Quite possibly the most amazing nature video ever made.

Folks, this is breathtaking. It reminds me the times I interacted with an octopus, almost swam into a man-o-war while night snorkeling, saw the spawning of the glow worms in Bermuda and witnessed the phosphorescent comb jellies in Long Island Sound. Nature has some real magic to offer, as this video artistically captures. Enjoy. You will be back.

Credit to AJ Schneller who posted this on Facebook.

Everything I need to know in life I learned at Games in Education 2013


With some serendipity and luck earlier this week, forces aligned for me to attend Games In Education 2013, a multi-day conference focusing on the intersection of games and learning. What helped was that it was being held in my backyard, Malta, NY, at the beautiful HVCC TEC-SMART campus. Additionally, a great slew of sponsors helped make it happen, including Tech Valley High School, Capital Region BOCES, 1st Playable, WMHT, Pastime Legends, and Microsoft. And yes, there was a free lunch in this game.

I was impressed by the well thought out conference program and the amazing volunteers. Whenever I had a question there was someone there to help. Shout out to 1st Playable who had a slew of summer interns helping out, many of which are attending the RIT games and media program. I interacted with a couple of them and they were great.

Here are my Top 6 Life Learning Lessons from Games in Education 2013

1. Walk a mile in anothers’ shoes to understand them. To truly understand someone, you need to experience what they experience. So, to understand our kids, we need to go where kids are to relate to their world. This was stated in Lucas Gillespie’s keynote, and it really struck home for me. This is great advice for teachers, but also for parents. If you are along side your child experiencing it with them, when they get stuck they will turn to you for help. If you aren’t there, you miss out on this opportunity. This leads in perfectly to my next point.

2. Jump in, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. There is no shame in admitting that you are new in a space, and by acknowledging this, you open yourself up to the opportunity of mentorship (even if that mentor is a fifth grader.) As teachers and parents, it’s ok to be vulnerable and let others see that you may not always have the answers. Thanks to Seann Dikkers for helping to make this point. So, the natural next question is where to start. Some suggestions from the Day 1 keynote were MinecraftKerbal Space Program, WoW, GuildWars, Portal2, Civilization V, and SimCity4.

3. Learning is about the journey, not the destination. This directly relates to a theme in education that I have been hearing more and more about, BADGES. I’ve heard people talk about “badifying education” and “gamification.” We must not lose sight of the most important thing, the actual learning experience and the opportunities for connecting with others as we learn. Badges are not a golden ticket that will make everything better. If you think badges can make poor educational content palatable to students, think again. Badges on a poorly designed learning experience may make it even worse. Focus on great content and learning activities, and only add badges to make this great content even more fun. Badges will only motivate if used properly, and we can learn a lot about motivation from what has been done in video game research. It’s clear that Kevin Miklasz has done some great thinking about badges and education and is inspiring great science activities at the curiousity machine.

4. Failure is your friend. The idea of failure came up multiple times in the conference. In the first context, it had to do with jumping in to new games. Failing is OK for learning a new environment, in fact, it is healthy and can be a motivator to do better the next time.

We need safe environments for failure for today’s students, where they can have the ability to learn from their mistakes and try again. Customizing learning environments and challenging students in a safe space can allow for new kinds of growth opportunities.

“Fail early, fail often” may be a mantra for rapid learning. So jump in, and don’t be afraid to fail. Learn from it and improve the next time.

5. We live in the most extraordinary time for learning. Be a leader. Lead kids by showing them how to use computers to learn, create, make and play. Not all screentime is bad. When you use a computer to learn how to fix something, program a robot to dance, or create a new video game, you are learning real skills. Teachers can even learn from other teachers! Even social skills can be developed in team-based video games and in using technology for collaboration. It’s not about the screen, but how you use the screen. Teachers and parents need to become aware of amazing resources for inspiring creativity, imagination, and programming. Erynn Petersen shared some of her wisdom as she finds just the right formula for introducing coding to kids in rural America through her project, Station082.

6. Find meaning in what you are doing. While this takeaway stirred some folks at the day 2 keynote, and it resonated with me. If you find personal meaning in what you doing, then you should continue doing it. If you don’t, you might want to consider something else. How much time each day are you spending on things that are meaningful to you? Can you up that percentage tomorrow? Business coach Marshall Goldsmith challenges everyone to help define their own definitions of personal meaning.

