Sunday, November 10, 2013

Gamification - Using Second Life: Taking a Tour

For Quest #5 of my Second Life gamification experience, I chose to follow the "Games of SL" tour.  It took me to many different locations, that all revolved around the idea of being able to play games within the game of Second Life.  My favorite place on the tour was the Center for Games and Simulations, as it had some information within it that was interesting to me, and it also seemed to be the most up-to-date.  Frootcake is another location that I spent a lot of time in and took a lot of pictures of some of the different areas in which you could participate.  Most of the games required a large group, so I was only able to interact with a few of the games designed for small groups.  I participated in a few of the games with another student in class, Ian.  You can see some pictures of my tour down below as I went to all of these different locations listed in the tour.  I can see where this would be a fun way to take a class on a trip around different creations and see what they think about the various locations and the items within the world.  It's also kind of fun to explore the idea of a "game within a game."  It makes you think very introspectively about how the actual game world works, if you were to go and design a game or world for this Second Life Platform.  I would say the biggest downsides of my tour as I went through, was that many of the locations didn't work anymore, or had been drastically changed from their original intent when the tour was created.  I also ran into a lot of locations not allowing me in because I wasn't on the person's "Access List."  Even with a few shortfalls, it was still interesting to see how you can link locations together and distribute them from a list.

Gamification - Second Life: Changing Avatar Clothes and Appearance

Here are the Before and After Results of Changing my Characters Clothes and Appearance



Gamification - Using Second Life: Exploring Lionheart Orientation Island

Gamification - Using Second Life: Exploring Lionheart Orientation Island

I started my next adventure in Gamification, by using Second Life and exploring the Lionheart Orientation Island.  Lionheart Orientation Island is essentially a tutorial location that walks you through a structure that has lots of areas with information regarding the basics of Second Life.  There were fairly indepth explanations for things like Navigation, Appearance, Gestures, The Library, Lost and Found, etc.   Basically if you are new to the game, this is a good way to understand many of the basic commands, some of the Second Life jargon, and even how to do a few advanced commands.  I also discovered that it is possible for certain locations to lock out some of your commands.  For example, I've pretty much used the ability to fly so far to get around locations much faster, however in the actual structure of Lionheart Island, I was unable to fly.  Stay tuned as I continue through our 3D Gamelab Quest in exploring Gamification.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Gamification - My first experience with Second Life

Continuing on with our studies over gamification in my Emerging Instructional Technologies course, we've been asked to begin using the game Second Life to learn about virtual worlds, virtual environments, and using avatars to interact with people around me in a collaborative manner.  I am a pronounced and avid gamer, however I have never played Second Life before.  I've played several different role playing and multiplayer games before so I'm sure that I'll adapt quickly to the game.  So far, I've been playing for a couple of hours and I think I've got the basics down.  I've figured out how to move around the various worlds and easily transport being different locations.  Here are some various pictures of me hanging out in Dr. Z's house, and yes there is a picture of me playing a video game where my character is playing a video game.  Don't think about that too long...

So far, I've been playing for about 3 hours and I think that I have the basics down.  I ended up meeting up with another student in my class, Ian, and we flew around the Iowa location.  I also made a visit to a place called "Freebie Island" where I tried choosing some new clothes that I didn't have to pay for.  I can see that micro-transactions are a big deal in this game.  It seems like everywhere I look when I go somewhere new, there is a bunch of stuff for sale.

I will also say that after only a short time in the game, I understand why it is oriented towards an adult crowd.  In order to use this in a high school setting, things would have to be very toned down before a school administrator would sign off on something like this.  However, it has been fun exploring and seeing all of this stuff that people have created.

I will say that the big advantage and disadvantage is that the entire game is played in a browser like window that you have to install.  This is good because it makes it easily accessible by players with different types of computers and graphics capabilities, but the downside is the draw distance and loading of in game objects.  I've got relatively fast internet, however the connection to the servers and the amount of stuff that has to be loaded can be excruciating at times.  To me, this is where the program is really showing it's age as so many massively multiplayer games have long since passed this technology.

