How did I learn this semester?

I learn the way I breathe – I don’t even think about. I just do it. It is difficult for me to analyze how a particular course or learning activity has supported my learning because I learn from absolutely everything. Is a course component unclear or poorly crafted? – I learn from overcoming the barriers. Is a course component brilliantly constructed? – I learn by going with the flow. There is no course in existence from which I will not learn something or more than likely, a great deal.

So how to sum up the ETAP640 experience? I’ll try some free association:

  • full immersion
  • research rich
  • hands-on building
  • wild experimentation
  • gazillions of tools – some new, some familiar
  • interesting people
  • warm and supportive tone

I could go on, but I will use these to think about my learning.

As many have noted this is an intense class requiring a significant amount of time.  Learning tools takes time. Reading journal articles takes time. Thinking takes time. Building takes time. There was no way to superficially engage with this course. It was full immersion, and it was multi-sensory. There were audio, video, and text and many interactive tools. Audio and video actually takes a lot of time to listen to/watch. Text transcripts would be a good companion – most of us read faster than real time talking and you can take notes on a text transcript. But the multi-media was interesting and it was enjoyable to see the faces of old colleagues and “rock star” pundits.

I used many tools I had not used before, experienced learning curves, but enjoyed the mastery component. The hands on component of building in Moodle was my favorite despite my frustration. I feel I have a good sense of its gestalt, and it helped me with faculty trainees that I am currently working with who need to transition from Moodle to Blackboard. It also forced me to come up with new ways to do old things. I actually found myself dreaming about Moodle tools several nights, waking the next morning exhausted but with a new database idea!

Perhaps the thing I will remember the most is the supportive environment created by Alex. I was in way over my head with the gamification idea – totally out of my comfort zone. I was allowed to fail up, to try things, then change them, then try again.  I was allowed to deviate from the standard guidelines in my course build, because my exploration was respected. This kind of supportive environment makes me – or any student I am sure – fearless. And I fearlessly investigated the gaming literature, learning a new vocabulary, a new aspect of being human, and new ideas about learning.

I am not a playful or gaming kind of person – I am often referred to as “intense”.  So exploring this component of human behavior – play – and seeing its connection to learning, has given me intense insights into my own process. I always thought of games and play as frivolous or useless. But I realize now that my “intense” nature is consistent with the immersion of self into mastery activities. And this is an important part of being human and of learning.

I also need to acknowledge what I learned from others in the class. Because we are all from different backgrounds, it was sometimes difficult to relate to the real life struggles or challenges others were dealing with. Higher Ed, K-12, and professional trainers have very different issues to deal with. But there was a lot to be learned from finding the common ground in thinking about learning, thinking about a mediated online environment, and seeing it through the eyes of others in the class. Diigo links from classmates have made my personal library very rich and added components and topics I would not have thought to collect.

Lastly, I was teaching 3 online classes, and conducting a 9 week training course, while I took this course this summer. One of the things I noticed I changed immediately in my interactions with students and trainees was my teacher student dynamic. I have always been student oriented – I want to know what they need, how they need it – but I tend to work harder than they do. I noticed I am now reminding them more of the tools available to them and encouraging them to figure it out and make it their own with a healthy dose of self-regulation.

I am sure there are other things I have learned that I won’t even realize until much later, but I can say that I think I am on a completely different level in my teaching and design work. And it’s not just the notches in the belt – Moodle skills, social software skills, etc. It is an enhanced connection between theory and practice that I think is the result of having time to take what I knew, what I wanted to know, and what I found in the research and also practice its application to the design of a course.  Very powerful. Thank you.




What I learned about learning

I knew a great deal about how people learn when I started this course, but I took this opportunity to dig deeper and find more nuances. I also did a lot of research on the relationship between games and learning which turned out to be quite rich. I had first been introduced to gaming ideas in my spring semester when I took the Teaching and Learning in Immersive Environments. I had expected to hate it, but instead it opened a door to a whole new way of thinking about learning. I am grateful that I was allowed to pursue this direction this semester by trying to redesign an existing course with gaming strategies.

What I discovered though was that you can’t just layer on game ideas and expect it to work. You have to know what you are trying to accomplish, what the similarities are between learning and game play, and surprisingly, how narrative fits in to the whole picture.

When Raph Koster states that “Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun.”(p 40) I can easily recognize my own narrative. Any time I can learn something I will – it is, as I have stated in earlier posts, an “extreme sport”  for me. But for my students the same “puzzle” that intrigues me, can read as “noise” to them, which makes them bored and they quit. These gaming concepts speak to that which educators have discussed for years – meeting students where they are, establishing relevance, and fostering engagement in the way content is delivered.

Exploring gamification I have increased my toolkit for engaging students at multiple levels. I feel I will be more vigilant about tapping into their basic human need for challenge, while attending to their narratives. Their storylines were not always part of my approach, but now I will be watching for those.

The online environment, which I considered a superior teaching environment to the f2f classroom as soon as I was using it, is very well suited to the kind of differentiation that attending to student narratives requires. Gamification can tap into deeper and more basic human motivations as I encourage them to engage with content. Mastery can become its own reward over time, even if it needs a few badges to get things on track at the start.

My understanding of the CoI model was very helpful as I explored the JISC REAP assessment material. I see now that the ideas of using assessment to support engagement and empowerment will require a change in my courses. To support these deeper learning components, I need to add more reflection. I was surprised to see that self-regulated learning is best supported with peer activity and hope that my newly designed collaborative activities will work in this way. It will be something I will be monitoring. I think the gamification relationship to this is probably the use of collaboration or team/guild type activities. Working together they learn to self-regulate and “level up” to master ever more difficult challenges.

Learning about learning will never conclude for me. I was delighted to locate new research and new models and have the opportunity to spend time integrating them into my own professional toolkit. I look forward to building on these in the future.


Koster, Raph, and Will Wright. Theory of Fun for Game Design. New York: Paraglyph, 2004. Web



The stars were aligned! GIE was in town. Wow!

I can’t believe my good fortune in having the Games in Education conference arrive not only while I was taking this course, and not only in my own town, but actually at the point in my gamification activities where I needed every piece of information I got  from every session I attended. The Games in Education conference was held at Troy Middle School, just down the hill road from HVCC, and right at the point I was wrapping up Module 5 building activities. On both days, although I had signed up for some longer afternoon hands on activities, I found I had to leave right after lunch to go home and immediately apply what I had learned in the morning sessions. Wow – the stars were definitely aligned.

