19 december 2014

Evaluation of first weeks with Didactor

We have now been using the platform Didactor for some weeks and suddenly we needed some results to publish in a report. Of course we were about to ask for feedback but not so soon. Anyways, the feedback are now in and as students rarely understands completeness and only looking for what's best for themselves the feedback has been a bit negative. 

Thoughts of the students
The negative voices mostly because you can't be lazy anymore. You can't sleep during classes and doing else stuff and you must attend the classes. In the long run, when you look back at your education it's not a bad thing even though, at this moment, it of course can be very negative.

Also, everyone does not learn in the same universal way, but that's not something new, that problem we (teachers) always have had. Most funny, even though they tell us they hate the tool (Didactor) they learn and learn more and they are more active. Last but not least, they have a much better awareness of their knowledge, their self-evaluation and if they have passed the course or not.

In the evaluation we've been asking lots of questions, these maybe are the most interesting:

Prior knowledge

Self-assessment before

Self-assessment afterwards

Enjoy (using a new tool)


Proficiency after the course

What unintentional learning occurred?
  • Information retrieval
  • Languages (Finnish, English, Swedish)
  • Use your computer (1:1 program)
  • Be able to plan and be proactive
  • Collaborate
  • Problem solution
  • Social media (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram)

I feel that my knowledge after the course is

Thoughts of the teachers
We the teachers has listen and are changing our ways (more variety) but will keep use didactor. Previously, students just been happy to pass the course, now they want to have more knowledge and higher ratings.
  • We have never been so present in our courses
  • It was a long time ago it was so fun to teach
  • Entire groups come through the courses (higher throughput)
  • Higher skill levels generally in the groups
  • Less stress on the students (will I pass the course?)
  • Less negative stress on teachers (has been replaced by positive stress)

9 december 2014

I've learned more than needed

"Congratulations! It worked!"

First thoughts: "Huh? What is she talking about????"

So I had my niece to explain what she was talking about because I didn't got it. And she remind me about how I helped her put up a special course, just for her, in the awesome tool Didactor. And as you know by now, a neat little tool which provides 14 edu games in one platform.

Before using my way of learning, this test was one of them she had been stressing about as one of the most boring and difficult ones. According to her I had succeed making her not even understanding the subject, master the test but also made learning fun. In fact, I managed to make the learning so fun she admitted she had learned more than needed.

Taste the words: "more than needed"...

But still, congratz to me? 
All I did was to provide another way to learn, which turned out to be a funnier way to learn. She also told me even though many scored very good on the test, she was one of the few with full points. And that surprised her, because she had been practicing the opposite way than her classmates. She had have fun while she was studying, she didn't felt she had done any practicing

Instead of practice drawing pictures of a muscle, she had drag-drop text to a picture. The day before the test she (and her mother) had got anxious of this solution, my way of gamificate her learning, therefor she had started to practice the traditional way just to be safe. And she started with the hard ones, to draw pictures of something. She was very surprised she could do it without cheating! And that it actually been working!

So here's my view of the course, sorry about the Swedish but you get the clue.

And if I choose to look at one student (she has agreed to became an example) I've a lot of information like "average time per task", "times performed" and "total time spent".

What comes to the memory, the last task, with a zero percent score it has to be something within the program itself, how it counts. When I click on one of her tries I can see she has been trying (and managed to solve the task) with 53 tries. 

28 november 2014


The "problem" we face with every day is that all students, one way or another, play computer games. And if your lessons isn't interesting or fun enough, they rather play. So therefor I try to take advantage of games as much as possible. And it's only a problem if that's your opinion, me myself believes it's an opportunity.

As our students needs to have 10 free of choice courses besides their vocational training to get their professional degree, I usually find my chances to run different projects within this field. I'm interested to see what learning occur when you use a game in education, that's why I have a chance to run "Economics with World of Warcraft" and two days ago (Wednesday 26th of November) I started a beginner's course to programming using #MinecraftEDU #ComputerCraft and #CCEdu.

Half of this group will later learn deeper and more advanced code (Java, Python, C++ and more). They all today play Minecraft (that's provided to be on my course). So during 7 weeks I will have them playing Minecraft and hopefully they will also learn some programming skills. The goal of this course is to learn how to crawl as the feedback Shane Asselstine gave me the other week.