I look forward to continuing to learn how to use Second Life and seeing how technology similar to this could potentially be used in a learning environment.

Gamification - Playing and Learning Collaboratively

This week in my Emerging Technologies course, we were tasked with playing Kingdom Rush, with an emphasis on playing collaboratively.  I was paired with Amanda Harris, another student in my class, who didn't have a distinctive love for video games.  We were also asked to read an article by Kurt Squire called "Video Games in Education" which I will also reference and link down below.

My gaming experience was a lot of fun this week, as I said in my previous posting regarding Gamification in the Classroom, I love playing video games.  Kingdom Rush is a game that I've not beat a couple of times and I feel like I have a very good grasp on how to easy work through the levels using a couple of different strategies.  Now the big difference between this week and last week, is that I was supposed to focus on the collaborative aspect.  My partner Amanda, is not as big into gaming as I was, but I was able to help her out by giving her a couple of tips and tricks that I've picked up along the way.  I would say that I probably didn't gain a huge amount of knowledge regarding new tactics and strategies, but the questions that Amanda would ask definitely made me think about why I was doing certain strategies at various times.  It helped me a lot with solidifying what I knew and that what I was doing was the best application of each strategy.

What is the big difference between playing singularly and collaboratively?
In my experience, playing on my own in Kingdom Rush results in having to use the trial and error technique in each level.  When I would get to a level that I couldn't remember or just hadn't played in awhile, I would basically try my basic strategy to see if that would get me through.  Playing singularly is never very much fun for me because I'm just always trying to figure things out on my own and if I hit a point in which I can't pass something, I become very frustrated.

Playing collaboratively, whether it be a small or large group, allows the player to bounce ideas off of other people who are also familiar with the game.  I think it helps having played the game on our own the last week because it did force us to try a lot of different strategies.  We found out what does and doesn't work in each stage, with an emphasis on what didn't work....

The one thing that would help in this kind of a class project, is choosing a game that more easily lends itself to collaboration.  Don't get me wrong, I love Kingdom Rush, but there are a lot of games that are specifically designed around the concept of working together towards a common goal.  Examples of games being used in education for collaborative learning include but are not limited to:  Minecraft, SimCity 5, Second Life, The Sims, Farming Simulator 2013.  It would be fun to continue our learning by trying out a game that has an integrated multiplayer component, just to see if our experiences are any different.

How do I feel about getting assistance in beating the game?
When I played Kingdom Rush for the first time, I used a lot of different Youtube Videos in order to beat a lot of the challenge levels.  At the time, I can remember feeling justified in doing that just because you had to specifically do certain things at certain times.  In other words, the levels are very unforgiving and even a single mistake can mean that you will not pass a level.  I would get to the point where I had failed so many times, that I was willing to see how others beat the level.  Now last week in my Emerging Technologies class, we talked about whether or not this was cheating.  I'm still very much on the fence about it, but I can definitely see both sides of the argument.  On one hand, I did have to look at another person's work in order to continue on, however from the other side, I would not have learned that strategy on my own and now I actually use it proficiently in other levels.  It's very much a person decision for the player or educator.  Now having thought about it, seeing how someone beat just one level was more of a collaboration activity to me, but if I had watched how to do every level with no thought from myself, then I would still see that as cheating.

As far as my partner is concerned, I know having someone to help her through the levels was a big help.  Not everyone is going to have the kind of deep level knowledge of a game like everyone else, and having an expert to talk to and ask questions is always a great way to pass along knowledge and learn.  It also really built my own confidence in myself, it's just nice to be an expert at something every once in awhile.  I love teaching, I love helping others accomplish goals, and I like seeing that I'm making a positive impact in someone's learning.  There needs to be so much more of this in education.

Thanks for reading my post!

Jeremy Cooper


Game:  Kingdom Rush by Ironside
Video Games in Education by Kurt Squire

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gaming in Education - An Emerging Instruction Technology (Playing Kingdom Rush)

What is it about Video Games that will cause a person to sit there for hours and hours, continually fail and start over, but still enjoy their experience? 

