Game Based Learning

Game based learning is a phrase used to describe the instructional practice of using games to enhance learning experiences. Digital game based learning connects curriculum with digital games that can engage and motivate students while achieving instructional goals. This instructional strategy has many proven benefits however the challenges may be limiting the way teachers use digital games. In some cases, the challenges may even be preventing teachers from using digital games at all. To learn more about game based learning, take a look at the VoiceThread I recently created to share the research I’ve been compiling to support my own use of this effective strategy.  


Why would I Buncee?

I was recently tasked with reviewing a variety of Web 2.0 tools to be used for digital storytelling. I chose to review Buncee as a presentation tool. I honestly wasn’t expecting much and didn’t see a need for an additional presentation tool when I already have access to Keynote, Google Slides, and PowerPoint – also known (to me at least) as The Big Three. I was more than surprised by what Buncee had to offer.

For the purposes of digital storytelling, Buncee has more to offer than the more professional tone of The Big Three. Students have access to a wide variety of content and don’t need to search the web for videos or images. Buncee offers stickers, animations, backgrounds, and more that will appeal to all ages and meet the demands of most communication goals. To learn more about Buncee, watch my screencast!

With all of the tools visible on the main screen, Buncee is user friendly and intuitively designed. Students of all ability levels will quickly be able to maneuver the interface and tools. The possibilities of Buncee are infinite and inspiration is easy to come by if you visit the Buncee Blog where a variety of contributors share their work, lesson seeds, and more.

I chose to use Buncee to create a Dewey Decimal scavenger hunt for my primary students. This idea was inspired by The Library Gingerbread Man written by Dotti Enderle. In this adorable picture book, the Gingerbread Man escapes his book and attempts to run away. As he moves through the shelves of the library, he meets a variety of characters from various Dewey sections. I’ve created QR codes to post in each Dewey section. The scanned code will take students to a single, interactive Buncee slide. Each slide will feature the character from the story, the Dewey category, the “address” of the book, recorded audio from the text, and an interactive component such as a video or game. Students will visit various sections of the nonfiction shelves to learn more about the category and how the nonfiction books are organized.


This activity aligns with the Maryland Library Media Curriculum used in my Learning Commons and contributes to the following enduring understanding developed by the WCPS Library Media staff:

Library materials are arranged in a logical manner and may be retrieved using knowledge of that arrangement.

Students’ understandings of how the library is organized prepares students to meet the demands of LMS Standard 2.0 in which students are expected to locate and evaluate resources and sources. Students are expected to be able to follow an inquiry process to identify, locate, evaluate and select resources and sources in a wide variety of formats to meet the information need in an ethical manner. This also aligns with step 2 (Information Seeking) and 3 (Location and Access) of our inquiry model, The Big 6. 

I’m excited to see how this works in the Learning Commons!


Educator Blogs: Inspirational, Aspirational, Perspirational

I have been using blogs as personal professional development for many years. While I have started my own blog here or there along the way, I’ve always found the time to read others’ posts but not write my own. Educator blogs inspire me to try new things while helping me to refine my goals and set realistic aspirations. I prefer blogs where the authors share the grit, perseverance, and perspiration that may have gone into achieving the wondrous things they are posting. I prefer to hear the real deal from my blog authors!

For several years, I’ve followed the blogs of Gwyneth Jones, Ian Byrd, A.J. Juliani, and John Spencer. Over the years, they have become published authors and featured speakers. I think their success is due to the honest nature of their posts and their timely topics. While I strongly recommend their blogs, I wanted to explore and review a few blogs that were new to me.

Catlin Tucker

One of the first blogs I chose to explore was that of Catlin Tucker. I’d seen her name in print a few times in the past few months as I’ve explored the concept of blended learning. As I was clicking through her tabs I realized I’d actually visited her blog during my last class to explore Web 2.0 tools. I was so busy with grad work and lesson planning that I didn’t take the time to read any of her actual blog posts. I am so glad I rediscovered her blog! Tucker is a teacher, speaker, and author in California.

In a post entitled “Flipgrid: Connect with Other Classrooms,” Tucker provides a narrative of a project-based learning experience. She describes the importance of an authentic audience and how to introduce the design thinking process with a high-interest topic. She also explains how she used Twitter and Flipgrid to connect her students with a broader, authentic audience – other classrooms around the country. Tucker used Twitter to reach out to other teachers globally. She requested that they have their students use Flipgrid to communicate with her students. Tucker demonstrates Standard 4 of the ISTE teacher standards as she promotes and models digital citizenship using digital age communication and collaboration tools throughout her blog.