My earlier experience of these courses you most likely will have like 6-10 students notified and half of them showing up. I got 20 and 16 turned up, good because I was a bit nervous about it, I only have 19 working computers in the lab...

Sixteen students between 15 and 17 years plus my daughter, 6yo (daycare ain't open in the evenings), a bit of a challenge I must say. But lo and behold! No matter the age difference, they had the same questions, got stuck in the same places and yelled the same opinions about Internet service provider, who of course had a lot of trouble nationally in Finland yesterday afternoon and evening. My daugther, AquaVera, tried the intro to turtles stage by her own and showed the most stubborn student how easy you could make (and learn) code.

My masterplan this time is to first have Introduction to programming with the Land of Turtles world, created by Michael Harvey (can't give him enough credits for the map or hos patience with me). When we have finished the challenges there we will move on to a survival #MinecraftEDU #CCEdu server, I do believe Shane Asselstine when he says humans are lazy of nature. After the first days in game the students will think how to use turtles to do boring stuff for them: chop woods, find minerals, guard the house and more.

The goal of this course is to learn how to crawl (basics of programming) and practice on the key competences of lifelong learning. Nothing more than that, but I do believe that's enough. You see, after only one session (Wednesday) some of the guys started to think how to use this new skills at their own class server and it turned out they now have password protected doors... 

Something they admit not been thinking of before we started the course, and even though they copy-paste the code from a FAQ there still is a learning process going on, and it still very funny (for us both).

Because of the problems ISP had I also told my students after 2 hours they could leave and go home. Six students refused to leave and sat the whole time even though they were kicked out every 10 or 15 min. One student I also had to kick out from classroom because he didn't want to go home at all... And he was very pissed I didn't get him a chance to finish :D

Indeed, they do learn in another way. 
A way we're not used to or fully comfortable with but instead of deny it we could take advantage of it, control it (the gaming) and use it. Something to learn here, right? Well, as this awesome blogpost points out, at least we (teachers) can learn five things from video games:

One of the lessons I've learned of using the map, the Land of Turtles, is I must slow them down and force them to take time in the museum and force them to analysis an own piece of code. Both because everyone has problems to log on the first time and if they don't have it themselves, we have problems with the computers. So I usually share a document as they rarely read (see above and rule no 1) but also a code example they have to find, analysis and describe what it does. And I also block the entrance to the basement and portal.

When using Minecraft in education you will have lots of problems if you're using mediation pedagogy and instead you have to focus on motivational pedagogy, to be a fellow traveler as well as the travel guide so your students keep the focus.

19 november 2014

Computergames are evil. E-V-I-L!

"Your class eat, sleep and shit computer games!"
I am so sorry, I can't see the problem.
Not really.

Yep, today one of my colleagues came and told me that my class eat, think, sleep, breathe and live computer games. 
Yep, so what?

"It's evil! 
We have do ban it! 
We we must introduce a total ban of computer games in school!"

...because that is working today?
Or not?

I tried to explain how you can be a professional gamer and earn great money, but when I looked in my colleagues eyes I realized I had crossed some kind of a line there...


I have a simpler solution:
Because you have already analyzed the situation so well, why don't you change your didactics? Instead of fight the computer gaming, why do not take advantage of their interest? As you already have figured out, they learn in a different way...

I got proof of that with a discussion yesterday with some students who believe the programming courses is way over their top. The only time when they actually did learn something was when I had them play MinecraftEDU using ComputerCraftEDU.

After one day they said they had finally learned and understand the WHILE loop.

And I got a proof yesterday they still remember the WHILE-loop because they told me their whole programming courses can be summarized as a WHILE-loop...

It's a fight you can't win.
Accept the computer and video games.
Take advantage of it.
Improvise, adapt and overcome!

18 november 2014

A small step for man one giant leap for mankind

Or I maybe should re-write it and give you an updated version of it.
A small step for students one giant leap for (our) school.

What have happened?
Some colleagues of mine has started using gamification with support from one of our principals, who eagerly awaits a result of those courses.