Finally, I just wanted to list a few more of the resources that were shared.
Ingress (Android only)
SimCity for FutureCity Competition
Mission US – History Through Interactive Gaming
Vital NY Resources
Ready Player One, Cline
Brain Based Learning, Jensen
Brain Rules, Medina
Ender’s Game
Ender’s Game (Nov. 2013)
Minority Report
Leap Motion
XBox One
NAO Robot
Game Development/Introductory Programming:
Code Maven and Code Monster

What did I miss at Games in Education 2013? Let me know in the comments.

Beautiful, Interactive Maps for the Classroom (Now with GIS Analysis!)

Screen Shot 2013-07-02 at 12.51.16 AM

Well, it’s a week since I left the ESRI Teachers Teaching Teachers GIS (T3G) Conference held at ESRI in Redlands, CA. After a week of being completely distracted by another amazing conference, I now can revisit my T3G reflections and share some of my takeaways.

Full GIS Analysis in the Cloud Brings GIS to the Masses

The end of ArcGIS Desktop in the classroom?

First of all, what I keep coming back to is something that was not so much said, but more of an understanding that I have determined. This past week I witnessed not just points on a map in ArcGIS Online, but real GIS analysis. ESRI is putting some of it’s most popular and useful analysis tools into the cloud. I’ll say it one more time. GIS analysis in the cloud. Not only that, this is the model they are pushing for educators to use.

What does this mean?

What they are doing with ArcGIS Online is bringing full GIS, with analysis, to the cloud, and to the students. This means no software to install (no IT guy to get approval from). This means processing on a server (not local). This means simpler interface (web based, it has to be). This means simpler access to data (datasets preloaded and findable in the cloud). So, major hurdles of software access, complex GUI, high powered PC, and data converting erased.

Overall, I think ArcGIS Online has the potential to revolutionize mapping in education.

Tools For Prettifying Maps

The new ESRI map offerings don’t suck.

Two things struck me this week. The maps I was looking at all week, whether being a collection displayed as a Map Gallery, A Web Mapping Application, or a Storymap, didn’t suck. This is a big deal. We all love the pretty stamen/mapbox basemaps (am I right?). This week, I was looking at maps from ESRI that were, do I dare say it, beautiful. That’s exciting and transformative. They are maps WORTH sharing, not just data being presented online. I know that this will make students happy, because when they create a map, they will then be excited to share it. While this may seem like a small deal, this is a HUGE deal.

These are also things that I want to bring back to Skidmore College and implement. I would love to have a Map Gallery highlighting student interactive maps. I have already begun exploring the use of Storymaps in the classroom and for campus initiatives (here’s our simple graffiti prototype.) Getting ArcGIS Online into our GIS class is essential, but I think it is just the beginning. With analysis in the cloud, and beautiful online map output, I think it will grow quickly on campus, especially as we ramp up some of our on campus outreach to departments.

So, to sum it up, I think these pretty maps will go a long way in helping to spread the map love on campus, and in education.

Learning Pathways

Getting started with mapping in education.

Well, I did a lot of time reflecting about teaching professional development this week. After all, it was an institute on how to teach teachers GIS. Something I have alway thought about is meeting people where they are, and starting simple. For instance, if you start to high up the pyramid, you may lose people who don’t have some of the basics. There was a great graphic illustrating this for teaching GIS. Here it is.

This we used all week as a model for reflection as we did different activities. It was very useful for the conscious awareness of why and how we were doing what we were doing. Instructors prompted “what level of the pyramid are you working in now?” and we would respond. I really liked this aspect of the workshop.

Related to this concept I must tell a quick story. First of all, I am so thankful for meeting many of the wonderful Geographic Alliance coordinators at this institute. It was so refreshing to see this commitment to geography education by truly inspiring individuals.

In reflecting on my interactions with these folks, I investigated some great entry level mapping resources. I found the National Geographic MapMaker Interactive a great entry level tool for inspiring geographic exploration and simple maps. Additionally, I thought that Fieldscope was a fascinating citizen science project.

Finally, I reflected on what some of my Skidmore professor’s actually use a lot. Microsoft Excel. One of my sessions highighted something that I might be able to show some of my Excel-expert faculty called ESRI Maps for Office (EMO, for short). EMO allows you to go from tabular data to interactive map in Powerpoint in very little time. I was impressed with this tool, and this might be a good GIS-light application for those with heavy Excel experience.