(And how can I get a little of that in my classroom....)

So for one of my graduate classes, I was tasked with playing, Kingdom Rush, by Ironhide. The genre of Kingdom Rush is tower defense and it capitalizes on quick strategy, placement of different tower types, and money management. Overall, it requires the user to think both proactively and reactively, in that the level design and types of monsters drives the player's decision on where and what type of tower to place. You also have to know when to upgrade your tower or choose to sell it and place a different type of tower as the battlefield changes. And sometimes you have to quickly react as the game may just throw you a curveball in the form of some game mechanic that you were not expecting.

One thing held true in my multiple hour session of playing this game (and I'm sure it happened to you too...): You will fail, a lot. I've played this game many times before and beaten it on a couple of occasions. However, it was still challenging at times in the higher difficulty levels as it requires so much management and precision timing. I found that in the basic levels, I used a lot of the same strategies in which towers I was placing. However, the challenge levels will take certain towers and abilities away from you and you have to adapt your strategy. Overall, it is a great game and is super addicitive to play and I always found myself thinking of different ways that I could have won after completing the level.

It makes me start thinking, why do I keep playing this game even though I would keep losing on certain levels? Seriously there were a couple of those challenge levels where I would defeat like 99% of the enemies but the boss at the end just wouldn't go down and I'd lose after playing like 10 minutes. Many times I wanted to rage quit this game, but something about it just kept drawing me back. Now what I'm really thinking about is how can I get my students in class to be this engaged to my content and WANT to continue coming back even after failing.

So just a couple of random notes that I kept while playing: 1) I'm allowed to fail (often), 2) The difficulty of the game did a great job of increasing in difficulty slowly throughout the game, 3) There is a tutorial-esqe level for each new tower type as it gets introduced to the player, 4) I can beat a level using any strategy that I can come up with as long as I'm allowed to use a certain tower.

All of these ideas are essential to education and even though they seem like common sense, the education world has not been built upon their principles in the past. Allowing our students to be able to fail is a core concept within education. When a student fails, they need to be allowed to rework their solution and resubmit their work after some new learning has occured. When you are teaching new concepts, you cannot just start with the hardest content and hammer on it without understanding the basics first. You need to be allowed to use many different tools, strategies, etc to complete the task at hand.

The use of gaming in education as a Emerging Technology is something I'm extremely in. I would like to do more work like this in understanding how I can bring in all the positives that surround gaming and how we can better our teaching through these concepts!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

ITEC Conference 2013 - SketchUp in Education

ITEC Conference - SketchUp in Education

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm attending my first ever ITEC Conference.  Now I'm only going to be able to attend a workshop or two, so I'm going to have to make the most of my networking skills.  Looking around the various sessions, they are probably averaging around 10-16 individuals in each.  Right now a few vendors are starting to arrive, but it looks like everything is still getting setup for the next couple of days.

I'm attending the Seth Denney session over how to use SketchUp in the classroom.  Now I will fully admit, I know quite a bit about SketchUp already, but like many people, I taught myself everything.  I like to go to sessions where I think I know a lot, so that I can either confirm that what I know is correct or if I'm completely wrong about everything...

My hope is that during this session, I'm going to learn about some of the more advanced commands and animation that I don't know how to do.  So I will update throughout the afternoon and look forward to expanding my knowledge of SketchUp in the classroom.

SketchUp in Education

Presenter:  Seth Denney

Room:  303

How to Download SketchUp:

SketchUp Pro 2013 Free Licences (Public Schools)

Iowa public schools can sign up for free SketchUp Professional Licenses. About 52,291 licenses in 130 districts have been used since 2009, when this software was called Google SketchUp. The free professional license runs from July 1, 2013 until July 30, 2016. We ask that the district technology director be the contact. A short online form needs to be completed, then you download the software and download the license codes. For private schools, home schools or other educational use, Sketch Up Make is available at no charge.