But of course, I havn't yet told them the name (gamification) of what they're doing, we can't rush into scary things like such words. They think they're using games, I believe they use game mechanics in class.

Didactor is such an awesome tool, with 14 game generators in one web platform! And without have it a second thought what triggers the students my colleagues are amazed, surprised, excited and totally blown away of the students results, feedback and commitment!

Gone is the photocopier, with scissors and glue to make last minute exercises. In goes web-based teaching and self-correcting test. This is one of the benefits without losing control: as the teacher makes the exercises we also do the keys. With other words, we still have the control! ...and that's something very important to a teacher.

Yesterday they, both my fellow teachers and the students, had their debut using Gamification. Both parties were blown away! None of the students got tired and fell asleep, all were active throughout the day. Teachers were finally almost force them home, because they "just would beat the record"...

My niece that I try the same thing on, put it so well: 
"Learning without really thinking about it!"
Because it's FUN.

Both colleagues was so surprised they couldn't stop talking about the experience, and this is what they told me:
"I am so excited that the students were eager, I hope it lasts!"

"A big Thank you! Without your efforts I would not have even heard about Didactor!"

And this one was the best, the comment that gave me chills:
"It was my best day in years!"

Never underestimate the power of game mechanics! 

17 november 2014

Conversations with the youth

The other week I was back home in Sweden, met my family and of course talked with my nephews about school. Well, not exactly what happens in school, but how they perceive school

Have the Swedish school managed to use the new technology in a, for the young, attractive manner?

That was an interesting talk, I must say. It was the counterpart to their schools tech ambition with advanced technology that usually only can be found at a University.

By the way, both two nephews had an ongoing punishment of the modern parents attitude to games: computer games banned!!! 
Hey parent! I got news!
They are playing anyways, they've smarphones as they play on instead. Same games by the way... ROFL

If they anyway play videogames, why don't use that interest to something useful? Education for example...

Okay, I was curious, so I kept asking until the nephews whispered: "don't tell mum, I play a lot, even during class when it's too boring..."

They behave in the same way as my students...
I think not.

So why not using that interest and use it in education?

And you don't have to use as much video games as I do in education, you don't have to start with gamification, but what you could test is to go out of your comfort zone and test something new.

For example, use a plattform as Didactor and see what happens.

I felt so sorry for my niece (16 yo) that I made a special course, for a test, using the tool Didactor and three funny things occured.
  1. She loved this way of learning (games) and said she was only sitting for "like 5 min" (actually 45 min).
  2. Her classmates got deadly jealous
  3. Her mother, the teacher and member of tech working group, thought it was interesting but a bit too advanced. To log in.
And by the way, a colleague of mine has started using Didactor today in the practical nurse education, and as a result using games in education she has halved todays lessons... and they already on their way to do the first test, three lessons before the scheduled time. She was surprised, excited and overwhelmed! My colleague reported two things
  1. The students loved it!
  2. Learning is fun!
The other one, my nephew 13 yo, told me his school has such an advanced robot the other one is at a University. They trying to make code to it. It feels a bit to start in the wrong end... 
13 yo and start with a University technology? 
When he loves Minecraft? 
Sounds like computer craft would be a better choice for the target audience...

Yeah and how could I forgot?
What do I know? "You're not even qualified teacher!!!"
No. Not yet. I'm working on that part...
And in addition, that was a pretty lame excuse for not listening to the young people...

About Didactor
Yes, I know there's a couple of other platforms which do exactly the same things but as I tend to go for the KISS-way I rather pay to get a working solution with a clean nice interface and a low learning curve. Look at paragraph 3 above, starts with "her mother, the teacher..."

Keep It Simple Stupid.

31 oktober 2014

Economics with World of Warcraft

I started one other project yesterday, the one we're doing just for fun, some students and I - to learn more about Economics while we (anyway) play World of Warcraft.

Just like some of my students I play WoW (I actually met my wife Tulipe in that game) every now and then, just to relax. Some came by and suggested me to have a course using WoW as a tool with the explanation "if you anyway believes in learning through a game (Minecraft) you should test WoW (as we know you play)..."