Of primary use to me were the sessions on Alternate Reality Games in the classroom and Pervasive Games. Both of these include online and offline activities, linking the game components to real life. I think that this is a great model for a class build, and with an online course the domains can be switched around. The online course is the online game component and their offline work is the reality. These structures appeared to be engaging and successful and I went home and combed through my designs to find where I could build up this dynamic.

But most revelatory was the idea of storyline. Tuesday afternoon I went home and brainstormed what storyline I could use to hold my gamification concept together. The obvious storyline for me was “student learns art history” – but I knew that was going to have limited appeal beyond a few. After much thought I went in and rewrote my welcome. It now reads (in part):

How can Quests and Badges help you learn? 

It is possible that you are totally devoted and addicted to the process of being a student and learning everywhere you go from everything you do. If so, you might not care about the badges so much, but you should really enjoy the Quest for knowledge and understanding of Modern Art History. Your story line is “A student who loves to learn, explores and masters Modern Art History and learns to think like an Art Historian with new classmates”.

It is also possible you are taking this course to fulfill a requirement and perhaps it is even a bit outside your usual realm of experience. Your story line might be “An explorer in a new world, discovers the important principles, skills and facts about the world of Modern Art History, and with others on the team, starts thinking like an Art Historian.

It is also possible that you are totally devoted and addicted to learning, but struggle with time management, organization, motivation, reading, writing, asking for help, or other aspects of learning, and you need more assistance in some or all of these areas. Your story line might be “A brave soul ventures forth to new and challenging worlds, and with the help of others on the team, keeps up, works to their personal strengths and starts thinking like an Art Historian.”

Do any of these story lines sound like your story line? Do you know what your story line is? Whatever you bring or do not bring to this major Quest, there will be activities and tools to help you succeed and an entire team of fellow explorers sharing the journey. Badges are awarded for the required student work done well, and also for optional activities that might better play to your strengths or help you acquire new strengths. Did you get a perfect score on your “Teach the Class…” Challenge? No? Well, go find a badge activity to make up for those points – called XPs (experience points). There are lots of small manageable badge challenges that build up points quickly while helping you and others in the class start thinking like Art Historians. You can move through 5 levels of 3 different types of badges in this class – that is a lot of opportunity for success!

In his Tuesday keynote, Lee Sheldon, who teaches at RPI, asserted that it was important for writers to write and programmers to program. I had wondered why Koster had been so adamant about the storyline concept in his book, and this clarifies it for me. Apparently, in game development circles, there are a lot of juvenile and underdeveloped storylines and both Sheldon and Koster are writers who see the importance of a good, sophisticated storyline to the success of a game. I could see that I needed to create a storyline – or several – in my course. Based on what I was incorporating from Koster in regards to “fun” I didn’t think that I needed to create a fantasy storyline. If fun was hard work, mastery, and reward in well designed interaction, then I just needed to identify the storylines that my students were bringing to the course. I also wanted to create a storyline for the student who struggles, so they would not see “noise” and get frustrated.

I also like the idea of the narrative because it presents a context to students when they start a class – a reason for engaging, and a map of sorts in that if they know the story they are in, they will have a sense of how they should be acting and what they should be doing.

I also created all my badges in this module. I had the idea for them, and still had not produced any visible designs. I needed to have them in the very beginning of the course so had to design at least the first level. I located the mozilla plugin for making badges and was able to produce all 15 in one afternoon. This is a fantastic tool – find it here:





I can build it – but is it FUN?

At the beginning of Module 5 I had pretty much decided how the course was going to be laid out, and what activities would contribute to badges and how students could level up with points. The Moodle tools were challenging and I had experimented with many, discarded some, kept others, and just when I thought I had found the correct combination of tools, wound up changing it yet again. But a rhythm was clearly there, the feedback loops were tight, the concepts in place, and I thought I had a good foundation.

But I was concerned that something was missing. What if it wasn’t fun? I thought it was fun, but how would I know if students would find it fun? During this module we had extra time to build because there were no discussions so I took that reading time to explore some additional game design concepts I had not yet focused on. After reviewing a few sites on game design principles that were way too specific to building video games, I stumbled on an archived presentations on the theory of fun in games by Raph Koster.  Searching the HVCC eBrary site I found a short book by him that helped me identify the important structures I needed in a game environment. His book also helped me wrap my head around what fun is, and when and how things become not fun. I can’t link to the book but here is a link to his website that includes some presentations based on the book. Raph Koster Website. Also an excerpt from the book can be found here.

Most notable for me was the idea that if a game is too hard, if the “patterns” presented read as “noise” to the player, they will give up. Koster states “When we meet noise, and fail to make a pattern out of it, we get frustrated and quit” . To me this means, in a gamified course, that there needs to be a student sense that they can see what is going on and they can succeed. Also that the tasks initially should be simple and have a quick reward to start the pattern of the rest of the course. I decided to make the first badge awards based on successfully entering the game/logging in to the course.My concerns about how fun the course would be as a gamified environment were alleviated when I read the following:

“Fun is all about our brains feeling good – the release of endorphins into our system. The various cocktails of chemicals released in different ways are basically all the same. Science has shown that the pleasurable chills that we get down the spine after exceptionally powerful music or a really great book are casued by the same sorts of chemicals we get when we have cocaine, an orgasm, or chocolate. Basically, our brains are on drugs pretty much all the time.
One of the subtlest releases of chemicals is at that moment of triumph when we learn something or master a task. This  almost always causes us to break out into a smile. After all, it is important to the survival of the species that we learn – therefore our bodies reward us for it with moments of pleasure. There are many ways we find fun in games … . But this is the most important.
Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun.
In other words, with games, learning is the drug. “(Koster, p 40)

Reviewing my course, the structure, the feedback or reward loops, I think that mastery can be visualized with my process regularly. There are multiple journeys through the “game”, all of which present challenges. Lots of small challenges (vocabulary, study guide questions, quiz questions) help build up skills for larger more mastery level challenges (Teach the class, annotate an image, Final Project). I believe the material is broken down in ways that it will not appear as “noise” unless a student is significantly underprepared for college level work. And in those cases, there is a team structure within the course to support them. They can use the collaborative tools to get peer explanations and help them build their own skills.

I think this course will be fun. I will have to assess that by surveying my students at the end.


Koster, Raph, and Will Wright. Theory of Fun for Game Design. New York: Paraglyph, 2004. Web



Deja Vu All Over Again – Revisiting Mod 2 Concepts

I started this post during the Games in Education Conference this week but alas am only getting around to finishing it up now. I probably will overlook some of the details of what I was thinking at that moment in time, but I clearly remember the “AHA!”. In Module 2 we were asked to look at some exemplar classes and see what we could take from those as we designed our own classes. I think we all took away a good deal. But now, after building and reading and the conference, I can see a common thread in multiple conversations that I either overlooked or perhaps I thought was common knowledge: frontloading!

At dinner with some conference folks, some of whom were ETAP folk, others in a similar program at Marlboro College, we were discussing strategies for gamification, among other things. I was telling someone about the things I had heard that day at the conference and had run home to implement before dinner (badges, multiple paths, differentiated activities for instruction, reflection, systems). As we discussed in more detail, she suddenly stopped me and said “Woahh – that is soooo much work up front to make that happen!”

Yes it is.

Frontloading is necessary for even the most basic online course. Those of us who teach online or help others build online courses know that, as SUNY data indicate, it takes about 120 hours to build a course. In Rob’s French course interview he said he was no exception, despite having spent years as an instructional designer. I started to think about all the exemplar courses again, the course we are taking, the course I am building and I did this while sitting in conference sessions about classes conducted as or with Alternate Reality Games, Pervasive Games, gamified structures and actual video games. Whether integrated or added on, each of these strategies adds a layer of complexity over all the other “systems” of a given classroom – or online course.

We’ve all experienced frontloading if we have ever built a test. Think about multiple choice tests vs essay tests. It is hard to build a good multiple choice test, but it is easy to grade. An essay test is usually easy to build but takes a significant amount of time and effort to grade. Essentially they both are about the same amount of work, but the work on the multiple choice test is frontloaded.

Looking at the exemplar courses, there are actually 3 different balances of “load” in evidence. The psychology course has writing prompts and rubrics. The major workload is in the extensive discussion requiring timely and time consuming faculty involvement in all levels of instruction in the course throughout its duration – foundation basics to conceptualization. The art history courses introduced home made video with embedded quizzes which is a huge frontloaded component in terms of multimedia production and planning, but they can be used throughout the course and have automated feedback. The work is frontloaded for the structures and foundation interactions, and faculty live time can be spent in other meaningful interactions with students with these pieces in place. And they can be used in subsequent years.  The language courses I happen to know were initially created with a great deal of home made audio recordings and structures for students to engage with listening and speaking. That is a lot of frontloading, but I did notice the French course has publisher links now. I believe this eliminates some faculty frontloading freeing up time and energy for meaningful interactions beyond these foundation pieces. And in all three courses, the use of an LMS should be streamlining structure and technical needs, eliminating the need for building websites with interactive plugins from scratch. This becomes another efficiency in support of frontloading, that can free up the instructor to be there for students, by first creating a richly automated and interactive foundation.

I am thinking of these courses as systems of interaction and strategy. I am looking at who does what work where. And now, with my investigation of gamification, or perhaps adding actual games, what happens to the process of building the system? Fundamentally, it needs to be frontloaded. There is no other option. To gamify you need to weave a system into a system. You need to identify your system of teaching and learner support in the online structure of your course, then identify what pieces are flexible and what pieces must remain. Then you need to put a system over that and figure out how to make them work in harmony to support student learning.

At this conference I saw some really elegant solutions. They required massive amounts of frontloaded work. In all cases the presenters each said at least once – “you may be wondering if it is worth all this work…”. Because it was obvious to everyone how much work a Pervasive Game set up requires, or an Alternate Reality Game setup requires, when they are presented and explained in a conference session. But when students are playing/learning in these scenarios, their focus is not on making the game “work” but on simply using it effectively to win, learn, score, discover or otherwise meet a goal. Just as they would be in a well designed course that had nothing at all to do with gaming.

It occurred to me that a really well designed course, one that encouraged significant student engagement and retention, that was scalable to multiple courses that had over 30 students, MUST be frontloaded as robustly as a gamified course. Because the things that make the gamified course work, are essentially the same things that make a good non-gamified course work. Motivating work, fast feedback loops, visible evidence of progress, differentiation, multiple paths – one person can’t do that on the fly for 160 students a semester. It has to be built in advance, using effective automation where possible, as the foundation of the learning experience and environment.

It is not the gamification itself that supports student learning and engagement, it is the deliberate and thoughtful frontloading in the design and build of a course – especially an online course – that increases student engagement and success. It is thinking about what has to happen and when, in advance, and finding ways to put that structure in place. AHA! – as our Tuesday keynote quoted,  “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”.


My Manic Moodle Muddling and Multiple Motivations

In this module we are being asked to blog about who we are, what has challenged us in the course, what we have learned and how we have applied it to our course designs. In my last post I discussed the challenges of decision making about course “chunking,” and my thoughts on that as a veteran Instructional Designer with extensive multi-LMS experience. I also discussed in several previous posts about my goal to gamefy the course design, while simultaneously maintaining motivation and engagement for different levels and skill sets of a community college student population. In this post I would like to expand on what it is like to be a learner: learning Moodle, learning gaming strategies, and being a student in this course in general.

Being a student in this course

I have been asked repeatedly by faculty friends and others during my tenure as an ETAP grad student why I am taking these courses. The easy answer would be that I want to get a degree in the field in which I have been working for almost 30 years (education/teaching) with a focus on what is most exciting to me (technology integration and online learning) – in other words get “credentialed”. But that would not completely explain why I have doggedly chipped away at this degree for almost 10 years now.

While I train faculty in a 12 week class every semester, that closely parallels this course, I find that I am regularly updating the materials and rethinking the multiple strategies presented to my trainees. What I find most challenging about that is the not infrequent resistance to learning a new teaching strategy that I encounter on the part of some trainees. This has been true in every institution that I have been training faculty. I once had a trainee who was a lawyer tell me that teaching is teaching and just because it is online does not mean you have to do anything different – and she truly believed that. I know that is not true, and I know there is an extensive body of research on how students learn in different environments, and I know that more research is done every year. I believe the more we know and the more questions we ask, the better able to remain flexible, dynamic and progressive in our teaching strategies. I know that if I can be the “designated learner” for theory, practice and technology, I can help faculty strategize more effectively and appropriately for their discipline and course level. The ETAP courses I have taken over the last 10 years have given me dedicated time to dig deeper into the research, reaffirm the foundation concepts I have, and most importantly learn new things from new research as well as fellow students and the instructors. Rather than sit back and feel like I have already learned everything there is to learn, I actually look for different approaches, challenge my own assumptions, get cool ideas from other students, and practice peer teaching presence with an eye toward bringing this back into my own training. This particular course is helping me understand how my faculty trainees who learned to use Moodle are thinking about the tools, and how best to help them conceptualize a different LMS and make the transition.

Learning Moodle

Within the first week of this class I realized I could make a big list of documents, create a few forums and assignment drop boxes, maybe a few quizzes and be done. Those components seemed simple enough. But I also noticed that every time I got a grade, I got an email telling me my grade was changed to “F” – so probably basic tools were not as simple as I thought. Then I looked at documentation to see how some of the tools worked, what the lexicon for the product was, and how I would need to adjust my work flow. My first impression was, “Wow – this feels like something pieced together by a committee!!” Then I realized, oh yeah – it was – a committee of thousands because it is open source. And like many (but not all) open source products I have used, I see very elaborate tools and settings to do some pretty detailed stuff, and some glaring basics that are just simply not sexy enough to warrant attention. For instance, table display. There really is no excuse in 2014 for a web based product not to be able to display basic html table code properly. Or for it not to be more urgently addressed (I researched the reporting history, which is long). Many helpful members of the global committee have workarounds. My favorite? Go to the code for every individual cell in your table and use the Advanced  tools to change the properties, with subsequent suggestions for using find and replace on the code. How about just fixing it?

Annoyances aside, I have a dilemma. I don’t know how the more advanced interactive tools work in Moodle and yet I want to structure the course in such a way that I can collect data to gamefy and score. I call this the “chicken and egg” design dilemma when working with my trainees: How to design a course with unknown tools. If we teach all the tools they won’t be remembered when the content and interaction actually get designed. If we build content we may find that we have used the wrong tool as we get further into the process. The solution so far has been a very basic, very flexible template that allows faculty to “hang” stuff around the course as they see how things work. I tell them to “trust me” because at about week 5 they will know the basics of how the tools work and will suddenly rethink the entire course, including ways to break apart the template into something that works better for them. And here I am in essentially that “week 5” sweet spot of knowing just enough about Moodle to be dangerous.

I have spent a great deal of time in the Moodle documentation, and I can see that I will need some pretty complicated tools to do what I want to do. And that the lexicon is totally unfamiliar, the processes very hands on with few presets that I recognize, and an overall zeitgeist that is pretty cool, but will take some time to master. Fortunately for me I am working with a course I already taught and do not have to develop all the material, just revise and retool some of it. But I am thinking I need databases for much of what I need to do and they have been very challenging. I have created a few, but still don’t have the core concept internalized well enough to use it effectively to meet my goals. (Frankly, I can’t imagine what others in the class with no LMS background are going through.) I want to build a functional course using the tools effectively. I know how to do that in about 5 other LMS environments as well as basic web sites, but Moodle is slow to reveal its secrets. I have no doubt I can do it, but can I do it in a few weeks?

Learning Gaming Strategies

Gaming strategies are a totally foreign concept to me. I don’t play games (unless an occasional Words with Friends on my phone counts). I don’t play or watch sports. I am not competitive. I don’t care about badges, leveling, points or winning. But I DO like the pace and flow of working through a challenge in steps and succeeding over obstacles and experiencing “Fiero!”. So I can relate on the basis of internal motivation, and personal success.

I don’t know if my gaming strategies will actually work because they are mostly theoretical, except for my experience with the quizzes I currently use. I do know that even if I learn about a game strategy, I try to figure out how it parallels and replicates engaged learning. I am finding significant overlap and using those components as starting points. For example, “leveling up” and “failing up” are two ideas from gaming that are exactly what is happening with my multiple attempt weekly quizzes. I just didn’t know at the time that it was a proven game strategy.

I also just changed all my modules to Quests. I tend to think of my entire course as a WebQuest anyway, and I suddenly realized that expanding that concept will create more believable social dynamics and goals for leveling up and earning badges and points. Or for those who are intrinsically motivated, a more authentic inquiry based process.


The pieces I am trying to bring together in this course as a student, and in the course I am designing, are coming from a past I am challenging in as many ways as I can, decades of teaching I am critically sifting through in my mind, new research I am finally getting the time to study closely, and a fairly comprehensive knowledge of systems. Frankly I do not recognize the course and structures that are emerging as I work. It is almost like sitting outside myself and watching it happen. Every piece that goes together generates another idea or connection. Now all I have to do is figure out how to make it actually work.



Modules, Modules everywhere! Why and how to get there?

By now everyone in the class knows I am struggling with the use of Modules in my course design. I am more specifically struggling with the concept that 15 weekly modules is any more frightening or overwhelming to students than 7 2-week long modules. As I indicated in my assignment of submitted structure, I tried valiantly to cluster my topics into 2-week long modules, but it was an arbitrary additional level I could not justify and I felt it would confuse my students. Additionally the exemplar courses were not much help in convincing me of the efficacy of clustering this way as they use different tools, or actually have weekly modules disguised as parts of a 2-week module.

In Beth’s art history course audio interview she states that she has 2 discussions per 2 week module that “sometimes overlap”. This sounds like weekly module discussions to me, as well as a perfectly appropriate amount of time for an undergraduate student to be contemplating one of many topics in a survey course. Both Beth and Steve indicated they had created their multimedia presentations with quizzes in them – nesting the feedback loop – and that they created these because the text book was too advanced for their undergraduate students. The standard texts from which to choose for art history are written at a level that should be appropriate for college work. My institution uses them and I, like Beth and Steve, see a challenge in helping students understand what they are reading. They chose to replace with video that had fast feedback loops and quizzes integrated. I chose iterative standalone quizzes that encouraged time on task.  I could have created a 2 week long module and put 2 weekly parts in it, but I think we are all in agreement that our population needs as much help as we can provide in managing content. So again I conclude that a 2-week module structure with 2 weekly parts is just another layer that could confuse.

Other exemplar courses use text heavy content and discussion forums and perhaps a 2-week period of time  is necessary for those modes of intake and output. But I am trying to build in “flow” and “fiero” which will require more discrete and smaller chunks of activity and different tools. It will also require smaller cycles of achievement that can be made visible to students as they progress.

I have also had great success with a one week long discussion window because my discussions are usually debates or “Teach the class…” activities. As Alicia and I discussed in this week’s discussion of teaching presence, asking students to teach the class is a more complex and deeper level of engagement with the material than simply asking students to demonstrate knowledge and context. I also have to point out that 33 students posting for 2 weeks becomes overwhelming for all of them. Community college students are generally a diverse group in terms of reading and writing skills, and an iterative opportunity to try their hand at teaching the class 14 times rather than 7, provides more opportunities for growth and feelings of improved performance and mastery. Which in my gamefied course will be critical. Leveling up is a key concept in this design.

I have also had the opportunity to work with 2 Moodle users in my day job. As trainees learning to build their own online courses in a different LMS, I have been able to help them make the shift from Moodle more effectively. This involves as well, understanding what they are trying to do in Moodle. In the one case, the course was created for him at Empire State by CIDs. He simply teaches it. The course has 7 modules, each with a part A and a part B that are – you guessed it – 1 week long. And part A and part B of each module are different topics with different quizzes and different discussions. He has not experienced any negative feedback from his students seeing weekly activities. When I asked why he thought these were set up like this, he assumed it was for the convenience of students seeing 2 weeks of work at a time. Otherwise he had no idea.

One of the things I am beginning to wonder about is how many of the structural imperatives derived from the SLN research are in fact artifacts from the limitations of the SLN modified Lotus Notes platform, upon which the research was based. I can’t help but notice the limited use of Angel LMS tools in our exemplars and how much they seem to be replicating the Lotus Notes structure, rather than taking advantage of rich web environments and the innate power of the tool. I recall in my early SLN days trying to find out why faculty were being told to close past modules as they moved forward in the course. It was being presented as a pedagogical strategy but did not make any sense to me. The course content once presented seemed an important aspect of the course to keep perpetually available to students. Finally after talking to many people I got to the bottom of the problem. I found out that because students tended to forget which discussion space to use it became a recommended practice to close earlier modules so the discussions were not available, because there was no way to close just the discussions themselves within a module. Judith Boettcher points out that “we shape our tools and our tools shape us”,  This seems like a very obvious example of this brain-based research revelation.

Alex asked me earlier in the course how I felt about the implied/imposed pedagogy of LMSs. Having used many of them (teaching, system admin, student on WebCT, Angel, Blackboard, SLN, other home made systems) I can say that they all begin with certain assumptions, unique and similar at the same time. Understanding the assumption, the zeitgeist if you will, of any one of these systems, and then pushing the flexibility of the tools as much as they are capable of, is part of what I have had to do as my job since the 1990s. Being the “designated learner” who figures out how to do 10 different things with the same tool in order to support a variety of faculty teaching strategies is a fundamental component of being an ID.  Interestingly I have watched faculty in the early days complain that they could not modify the tools enough to meet their pedagogical needs (generally not really true once they worked with an ID who knew the tool) to now complaining that they are too complicated to learn (as they are more like true authoring systems). In both extremes the point is missed. What have we gotten used to as our previous tools shaped us, that we need to let go of in order to shape and use the new tools? And what is our responsibility as regards mastering the use of tools – our level of digital literacy – in a digital age?

Are we being truly objective about the relationships of tools, systems and possibilities? Are we truly acknowledging the environment in which our tools will now appear – 21st C web 2.0 visually rich and interactive? Why am I posting 2nd or 3rd tier information in the key navigation real estate of my course web design? Might this have something to do with how previous tools shaped the pedagogy presented? My other trainee this summer made a stab at using Blackboard to recreate a Moodle course he had created for a community college in the Berkshires. He struggled (and actually is still struggling) with concepts of heirarchy, web navigation design, nesting, and meaningful “chunking”. The zeitgeist of Blackboard is a mystery to him and his thinking has been shaped by the Moodle tool -although on a very basic level as he is not very tech savvy. Even with a blank template that presents a simple Blackboard structure using the basic tools and navigation, an exemplar course that he is participating in and my cognitive apprenticeship approach to his training, it is going to take him another full semester to grasp the basics and make the switch. Our first encounter with tools appears to be our most powerful and  pervasive. My personal solution, not open to many faculty, has been to use every LMS I can get my hands on and deconstruct them.

I have had to let go of many robust automated connections within a course structure while using Moodle – something I also experienced with Angel. For some the automatic creation of a grade column when a test, assignment or grading tool is deployed in Blackboard is an imposition or assumption. For me it is an intuitive convenience. In Angel and in Moodle I have to let go of previous assumptions and work more as a craftsperson with a deeper understanding of the tool. In Moodle, as I apprehend the zeitgeist of this tool, I am seeing some very powerful opportunities that are my new challenge, and about which I will write my next post. First a bit more research and experimentation, as the nomenclature, assumptions and logistics of Moodle are excitingly brand new to me.


Boettcher, J. 2007. Ten Core Principles for Designing Effective Learning Environments: Insights from Brain Research and Pedagogical Theory. Innovate 3 (3).





Leveling up in a Community of Inquiry

(late 2nd entry for Module 3 category)

Knowledge acquisition
I had intended to write my second Module 3 post on why I am focused on knowledge acquisition strategies, but found a request in my assignment feedback from Alex to blog about my badge scheme and its relationship to the CoI model. So, I will say only briefly about knowledge acquisition, that I have come to the conclusion it is not just a low rung of Bloom’s taxonomy destined to be valued less than higher order thinking skills. Rather it is what makes the upper rungs possible. And while teaching facts, basic concepts and simple skill sets can be done well, and even made interesting, it often is not. But if you watch how people play multi-user immersive games like World of Warcraft, and you see how they accumulate basic information and skills and then are forced to apply it right away to level up, and you hear how much they know about the tools and the environment and how excited and happy they are, you have to think about what is really happening. It is clear that acquiring basic concepts, facts and simple skills can be really exciting when they are used right away to solve problems, build stuff, overcome obstacles or earn power. This is the power of that lowly rung on Bloom. This is building a foundation that leads to higher order thinking and doing. So another post will have to address more details on this particular point, as I would now like to respond to Alex’s request that I blog about my badge scheme, making my thinking visible to the class.

Leveling up with CoI Diagram
First I invite everyone to check out this link to my MindMeister diagram of the badge scheme. A few things to keep in mind:

  • I can’t link directly to my diagram with diigo because it requires an account, but I have put the main site there for all to try out – very cool
  • it is a social site and you can leave comments, collaborate and make additions – great for working in groups
  • if you click on the little circles that have stripes in them in the big labels  – those are explanatory notes about what I am doing – so click on them, please! Don’t be shy.

What was I thinking? Actually this is very much related to the knowledge acquisition concerns and opportunities I have been reflecting upon lately. I wanted to get students engaged with the art history material in such a way that they acquired the necessary facts, then used them to understand more complex concepts, and then applied their conceptual understanding to specific “problems” of modern art history analysis. I have found that iterative, challenging, and visually rich quizzes have been the most favorite part of my classes for some students, and most felt they learned more because of the way they were set up. This related to what I had learned about games and the “failing up” to success. Most of the students kept taking the tests over again, and going back to the text for information, spending increased time on task and feeling like they accomplished something when they finally got that 100. End of semester surveys indicated that they felt they learned more from taking repeated quizzes and rereading the book, than from just reading the book. The surveys also indicated that when there was no quiz, 40-60% did not read the book. The fact that some did not read the book was fairly obvious in the discussion forums and I also saw more plagiarized or paraphrased web material creeping in. So how to capitalize on that? Gamefy the whole course!

How to gamefy and still maintain a proven framework for learning? I did not want to create a programmed learning, self paced course – although some day that might be a fun thing to try. I wanted to build a gamefied course that reinforced the spheres of interaction and promoted social, teaching and cognitive presence fostered by a course design based in Community of Inquiry. Somehow games and CoI needed to be integrated.

Badges are ubiquitous in social media environments and could add a gamefied and visual reward structure. Visual evidence of progress in a course is an important concept I’ve learned, but first I had to decide what the badges would be for.

Some literature indicated that gamefied courses were merely courses with fancier “gold stars”. But I disagree. I think that leveling up and/or earning a badge, can encourage certain behaviors. Especially if the students can choose what badges to go after or find their own path. Additionally, replacing grades with badges would not work for everybody – for instance I myself have no desire to earn a badge of any kind for any reason. And I am sure I will have students with totally intrinsic motivations for learning that would need those badges to be incidental to what they would be doing anyway. So this gave me two ideas about badges: make them a choice and include regular course work in the leveling up process. Then, be sure that a student could get a badge by playing to their strengths through the course material and/or by adding badge specific activities that could earn them points in their particular strengths.

Levels were the next challenge! How to level, what levels represented, and in what categories? It occurred to me that I wanted badges to encourage behaviors. And the behaviors I wanted my students to engage in were social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence, because that would lead to more learning. I roughed out a draft of what course activities would correspond to those spheres and looked at what I had and what I could add. I realized that social presence would be increased with opportunities for collaboration.  Teaching presence would be enhanced with opportunities to guide each other in inquiry as well as present material to each other. And cognitive presence could be enhanced with opportunities to contribute to bodies of knowledge, demonstrating knowledge and performance levels. I identified spheres I felt were weak in my existing course and thought of ways to enhance those. I also wanted the lowest level to be non-perjorative. So there are no “stinker” or “loser” badges.

The badges and levels  (see diagram) are:

Social presence: Leader badge (levels: Leader – A, Organizer -B, Volunteer -C, Participant -D, Observer -F)

Teaching presence: Guru badge (levels: Guru – A, Mentor -B , Adviser -C, Helper -D, Audience -F)

Cognitive presence: Art Historian badge (levels: Art Historian – A, Curator -B, Docent -C, Visitor -D, Bystander -F)

Linking badges to specific course activities came next! I already had a gamefied challenging quiz each week that I gave a (tentative) new name “Perpetual Quiz”, my forums were already called “Teach the Class with Your Own Examples” (which I stole from my math faculty who use something they call “Trip to the Board”), the final project is a jigsaw assignment, and extensive structural assists (which I realized are equivalent to game rules in some cases) were in place to support student achievement and time on task.

Next I took the optional activities that I had, such as the study guides, and made them collaborative and worth leveling points. I got this idea from an experiment I tried in my History of Fashion course where I had them collaboratively create a review guide for the midterm. That was really successful so I thought it would be a good weekly badge activity that would promote knowledge acquisition as well as conceptual understanding. AND I decided to add a required confirmation component, so that when you post something you also have to confirm somebody else’s information is correct. This way they are responsible as a group for the accuracy of the study guides. I will start them off with a study guide answer of my own that will include some errors – first student to post next will have to identify what is wrong with my answer.

Then I added a glossary because I admit I was intrigued by the collaborative glossary tool built in to the Moodle product. I have found that students struggle not just with the new discipline specific vocabulary but often with basic English vocabulary.  For example I once asked my students to discuss what it means to view something consecutively and simultaneously as it seemed a tough concept. I discovered they did not know the words consecutive or simultaneous so had never actually gotten to the conceptual challenge at all. So I will have them define and explain how the word was used in the text book. This gives students an incentive to look up words they do not know and share what they learn.

A tool that is interactive and multimedia capable and can be used by individuals or groups is the Speaking Image Wiki. This tool allows complex annotation of images with everything from simple notes, to full wiki pages, to video, audio, etc. and can be done in layers. It is a beta product online and to be really robust I would need to get licensing and put it on a server on my campus, but first the beta. I used it in the past with mixed results, but have been told by the programmers that the new version is more stable. Also, this is a product that in its licensed version is used by museums around the world. It is also a social media site. So I would like to use this wiki image annotation tool as a choice for students who want to try it instead of writing to the discussion forum in just text. They could do a more visually rich and interactive annotation that would get them looking directly at the image in detail and annotating with analysis and explanation. It is not hard, but has a small learning curve, and if they embedded their results in their “Teach the class…” post they could get extra XPs for doing both. If they do it as a group they could get XPs for collaborating. If they don’t do it they still can get an A in the course by writing a good forum post.

Most importantly, with visually rich and interactive tools, I want to move away from discourse being narrowly defined as text-based asynchronous “discussion” over weeks. I’d like to see a richer, more visual, more manipulative opportunity for communicating information that is more in keeping with the world they live in and will or do work in.

My next challenge! How do I do this? What tools do I use and how do they work? I see from my research and experiments that Moodle has some very powerful tools, and also tools that are plugins we do not have. There are many ways to create badge point accumulation but I am not sure how to determine which tool to use. I have to spend more time with the technical side which is always the challenge. But as I mentioned in a previous post, to keep it simple yet rich for students I need to take responsibility for learning the tools that make it work smoothly.

(3) late

“Io sono una donna”

I am a woman – in ITALIAN! Yes, in less than a day I am speaking Italian (well, just a little) because Alex turned me on to DuoLingo – the coolest and most fun educational game I have ever touched, seen, listened to and talked to! Yes, all the senses engaged and my mind soaking up basic vocabulary and grammar while having fun. These little skills will build. And then I will put them together to make bigger skills such as actually conversing. And eventually I hope to express an original and complete thought to another person in grammatically correct sentences. Ultimately, I’d like to be able to analyze the nuances of texts and conversation in scholarly Italian works. Which brings me to the topic of this post.

For module 3 I need to discuss why I do what I do, and in an attempt at coherence I will also do some response to module 2 which ties in to this ( I know, I know – it won’t count – but it will to me because I have to think it through) as I discuss what I learned about organizing and designing for online courses.

In the last module we looked at exemplar courses that we are still looking at this module. For me they were very familiar. The ones we could tour were in Angel and they looked very much like the courses they were based on in the old SLN Lotus Notes product. Linear, text based, some diagrams and tables – I see Rob is using some publisher links to hopefully some good language interactives that hopefully have some images. These courses are lean and mean machines for learning. No distractions, lots to read and write, based on solid CoI framework, and their bones are evident. So we can all learn solid design and pedagogy by looking and listening to the interviews. Some of them are nearly 10 years old but still solid at the core.  But I came away with some of the same questions I had the first time I looked at these courses 10 years ago in lotus notes.

  • Why so linear?
  • Why so text heavy?
  • Where are the visuals?
  • Where is engaging web design?

While I know from experience Rob’s prodigious teaching and design skills, if I dispassionately compare his front page to my little DuoLingo app I’m afraid he is not looking very competitive or compelling. It’s 2014 – why are we making these kind of courses?

Some of this has already been addressed by Beth and Steve. They started making video with narration and embedding contextualized quizzes. Their work has evolved with the tools available – which for them was critical as they teach art history. Now everyone can enjoy their SmartHistory/Khan Academy content – including my students who use them regularly. But I remember my lotus notes training and trying to find someone to show me how to get images into what was essentially a document exchange business product. I was used to an LMS which was graphically rich, and I also had been using basic web design tools for years. At some point Beth hosted a session on the importance of using images in the course environment – YES!!!

Now, listening to Steve and Beth discuss challenges of navigation for students, keeping things linear, and using less hyperlinking, I had to mentally review my design experiences, the evolution of tools and the choices we all make about structure and student experience. Then I thought about Moodle – linear, text heavy, cluttered front pages – and can see that I want to make Moodle do more than what I see so far. I want a more visually engaging, well designed graphic experience for my students. I want to use images to guide and compel but not confuse. I want to foster visual and design literacy. I want to make sure my course looks like the interesting and engaging web environments they see in games, web sites, advertising, periodicals, and mobile apps while not overwhelming them. I don’t want my students landing on page after page of text and skimming because they are immediately bored and turned off. I want images and activities to compel them to read what is there and really examine the prompting images and moving to the next thing.

Too often I see that LMSs and other educational tools are underutilized by faculty with limited understanding of what they can do with technology. And on the flip side there are those that try to use every tool in the toolkit and make a crazed patchwork of activities that is very confusing. Often a trainee will say to me “I want to keep it simple” which is actually not what they want. They want to complicate the process of teaching online by not learning how the tools can automate, support and differentiate instruction, giving them more time to work directly with students. They are overwhelmed by the nature of contemporary web based tools and they think in terms of documents and printing and physical texts. The 2014 Horizon Report documents that lack of digital literacy is a fundamental issue with faculty in higher education and I face this challenge every single day on the job. I worked with someone for 3 semesters until one day I said – “you know, a URL – every web page has an address”. He replied “I didn’t know that”. Instructional Designers who work with faculty that make their own courses may find that there is a huge learning curve and a small window of opportunity.

Which brings me to why I do what I do and what I have learned. I began my investigations for this course with an interest in enhancing interaction with faster and more dynamic feedback loops, increased collaboration and gamefying. I know that this will require that I  learn more complex tools in order to keep it simple for my students. The technology needs to be transparent – not boring. I work daily to help faculty realize that the tools can do a lot of the grunt work of managing a course if they just learn them and use them effectively. Because I discovered the graphically rich, adaptively hyperlinked, multi-sensory interactions of games, I know that effective use of tools to craft engaging activities for students is possible – learning will take place and it will be valid and fun. The best example being my new addiction DuoLingo. Somewhere between the ponderous lists of topics, documents, linear structures, text based discussions  and clunky interfaces,  and the equally off-putting sensory overload of misguided graphics, arbitrary sounds, and things that go “boom” and “click”, is an elegant approach to course design that could resonate with my students and engage all their senses. I am collecting resources on that, shared in diigo and below.

The other component, besides visual engagement, that is so critical to my thinking now is acquisition of a factual knowledge base.  This past week my first 6 week class wrapped up and an email from a student reinforced my belief in my super hard weekly quizzes as well as much of what we are learning in this class about a teaching presence. She wrote:

“I’ll tell you now – what I loved was the broad range of material that supplemented the text in a significant ways. I would have liked more of your lectures, though. … The quizzes and exams were very challenging, not bad, just saying; if not for open book I would have failed, but I may have learned the most by taking them than by simply reading the text”

The evaluation survey came back with the same general theme – they love the quizzes. And the quizzes are very visual and conceptual and … did I mention hard? And they learn from them. They are questions – hard questions that make them learn the facts to answer. And they are graphically rich. Some are image maps they have to click on (which I don’t see in Moodle unfortunately).

I do what I do based on detailed student evaluations, institutional student feedback surveys, and a firm grounding in CoI through my early work with SLN. Everything I do is based on interactions. And everything I want to do with new strategies, needs to be consistent with the CoI framework of interactions – but more elegant, contemporary and dynamic. There are now many ways to be socially present, as can be seen in Alex’s ETAP course. And there are now many ways to automate presence and interaction and focus faculty and student interaction in areas that count because of the tools in and out of LMSs. My students want to hear my take on things, “more of [my] lectures”, but they appreciate the building blocks of the automated quizzing to learn the factual knowledge necessary for those lectures to have meaning. They want the substance – the meat – they get excited when they know things and can apply them. I want to make this even more engaging and inviting.

