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June 2006

Games for the Web



Trinity College has made available..

term papers written by undergraduate students in the class “Games for the Web: Ethnography of Massively Multiplayer On-line Games.”

These students used a combination of quantitative and qualitative research methods to explore sociological issues associated with massively multiplayer virtual worlds. Each student in the class pursued a different research question. Their term papers (and web logs) are linked below.

In the interests of reciprocity, we are sharing the findings of our research with the gaming community. Please wander through the site at your leisure, and take a look at the student’s preliminary research findings. We would love to hear your constructive feedback, either through e-mail or via postings to student web logs.

I think most teachers should be able to manage reading the papers without being too challenged by academic considerations.

Using games in education



The folk over at The Games Institute and Muzzy Lane are offering a 4 week online course “Using Games in Education”…

With Using Games in Education, you can bring the opportunities of digital games into your classroom. This ten unit course explores “why games”—the theories of educational gaming—and “how games”—the practical aspects of implementing educational gameplay. At the end of the course you will be prepared to integrate computer games into your students’ learning. Games will be a powerful tool in your teaching. You will:

  • Discover the principles behind the learning power of games.
  • Learn how to choose the best games for your students.
  • Understand how to prepare yourself and your students for an educational gaming experience.
  • Learn key tips from teachers and professors who teach with games.

The knowledge gained from Using Games in Education can be applied to any class environment and any grade level. Lessons are not limited to specific subject matters or games.

It looks interesting and is reasonably priced ($185USD) as far as unknown online offerings go.  I might even scratch up the necessary cash and have a go myself.

I’d like to see something more along this line develop here in WA.  CREATEC at ECU is one research centre that could certainly tap into this, CSaLT might be the other obvious organisation. 

I think it might be time to resurrect the SIG - the Special Interest Groups and take this investigation a little further.  Bring on the master of all-things SIG - and all things Numbat! 

1 To 1 Notebooks



There are literally hundreds ( possibly thousands ) of schools in the US with 1 to 1 notebook programs and yet in Australia they are relatively rare. It has always been a goal of mine to see this occur at my present school ever since we started using iBooks over 4 years ago. The obvious problem is funding and more importantly sustainable funding.
A US document (and there are many ) on 1 to 1 programs cites this as their goals for having 1 to 1.
Different schools implement 1 to 1 learning for different reasons. In general, the goals driving most 1 to 1 computing initiatives fall into four categories:
• Improving Student Achievement
• Advancing Digital Equity
• Enhancing Teaching and Learning
• Strengthening Economic Development (Nation Wide)
A current challenge facing proponents of 1 to 1 learning is in defining success. While educators often cite goals other than student achievement, the formal evaluation of such projects is often based entirely on gains in test scores.

We can relate to the problem of measuring success especially where such large a investment is concerned. I have read a lot of papers on studies of recent programs and most of them show, in general, a slight improvement. It is admitted in some studies that testing often has little to do with technology or using technology and that the testing is not an accurate measure. However there are current research programs underway using technology for standardised testing and here you will see an example of this.
There are two main methods of funding these programs, parental funding (purchase or lease) and Institutional funding (eg school or government). Government funding has shown itself hard to sustain with some school districts in the US tapering their current 1 to 1 programs. Leasing notebooks to parents is the favourable method and is one way that my school has been exploring and close to implementing. There are quite a few issues as explained in this next extract on a district scale.
California’s Fullerton School District is revamping its one-to-one laptop program in response to parental objections and an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawsuit. In 2004-05, as part of an effort to integrate technology into students’ lives, Fullerton launched a pilot laptop program that asked parents to purchases the #1,500 computers for their children’s use. Financial aid and loaner laptops were made available to families with demonstrable needs. If parents opted not to participate in the program, students were transferred to classrooms not in the laptop pilot program. Sometimes that meant that a child had to transfer to a different school. The ACLU challenged the district’s policy, saying it favored wealthier families and stigmatized those who applied for a loaner laptop, for a fee waiver or for a transfer to another school. After four months of negotiation, a settlement was reached. Under the new plan, parents have more control over whether or not a school joins the laptop program. If 90% of the families in a school or grade buy a computer, the district will provide the remaining students with loaners. If fewer than 90% buy laptops, the district will provide loaners for the remaining students or discontinue the program in that school or grade. Low-income families will continue to be able to apply for financial assistance in buying a computer or ask for a loaner and be counted toward a school’s 90% threshold. More than 2,000 of the Fullerton School District’s 13,000 elementary and middle school students were using laptops at the beginning of the 2005-6 school year.

