Information and Learning Technology Core Competencies – Culminating Reflection

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At the heart of the ILT program at UC denver are six competencies; six concepts that support graduates in their professional practice after graduation. Each competency, for me, has a particular experience that epitomizes what that concept means to me and for my development as a technology enhanced educator.  

  1. Reflective practice – Reflection is critical in authentic learning. Being able to look at an experience and find the areas of strength and areas that need improving keeps learning from being static. The areas of strength build confidence in future work and identifying areas of need fend off complacency.  My Final Portfolio and Reflection for my Games and Learning course shows how I currently approach reflection. In it, I reflect on my reactions to course reading, interactions I had with classmates and interest-based peers, and about the work I created. Each of these activities or interactions create the ideas that became the building blocks for the overall structure of my understanding of the relationship between games and learning. Without reflection the overall structure of my learning remains. Reflection, however, is the tool that lets the learner examine how the idea building blocks interact and a better understanding of how the overall structure of knowledge was constructed.                                                                                                            
  2. Technology – Often times being competent with tools means being able to make adjustments when the tool you are using is not working. This is true with with learning technologies, each touted as the next best thing but users regularly have to learn to maneuver in order to fit their needs. Because every learning technology is going to have limitations and unexpected consequences, the educator using learning technology needs to be able to adapt to or will run into problems that seem insurmountable. I created a mobile-friendly digital picture search game featuring Colorado flora and fauna. The idea for my game came from a digital comic I had seem, housed on Instagram, that lets the viewer make choices to affect the plot line of the story. It was the most innovative way I had seen Instagram used! I imagined using Instagram for my picture hunt game, I found the Creative Commons images both for the backgrounds and for hidden objects and I used photo manipulation software to hide the hidden objects in the backgrounds. I was ready to upload to Instagram but I quickly ran afoul of the user agreement and created too many new accounts with too many tags between them and my IP address was banned from Instagram. My time to complete the project was almost up and I need to be flexible or fail. I had the vision in my head of what the final product would be, and the content I needed to make it happen was completed, I just needed a digital space. I decided to just make what I had envisioned just not on Instagram, I had been working with Wix to make websites and used the drag and drop tool to make a high quality substitute product in a time efficient manner. I was even able include the feature I most liked about housing on Instagram – the ability to interact with the content through a touch screen, by optimizing the Wix website for mobile devices.                                                                                                      
  3. Learning and instruction – Coming from a background as an elementary school teacher I highly value backward design and alignment with adopted standards. When designing a online unit for the creation and production of  media, I focused on aligning to not only CCSS anchor standards for language, reading, and speaking & listening but also harnessed technology to ensure content was accessible to the audience. The unit was designed for elementary students, at many different stages in the development of reading comprehension. For the unit to be effective, students needed ways to access content beyond reading. I included video walkthroughs for to guide students through graphic organizers and assessments, I recorded audio files of written texts so students could read and listen to instructions, and included video provocations, employing sound effects, music and a zany pirate character, to introduce concepts and launch discussions. This was all done to ensure that the engaging content and activities were not lost on students because of access inequality.                                                                                                                                       
  4. Creative and social media – I became very interested in networked books, where a digital story links to/from other media and provide the opportunity to for creators and audience to connect digitally. For my Learning with Digital Stories final assignment I wanted to create a networked book for a very specific passion of mine, graphic novels checked out from the library.  I created a twitter profile for the Graphic Novel Librarian and started to make 4-tweet recommendations for the graphic novels I had checked out. I also solicited lists of interests from visitors to create customized recommendations for my followers. The Twitter platform provided the interactivity between creator and consumer I wanted but it was too fluid for my other goals. So I created a companion website to share the Graphic Novel Librarian’s mission, house archived 4-tweet recommendations, and information about obtaining a library card. To make the whole networked book cohesive I embed the live  @G_N_Librarian twitter feed onto the home page, so that the static and fluid media components could share a digital space.                                                                                  
  5. Inquiry and change – In a project for the Leadership for Technology Innovation course I had an option to read a book and design an accompanying professional learning course. I saw it as an occasion for change. I had enrolled in a graduate program to expand my professional opportunities to include learners outside of the classroom but had done most of my course projects focused on an audience of elementary students. Designing a course for teachers was a chance to step out of my comfort zone. I was also intrigued by the tile of the book that the professional learning would be based on: “The Laws of Simplicity”. How could instructional design be enhanced by simplicity? Much of the book resonated with me and by the time I was ready to design the online professional learning unit, I did so with the guidance from the laws of simplicity outlined in John Maeda’s book.                                                                                                                                                                            
  6. Professional learning and leadership – As mentioned above I wanted to expand my horizon with the learners I could reach with information and learning technology. The ILT internship provided another challenging opportunity to gain teaching experience with adult learners. It started as a chance encounter, a colleague was complaining about how in her speech pathology practice she was wasting time commuting to and from off-site observations of speech and language pathologist assistants. We discussed ways to introduce distance observations and an internship idea was born. This internship has made me take what I learned in my graduate studies and from my experience in education and apply it as a project manager to design a functioning system for scheduling and conducting distance observations. I am also creating the the training tutorials that will empower end users to implement the system successfully.

