Saturday, February 19, 2011

When I am feeling blue.......

I am a gamer. Playing games is an intregal part of who I am. Playing games is a good thing. I can remember sitting on Paul Filbert's front porch in the summer time and playing Avalon Hill war games or Rummy Royale. I can remember playing chess in Hankie Pauley's kitchen on Friday nights with the glorius wooden chess he brought back from his trip to Mexico. I can remember the giant Risk tournaments we played over entire weekends. Joey Chachulski usually won them. I can remember designing lionel railroad empires in Jeffery Pyzinski's basement or creating rockets out empty CO2 cartridges and launching them filled with matchheads for solid fuel and soldered on sheet metal wings for guidance. Kermit Avenue had the best young Diplomacy players in Buffalo, New York I am sure! Our imaginations raced with new ideas and expanding horizons all of the time. We were not stressed, we did not feel depressed at all. We did not do any of these things in school and we were not watched over every minute of the day. We empowered ourselves.

Games are good for us. They empower us. A recent book by Dr. Jane McGonagal, Reality is Broken , has opened my mind to all types of new ideas, particularly the new science of happiness and the concepts of flow and fiero. Games produce flow and fiero. It makes for great reading and spurs ideas.

Couple Reality is Broken with Johann Huzinga's brilliant Homo Ludens and you will gain new insight into human nature.

Video games also may help us to cope with the crazy world that speeds up every day and infuses us with great anxiety and depression. A research study from the East Carolina University cited the following statistics about human beings in this world we live in from the National Institute of Mental Health:

According to the National Institute of Mental Health in the United States an estimated 20.9 million American adults (9.5% of the U.S. population age 18 or older) suffers from a mood disorder, and more than two thirds of those (14.8 million U.S. adults) are cases of major depression. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S. for people aged 15 to 44. Depressive disorders often co-occur with anxiety disorders, and approximately 40 million American adults (about 18 percent of all U.S. adults) have an anxiety disorder.

The study then when on to explore what effect playing video games has on subjects such as those refereneced above. Playing games like Bejeweled, Bookworm, and Peegle from Popcap games significantly reduced depression, stress and anxiety levels in the study groups. All of these games are free by the way and blocked by most school web

filters. I play all of these games and am particularly drawn to them after particularly stressful days at school or when I am feeling overwhelmed by my task and to-do lists we so routinely heap on ourselves and our students. The results of the study are quite startling and deserve to be studied and applied in our schools.Video Games Can Reduce Depression And Anxiety - Study
should be read by every teacher in America. Games may just be good for us.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Panera Blues

Here I am sitting in a Panera's Bread in Gainsville, VA writing a 6 AM Thoughts like I envisioned writing it when I conceived the idea. Somehow it just does not feel right. Maybe it is because it is after 7 AM.

I am weary of the constant battle to frame my thoughts in the current school paradigm. I am supposed to be a Technology Integrator. It is always a struggle at

best and impossible at worst to get veteran teachers to leave the safety of broadcast teaching. The technology makes narrow casting possible. The technology allows schools to embrace the long tail!. I am coming to the conclusion that as long as school stays rooted in the Broadcaast paradigm, my task is hopeless.

Most people think that school is about teaching. Education is about learning!! And to be frank about it, it is about individual learning. If Independent schools are to become Independent learning centers they must stop trying to be smaller and more gentle "public schools" from a previous time. No more classrooms, no more fixed curriculums, no more general assessments for all, no more lecture method for instruction. Independent Learning Centers need to be about reading, reading, reading and more reading, and becoming conversant in the present literacies. It is not 1955 any longer. And it should be reading about whatever the learners are interested in.

A dream I know, and one I am not sure I could even participate it because I learned my literacies from a different century. Those are my 6 AM thoughts for February 10, 2011 sitting in a Panera's Bread (or should I say learning center?).