There is no doubt that 1 to 1 programs have larger management needs and currently most schools do not have the resources or staffing to deal efficiently with 1 to 1 programs. A small indication is the Maine Implementation of iBooks in their Middleschools support portal.
Most of us just want students to have access to technology when it is needed and at present this (1 to 1 ) seems to be one of the best solutions. Here are some articles and sites that have a lot of current information.
This first site techLearning has many articles on 1 to 1 notebook programs and many other interesting things.
A report on New Hampshire’s program and this site has quite a few other current articles.
This journal is a little hard to find from the above link.
This is quite an interesting focused use of laptops.
At Apple’s 1 to 1 information area you will find quite a bit of useful data but you have to remember it does not include many of the issues.
Each 1 to 1 program will be contextually different and that often means that one solution will not fit all. I would love to here of some options and other technologies that can give students access when and where they need it. Please also consider the near future when commenting rather than the past.

Steve Adcock

Web 2.0’s first eLearning services?



I’ve been taking a look at web application based eLearning services. Nuvvo andSo many Web 2.0 choices! Chalksite certainly forge new ground with educators in mind. For educators wanting to run courses online for students to access at home and at school, these simple to use web apps may be an incredibly handy tool to have in the toolkit. While they certainly don’t have the scope of Moodle, Blackboard or WebCT, in time they promise to offer similar functionality. As these web 2.0 apps mature, the simplicity of their implementation is surely going to prove popular with educators. I run an Instiki wiki to host my student’s collaborative writing from my NB4Ts laptop. The ability to view, mark and add notes to the student’s good work from this portable base is a very convenient tool. On the flipside, the set-up of this was laborious and distracted from my planning and DOTT time. This is the exact kind of situation where these new online eLearning services such as Nuvvo and Chalksite start to come into play……


Nuvvo claims to be the first free on-demand eLearning service. Nuvvo uses Web 2.0 innovations to facilitate easy course creation, search, and syndication. Individualvice), Skypewhich allows a person to display teachers to sign up and begin offering courses in minutes. Courses can be private or public, free or pay. Nuvvo has integrated with Skype (peer to peer voice ser his/her Skype status on the site. This means that university students using Nuvvo for example will have access to talk live with their teacher if he/she is a Skype user. Nuvvo says:

Nuvvo is your way to teach on the web. Everyone knows a little bit about something, and this free, AJAX-enhanced eLearning web service is designed to bring out the teacher in all of us. Sign up and build a course in minutes; advertise your course on our eLearning Market to get the word out. Get teaching with Nuvvo, Web 2.0’s answer to eLearning.

Also, there are capabilities in Nuvvo to enable rich media, such as audio and video. It is free to create a course and Nuvvo makes money from ads and by taking 8% of any course fees set by the educator. it looks like they have lots of activity there with courses both free and for a fee, from programming language tutorials to customer service training to foreign language to self-development.

Chalksite offers simple design built on the Ruby on Rails framework and allows educatorsChalksite to post messages, assignments and manage grading. Chalksite allows teachers to create their own weblog and about me pages to help communicate and display biography information which is a great implementation of a blog. The open and intuitive design sets Chalksite apart from Blackboard, Moodle and Elgg. Chalksite says:

It’s the quickest, simplest route to expanding your classroom onto the internet. Teachers, students and parents have a central point to access grading, assignments and messaging. Chalksite is a total web package designed just for teachers, giving you a personal website and tools you actually need without requiring an IT degree to use them.

Chalksite was designed for teachers and tested by teachers at every stage of its development. It’s specifically created to be the easiest path to online learning for real teachers and students — people who don’t have the time to decode complicated software packages or hard-to-follow instruction manuals.

While looking at the Chalksite website I noted it is similar to 37 Signal’s (designers of Basecamp) website and design sensitivities. While I couldn’t find any direct reference to the fabulous web 2.0 company 37 Signals it appears Chalksite have been directly inspired by their CSS and layout.

Chalksite GUI

The thing I like most about web 2.0 apps is their gentle learning curve. Chalksite seems to be a great “stand alone” classroom enhancing product that takes less than 4 minutes to learn. The current free pricing is restricted to 5 students. With the paid pricing starting from US$4.95/month for 50 students. Chalksite does allow unlimited assignments to students/classes with image/file uploading/sharing, a complete web-based gradebook that allows students to view grades, messaging to individual students or entire classes, and a personal website.

I get the feeling that for online courses to succeed, students must be able to become engaged interactively in the learning process through discussion board comments, and plentiful guided course document and assignment postings. The more interactive the site, the more the student will return to the site. For eLearning services such as these to succeed, interactivity and collaborative features will be the most requested features together with an intuitive interface (GUI).


Basecamp: project management



BasecampTaking up on Kim Flintoff’s lead with his previous post on Wikibooks this post details another Web 2.0 collaborative writing ICT called Basecamp that has a range of possible uses in schools. Basecamp is a web based collaboration and project management tool. Last year at Paraburdoo Primary School we used this password protected online space during our action research into the Boys in Education Lighthouse Project . It proved to be a simple and effective way to document milestones, plan, and for collaborative text development via the built-in Writeboard. It fitted well with the Action Research goals. eg. “Action research establishes self-critical communities of people participating and collaborating in all phases of the research process.” Also “allows us to build records of our improvements”.

The path the research eventually took meant that teachers ending up developing individual research projects on diverse topics. However, in the initial planning phase Basecamp was valuable in developing our clear shared vision to “develop, monitor and reflect upon effective strategies for the improvement of boys writing”. There is no reason why this web app couldn’t be used in a collaborative writing learning environment also.

I have since used Basecamp in two other ongoing projects and it has help bind these projects especially across huge geographical distances. While trying not to make thisBackpack sound like a sales pitch for 37 Signals products I admit I’m quite fond of their simplicity and gentle learning curve. I also use their Backpack product for all of my to-do lists, and load them as my browser homepage for access at home and at school. Backpack makes it easy to flesh out your ideas and helps in getting things done.

Are there any other schools using similar collaborative project management tools?


Disclosure: the links to BasecampHQ in this post take you to an affiliate page with Basecamp. If you happen to sign-up to a paid account via this link, the voluntary Green Map Perth project I work on will receive a discount on an upgrade to our very own Basecamp account.

