Tomorrow is Here Now

I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone say “why do we need to do this differently?” or simply avoid change. It is difficult for me to comprehend why anyone would want to continue to do anything the exact same way, day in and day out even if whatever they were doing worked perfectly. Learning is a function of either not knowing something and taking the time and energy to absorb/comprehend it, or making a mistake and then finding a way out whether its a mess or another opportunity that results.  There are times that I wish I didn’t have to struggle so much/long to work my way out of a problem, but looking back those are exactly the times that I revel in my accomplishment and ability to overcome the obstacles that stood in the way. That sounds cliche, and I am not one for quippy aphorisms or platitudes. But I don’t know how else to explain what learning and accomplishment looks like, to me.

In my youth, there was a sentiment that some people were “born before their time” meaning that they were visionaries, able to see around corners where others couldn’t, being able to imagine the future being radically different than the present day, or having such a unique talent, perspective or ability that they were perceived as one-of-a-kind. I don’t hear that phrase very much anymore. And I don’t see the same things being considered as ‘before one’s time’. Instead, the unique person – the visionary – is one who possesses the skills and experiences to deal with situations as they arise with enthusiasm and confidence, seeking innovative ways to solve problems or create solutions because of her/his unique perspective.

I have wrestled with this post most of the week, where to start and what is most important.  I decided to make a list of inspirations from some of the materials to view and read so that I have it accessible as I continue to ponder how to incorporate these ideas (and work) into my thinking and work. But, I also have some insight into why thinking like this is going to be essential to move learning paradigms toward ones that are more effective for learners, and result in greater competency than some of the thinking and methods that have existed for the last 100 years (in the US).

I’ve had some fairly substantial introductions to the use of game theory in a typical classroom setting. A colleague of mine set up her middle school math class as a Quest class (no grades, just achievement through completing – or creating – quests) and ran it that way for about five years until she moved to a high school to teach (she’s in the process of setting up new quests for them). Another colleague and friend just completed his PhD at FIU looking at how social networks (the human-human kind, not the Internet kind) affect students in pursuing further study in STEM fields, and a woman I met last February at the VT CHEP Conference gave us some insight into how she has set up her Written Communications course with a focus on student success through the use of game theory. In each of these examples, student success — and that means every student — is the objective. That is not typically true of most college courses, which are still evaluated in terms of effectiveness on more of a bell curve. In all of them there are options that students have in how or what assignments to complete either based on what they already know or what they want to learn (again, student-centered assessment). And, lastly, students have the opportunity to set their own learning/growing goals in the context of the materials to be covered. So, if Joe thinks he already understands and can apply the Pythagorean Theorem expertly, he doesn’t have to focus on that particular concept (learning, practice, assessment) and can move on to a concept that he either wants to learn about or practice more. Gamification in a learning environment is not about playing and winning a game, per se, as much as it is about establishing a learning environment where students have agency over how they’re learning and what is ‘counted’ as authentic assessment (hint: not tests) and where objectives are established that reflect real-world skills or knowledge attainment that will result in a student achieving something of value to themselves and society. Sounds more like on-the-job professional development, right?

Want more info? Here are a couple of  links:

12 Examples of Gamification in the Classroom

What is Gamification and Why Use It In Teaching?  JHU’s Innovative Instructor Blog

Digital Media – New Learners of the 21st Century

The Digital media video was truly inspirational: to know that there are so many other adults out in the world attempting to ‘change’ the way change is perceived, and provide children and youth – particularly – different ways of seeing the world they live within just a little differently and inspire them to learn.

Form groups to learn …

Take an active role in order to shape their [learning] experiences…

Don’t sit in front of textbooks

system-based thinking: trial and error

the power and importance of play

tinkering brings thought and action together in some very magical ways

lifelong learning event

Game design (in school) teaches you to attack a complex problem in smaller pieces. It also makes you think on many different levels at once.

How do we get people prepared to learn in the future for things that don’t even exist now, and how do we prepare them to be able to innovate and solve problems and not just know a bunch of facts they can’t use.

A game is just a problem space … you must solve in order to win

Digital media is a tool … we’re learning from it

standards are a baseline …

If a learning system is well-designed, you don’t finish it without the guarantee that you’ve learned …

[we can] build such rich learning systems that they … assess themselves.

We’ve used the term ‘addiction’ to refer to things we don’t value, but they may, in fact,  be valuable to students and young people in their lives.


Digital Youth Network – brings a wide variety of opportunities to youth that may never have the opportunities otherwise.

In the 21st century, kids need passion … because learning requires a lot of practice

If you put opportunities in front of him, he’ll take advantage of it

Digital media … is changing the ecology of reading and writing. Different practices happen. Different types of texts are produced. Kids are doing more reading and writing than they ever did. [They’re just not doing it the same way they did before]

Media work builds on top of traditional literacy: and if a kid hasn’t had art, if they don’t understand color, if they don’t understand shapes and circles, then it’s very hard for them to say ‘we want to do graphic design’

A lot of learning happens outside of the classroom

We know that the learning outside of school matters tremendously in school

Every child has an interest…

[T]he responsibility of libraries, museums, schools, after school programs … is to help kids identify those interests and then … become more advanced … [with an] academic coach.

When you put a phone in their hand and say “look, you’re the photographer. You’re going to be … looking for objects.” Something actually happens. They look more closely …

They are engaged in the process of constructing meaning (not simply receptors of knowledge)  {KgC commentary}

Place-based learning … is mobile. It’s also pervasive in that you have it with you all of the time. Students, an hour later or later that night or over the weekend can continue to do work because they have the mobile device with them.

Removes the barriers [to meaningful learning] of walls, reliance solely on tangible resources, dependence upon ad


ults for providing information, tools and environment {KgC commentary}

The game has them look closer at the objects, have to learn about the objects to communicate information in their scavenger hunts [and] allows them to be more active and take a role in their experience.


There are a whole new set of tools accessible to help bring content to students … and increase your audience.

How do [we] move from the notion of individual expertise to collective expertise? Most of our learning could very well come from the interaction with peers in [our] particular collective[s] … In peer based collaboration you’re both learning and teach

ing. And that sense of having to explain something is often where you discover what you know and don’t know.



The individual student is being empowered … to follow a personal path to learning. [T]hey’re going to feel more confident, they’re going to believe more in the creative process, and they’re going to believe more that they can make a contribution to this world that is positive.

~    , Director Hirshorn Museum of Art

Humans don’t learn from abstractions. They don’t learn from just a bunch of words. They learn from having experiences and then learning how to generalize, eventually, from lots of experiences: find patterns in them and then marry them to words.

~ James Gee

Augmented reality game allows students to get out into their community, learn history from a game-based learning platform and then recognize the built environment and address what the needs may be for re-designing the town to address the desires of the community.

We can imagine a system [of learning] is not just about what job you’re going to have by about making everybody able to participate in society, to have dignity, to be able to innovate …. And then we’re going to have to deal with the problem that society is too smart for some of the jobs, which would b a nice problem to deal with.

An intelligent society where everybody can produce knowledge and collaborate with each other to make a better society would make us much more successful in the long run in the global economy.

~ James Gee

Tommorrow is definitely here now.