For a few weeks I've tried to set this course up. On one hand gather motivating students and on the other hand get support, help and motivated colleagues to help me. Learning through a game is so new ideas that students are often skeptical and teachers get terrified. I also feel that many teachers would see me fail with those projects just to prevent prevent the development of new pedagogical and/or didactic solutions.

My second try to get one of the teachers of Economics to help me was a real success. He thought the project itself sounded so interesting that he didn't thought about the money. His enthusiasm yesterday surprised both the students and me and while he has no interest to play the game self he told us he wants to do his very best so they can learn as much as possible. He even appointed himself mentor during the project, which surprised me because we havn't talked about it and I don't know if there's money to that, but he said he wants the experience more. It's such a joy when you find someone who thinks like that.

Besides Economic skills, and key competences for life long learning, there will also happen a lot with the group. At the moment there's first, second and third years students and six different classes/areas, in total 13 students and me playing. I'm trying to have all participants answer questions about group dynamics and expectations as well as doing The Bartle Test of Gamer Psychology.

As mr E (Economics) never have played any computer games, we started to show him the game. I opened the Auction House, he glanced at it and immediately began to draw parallels to the stock exchange. The learning process had started...

As our guild has been set up, 
we now also have our rank system working. The Our guild reflects a real company so now we have a board of directors, players who have invested their savings in the project. There is an operational management team consisting of the CEO and management team, Last but not least: employees. 

CEO and management team now have to come up with our mission, what we want to be good at? That thing we are going to develop the next weeks. 

We also talked about introducing incentive pays, you earns 50% of the profit and the other 50% goes to the company (guild).

Corporations are not a democracy.

CCEdu and bridgebuilding

A class of 16 students, 7 went home so I only had 9 left. The replacement before me probably was a bit boring. Even though I had Minecraft and they knew it, they left early :(

Ok, so I had 9 students left to challenge with bridge building, MinecraftEDU and ComputerCraftEDU. Suddenly there was 3 groups: 4, 4 and 1 (!). The single one you can't call a group, but he is a couple of years older and if I remember correctly, has dysphasia; blue, red and green team.

Red team
Immediately the red team turned out to be the group with less collaboration and none existing communication. They were more concentrated to build a wall against the other groups than to actually do the bridge building mission.

First one, later two students found a way out of the test area and started to build a bridge. Not a nice one but a working one.

The other two suddenly realized they could leave after completing the bridge so they run away building something similar as a forth team, yellow, just to be able to leave 1 hour before time. The carrot turned out to be leave early :P

Blue Team
The other two teams took the challenge more seriously and followed the steps, tried their best to do a nice bridge (just for fun!) and the one man army continued.

While blue team was testing they ran into some problem which they tried to correct, as a never ending loop (picture below). Second try the guy had connected his remote to the turtle and could stop it before it had went away too long. One of the team members is the one with ADD I've talked about before and this way of making code suits him perfectly, he was as equal as the other members contributed code.

Green team
One man army
Well, he's a bit stubborn and a bit older. He said he would learn more if he could, would be allowed, to do it himself. So I let him to do that. It took a lot of time, the final code had some mistakes but he will continue from home. 

Funny thing with these two students with diagnose, this was the right way to teach them make codes. Both of them turned out to be brilliant programmers just because of the drag & drop in combination you could test all the time what happened.

Today's mindmap

When communication and collaboration works, everything goes (black boxes). When it don't work it creates stubbornness and I, the teacher, has failed. And this last try, teach through a game is not working. On the other hand, nothing works and the problem is more individual, they have no interest what so ever to participate in an education.

I do have lots of experience to the next course in the same area, introduction to codes but with the first years students.

24 oktober 2014

What happened yesterday?

Now when I have started to melt what happened yesterday I thought I should write down the thoughts. So many of my line colleagues has tried but not reached their hotspot. What did I do that was different?

I refuse to think it was the Minecraft because half of the class is not even interested in the game. Or at last, not usually interested but if a teacher tells you to play, then you play. I start to think it was because I made it simple. KISS

When I've talked, or more exactly, tried to talk with my colleagues they just shake their heads and compare my lessons with kindergarten. If I should be a real teacher I should forbid games (dot) (end) (stop talking). 
And I'm doing the opposite, I allow them to play.
And I allow them to play a game that simple everyone can play it.
With a low learning curve, everyone can do it.