Technology Directors email for details on obtaining district license codes (you will be put into the distribution list and receive instructions via direct email)

Resources for Educators:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Iowa Student Learning Institute Review

Iowa Student Learning Institute Website
Breakdown of the Event:

When:  October 5th, 2013      8:00am-3:30pm
Where:  Waukee High School - Waukee Community School District

Yesterday, I attended the Iowa Student Learning Institute, the first event of it's kind in Iowa to bring students, administrators, teachers, local industry leaders, and secondary institutions to discuss what and how students should be learning in their classrooms.  The whole idea surrounding the event was that students were going to take an ACTIVE voice in the various afternoon sessions and their learning for the day.  Adults were supposed to stay on the sidelines and only interject when the discussions slowed or stopped.

Walking into the institute at 8am, I was immediately taken back by how many different groups of students, teachers, and administrators were waiting to hear the keynote speakers and start discussions over various school topics.  Attending the institute, I represented many parties including; as a Waukee Community School Technology Education Teacher, a University of Northern Iowa Graduate Student, and as a STEM-based student organization leader.

The Keynote Speakers were Scott McCloud and Zak Malamed, who both spoke on various ways that students can empower themselves in their own learning and take more ownership over their courses in school.  I thought both presentations added to the event and it made everything much more exciting and monumental for myself, fellow educators, and especially the students.

Throughout the event several hashtags were used, primarily #isli.  I did my best throughout the conference to Tweet when I could.  However, as Scott McCloud brought up at the beginning of his presentation, I tried to tow the line between paying attention to my Twitter account and actually paying attention to the people in the room.  Below you can read a history of the tweets that we sent out from the #isli hashtag.

The most interesting part of the day for me was getting to be apart of the student discussions.  I attended the first session as a complete observer, facilitated the discussion over Gamification in the Classroom, and contributed in the STEM discussion at the end of the day.

The first session was a bit rough, as could be expected, students were not really accustomed to leading entire discussions by themselves.  It was also hard as a teacher to not try and jump in too often and instead let the students do the talking.  However after a few well placed questions, the students started to pick up steam in their conversations over the keynote speakers and everything was fine in the sessions that I attended.

I facilitated the discussion over Gamification in the classroom, which I had a feeling would draw a large number of students.  And it did, we were at standing room only at one point.  I had a great mixture of students, parents, and teachers.  I really wanted students to take a serious look at how video games could be used in the classroom, so I brought some of my examples of how I've done it and how other educators have tried it in the past.  I didn't want the discussion to erupt into students just talking about their favorite games and what they have done in them.

You can see the list that the students' generate to the left and we tried to focus on these games in particular, with a few additions from me.

Student Generated List:  Minecraft, Halo 3, Gary's Mod, GTA 5, Sims 3

My additions:  Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, SimBuild, SimCity, Farming Simulator 2013

At first, it was very clear that a few students in the room were trying to illicit reactions from the adults by wanting to talk about some "M" rated games.  They were not prepared for a teacher who also has done his share of gaming and was prepared for such a reaction...whua ha ha ha.  From a facilitor's point of view, I quickly nixed the "let's be silly" vibe and got everyone back on track.  Most surprising, once we began with a discussion on Minecraft, there were two middle school girls who had lots of ideas for how they could use that in several different classes.  Many of the older students then followed suite and brought up some great ideas for how Minecraft, the Sims 3, and Farming Simulator could be used for various elective courses.  Our discussion went over our time limit and I basically had to push everyone out to get the next session in the room started.  I thought it was excellent and the students really took the discussion seriously after only a couple redirects from adults.

The rest of the day went very well, with a final presentation over some different steps that students can follow to find their inner genius.  A poll was conducted over a cell phone polling service and the results were overwhelming positive.  It looks like we will be expecting a second Iowa Student Learning Institute next year, and I can't wait!

~Jeremy Cooper


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Innovation and Education: Why and how they belong together (STEMx Education Conference) - Online STEM Conference

If you are teaching in a STEM based subject area or interested in STEM integration, you need to visit and watch some sessions from the Global STEMx Education Conference.

I started by watching the "Innovation and Education: Why and how they belong together" presentation by William J. Ashby, PhD.  The presentation was recorded and you can view it by clicking on the hyperlink above, or by looking at the "Resources Section" at the end of my post.  After viewing the presentation, which I will review below, I've been hooked.  There are literally dozens of different sessions covering STEM based theory, to project based learning, digital resources for the classroom, and even gaming as an educational medium.  I thought I knew a lot about STEM and everything going on within this educational movement, and I have quickly learned that I actually knew very little.  There are so many new project concepts, educational innovations, and technology out there that I had no idea existed, such as

"Innovation and Education: Why and how they belong together," by William J. Ashby, PhD brought up several questions that I've been hearing a lot lately in my school district, as well as my graduate studies:

  • "What is an 'A' in Education mean?"
  • "How do we help people (students) create value?"
  • "What are the real problems in STEM education?"
  • "How do we help those students who don't play school well?"
Many of us were and are great at playing school.  However, there is a significant population of students out there, of all ages, who don't do well in a traditional classroom setting.  For example, Perry Wilson was not interested in math at school, but he loved carpentry and that's where the math concepts came to life for him.  So much so that he decided to start the website and start bringing math and science concepts to schools in a different way.  Students build small structures using hands-on skills to apply mathematical concepts, such as the Pythagorean Theorem.

What are the real problems in STEM Education?
  • The connections between the subjects.  Can existing schools create a streamlined learning environment where the subjects within STEM come together?
  • Making the information relevant
  • Willingness to take risks
  • The ability to fail
      Feel free to make your own comments on any of the questions above, and I highly suggest that you take a look at the STEM Global Conference and learn about all of the resources and movements out there!

      ~Jeremy Cooper


      STEM Global Conference:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Just want a safe way to share Youtube videos with your students? is your answer!

One of the newest ways that I've tried giving my students access to extra resources is through Youtube videos.  Many of my students are visual learners and they need to see something in order to make a meaningful connection.  The problem is that Youtube has ads and a lot of unwanted stuff for the classroom and will help you remove all the unwanted clutter and leave you with exactly what you want.

Safeshare works on both computer and mobile device platforms, even allowing you to download the video as an MP3 or MP4 file format.  All you have to do is paste the Youtube video link, hit the Generate Button, and Safeshare will do the rest.

It's been great when I wanted to do a Flipped Classroom unit, where I could post the video on an LMS (Edmodo, Schoology, etc) and know that it's safe for students to be viewing.  I can also download the file and give it to students on a memory drive or mobile device if they don't have internet at home.  Let me know if this site helped you and your classroom in the comments!

~Jeremy Cooper


Need help converting all of those files on your computer? Try CloudConvert!

If you're like me, I am constantly having to convert files to various formats.  Wouldn't it be nice if we could just convert anything to anything?

Whether it be audio, video, published documents, etc. I'm always having trouble finding a program that will just do it all AND work every time.  I stumbled upon CloudConvert, and I've used it with great success on dozens of different projects for myself and my students.


CloudConvert is free, it supports a multitude of different file types (148 to be exact), and it will send the documents to you in different ways, such as automatically emailing you the file when it's done converting.  Everything is converted in the cloud, so it will not slow down your system while it is converting your files and documents.

It will also work with mobile, so if you have classroom tablets or mobile devices instead of computers, it will still work!  The site is still listed as being in Beta, but as I've said, it's been awesome so far in my experience.  Let me know in the comments if this is a useful site for you!

~Jeremy Cooper


Virtual Design and 3D Model Creation in the Classroom with Trimble SketchUp and Blender

Have you ever wanted to try and bring a virtual design or 3D world into your classroom?  Are you looking for a way to reach those students in your classroom who are more visual and spatial learners?

Well, then I have a couple of possible solutions for you to try and they are both free!  Trimble SketchUp and Blender.  Both of these programs will work on PCs or Mac and they don't have very restrictive hardware requirements.  They are great for a 1:1 school that uses Macbooks or PC laptops for instance.

