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You may all think I am evangelizing the mighty gospel of gaming, but that is not true.

What I am promoting is relevance.

My brother-in-law works for Blizzard games. He has been working 60-90 hour weeks for months on end. He is extremely talented and intelligent, like all of the Love brothers. He sent this e-mail about his work on Diablo III yesterday afternoon:

The above link has some breakdown videos of various player skills in Diablo III. We just released this info to the public today. I did all of the special FX for these, except for the baseline whirlwind and some of the Cluster Arrow variations. Some of these things, such as the Monk’s Sweeping Wind variations, require a entire week to create. So, now you can see where all those long hours have been going.


Here is an e-mail I sent to my brother-in-law in response:

B-I-L: – shared this with some of my students this morning, and talked about the relevance of learning math, science, language arts especially – and how they connect. Between the understanding of complex mathematical systems, and science systems, like flocking, physics, etc. and the dialogue and text of Language Arts, they need to know these entertaining and engaging games don’t just come out of “nowhere” but come from months of blood, sweat, tears, and mainly: intelligent talent.

 The real challenge of an 8th grade teacher is making sure they begin to connect the relevance of their education with their connected and engaged futures. They are going into 9th grade where things start to ‘count,’ and if there is undiscovered talent or drive, oftentimes it gets lost in the mystification of “how is this going to help me?” They are constantly looking for the cost/benefit analysis and finding a vacuum instead.

And, they all thought it was COOL! Me, too! Can’t wait.


PS Someday it would be wonderful if you could come and speak at my school.

Just a mental note-to-self that was motivates us is not necessarily not doing any work at all, but doing work that feels important and relevant. Many times this year, perhaps, that’s what I felt: that what I was doing wasn’t making a difference, wasn’t relevant, or impactful. My motivation, my drive, in the past was signified by being a rock star of curriculum planning, creative lessons, etc. I need to get back to those roots, the big, burning questions of our lives we want answered.

My team and I are looking forward to next year so much. There is a renewed excitement that feels genuinely needed and warranted. Hope the blood, sweat, and tears of my own profession leaves me just as satisfied and proud.

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Game on.

Get Ready Pac ManGreat conversation the other day: student in my “struggling” reading comprehension group reminded me once again that many kids aren’t necessarily “bad” readers, but not motivatedto read. We had a few moments just to talk about what we were reading, a topic at hand, a bird-walk, so to speak, and he and I discussed a high-level, critical analysis about: games.

We talked about the genres and analyzed the varying classification of the wide variety of video/computer games. (The student sent me this link, by the way: Recently, I had a conversation with my husband about this very same topic, in the context of  deep critical analysis of World of Warcraft. I know – many of you (teachers) are scoffing or rolling your eyes. (By the way, eye rollers – grow up.)

What is fascinating to me is this question: why are we humans participating and practicing in the worlds that yield no results or product?

Or do they?

One Alpha game that has come on the scene in MineCraft.  MineCraft scares the snot out of me, and I’m not sure why. Our Robot Overlords are busy working on enslaving human productivity and time to create Lego-esque worlds and kill zombies. When I can find the link to the article, one enterprising young man went as far as to create a world, a virtual world, that ran on its own “red dust” electrical power. Can you say “Mr. Anderson?”

Another virtual world is obviously Farmville.  Millions of Facebook users work diligently on this (distopian) commune,

We all have burning questions, and it is job 1 for teachers to help students identify and recognize those questions and motivations. We are given low basal readers for checkpoints and reading strategy instruction. I have a certain amount of buy-in and fear. The fear comes from the thought of NOT adhering “with fidelity” to the “system” somehow any failure or lack of progress of my students will be squarely on my shoulders. Which, it would be. If I can honestly report that I kept the program in its inherent and intended form, then perhaps that will shield me from any negative results.

A term my husband has been using recently is “emergent behaviors.”  The context he uses this in is the explained best just by thinking of ways that humans, animals, forms and functions do or create the unexpected.

The words that come to mind when thinking about the activities of these types of games far exceed the simple, violent FPS label:

1. Resource management

2. Professions

3. Product and Productivity

4. “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality: Elitism and bragging rights (talk to anyone who’s flying around on a Onyxian Drake.

But what even scares me more is the next generation of “games,” and this puts the word “generation” in a different context. Both the same student and my husand informed me of this little AI darling, who is programmed to make moral decisions based on squishing, or not, snails: Milo, the Computer Boy.

Think I may be sick.

Now, I must also write this: While we are so busy creating fake boys and girls, and getting fake jobs, and getting fake results, we are neglecting our real boys and girls. Student informed me the other day: “Mrs. L, did you know the band member of KISS are Jewish?” Reponse: Yes, as a matter of fact I did. Follow up: “And did you also know they had to wear that make up to hide from Hitler during the war?”

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Leveling up: Pathways to reading

mc escher

Wonderful colleague posts this question to the universe:
Calling ALL opinions: students are reading below grade level (anywhere from 5 to 1 year behind) and I want to do a book study to meet some CORE standards. Can I use one that isn’t at grade level? Or is that just making it too easy? Is it OK to use any book as long as it is higher than their current level of performance? Weigh in…and not just teachers!

My quick response:I have a lot to say about this, but Lucy Calkins said it well: “I want to know when I am about to ski down the black diamond slope.” In other words, make the reading levels AND the student’s current reading abilities as transparent as possible, with the key ingredient: Once they know, teach the hell out of how they can improve. I have “let go” so much regarding levels as far as what they “should” be reading – I encourage ANY kind of reading–comic books, picture books, fairy tales, graphic novels, cereal boxes, video game quest logs, you name it. In fact, on the MSP there is a place for “functional” reading–which I agree with. Being able to read a functional document means a functional adult (or a greatly improved chance). I stress, stress, stress to my students if you don’t understand it and can’t talk about it, you’re not “reading” –you’re faking it. So, encourage them if they want to read something higher than their “level” but let them know they are going to have to approach it a bit differently. And, they can get deep meaning out of any narrative or information they find interesting and meaningful to them.

So, here’s what I’m thinking: In order to get my own head on straight for this upcoming, topsy-turvy year, this week I will do a series all about reading, and my reflections on its process, purpose, and perpetuating the pursuit.

I would love any guest bloggers to engage with their philosophies, strategies, and reflections on this as well — what have you tried that worked with the majority of your students, and what have you tried that worked with the minority of your students?

Send me an e-mail: