Do you feel our education system values creativity?

As a musician and software designer, I care about my children and future generations being creative.   I believe creativity fills my life with passion, teaches me to be expressive, and helps me as a problem solver.    Sir Ken Robinson has some thoughtful remarks on how our education system treats creativity.

Do you feel our education system values creativity?


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#levelupbc inspires and teaches using community building, crowd sourcing, and games.

LevelUp Book Club

Great recipes start with great ingredients.   The folks at the #levelupbc have served up a dish of awesomeness with the ingredients of passion for teaching, community building, crowd sourcing, and games.

Through this blog, my wife and I want to celebrate people and organizations innovating in education.    As a community of leaders and educators, we need to pay attention to people who are finding new ways to teach.    I personally believe that games can spark innovative thinking.     The #levelupbc has inspired me by using a simple game on twitter to gather insights and resources for teaching games.

For my readers who are not familiar with twitter, hashtags are used in twitter to help organize topics and communities.   As a twitter user, you can search for hashtags to see the “buzz” around the topic.    Make sure to check out the the hash tag for levelupbc.

During my research on game based learning, I stumbled upon their blog.    Matthew Winner and Jennifer LaGarde have created a book club community around gamification.   The gamification community seeks to use ideas from game design to “spice up” the activity of a community.   In a leadership context, I have enjoyed learning about this topic from the book “Gamestorming” , a book applying game mechanics to brain storming and exploration.     This book also has a wonderful wiki for simple games that you can use for business meetings or classes:

Matthew and Jennifer have done an amazing job of using the craft of gamification on twitter.   For more details on their latest challenge, please visit their blog.

How has the #levelupbc community inspired me?

  1. Doing a book club on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook is an amazing way to grow our minds and grow relationships.
  2. I have been blown away by the resources their community has created.   As a student of game design for teaching,  I am looking forward to study the links, stories, videos, and games they have collected.
  3. Diigo and are cool tools for organizing ideas.  I love how they organized the ideas from their twitter community.
  4. Leader boards and authentic thank you’s can be a powerful way to celebrate people from your community.
  5. Matthew and Jennifer are passionate about their craft of library science.   They have shown to me that libraries can re-invent themselves.   Jennifer created an awesome “infographic” showing ways her library is engaging students in the past year.   Very cool!
Matthew and Jennifer… Thank you for the inspiration.   I look forward to learning from your community in the future.

View more documents from Jennifer LaGarde
After looking through the #levelupbc resources, did you find any stories, games, or ideas that inspired you?  Is there an idea that you want to try in your class room or organization?













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How can AI improve our organizations, schools, and families?

In computer science, I fell in love with artificial intelligence.   It’s the sort of topic that you see in science fiction that makes you dream about how the world will be different.   While I would love to talk about artificial intelligence more, I feel that I need to talk about another type of AI that has profoundly influenced my thinking.    I believe that we could make positive change in education, our places of business, and our families using appreciative inquiry.  (AI)

Why do I believe appreciative inquiry(AI) is important?

  • In our modern age, I can understand why we tend to focus on problems.   In our news media, how easy is it to find news about people who are making improvements or positive change?   I believe organizations should know their weaknesses.   I, however, believe that we can often let weaknesses dominate the process of making our organizations better.
  • After reading and listening to EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey, I believe that creating positive culture has become the new imperative.   I love the idea that you have to “start with a dream and end in a goal.”
  • Plants and organic systems grow toward light.   I believe human organizations also grow toward “light.”
    (leaders and organizations who make positive change)
How does the process work?

For a brief summary of the process, please visit the appreciative inquiry page on Wikipedia.

In my previous employer CompassKnowledge group, I had the opportunity to see this process in action.

  • Senior leadership team created and documented a shared vision for the organization.
  • A senior leader interviewed me.  During this interview, we talked about moments where I felt I was excited about my life and work.  We talked about the strengths used during those high points in my life.   We also brain stormed ways that my strengths can be used in the work place to create more positive change for our team and customers.
  • This process was repeated for all 200+ employees. (Wow!)
  • Without getting into too much detail, the company aggregated the data from the strengths and opportunities to form a master plan regarding how CompassKnowledge was going to rock distance learning in the future while charging up the team.   The shared vision and dream was enhanced with ideas coming from every single member of the organization, a sample of the students we served, and our customers.
  • Impacts that I treasure: (1)  During this process, I pitched the idea of doing innovation time off  to senior leadership.  This discussion evolved into a few strategic research projects.  (2) I especially loved that we spoke with some of our knowledge partners(customers) and students.  It helped me connect my job with the stories of students getting excited about finishing their degree through one of our programs and the positive impacts it will have for their families.

How can I use this process today?

Put yourself in an environment where you can think for 20 minutes.   I would recommend getting a blank sheet of paper and a pen.   Take the time to answer the following questions.

1 – What are the high points or most celebrated stories in your life?

2 – What was a time that you were excited to jump out of bed and start working
on your project or cause?

3 – What personal strengths do you have from those high points in your life? In general,
what are your personal strengths?

4 – Imagine a world where you are happy and creating positive change in your work daily.
What does that dream job look like?

5 – How can you use the personal strengths from question 3 to create the dream
job that you talked about in question 4?

What insights did you make about yourself?

As we dream about the future of education in five years, how can we use this process to enhance the lives of our teachers and students?


Posted in leadership | 1 Comment

Organization Before Innovation

All of the technology in the world is not going to make me a good teacher. It can help me to become a better teacher. Technology in the hands of a bad teacher can be disastrous. I think that every student can recount a time in the classroom where technology was used poorly. I know I can.  This week, in an interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, even Bill Gates said that “Just giving people devices has a really horrible track record. You really have to change the curriculum and the teacher. “ (see the whole interview here ( Be a good teacher first. Use technology to become even better.

I am a relatively new teacher. I just finished up my first year as a full time biology professor at a small, primarily two year, school. I’ve always felt called to teach and I finally feel like I am truly pursuing the vocation I was made for. That does not mean that it has been an easy ride. Most days I feel like I am barely keeping my head above the water. Michael is a wonderful partner in this journey and has been incredibly supportive. He dove head first into the realm of educational technology in an effort to help me become the best teacher I can be. That said, many days I have to reign him in and remind him that my first priority is to make sure that I am building a strong foundation in the classroom first, then as I move forward throughout my career I hope to build in more technology and innovation to enhance my teaching.

My biggest struggle is just to remain organized. I know that students will perform better if I clearly communicate my expectations and present the course material in a logical fashion. I teach relatively large lecture courses and managing all of the assignments/lab reports/exams etc. can be overwhelming. Here are some tools/strategies that I have used to help me stay on top of these things:

  • Email. I know it may seem obvious in this era of electronic communication. Whenever a student approaches me at the end of class with a request that requires action on my part, I ask them to send a quick email to remind me of the discussion. Otherwise I will NEVER remember. Also, when a student emails me, I make it a priority to respond right away before it gets lost in the ether. For me that means that I am often responding to student emails right before I go to bed. That won’t work for everyone, but it seems to work best for me.
  • Electronic homework. For both of the courses I taught this year the textbook came with an optional website subscription that allows the students to complete homework assignments online. Putting the assignments together requires minimal time and the grades are automatically determined. I teach students that are not well prepared for college and have poor study skills. This is one way that I can ensure that they at least crack open the textbook every once in a while.
  • Dropbox. I simply cannot live without it. All of my course materials/gradebooks/etc are stored in my Dropbox account. It doesn’t matter if I’m on a work computer or a home computer, I have access to my files. I don’t have to worry about losing thumb drives and I can just walk into any classroom, log into the website and access all of my lecture materials for a given day.

These are just a few tools that I use to stay on top of things. What are the best tools/strategies that you’ve found to keep organized in the classroom?


Posts On Teaching and Learning

Posted in leadership, technology | 1 Comment

How can YouTube support great teachers? Can we flip education?

As a student, I want to learn and succeed in my classes for a variety of personal motivations.   I believe that I thrive when my teachers cared about me enough to give me individualized attention.   How do we encourage this style of teaching?   To answer this question, I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite teachers.

I enjoyed my graduate computer science (CS) education at UCF.   I, however, can especially remember my algorithms class very clearly.   Algorithms, one of the first CS courses I took after working as a professional software guy for five years, nearly broke me.   Why?  Writing business applications for years really involves math concepts that you pick up in elementary school.    I had not used math skills like calculus, linear algebra or differential equations during that period of my life.  In the first week of class, many of peers and I felt like we were just run over by a bus because we needed to re-gain expert knowledge of these topics.

I survived that class for three main reasons:

(1) Arup Guha is a wonderful teacher.

(2) Arup invested a lot of time with his students outside the lecture to make sure they were not left behind.  He really cared about you and that you owned the knowledge.

(3) During the class, I formed some great relationships with my peers.  We would study together constantly.

I don’t remember the name of every teacher I have had.   I, however, will always remember Arup.

Is there a way that great teachers can give more individualized attention to students during class room time?

I would like to introduce you to the    Founded by Salman Khan, the organization has the mission of “changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education to anyone anywhere.”   I believe that Mr. Khan’s work might be one of the great positive revolutions and innovations in education.   This is exactly what we need!   To learn more about Khan Academy, I invite you to review his TED talk below.

What is the impact of these ideas? Quotes from viewers:

  • “i’m impressed and feel inspired to create some videos on science.”
  • “This guy is absolutely amazing. A true world-changer.”
  • “Amazing. Truly innovative.  This is the true purpose and essence of the internet.”
  • “Sal deserves a nobel peace prize!! He is responsible for helping me pass Physics, Earth Science,and Math!”
  • “it was very strange for me to do something of social value” great line….something to aspire to!”

As technology professionals, how do we support teachers who might consider flipping their class room?

How do we minimize the cost of change in teaching style?

For teachers who are flipping their class room, what do you do during your class time?

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Boldly going where no one has gone before:

Most of us probably learned about cell biology in a traditional manner: lecture, books, and labs.   While these means of teaching are great, young students will soon have an alternative.   In the future, you’ll get to experience a quest through the basic lego block of life… the cell.

I had the opportunity to meet a team of very talented programmers and science visualization artists.   Blair Lyons and Laura Lynn Gonzalez, the creators of the KinectBiology project, have taken on the amazing task of enabling us to travel through a cell.

I first learned about them through their Kickstarter project.   I have to confess that they were the first Kickstarter project that I ever funded because I was inspired by their talents of visualization.   I believe that their Microsoft Kinect interaction is pretty awesome too.    In contrast to other game based learning cell experiences, they really care about providing a real model of the cell while making it fun.   This shows up in the manner that the gamer travels through the cell.     You don’t just fly around the cell.   You travel a network of structure that they discuss on their blog.

I appreciate Laura Lynn, Rachel, and Blair for innovating in the open.    They are providing a gift to the game based learning world by sharing their design and technical process with the world.

Please support their project by sharing their blog with your friends.   I am sure they would appreciate financial support too.

Very cool project!


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I believe educational technology just became exponentially cooler. Thanks Google!

I think educational technology just became exponentially cooler! Why?  During the Google I/O 2012 conference, our amigos at Google gave us tons of new tools and platforms to help us innovate.   I love new toys!  These tools can help serve existing movements like mlearning and  game based learning.  I love seeing competition in the tablet space too.    Lower cost tablet devices is a great win for students.  The glass technology creates huge opportunities in augmented reality.   It’s fun to dream about what you can teach with this tool.   News from Google I/O:
  • @timoreilly I suspect that Google Glass may be a technology milestone to surpass the iPhone. #io12 bold thinking, unique assets brought to bear — MLEARNING
  • @google: Watch the full video of today’s skydiving Project Glass demo at #io12 (hint: it’s great in full screen!) — MLEARNING
  • @timoreilly Women of Google event opens with a video about @sitwithme and the red chair campaign #io12  — WOMEN IN TECHNOLOGY
  • @google Big @Android updates @ #io12: Jelly Bean, more entertainment in Google Play & 2 new, powerful Nexus devices  — MLEARNING
  • @CNET Google Glass just got a lot more real. Check out our first take: #io12
  • Android 4.1 will have Bluetooth Braille support  — EDUCATION FOR BLIND
  • @mattcutts Google will be teaching a “power searching” class: . Good for regular folks, SEOs, even #io12 attendees.    — SEARCH COURSE
  • @ChromiumDev is now mobile! Check out 9 brand new mobile experiments at #io12  — GAME BASED LEARNING, MLEARNING
  • GoogleAtWork: Big updates to Google Apps Script at #io12today. It’s now easier to create&share what you build.
  • While reviewing #io12, I saw that Microsoft has created a cool automation service for Android: onX .   Everyone loves automation.  — MLEARNING, GAME BASED LEARNING

For more news on Google I/O 2012, please visit .

Summary videos can be found at CNET.

What education innovations would you like to see  in 5 years based on Google’s contributions today?



Posted in technology | 2 Comments

National STEM Video Game Challenge 2010 Youth Prize Winners

As I have reviewed materials from the conference, I have become more convinced that education has a huge impact to the future of our economic future.   I have also enjoyed seeing the results of “game based learning” challenges. The students in this video give me hope that the US can continue to be innovation leaders. I am blown away that these students are in middle school. Wow!  I hope that I can inspire my boys to have that sort of creativity.

These students are truly exceptional.   I would be interested to learn about the parents and teachers who supported these students.   Whatever it is, we should try to reproduce what they are doing.

As parents, mentors, and educators, how can we create challenges in our families and communities that inspire young people to be creative and innovate?

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Can gaming have a positive impact to students? Answers from

Please make sure to visit

If we spend 3 billion hours a week playing online games, is it possible to direct some of that human energy to creating positive change in the real world?   Can gaming have a positive impact on students?  In the past week, I had the opportunity to explore some of the content from the conference.     During this event, the speakers and thought leaders explored how games can improve our planet.

Why should teachers consider using games to enhance traditional learning?  Dr. Rick Van Eck, a leader in instructional design and technology, has a great TED talk exploring the major benefits of game based learning.     I wanted to share this content to help you understand the context of the conference.

From the conference, I was especially moved by the keynote by Jane McGonigal.     You can view the full talk here ( She talked about the influence gaming can have on emotion, mental resilience, social relationship, self image, and engagement.    She challenged the community to work together to help measure and prove that games can have larger positive impact.   I loved her story behind the birth of  As a game designer, she created this game in response to a concussion she had experienced resulting in a period of profound depression.   In response to this dark time in her life, she designed the game to make small steps to wellness.   This game looks like it would be helpful to anyone going through a traumatic life event or illness.  I love that she collected her back story and academic literature review at .

In other contexts, Jane McGonigal has promoted the idea of online games that you play in the real world.    For example, you should checkout World without oil.   While I feel some of the execution of the game can be improved, the game idea has really resonated with me.   As an aspiring game designer, I will definitely explore this concept more deeply.

To the team that constructed the organization and conference, I greatly appreciate all of your work.    You have given the world a lot to think about.     I am more convinced that online and real world games can create positive changes in health, education and our planet.

What kind of social change do you want to make in education?   What are you passionate about teaching?   Can we use games to teach that topic?  When does teaching by gaming make sense?

Posted in game based learning, games, technology | 1 Comment

Average debt at graduation is $25,000. How can we reduce these costs?

The Price of Higher EducationSource: H&R Block

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