Which will be my next post: why I am so focused on factual knowledge and my reflections on the readings in relation to that. Stay tuned dear readers.

Design links of interest to all:

5 Visual Design Strategies that Promote Student Retention

The Power of Visual Grouping

Gamefication Shows the Learner Visible Signs of their Learning

Graphics and Learning


Note to self: choose paths wisely

The other day I received a link to a very nice video in which our class blogs were reviewed by Maree. It was great to see a contextualized  step by step review of how to make my (our) blog(s) better and I am considering using Camtasia to do something similar for my students when the class reaches a point that they can benefit from that kind of holistic  assist to a challenge they are all taking on. (However I would add closed captioning or text transcripts as HVCC is committed to Universal Design as our implementation of ADA compliance protocols in all aspects of our courses). I enjoyed receiving feedback this way; it felt social, caring, and a little bit like the fine art studio class critiques I endured for many years (although without the caustic comments and soul shredding humiliations). As I listened to our constructive reviews, I realized that I had somehow missed some key components of the blog set up assignment. Categories corresponding to modules, a page about me, and a blog roll of our class blogs, being the most prominent deficiencies in several of our class blogs. How had this happened?!!?? I went to the assignment – not there. I went to the rubric – not there. I went to the blog “how-to” videos and voila! Embedded in the “how-to” videos that I had SKIPPED because I already knew how to make a blog, were very specific requirements that I did not know about. Hence: Note to self: choose paths wisely.

Nota bene: In the spirit of course feedback, as requested by the instructions for this blog post, I  would suggest breaking out assignment requirements from “how-to” documents and put them in with the other list of required elements for consistency. Maybe make actual subheaders for “how-to” as this is a technology rich course and all students will need different levels of support. I have done similarly embedded things myself in my online courses and have fallen prey to the “atrocious assumption” that: Your students will read every word of every word of every page on  your online course.  But the issue here I think is that some of us already know how to do a blog so we would be inclined to skip the how-to videos, missing required components.

Interestingly, this has significant relevance to some concerns of my contemplated course modifications in support of differentiation through game strategies and collaboration. I have noticed that in all of my courses, students automatically self select a path through my material and in so doing, simply ignore some components they don’t feel are necessary or for which an additional effort may not seem worthwhile. For example, some students use the table with the full outline of the course and due dates almost religiously. While others, go to each complete weekly module and make sure that they do everything in there each week, relying on me to be accurate and thorough about what I want from them in each module, and only check the table for the big picture and due dates weeks ahead – or not. One semester I neglected to put a link to the Final Project Step for a given module right in the weekly module. Those who looked at the course holistically, using the full table, and the menu with a dedicated Final Project folder that was the destination of the weekly links, got that step done on time. Those who broke their experience down into manageable rhythms each week and relied on the weekly presentation of material as a kind of checklist, missed the step completely. And I am sure that in addition to these 2 strategies for managing a large body of incoming information and outgoing deliverables, there are many others that I should at least try to anticipate.

Jason Scorza, in his article Do online students dream of electric teachers?” (2005) states:

“When I first started teaching online I created elaborate guides to writing papers and participating in discussions that, I am almost certain, very few of my students actually read. My thinking, as I recall, was that I needed to tell my students everything they needed to know about their assignments by answering every conceivable question in advance. In retrospect, I realize how counterproductive this was. While it is important to provide clear instructions for assignments, in bullet format whenever possible, it is not necessary to present overly elaborate guidelines which will, more likely than not, leave students confused or intimidated.”

If I truly want to create multiple paths through the material, and also create a sense of leveling up with knowledge acquisition, collaborative effort, and individual achievement, while letting them know there are common tasks and optional tasks and bonus tasks and super power opportunities, how will I communicate this in a way that is not intimidating or overwhelming? How do I keep the warrior queen from missing her glossary contribution? Or what happens if the visual learner spends 4 days on an image wiki annotation and neglects to take a midterm? When does the individual need to have differentiated instruction detract from the social cohesion of a community sharing an experience of inquiry into a particular body of knowledge? Will a student motivated by my providing an optimized learning experience and feelings of success based in “flow” and “fiero” choose a path through the course that ensures they are touching base with their community? Or will they miss important components  because they are leveling up “alone together” as they might be in an immersive game?

Jane McGonical in “Reality is Broken” discusses the social benefit of players in games working on tasks “alone together”. She discusses the safe environment gaming provides to help those with social difficulties or hesitencies to become more social, thus improving life. On the flip side, Sherry Turkle, who I have followed for many years is concerned that “alone together” is a problem we need to address and largely responsible for us not knowing how to be alone – to experience solitude – in ways that make us more whole as humans. But then Scorza makes his point about empathy,  which compels me to be concerned that my students are individuals and need to have multiple opportunities to communicate and succeed in my course. I find I am not sure where that fine line is located.

I am a social person but sometimes feel overwhelmed by the multiple channels of communication in this course – much as I do when I want to listen to a speaker on a webinar and find there is an entirely different conversation going on with a back channel. I am finding I self select what to read and what not to read and get a sinking feeling each time I see there are ever more “unread posts”.  I do feel comfortable scanning posts for useful and relevant resources, common concerns and other information I can use.  I try not to focus on just one channel as I have missed things already by doing so. I read Forums, but I’ve not been able to keep up with others’ blogs and comment. I spend a larger percentage of time on instructor posts as they usually have critical information. I try to send Tweets now and then, but still haven’t “followed” all my classmates. I looked at Netvibe and saw a giant data collection engine and never went back. I see now that there are not only comments on blogs, but also notes within posts on blogs, as well as replies on posts, and replies on assignments to follow up on. This week I think I spent more time revisiting Module 1  than moving forward in Module 2 and fear that iteration of previous Modules may be my downfall. I admit that every time my phone blings with another daily digest of posts, I panic that I am ever more behind.

My undergraduate students will not be able to do this. They need a safe, focused environment with a certain amount of choice and opportunities for social connection and one or two carefully chosen ways to communicate. Some might need to be alone together, others might need to be together to learn. All need to feel a reasonable  expectation of achieving success or enjoyment of process – key to persistence in most gaming environments. Many can read and write to learn, others are still learning to read and write. My communication channels, structure, feedback patterns, and expectations must be embracing of this diversity. I must “assume nothing”.  I must choose my channels – choose my paths – wisely.