So, to summarize, I became aware of entry level mapping tools that show great promise, and could be excellent for starting students, teachers, or faculty.

So, how do I wrap all this all up? Cloud mapping for education is here, and the maps look great. Think about how you teach, and don’t be afraid to scaffold with some of the great National Geographic mapping resources and ESRI Maps for Office.

That’s my takeaway. Thanks to Adena for the prompt to write this.

ELI 2013 Analytics: Learning From Our Connections

Top 25 Words Used In Tweets in the Final Days of ELI 2013

In this post I am using Twitter analytics to learn about the major themes, discussions, and resources which emerged at the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting held in Denver, CO, Feb. 4-6, 2013.

First of all, I did not attend ELI 2013. I was on the sidelines, watching from afar as the presentations happened, the conversations were had, and folks were discussing the state of teaching and learning today.

I feel privileged to have technology today, such as the Internet and Twitter, to be able to “listen” in from the outside as people become inspired to share publicly online. I did this primarily by following the hashtag #eli2013 on my computer as I sat in my office in Upstate NY as the conference unfolded. As I monitored the “real-time” Internet I caught glimpses of what was going on in the moments I sat and paid attention to it.

This blog summary is to force myself to try to grasp the major themes and resources using some analytics generated for free using the tool TweetArchivist, and to think and reflect on these findings.

MOOCS are here

First of all, it is fairly clear that the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) were the main theme of the online conversation. Out of 25 top words gleaned from Tweets in the final days of #ELI2013, 4 of the words were MOOC-related. One of the curious terms I was interested in is “MOOCMAP.” Upon further exploration, this was a session at ELI which was titled “Roadmap to Launching A MOOC, Collaborating Across Units, Rethinking Faculty and Technology Services.” This session was put on by Cassandra Volpe Horii and Leslie Maxfield.

Andy Salterelli shared a nice blog post on key points to consider when launching MOOCs.

Rounding out the top 10 were some other key trends. Learning was by far the most used word, and rightly so (it’s also in the conference title). Yet, in the context of MOOC’s, learning is more student driven and self-directed, possibly signaling a shift toward personal responsibility for one’s own learning. Students and faculty are also included in the top 10.

Online, Mobile, and Badges were other topics of conversation. Online learning is still an active trend, as is mobile, and they have been for years. The badge conversation, in my view, is a relatively new one. Let’s explore that.

Experimenting With Badges

In doing some research, it seems that the conference was actively experimenting with badges for this conference. Here’s the “7 things you should know about” on badges”. I see this as a very proactive move on behalf of the ELI conference committee to build awareness of badges by using them at their conference. I had not heard of credly before this conference, the service used to manage the badges. The badge conversation in higher ed should be one to watch this year. There must be a potential NITLE prediction market question about badges we can come up with to track these developments.

Top 25 URL's Referenced at ELI 2013

Next we can look at some of the top URL’s referenced at ELI. I personally find it fascinating to see the two “maker” community referenced links. Maker, to me, is a shift back to creating physical things, using our hands, tools, and technology. This certainly bucks the powerful online MOOC trend at the conference. I’ve been aware of Makerfaire for a couple years, but I had never seen a clear connection to higher ed. Does this movement have legs in higher education?

What does Maker mean in the context of technology and learning? To me, the eloquent Audrey Watters may have been taking a contrarian off-line stance as a reaction to online MOOC fever. I can see a profound back-to-basics interest in college students these days, with interests in farming, sustainability, building, and this is right in line with the Maker movement. Perhaps we are witnessing the beginning of a paradigm shift toward pragmatism in higher ed, and John Dewey would likely approve of the Maker movement being brought into this conversation. Or, perhaps, the Maker movement is right in line with MOOCs, as they are both examples of self motivated learning…just in different mediums.

Truly Amazing Resources, App Finder, EBook Roadmap, Etc.

As far as some of the other noteable links, one was an amazing roadmap to ebook publishing by Edward R. O’neill. A great App Finder website by the Tenessee Board of Regents is worth a try next time your are looking for an app. Kyle D. Bowen shared some presentation graphics at ClassHack.com. Another popular link was for the ELI public webcasts, so you can catch up on a session that you missed from the comfort of your own computer. Additionally, a Gallup/Lumina Foundation Poll that calls for a Need to Redesign Higher Education may be worth checking out. There was some mobile gaming, with a very interesting storytelling platform called ArisGames. (I’ll be checking this one out.)