Some more open minded colleagues has told me that's easy for me, because I have the knowledge.
Sorry, they are all wrong. 
Knowledge of the game, nah... more of getting experience of the game. Hey! My daughter, AquaVera 6yo, gives me tips every now and then how to play Minecraft. 

Knowledge - wrong.
Know how - wrong.
No, what I'm doing is more scary than that.
It's spelled: D-A-R-E

I know where we're going, I have the policy documents, I have my goals as with every subject or method as you usually have. The method changes; it took a while before I had courage to let go of control, I don't have to master the method (Minecraft) as long as I have control of everything else

And the benefits are huge! 
I meet students at their own stadium and catch their interest. Proof that I got yesterday, everyone stopped what they were doing and started to participate in the learning. 

And they realized:
  • Learning is fun.
  • Learning is multiplayer.

When we went through what they had learned at the end of the day, they told me not exactly, but close enough.
  • This was a fun way of learning.
  • You tricked us to learn.
  • Now I finally understand the WHILE loop.
  • I have never before been this active!
  • I have had fun!
  • It was easy.
  • "I like this way of construct code better (design view)", the guy who said that has ADD (abbreviation for Attention Deficit Disorder). Finally he understood how to make code and he could also keep up with the others instead of always being the last (which is bad for self-esteem)
  • Another one, with dysphasia (and probably design difficulties) said: "I could check my code by testing all the time". He was learning while testing and swore long chants every time he lost control of the turtle, but give up? not an option!

They, students of today, learn in an opposite way than we are used to. Face the fact, you should not teach yourself, it is today's youth (the millenium kids) who is your target audience. You have to change your didactics to fit them.

And yes, CAD or Blender gets better graphics than Minecraft, but you have to catch them (and their interest) before they can learn the more advanced stuff. Don't make it harder than it needs to be!

The key words:
Keep It Simple Stupid
D A R E !

23 oktober 2014

We have learned the WHILE loop!

A week ago one colleague became father and, as the rules are in the Nordic countries, left his workplace for three weeks. Of course I'm happy for him, but at the same time a bit pissed because he didn't left any materials to us who suppose to be his replacements. One of the courses, basics of object-oriented programming (python) we're three teachers to share, the other two usually works with C++ and Java so they are more familiar with our problem.

As a remedial teacher I have some knowledge of everything, but to refresh object-oriented programming over a weekend, heeey c'mon... :P

So I've been stressing a lot of this course the whole weekend before I decided to face the problem my own way and go against the flow: what you can't fix with Minecraft ain't worth fixing... So MinecraftEDU, ComputerCraftEDU and the truly awesome map the Land of Turtles!

And yes, I know
  • the Land of Turtles was designed for 9-12 yo kids
  • Lua isn't object-oriented programming (but kind of reminds of one)

My students are between 18-22, double the age of what the map are designed to. My students should also be the third years students of Business Information Technicans (datanom), but as I understood after the beginning of the week they are not any programmers. 

In fact, none of the teachers in my school has succeeded in learn this group any programming at all, and one of the reasons why is because they have used conventional methods, code code code and nothing else but code.

And here we face on big problem, teachers that don't understand that Generation G (Global) learn in an opposite way than we're used to. Too many learn through games...

The target group:
  • 18-22 yo
  • Don't know how to code
  • Can not analyze code
  • Conventional methods don't work
  • Can't concentrate
  • Makes noise and talks all the time

Selected methods:
  • MinecraftEDU
  • ComputerCraftEDU

My colleagues hope I fail, the students don't care (they have decided to not listen before I even start) and I'm getting nervous... If my way works, they might have to do the same, so guess what's easiest :P

"The Land of turtles" is in truth an absolutely stunning map, split into small pieces, chapters, lessons. It begins with the turtle museum, two floors of turtles with example code. I had written down all codes (text) and gave them their own code to search, describe and analyze. I thought maybe 15-20 min would be enough.