The course work and discussions I have had in the Information and Learning Technology program have been engaging and challenging; ingredients for authentic learning. The next formative assessment of my success in meeting the program’s core competences will lie in how well I apply what I have learned to the new professional opportunities I am pursuing.

Information and Learning Technology Core Competencies – Culminating Reflection


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* As I approach the end of my Information and Learning Technology (ILT) master’s degree at University of Colorado Denver, I am taking time to create an online portfolio to highlight what I have learned and the cool projects I have created, this series of blog posts will document my reflections on this process.

I have been moving forward with the creation/updating of my online portfolio. My goal for the through last week was to collect and organize my artifacts for the sight and to review the overall aesthetic and layout of the site. I was shocked with the volume of document, websites, and digital media projects I have made for my masters classes or professionally over the last few years. It has been fun going through and choosing the pieces that reflect my potential, growth, and successes in designing distance learning opportunities and with learning technology.

Looking at the site, however, has been more frustrating. I made the shell of my online portfolio as an assignment in my first ILT class and was experimenting with drag and drop website platforms at the time. I made the original portfolio site with Weebly but quickly learned that I prefer to use Wix for my website design. I went back and forth but decided that the portfolio I had created was simple and did a nice job of highlighting the artifacts, and thinking pieces that I am planning on sharing. Trying to recreate that was going to be time not well used, besides, going back to working with Weebly gave me an opportunity to practice with this platform and help to diversify my skill set. I have come to like most of the features in Weebly, for one it was very easy to link this blog to the site as my current blog, and to then set up an older blog, that was part of the original portfolio, as an archived blog available for visitors.

I also took steps to organize and expand my personal learning network this week. I mostly connect with peers and thought leaders through Twitter and looked into some twitter tools and features to help organize how I access those individual users. I decided that I first needed to expand the uses I was connected with in my PLN. I knew that there were general education and learning technology thought leaders I would benefit form following so I did some research from Edutopia and Education World to find suggestions of engaging or cutting edge posters. I also have been interested in the social medial presents of institutions of learning that are not schools, such as museums or libraries. It is my belief that these institutions can leverage the content they house in physical locations to expand and extend the user experience online, I found and followed the institutions that I see as either being an example of how to communicate with social media and those that have the opportunity to do more with their presence.

I used Twitter’s list feature to organize by PLN into three subcategories. The education thought leaders that I interact with mostly thought reading their tweets and following their links. Next the organisations that I am following to keep a finger on the pulse of social media and learning institutions. Finally I made a list of the peers that I collaborated or had conversations with, both professionally and as a UCD student. I also was able to embed the twitter feeds from those lists on my portfolio, giving visitors to the portfolio a glimpse into who I am interacting with and who I am learning from.

Tomorrow starts the final push to finish and polish the portfolio before I turn it in on Friday. Last steps are making sure I review the written sections of the portfolio to make sure the text is typo free and that it accurately represents my philosophy and experiences in my educational journey, updating the options for contacting me and making sure my resume and social media contacts are up to date, and finally double checking to make sure all links work. If I can get all that done then there maybe other areas to make the portfolio more engaging but I want it to be finished and solid before I worry about bells and whistles.


Culminating Experience Reflection Part 1

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* As I approach the end of my Information and Learning Technology (ILT) master’s degree at University of Colorado Denver, I am taking time to create an online portfolio to highlight what I have learned and the cool projects I have created, this series of blog posts will document my reflections on this process.

I am quickly approaching the date to turn in my final portfolio for my master’s degree at UC Denver, and I have collect and organize the work I have done related to learning technology and distance learning, both as a student and as an educator. This task is not as daunting as it seems because of the great support of one particular professor from my program.  Joni Dunlap taught my first course in the ILT program and she gave her students the opportunity to build a first draft of the culminating portfolio (refereed to as a Basecamp) in her class. This assignment has given me a foundation to build my final portfolio off of, and I was pleasantly surprised at how much I still liked the format of my draft when I referred back to it. Thanks Joni!

The solid foundation I created early on in my learning journey has let me shift my thinking from “how do I make an online portfolio?” to “how to expand and improve what I have?” I have already reviewed my work, both as a student and teacher, to organize and identify the pieces I want to include, now I am focused on the portfolio website itself and have identified five avenues for improvement.

  • rearrange the portfolio page of the website to reference more board categories of work: Digital Media, Written Texts, Websites, Distance Observation Internship
  • Update personal logo for webpage.
  • Link new blog to website and archive old blog
  • Redo personal profile to reflect both my expanded view of Darren the educator and to include the how I achieved each of the ILT core competencies
  • Finally I want to include my twitter feed and personal learning network (PLN) onto the site

This is where my planning is at to start out the revamping of my digital portfolio and I am sure the I will make changes on the fly but this is where I start, wish me luck!



Culminating Experience Reflection Part 1


*I will participating in and writing reflections about Twitter chats with the games4ed hashtag this semester. Here is the second of those reflections.


A few weeks back I participated in a Twitter chat, as with the previous Twitter chat I reflected on, the participants organised their thoughts and answers to thinking prompts by tagging their tweets with #games4ed and then following that hashtag to follow along with the conversation. This twitter chat, that took place on April 27th, had a theme of gamejams and was facilitated by Melissa Pilakowski (@mpilakow).

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I wanted to experiment with my participation during this twitter chat, with the hope of determining how effective the twitter chat format is for on the go mobile learning. The initial twitter chat I had participated in I did so at home sitting at my computer. I found it to be a mostly comfortable experience where I could follow the main conversation and any side conversations that came up in multiple windows on my laptop. But even with the option of contributing on multiple windows I felt that by the end I had fallen out of step with the main conversation by responding to the threads of tangential conversations. I hypothesized that the troubles I had in keeping up with the main thread of the conversation would only be exacerbated by trying to contribute with my phone and on the go. I still wanted to see if I could participate with the phone because Twitter is, at its core, a mobile communication platform and an avenue for on the go learning. I decided that for this chat I would only participate with my phone to know what the experience was like and to think of ways to tailor the experience for the mobile user.

Needless to say that it was much more difficult to keep up with the conversations during the twitter chat on my phone, I just did not have the texting dexterity to keep up with the rapid fire questions and responses. It also did not help that I had minimal background with the topic of gamejams. I decided to keep my contributions minimal so that I could focus on reading the responses from others and to grow my knowledge base around how to plan and implement a gamejam. Doing this lead me to read more of the responses, and provide some quick interactions, mostly “liking” the ideas of others, before formulating and sharing my answer to the posted questions, generally right as a new question was posted.

I did have one short but encouraging side conversation with the discussion moderator when I indicated that I was interested in gamejams to bring students together in the summer to keep math engagement up.

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Then through reading, synthesizing, and finally responding I was able to learned more about what hosting a gamejam for my group of math intervention students would require, and provide my newly formulated opinions of how I would approach hosting a gamejam.  Like how to get the word out to participants for the jam:

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What range of activities would be available at the gamejam:

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Why gamejams are valuable as educational experiences:

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What the goals for the gamejam:

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And finally what role do I see for myself as the facilitator in the gamejam:

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My experiment with participating in a twitter chat while using a mobile device was challenging because of the speed that questions were posted made keeping up with the conversation hard but in no way impossible. I felt that I got more depth out of the conversations that I contributed to when participating on my computer, but it was convenient to use my phone especially because I was away from home. If twitter chats were developed to be more mobile friendly I might suggest that the length of the chats are extended, instead of an hour for the entire chat with new questions introduced every few minutes, the chats could be spread over multiples hours with one question shared each hour, giving participants the time to engage in both the main discussion and the side conversations that are sparked by the main thread. Weaving participation in the twitter chat in conjunction with other life activities.



From Gamified Commercialization to Gamified Activism – A Scholarly Text Critique

*In my pursuit of further education I am enrolled in a course on games and learning. Part of the expectations for this course is to take ownership of my learning and explore the connections between games and learning for myself, this blog post is a continuation of the documentation of my learning.

The first few months of 2017 have been a time of mulling over and realigning my priorities, and my independent research for my Games and Learning class reflect this change in priorities. I launched into this course’s independent research looking to support and strengthen my classroom teaching practice, but as the semester has continued my preoccupation with the current political climate has shown up in my independent pursuits. I have been using my article critiques and play journing to be playful with ideas of activism and games. For this article critique I have found a powerful text from Micah White, PhD,  a leading thinker in the field of political activism and the co-creator of the Occupy Wallstreet movement. His piece, From KillCap to WikiSwarms; Gaming and activism combine, appeared in Adbusters magazine, which is a not-for-profit magazine focused on fostering a de-commercialized society, and a publication that White is an editor of.

White leads off his discussion of activism and games by sharing a condensed history of gamification and commercialization. White asserts that corporations are using gamification techniques to make commerce more playful and to therefore further commercialism in society.  I agree with this statements about consumerism in today’s society as corporations use marketing promotions, social media, advertisements, “viral videos” to make buying products a game and owning products as badges for success. The twitter feed from Wendy’s fast food restaurant is an example of this playful approach to selling products.  

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These playful tweets humanize the cooperation and if they go viral they become the subject of clickbait stories that expand the range of Wendy’s marketing reach and support the selling of more burgers.

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These actions of mixing gamified techniques in commercialization shift the focus away from what economic actions are necessary for healthy, happy lives to winning the commercialization game or, as shown with the Wendy’s example, aligning oneself with the winning corporate team. The gamification of commerce makes the corporation the dungeon master providing the gold stars and badges to consumers who become game players trying to master the corporation’s game. White suggests that the script can be flipped, in playful ways, and a collective of loosely connected activists can take charge of the game to slow or stop what White calls the corporatocracy. Thus the individual’s identity can be changed from a player with little control over the design of the commercialization game to a player/designer hybrid in the activism game.

The player/designers in activism games have the opportunity to question the role of commercialism and corporations in society and have a chance to actively participate in a new narrative that redefines the power structure between individuals and corporations in the consumer economy. White supports, as the first step moving from commercialization games to activist games, the construction of video games and simulations that give users the opportunity to explore roles as activists through games and suggests that independent producers will be creating these games. In my independent research I have seen examples of these independently developed games that give a user a digital world simulation of specific acts of civil disobedience, and have written about them in previous blog posts. Games that come from independent producers give the user a perspective of an individual that has first hand connection to a given cause, providing the user exposure to the values of those individuals, not the values of corporations.  