Interestingly, the first resource with a MOOC focus is Derek Bruff’s article on starting a Coursera Initative at Vanderbilt, valuable reading if you are considering a digital learning initiative. There’s an article from 2006 on how Second Life is the future, and a new book on social media for educators by Tanya Joosten. Stanford has a website that looks to be a hub for discussing education’s digital future. Mikah Jenae on her blog has a Digital Storytelling Toolbox and outlines the tools available for telling different types of stories online. There is a link to a study on how students are using digital learning resources in their learning. Here is the Educause Social Media Constituent Group if you want to join. InBloom looks to be a learning analytics solution sponsored by Gates/Carnegie foundations which seems to be an initiative worth following. Finally, nextgenlearning hopes to transform education by connecting innovators, innovations, and funding.

Top Twitter Users Mentioned at ELI 2013


To conclude, just a note on the people sharing the conference online. While MOOC’s was a theme, the Maker movement popular, and the experiment with the badges novel, at the end of the day it is about personal connections. The above list of folks, and everyone else sharing and conversing online, made this post possible. If you are looking for a great group of open, sharing individuals to connect with, I suggest starting with the folks listed above.

It is clear to me that ELI 2013 serves as a valuable venue for ideas and connections in teaching and learning, and even adds to the conversation by enhancing the in person experience (badges, webcasts, etc.) Thanks to all of you who presented and shared, and to ELI 2013 for creating the opportunity for them to do that. I am deeply grateful for all of this online content, and I look forward to catching up on the sessions online.


UPDATE: I took everyone from the top mentions in the graphic above, and I created a twitter list called Online Leaders #ELI2013. If you have a Twitter account, you can subscribe to this list. One stop shopping! I also created a sweet online newspaper using The Tweeted Times for one stop shopping that will take the most mentioned articles from the list above and promote the top ones, daily. Check it out. 🙂




A Crowdsourced Essay on MOOCs and Higher Education Pedagogies

Note: This essay was created as a crowdsourced Google Doc as part of the Monday assignment for #MOOCMOOC. I found it worthwhile reading. I also wanted to get an initial post up for #MOOCMOOC to test the RSS feed. Enjoy.

Two colored faces with multiple faces embedded

MOOCs and Higher Education Pedagogies

In Higher Education (HE), students develop abilities to think independently, critically, and creatively in ways which support lifelong learning. HE learning goals include building upon pre-existing information (such as that learned in grades K-12), developing knowledge and skills, and acquiring credentials.

HE has traditionally used a range of teaching and learning methods: classroom lectures, small-group tutorials, guided seminars, supervised lab or practice-based sessions, guided field trips, guided reading and private study for a formative assignment with comments and marking.  Assessment methods include  tests, essays, problem-solving, individual and group projects, and other discipline-specific approaches.

Since digital technologies have been available in HE, we have explored digital versions of some of these methods, mainly lectures / reading delivered as digital resources, videos, using digital media tools from web 2.0 and online discussion groups, mainly asynchronously.

These include related concepts of connection and engagement, including learner-to-learner interaction and the cooperative construction of new knowledge.

However, there is still the expectation that a person attending an institution of HE is mainly acquiring knowledge through attendance within a closed learning environment during a specified period of time. Even when students in HE (including taught graduate students) . These pedagogies use similar instructional strategies and have similar learning goals.

While it is as yet unclear to what extent MOOCs will affect traditional higher education structures, we can speculate about the ways they may influence approaches to teaching and learning. If layers of double loop learning can be developed, MOOCs could be beneficial for professional development in HE. As most HE professionals are self-directed learners, MOOCs can be used for field specific or general development.

Because knowledge is not scarce, MOOCs can help traditional student/teacher conversations focus on higher-level outcomes instead of facts. This is in line with newer learning ideas, such as “flipped classrooms” and provides the ability for more HE instructors to use a flipped style, letting the MOOC be the lecture, and spending class time on discussion and problem-solving, giving students skills that will be useful for them.

Connectivist MOOCs (cMOOCs) may alter pedagogy from instructor-as-director and even beyond peer-to-peer learning to a focus on learning within a personal learning network with input from within and beyond the MOOC participants. For example, Coursera MOOCs allow students to review their peers’ assignments . The issue then becomes avoiding “the blind leading the blind” while allowing students to determine their own learning methods and goals. As with Wikipedia and other social knowledge websites, someone should navigate the ship and ensure that information is accurate.

