain. I pretty much know my status at any given time so how much I have progressed is obvious. Nothing tells me I’m at an F and have to work up to an A. I’ve been tricked into thinking I can move up the ranks as if I’m in the military. With hard work and determination, I can easily earn more points.

I have been in favor of destroying the percentage based grading system ever since I had the students who reeked with the odor of fear of failure. The logic of 60% being passing just makes no sense to me. I would love to see quest-like grading continue because the system I did is too complicated for most people to understand or accept it. Several years ago I heard Robert Marzano talk at ASCD, and was surprised to see his break offs for final grades are similar to mine. It turns out the system I developed is very close to what he promotes in his work. I can’t even take full credit for this idea because it was given to me as a student teacher. It was not my original idea.

I don’t know what type of system I will develop with my quests. For continuity sake, I may adopt a hierarchy similar to what Dr. Haskell does. On the other hand, maybe I will come up with science critters to represent various levels of evolving through a course. I’m not at that point yet with my thinking, so you’ll have to keep track of me to see what I eventually end out doing.

As for how quest based grading or my grading system would mesh with PowerSchool or any of those parent-friendly technology-based communication systems, I have no clue.

EDTECH 531: Creating with Minedraft- A virus particle

This was a fun quest which was actually quite enjoyable to do. I’m tempted to redo the virus particle because there are a few flaws, but I don’t know if I have to be a perfectionist with this activity. I did the sketch in Minedraft:

Drawing in MineDraft

Drawing in MineDraft

So just a few things I learned with Minedraft- be sure where you start your image is where you want it to be. You can’t scroll so if your image happens to go off the screen, then it goes off the screen. On my computer the difference between zoom and out was one choice either way and the zooming out was really small.

So what we have here in the drawing are proteins that make up the capsid, proteins that give the nucleic acid a place to sit, and nucleic acid in the center. The stuff on the edges are receptor molecules which viruses often have so they can be recognized by their host cell.

Moving into Minecraft I learned that I can’t put grass on the edge of water. Well, I could not find a block for water so I first tried the translucent blue glass, and ultimately went with blue wool, I think. So the materials list I gathered from Minedraft proved to be useless.


The cactus would not stick. I could not find wheat or the reeds. At least Minedraft gave me a sketch with colors and features I wanted to put in my build in Minecraft. It was very useful and was on my screen as I was building because I wanted to align the squares like they were in the drawing.

Now Minecraft images:

Yes, I know there are some flaws, but this is not too bad for going from a 2 dimensional drawing to a 3 dimensional object. For me, this is amazing. Spatial thinking is not my specialty so I’m actually very excited with how this turned out. Enjoy!

I built in the rain. Sketch is off to the right.

I built in the rain.
Sketch is off to the right.

Screenshot 2014-10-03 20.42.29

I built in the dark until I could not stand it any more. When it got too silly to build in the dark, I told it to give me daylight.

Screenshot 2014-10-03 20.34.42 Screenshot 2014-10-03 20.43.09

Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.21.46

Setting it to daylight is not a permanent setting. It still got dark again.

Screenshot 2014-10-03 20.51.48 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.05.02 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.08.13Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.08.20 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.08.33

Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.41.59 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.41.48 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.41.42 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.41.37 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.41.30 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.41.14 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.41.06 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.40.50 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.40.20 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.39.59 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.39.51 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.39.33 Screenshot 2014-10-03 21.39.38

If you can’t get the 3d idea from these images, just let me know and I’ll take a few more. Thank you for taking time to check out my 3D construct.