Beyond games that are simulations of activism White suggests that activism movements themselves can be gamified. In the article White share the model of organizing direct action used by WikiSwarms where, users vote on a target corporation, then determine the action to take and even develop a message that they are sending, just like a flash mob. I love this on-demand protest organization but I worry, however, that with flash mob style direct action the novice users will not have the benefit of an experienced mentor. Who could advise about the physical world consequences for those participating in political actions that break the law. I would propose a similar activist organized flash protest game that is integrated with a legal bot that gives a novice activist the ability to simulate possible legal outcomes for proposed protests. Legal bots are messenger application chat bots, powered by legal databases, that users can ask legal questions to and get answers from, LawBot, for example, is a tool developed by Cambridge University students.


Connecting with a legal bot will give another layer of knowledge for the user to protect them from partaking in protests and civil disobedience without understanding possible consequences.  

From Gamified Commercialization to Gamified Activism – A Scholarly Text Critique

Virtual Protest Organization – A Play Journal Entry

*This is the continuation of a series of blog posts for my Games and Learning course. In this journaling exercise I am going to play social games and analyze the game mechanics, design, and play experience, to identify how the game can be applied to learning in formal or informal settings.

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I have been following a breadcrumb trail connecting me to games that explore social protest and activism. I was inspired to look for these games because of a scholarly text critique I did in the last cycle of my Games and Learning class, which reviewed an independently produced video game that enabled the user to  destroyed a an object of intolerance in virtual space. The tumultuous political times we live in have motivated me to become more politically active then I have been in the past and seeing that games have found a place in the resistance has been eye opening.  A Wired magazine article linked me to five suggestions that seemed interesting example of activism games for my play journal. I tried out the games suggested by Wired and was particularly interested in If Not Now, When? (INNW), created for the 2017 Resist Jam by independent producer Ravynn.

INNW is a simulation game that puts the user in charge of a occupy style protest camp. The user has to make decisions throughout the day about how to delegate time and resources that support the cause and ensure the comfort (food, water, shelter) and safety for the members at the camp. The user is presented with a dashboard that shows the statistics for different camp supplies and options for decisions that are made three times during the span of one day in game.

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Simulating the organization of a protest encampment was awesome because I was able to experience some of the challenges that go into the organization of a similar protest but without the physical world consequences. For example before I played I knew that I had to make sure there was plenty of food and water for camp members but through game play I developed a broader understanding of the daily need to keep tabs on the consumption of supply and to ensure that there is enough supplies in case of emergencies. I also encountered issues that I would not have imagined, such as corporations “donating” products for PR reasons and the possibility of those corporations derailing the message of the protest.

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While this simulation would not prepare a user to run out and organize a protest encampment on their own, it does open the possibility for the user to think about struggles and problems that will likely come up during a protest and enable the user to proactively problem solve for possible obstacles.  

Overall the game was enjoyable and enlightening, I did run into two areas that detracted from the seamless game play. First there were events that seemed to be triggered by particular days in the simulation, to pass the event specific levels of supplies were needed, but if the user did not have the right level of supplies instead of going to a game over screen the inability to pass the event created a feedback loop and effectively froze the game. Also the point of the in game protest is left vague which is a good feature for making the game appealing to anybody looking to organize a protest, however, this became problematic towards the end of the game where there is a final decision to make. I’ll spare the spoilers but how one reacts to the decision could have been developed throughout the game and not right at the end, setting up the possibility of the choice at the beginning would give the user the chance to weigh the pros and cons throughout the simulation and not just at the end.

Virtual Protest Organization – A Play Journal Entry