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Recent Comments
  • Melanie: Thank you Kim! I will definitely check out this link and see the developments for higher education on the SLED.
  • Kim Flintoff: We have been using Second Life in a range of situations. Built a Wound Care Clinic with Curtin University for training nurses about wound care and the relationship between hand-washing and infection in a...
  • Melanie: Hello Paul, I am wondering, have continued to utilize SecondLife? Do you find that it has better user-friendly features? Do you find that your courses are easier to teach in this format? Is the VLC classroom a...
  • Melanie: We may agree to disagree on the instant gratification society term, however when you look at new social network devices that are connected to mobile devices – there is an urgency that is attached to those...
  • Kim Flintoff: "instant gratification society" - I'm not sure I'm part of that society. Educational institutions do not make decisions - people do. Which people in educational institutions will cling dearly to email? Email...
  • Melanie: I agree that email is outdated in most settings. However, many educational institutions will cling dearly to email due to the aspect of "waiting before sending." Email is still a resource and an appropriate tool...
  • Maryjane: This is incredible and we need to spread it to school districts. It was posted two years ago and I've not seen new policies or classroom innovations happen since then. People are afraid of what the kids might do....
  • Suzanne: I cannot help but think that this trend, while reflecting archetypal youth rejection of all things "adult," is also related to the digital immigrant/digital native thing. The young are very flexible, very willing...
  • Maryjane: This made me laugh outloud. School districts are still discussing whether they'll give access to students for email; do all their business by email instead of walking next door and talking to someone; and wonder...
  • Nick Smith: This video was exactly what I needed/wanted to hear. As a student working towards being a teacher, I find it great to not only revolutionize teaching, but to re-invent it all together. One woman mentioned...
  • Scott Merrick: Hey there, feel free to unpublish this comment--it's more or less for your own info: This is to let you know that Digital Chalkie has been nominated for Blog-o-the-Month at the Blogger's Hut on Second Life...
  • Laura Seabrook: I have one other question, which I can't find answer to on the Murku wiki (no doubt the answer is right there and I keep missing it) - where/how does one get it?
  • Laura Seabrook: Murku looks really interesting (and I shall definitely try it), though the examples could do with some improvement, as per my comments above. Positioning can be important - see the Blambot article at...
  • Kim Flintoff: Murku is designed to facilitate the construction of comics based on content in a Second Life TM, ie SL, environment. Murku will be of interest to those who have always dreamt of creating their own comics but...
  • Laura Seabrook: Actually there was a typo in my previous comment. I meant to write wouldn't be, not would as far as being the first to do an SL comic. I discovered Plywood shortly after starting my own, which can be found...
  • Kim Flintoff: Hi Laura, The example in the article wasn't intended to be a highly refined product - it literally took me 60 seconds to create with some random images grabbed from my hard drive. The points you make about...
  • Laura Seabrook: I started doing Second Life comics late in 2007 ( though I didn't use Comic Life - rather I drew bits, used screenshots and put it together using PaintShopPro and Fireworks (for speech balloons etc). I knew...
  • michael chalk: Great stuff Paul .. lots of good points here. You are right about the ABC - they're really leading the charge into the new era of digital participation aren't they! My favourite thing they do is the way they...
  • Ken Allan: Kia ora Kim! I don't think it is anything to do with HOW we communicate. It is more to do with how kids see email. It is simply to do with the age-old feature of youngsters avoiding ANYTHING that is associated...
  • Aaron Fisher: This is very cool! It is amazing how those principles from long ago are relevant today, just in different forms. Students do learn better by doing, no matter the subject. We teachers need to do a better job...
  • Julie Carney: Thanks for this post, and for posters like Paul who have linked and commented on resources for educators to use. As is the case with most things, it seems the right combination of educator/program/developer...
  • Debbie: I, too am upset that this website has been taken off-line. My special education students loved it, and I knew I could always find an activity geared their levels and abilities. I hope that it will soon be running...
  • Andrew Westerman: Each LO costs $20 000. So, if 20 students use that learning object for 0.1 of an hour (6 minutes), that's 2 student / hours @ $10 000 per hour. If 2000 students use that LO for 0.2 of an hour (12...
  • Cathy Nash: Learning Objects are one of the tools in a good teacher's toolbox. It is simplistic to lay them aside as past it. A poor teacher can make a pencil look dull and a great teacher may just achieve great things...
  • Suzanne: I am so upset that this site has been removed, however I fully understand why. My Year One children and my pre-primary children loved using the site and it catered for all ability levels in my class. i do hope...
  • Julie: I am sorry that Rainbow Maths has been forced off the web. My daughter loved it so it is missed. Any idea when Jenny may put it back on the web with added security measures to prevent it being copied etc?
  • Jen Zupp: I totally agree with Jenny's reason to take it off. I have spent thousands of hours keeping my website up which is pretty much a directory of quality websites I find online. If I had created a masterpiece like...
  • Kristy Dickson: I agree with Paul, $20 000, $80 000, or whatever they cost, kids are losing interest. I think they have their place for a bit of drill and practice occasionally, but I wouldn't pay for them. Motivation and...
  • Ingrid: I'm distraught that rain forest maths is not available. My 3/4 kids loved it. My kids loved it and it is so easy to cater for their abilities with the different levels. Anyone know if there's a chance it will be up...
  • Azam Ali: my kids love this site, they come on rainforest to learn. Anyone trying to stop kids education is playing with our future. Shame on people who are greedy for money and dont care for the future.
  • Bryn Jones: Channel 4 in the UK has £50million to develop new media content. Ewan McIntosh has some role in it as Digital Commissioner for Scotland. Jobs open now!
  • Thomas Goodwin: Paul Reid has pointed educators in the right direction (create and collaborate) however he started from an incorrect premise; The Learning Federation's Digital Resources are completely different from the...
  • Patricia Corby: Phew, what a terrific wealth of useful info here! Thanks Paul. In reference to this comment "They need to move from static to dynamic in form" as an overall comment it is relevant but being fair some are...
  • Paul Reid: If everyone's Math is correct the Teaching & Learning Federation pays $20k for jpeg pictures Learning Objects! eg these ones shown here http://www.thelearningfederati
  • Janice Millard: its not fair that my class can't go on rain forest maths because of other people copying we were going to do a test on it but it was closed down my class was very upset not very happy!