In another post, Tucker discusses the work she is doing to teach and assess soft skills including communication and collaboration. She describes the importance of explicitly teaching these skills. Tucker also shares several rubrics to be used to provide feedback to students. Each rubric focuses on a different aspect of soft skills. She addresses communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving. Tucker encourages others to make copies of her Google Docs to modify for use with their own students. I appreciate the fact that she is willing to freely share her work. Her blog demonstrates her efforts to engage in professional growth and leadership.

Tucker’s blog also provides the reader with insights into the successes and struggles of the work she is doing to design and implement learning experiences for her students. She shares her own experiences while encouraging reflection on work and life balance. In a post entitled “6 Shifts to Maximize Productivity and Happiness, ” Tucker shares her synthesis of an article she had recently read. Through her own reflection and narrative, she asks the readers to consider what strategies they are using  to find balance.

Catlin Tucker’s blog provides inspiration through her posts explaining the integration of various technologies into her own teaching. She shares her experiences and tools such as documents and presentations to help her readers lessen the amount of perspiration needed to implement similar experiences in their own classrooms. Personally, I enjoyed reading her posts and have already signed up for a FlipGrid account. As a new media specialist in an Apple Distinguished School, I feel the pressure to effectively and creatively blend technology into my instruction. By following Tucker’s blog, I will be able to explore new resources and engage in reflection that will help me reach my aspirations of being a digital leader and role model for my students and colleagues!

Colleen Graves

The second blog I chose to review is that of Colleen Graves. I’ve been following Colleen on Twitter for a while thanks to the work she has done with makerspaces. I hadn’t considered whether she was a blogger until I realized she was the author of a book I recently purchased as a Christmas gift for my children – 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius. Her blog entitled “Create+Collaborate: Innovate” is filled with technology infused learning experiences for the classroom, library, or makerspace.

Graves recently transitioned from a high school setting to an elementary library. She shares her experience in this post entitled “Risk Taking: a new school year, a new school!” Within this post, I discovered she also follows and takes inspiration from Andy Plemmons whose library blog I reviewed in my previous post. Graves modified Plemmons’ book tasting post to use as an introduction to herself and as library orientation. She candidly shares what didn’t go well and what went right. I appreciate that she isn’t afraid to be honest about abandoning her original plan or overestimation of what elementary students could accomplish within her allotted lesson time. Headings like “what went wrong” and “where I failed” help the reader relate to the realities of designing learning experiences. Graves demonstrates her commitment to “continuously improve” her practice as described by ISTE Standard 5 for teachers.

In a post entitled “Adapting #Scratch + #MakeyMakey Poetry for Elementary Makers,” Graves shares how she collaborated with fourth grade teachers to integrate technology and poetry. Her narrative of the lesson guides the reader through the learning experience and includes suggestions for management before, during, and after the experience. She includes videos and photos to help the reader visualize how this might look in the reader’s own learning space. At the end of the post, she encourages her readers who might try this lesson to post student work to Twitter using #makeymakeypoetry. Since this is an adaptation of a lesson Graves used in her previous role as a high school library media specialist as well as in workshops, a quick search using the hashtag produces global results that span the grade levels. As a result, if choose to use this as a lesson seed for work in my own Learning Commons, I can find example of the process and exemplars of the product to share with my students and teachers.

The title of this blog is spot on! Graves’s connections between creativity and collaboration inspires me to consider how I can be more innovative within my own practice. Being new to the world of librarianship has been a bit overwhelming. In an effort to feel successful, I’ve been playing it safe and sticking to the basics with the technology I infuse into my instruction. Thanks to the posts in this blog, I’m reminded that without risk I won’t fail but I also won’t grow as a professional. A.J. Juliani recently tweeted, “Fail-ure has a finality to it. It’s like taking the test once and being done. Fail-ing is the chance to revise, fix, improve. #g2great” Blogs like this, and that of A.J. Juliani, provide the reader with enough of the struggle and perspiration to make the aspirations feel possible.

Nicholas Provenzano

The third blog I chose to review belongs to Nicholas Provenzano, The Nerdy Teacher. As a 2013 ISTE Teacher of the Year and a TED-Ed Innovative Educator, Provenzano has serious credibility in the world of technology integration. His blog documents the work that he is doing as a technology coordinator in a middle school as well as his endeavors as a professional developer and ambassador for a variety of technology brands.

Provenzano is new to his current role and in a post entitled “My First Fail #DigCit,” he shares his experience with facilitating his first digital citizenship lesson. The focus of the post isn’t on the materials he used from Common Sense Media, but on how uncomfortable he felt using the materials because he hadn’t made them his own. He bravely shared how the lesson failed and the reflection process he went through before eventually developing a new approach more authentic to who he is as a teacher.