It took 45 min, mostly because students that age has forgotten to follow instructions, don't read, don't listen and getting confused when the solution does not fall down in their outstretched arms...

As many teacher had told me they can't analyze code, understand what the code does, they did fairly good I must say

Explanation 1: 
"What is happening here: Turtle goes first forward, then up, turn about 180 degrees (right). Then I go through a blank area in the wall, then down and swings about 180 degrees again and goes back to the same place from where it started."

Explanation 2:
"The robot is called up and trough 
turtel.forward = breaking up a block 
turtle.up = turtle goes up a block 
turtle.turnRight = turtle turns to the 180 to the right 
turtle.down = turtle walking down a block 
turtle.turnLerft = turtle pivots at 180 on the left"

When everyone was ready I open the gates to the intro to turtles section where they could start practice. Suddenly they were in the next area a bit too fast (I wasn't ready): Faultline Island.

A chapter that didn't work at all, my students need someone who tells them what to do otherwise they loose their interest. So I teleported them one by one to the Sky Turtle Island and my students started to be creative. They also stopped racing and came up with own goals: nicest code, best code, to win the game/outwit the creator and more.

A block every second spot. Why? He told me he wanted to save blocks for later use...

Same challenge, two different solutions. One goes over and the other through... And the challenge to outsmart the creator: you can't leave the Sky Turtle Island because you're not allowed to build or to jump from the plattform. But you can use your turtle to make a bridge over the fence...

Some stuff wasn't working, as the sandwall which should close behind you when you enter the second floor's new rooms. When we removed the redstone (yellow star) the sand went down and closed the door. Two students entered the room together to collaborate through the challenges. 

After 2,5 hours non-stop working with code, turtles, problemsolving I was totally deflated and wanted to be alone. I had to kick them out and promise we'll continue next week. Before they left we talked about what they had learned. 

  • Everyone had learned something.
  • All had at least (finally) learned the WHILE-loop.
  • Those with dysphasia could keep pace with the other.
  • All told me they have, for the first time, actually been doing what the teacher asked for the whole time (!).

14 oktober 2014

The asthma girl got pneumonia

Saturday 11th of October we had our wedding day, six year anniversary, and I thought I had planned for everything: food, wedding cake, flowers, present. The only thing I hadn't planned for happened. 

Our daughter AquaVera, the asthma girl, got pneumonia.

Instead of having a nice weekend we have spent it at the hospital, my wife the first night and I the second night. And yes, of course it's nice the health system works that good and that she got treatment in no time, and yes she's doing much better thank you.

So what to do with a sick but restless 6 year old girl? Well, yesterday we build a 3D jigsaw house to her My Little Ponies but today I didn't had any energy to that and she also asked when I'm going to "work next time in Minecraft..." 

So we started the My Little Pony mod and started to play. Some stuff I have been giving us (as an operator); mostly armor, weapons, some food, fishing rod and the enchantment table, but the rest we've craft and built. Why? Well, try to play with a 6 yo and you'll pretty soon realize they (1) don't always has the patience and (2) she's scared about the mobs.

This time we have started to play with mobs and easy, so our enemies can't climb in the trees nor open fence gates (Thank God!) but when they're moving a bit too close she screams: 
(Thank you! I only have ten zombies chasing me...)

The hunting tower (with the windows) is her invention just like the fishing site (to the left). The closest tree house is our library and enchanting room. 

Behind the house is a two storey house with a kitchen in the "ground floor" and bedrooms above.

Because of the exploding nerds (creepers) we had to move our farming place from the ground up in the trees. Carrots and potatoes are loot from mobs and both wheat and sugar can be found outside. She has also started to make hamburgers after been looking at Everyday Minecraft (bread+beef+bread=nam nam!).

And back to the hunting tower, here we can safely kill the mobs... She needs to practice both aim with the bow as be used to the mobs. But a good thing if you compare survival peaceful and survival easy mode is it actually make sense to collect and make food. At the moment she force me to fish so we can tame cats...

Yep, lots of fence, someone was falling down in the middle of the fight, logged out, I had to clear the area while she was pissed and then she could log back.

Dusk and dawn have to end this little report from the sick leave...