One change MOOCs provide is the openness and democratization of education. Students in traditional courses can use MOOCs to learn outside of the classroom, use that knowledge to improve their interactions with faculty, and strengthen a lifelong interest in learning.

MOOCs have emerged from components of online learning and social media revolutionizing connections and networks. They form a badly-needed response to CFCs – Small, Closed, Face-to-Face (F2F) Courses and for profit online learning as well. They represent the most radical undertaking to date of ‘flipping the classroom’. Since they are relatively new and untested, MOOCs will likely not replace any traditional classroom learning (in the near-future), but rather enhance and enrich it. F2F sessions still have much to offer, such as supervised practice, immediate feedback from both peers and teachers, and synchronous work.

A Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) allows people to explore some of the same knowledge and content available in formal HE institutions, while also generating and contributing knowledge within a network. MOOCs use the Internet to offer organized learning experiences that are asynchronous and free, thus bypassing limitations that can keep some people out of HE institutions. Everyone with an internet connection can have access to a MOOC. According to Savitz (2012), even if edX MOOCS cannot replace a Harvard Diploma, online courses can still provide significant value in filling gaps in skills to meet job market demands. Further, MOOCs can help such people expand their career options by providing quality content, openness, and flexibility producing new opportunities to acquire additional skills. A campus-based education prior to joining the workforce with paper-based “proof” of competence may be replaced by real time, permanent, secured, cloud-based digital records of accomplishment, freeing individuals to pursue knowledge that is relevant to their needs in the moment.

There are a number of approaches to learning associated with MOOCs, most of which are similar to existing HE pedagogies: (i) Knowledge is often acquired by lecture but is self-paced, meaning it can occur anytime and anywhere, and may be done without anyone else in the room. (ii) There is peer-to-peer learning, but it occurs through the internet, either in real-time or not. The main difference is that some MOOCs create a connectivist and networked, but decentralized flow of information and ideas between peer learners, where there is more potential for generating and sharing own understandings and knowledge instead of simply absorbing. Because they are not as teacher-directed, MOOCs aren’t currently thought of as being connected with a distinct curriculum. The learner decides what courses to take, depending on their own objectives, at their own time and pace. All of this requires an especially self-regulated, motivated, and autonomous learner because there is little personalised guidance and feedback. MOOCS often maintain rigid time schedules, but are less likely to maintain the planned curricula as more traditional courses do.

The instructional principles of the early MOOCs were based in pedagogies of openness and connection. They were designed to maximize four key digital learning affordances (Downes & Siemens, 2010):Aggregation, remixing, re-purposing, and feeding forward. MOOCs also have additional learning outcomes including enhancing digital skills and developing a Personal Learning Environment (PLE).

These instructional principles relate to a great degree to several pedagogic approaches that have found their way into (higher) education, e.g. challenge-based or problem-based learning  socializing are worthwhile. However, MOOCs, despite their short existence, have made a significant impact upon HE practices and pedagogy.

The MOOCMOOC is described as “A mini-MOOC, a meta-MOOC, a MOOC about MOOCs” and can be found online at MOOCMOOC.com. You can follow along on Twitter following the hashtag #MOOCMOOC and can follow the project on Twitter at @MOOCMOOC, @HybridPed, and leading this MOOC is Jess Stommel, @jessifer along with a team of inspiring educators.

#ETMOOC Hub Is Like Duct Tape For Our New Year’s Creations


Well it’s officially official. If this works I have my brand spankin’ new WordPress website alexchaucer.com category moocs/etmooc/feed linked into the #ETMOOC hub. I’m looking forward to getting started.

I am MOOC curious Instructional Technologist at a small liberal arts college in upstate NY. My New Years resolution is to learn the guitar, and I fulfilled the New Years cliche and purchased a gym membership. I enjoy skiing and basketball, and I am a natural chef exploring the frontiers of a gluten free world. My niche in instructional technology is mapping and I enjoy trying to find new ways to use smartphones and location in teaching and research.

I probably spend a little too much time with my five year old son. When I taught him about what a New Years resolution is he told me in 2013 he wants to “create things“. We made this:


Final thought: Always, Always, Always have a good supply of duct tape around for creative moments with kids.

See you in the #ETMOOC!

Alex Chaucer
You can find me online at alexchaucer.com, and on Twitter @geoparadigm