In another post, Provenzano shares his reflections on the successes he has had with project-based learning (PBL). After providing some background, he highlights five major components of PBL that make it powerful for students. His narrative is succinct and tied to a specific learning experience to allow the reader to visualize what these components look like in the classroom. Creativity and critical thinking are among the five. The emphasis on these two big ideas is evident throughout Provenzano’s blog posts. As a teacher, he understands the importance of inspiring students’ creativity through the development of digital learning experiences. It is obvious that Provenzano values exploration of and reflection on his professional practices as described within ISTE Standard 5 for teachers.

While this blog provides inspiration and seeds of aspiration, it also provided validation as I read through older posts. Provenzano’s post entitled “The Case for Kits #MakerEd,” addresses one of my biggest fears related to my new role. I’ve been reading about and exploring the potential of makerspaces for several years. With that said, I suddenly found myself in a setting with an established makerspace but without any real experience with the resources on the shelves. Spheros, LittleBits, and MakeyMakey kits were materials I had only read about. Suddenly, they were real things that teachers wanted me to use with their students and I had no idea how to do that. This post validated my approach and encourages teachers to apply the concepts of differentiation to the makerspace. Kits and their instruction booklets provide the scaffolding needed by students (and teachers) who are new to the technology or tool.

Again, I have stumbled upon a blog that I can use as professional development and inspiration. Provenzano’s honest approach to sharing what works and what doesn’t work will save me some perspiration and scaffold my efforts to reach my aspirational goals.  By continuing to follow this blog, I hope to use his posts to initiate reflection on my own practice and to validate my own nerdy teacher persona!

Following and reading blogs written by prominent and effective educators can inspire me and my colleagues to examine our goals and take steps towards our achieving our aspirations. I chose these blogs because they all incorporate the struggles they have encountered into their narrative and reflective posts. While bloggers who feature their best products and lessons can inspire, the sparkle of the chevron backgrounds and trendsetting fonts tend to make me uncomfortable. My process is messy and often filled with struggle. I’m not afraid to admit that perspire more than I sparkle.

Works Cited

@ajjuliani. “A5: Fail-ure has a finality to it. It’s like taking the test once and being done. Fail-ing is the chance to revise, fix, improve. #g2great.” Twitter, 2 Nov 2017, 10:04 p.m.,

Graves, Colleen. Create+Collaborate: Innovate, Accessed 4 Nov 2017.

Provenzano, Nicolas. The Nerdy Teacher, Accessed 4 Nov 2017.

Tucker, Catlin. Catlin Tucker, Accessed 4 Nov 2017.

Library Blogs: Making Connections within the Learning Community

img_0371As a new library media specialist, I’ve been struggling to effectively communicate the what, why, and how of my Learning Commons. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter have been my first steps however I struggle with how much or how little to share. After viewing Common Craft’s Blogs in Plain English, it occurred to me that blogging could be an easy way for me to easily share the learning that is happening throughout the week. The narrator posed the question, “isn’t everything news to someone?”

My favorite library blogs are those that allow me to experience the learning through thoughtful narratives embedded with carefully curated photos and videos. These same bloggers then post snippets of these blog entries on Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram. In this manner, the blog author is addressing the learning styles and needs of the learning community. Those followers who prefer a quick visual glimpse will remain connected to the programming through the abbreviated social media platforms. Those followers who are interested in learning more can click through to the extended blog post to delve deeper into the learning and the processes involved in facilitating the learning.

Expect the Miraculous is the blog of an elementary librarian, Andy Plemmons. He documents and shares the learning experiences happening in the David C. Barrow Elementary School library media center in Athens, Georgia. Through reflective and thoughtful narratives, Plemmons keeps stakeholders within the learning community informed. As a colleague within the school, I would be able to make connections between my classroom and the work happening in the library in order to encourage transfer. As a parent, I would be aware of the content and be able make a home-school connection to extend the learning that is happening in the library.

As a library media specialist, Plemmons’ posts allow me to find inspiration and resources to use in my own library. Each narrative is enhanced by photos and videos illustrating not just students’ products but also the process of learning. By seeing and hearing the learning taking place, the reader can imagine what this might look like in their own library.  Plemmons provides links to various curricular resources that allow the follower to use the posts as lesson seeds for work in their own libraries. In a post entitled “Students as Digital Leaders: A Digital Citizenship Lesson,” Plemmons describes in detail how he introduced the responsibilities of digital citizenship through the lens of being a digital leader.  He shares how he collaborated with teachers both as a co-teacher in the same classroom and as a virtual teacher in classrooms he was not able to visit due to scheduling conflicts.

In another post entitled “Examining the Work of Ashley Bryan,” Plemmons describes the collaborative process used to plan a learning experience with the art teacher, Ms. Foretich. He provided an overview of each of the four stations he and Ms. Foretich facilitated with their students prior to visiting an exhibit of the puppeteer’s work at a museum in Atlanta and those that would occur after the field experience. The stations offered choice and addressed a variety of learning styles and needs. There were opportunities for students to create through hands-on activities, to read informational and fiction texts, and to process through the use of digital resources. While I wouldn’t focus necessarily on Ashley Bryan, the structure of the learning experience is something I could use in my own instruction. I’m looking forward to sharing this post with my school’s art teacher in hopes that we can develop our own collaboration project.