Trimble SketchUp

I am a Technology Education Teacher by trade, and I have a lot of experience with teaching students about computer aided design software and virtual modeling of various things in our world.  I have found that many of the students in our classrooms are visual and spatial learners.  They need to be able to see something and interact with something to make that meaningful connection that we are all striving for in our classes.  I have done all kinds of interdisciplinary units with coworkers in my districts that used SketchUp and Blender to bring something new and fun into the classroom.

Blender is a great option if you want to do animation and more advanced modeling within your classroom.  My experience has been great with the program and there are so many free tutorials and guides that will take you and your students through using the program.  I would say though that you will want to have a little time devoted to using the program, as the learning curve at the beginning can be steep for many learners.  This is also a great program if you are trying to incorporate any kind of Virtual Reality aspect into your classroom.

Trimble SketchUp (formerly Google SketchUp) is another great program that I used when working with other subject areas, and is typically my go-to program for a quick unit.  SketchUp is easy to use and understand, and students will pick up the software skills very quickly.  I will list a few collaborative projects that I've done below, know that you are really only limited by your own imagination.
  • Social Studies - City Planning:  Design your own city using SketchUp
  • English - Model a scene from the story:  Modeled a party from the Great Gatsby
  • Science - Virtual Molecule:  Created a visual representation of a water molecule 

If you are looking for something new and fun to try in the classroom, give Trimble SketchUp and Blender a try!  If you know of any other great softwares or project ideas for modeling in the classroom, feel free to share those comments!

~Jeremy Cooper


Sunday, September 22, 2013

Great Social Bookmarking Tool for Teachers and Students - Diigo

Teachers and students, if you are looking for a better way to keep track of great websites, links, videos, and blogs, then you need to give Diigo a try. It's one of the best ways that I've found to keep track of all the different resources that I use on the web and makes it easy to share with others. As many Web 2.0 tools do now, there is an app available for it and you can integrate it into your browser for even easier bookmarking ability. If you are having trouble keeping track of websites and need a one stop show, try Diigo.

Teacher / Student Uses:
  • Save important websites and access them on any computer.
  • Categorize websites by titles, notes, keyword tags, lists and groups.
  • Search through bookmarks to quickly find desired information.
  • Save a screenshot of a website and see how it has changed over time.
  • Annotate websites with highlighting or virtual "sticky notes."
  • View any annotations made by others on any website visited.
  • Share websites with groups or the entire Diigo social network.
  • Comment on the bookmarks of others or solicit comments to your shared bookmarks.‎

~Jeremy Cooper

Scoop It - A fast way for teacher's to compile relevant stories for their students!

As a Technology Education Teacher, I'm constantly having to stay up to date on the latest technology in industry.  This school year in my district and the State of Iowa, there is a big push for more technical reading and emphasis on more applied reading in all classrooms.  Many of my textbooks are out of date and they are expensive to replace, so I went looking for a Web 2.0 tool that would efficiently deliver me stories each day that I could distribute to my students.  Scoop It! does exactly that and I've had excellent results in the types of stories that it delivers to me each day.  You can set it up as an app, a browser extension, or just have it email you stories each day.  It's like waiting for the paper every morning, but all the stories are interesting, relevant, and best of  Feel free to try it out and let me know in the comments if this is something that helps you out!

~Jeremy Cooper

Use TweetDeck for keeping track of all your Tweets!

TweetDeck is an excellent tool for all teachers and students who are involved in the world of Twitter!  You can organize and keep track of several different Twitter Feeds and monitor whenever someone mentions you on Twitter.  There are several different ways that teachers can filter and analyze several different hashtags and Twitter feeds in order to get the most of out their Tweets.  Teachers can use Tweetdeck as an assessment method, for exit survey of students, and even in professional development as backchanneling.  Thanks for reading my first blog post, and feel free to follow my blog for regular updates on useful Web 2.0 tools for teachers!

~Jeremy Cooper