Overall, Plemmons effectively demonstrates how grade level content, library curriculum, and technology standards can be blended to create engaging learning experiences in the media center. I appreciate the narrative style of the blog and enjoy reading the posts as case studies for my own professional development. I aspire to keep my students and stakeholders informed in a similar manner.

The MHMS Daring School Library Blog  is a middle school library blog for a school in Howard County, Maryland. The blog is maintained by “celebrity” librarian and blogger Gwyneth Jones who is also known as The Daring Librarian. I’ve followed her professional blog for several years after meeting her at the Maryland Society for Educational Technology conference in Baltimore in 2010. It hadn’t occurred to me to seek out her library blog so I was excited when I stumbled upon it.

The blog entries here include some narrative summaries of activities happening in the library, announcements for students, reminders of policies and procedures, as well as loads of book shelfies, pictures, and videos of students using the library. The main purpose of this blog is to keep students informed, entertained, and engaged. A post welcoming students back to school in September, includes a Library Orientation video. This post can be used by staff, students, and parents to refresh their knowledge of the library’s policies, procedures, and resources.

A post entitled “Warning: Do Not Read This Blog Post,” is a humorous play on the Series of Unfortunate Events series of books. Students are warned not to read the post in the same manner Lemony Snicket uses to discourage his readers from opening his books. The purposes of the post are to inform students of the release of the original network series, make a deliberate connection between the televised series and the books, and to remind students that the library’s collection includes the books. Posts such as this can help to increase circulation and traffic in the library.

I really liked the inclusion of a “Writing Quality Comments” tab at the top of the blog. Jones provides students with a step by step guide for posting a comment on the blog or any blog for that matter. While the guide was created by another blogger, Jones acknowledges the original author, Bridget Compton-Moen, and provides a link to Compton-Moen’s blog. This guide reinforces the work that has been done with digital citizenship and acts as success criteria for students who may not feel confident posting publicly. Even without the actual presence of the librarian, students are reminded of the appropriate way to comment on social media. This is an important life skill to hone as students begin to prepare for college and career paths. Providing this and other resources for students to access anywhere supports the transfer of skills taught in the library to other content areas.

The Daring Librarian’s school library blog is an excellent example of a resource that connects students, staff, and families to the library. The style of the blog is engaging for middle school students while not being too novel to discourage parents or staff from using the site as well. I’d like to incorporate aspects of The MHMS Daring School Library Blog such as an orientation video and book shelfies into my own library’s libguide.  

The Book Nest is the high school library blog of Tompkins High School in Katy, Texas. The blog is maintained by library media specialist Michelle Tuttle. Posts announce upcoming events, contests, and library promotions.  The blog’s clean lines and minimalist design would appeal to high school students. A post on September 6th provides students with an orientation to the library. The orientation presentation is brief and highlights expectations of and resources found in the library.

Tuttle’s posts are engaging and of high interest to students. A post entitled “Blind dating in the library,” invites students to visit the library to check out a covered book. Photos included in the post are colorful and include just enough detail, such as Rate the Date cards, to entice readers to try something new. Another more recent post, “Read it Forward begins TODAY!,” provides a brief description of an initiative to promote an upcoming author visit. The post includes a link to an outside source for students to access more information.

While the blog posts are not as frequent or as descriptive as the elementary and middle school library blogs, the author’s use of Twitter is more frequent. In a post regarding Banned Book Week, students are encouraged to tweet action items to speak out against censorship. As William Ferriter pointed out, it is important to help students see social media as, “vehicles for collective action around ideas they believe in.” This activity is an authentic, real world issue that is developmentally appropriate for high school students to explore.

The blog also includes a variety of links to digital resources and tools independent learners such as high school students would need regularly to complete assignments. An example of these supports, Tuttle posted an infographic to help students evaluate sources – specifically databases and websites. She models her own inquiry process by explaining that she discovered the poster while doing her own research. ISTE Standard 3 refers to modeling digital age work and learning through the effective use of digital tools. Tuttle demonstrates these skills for her students throughout the blog.

The purpose of this blog is to connect the students within the learning community to the library and its resources. At this level, there is less need to attract teachers and families to the blog however the resources found on the blog would be helpful to anyone in the learning community. This approach to blogging appeals to my own learning style and needs but wouldn’t work within my own elementary learning community. The use of Twitter to interact with students wouldn’t be developmentally appropriate as a method of communication between myself and my students. I could use Tuttle’s approach through a Google classroom platform where students’ posts would be public to classmates but not the larger digital community. This may be an interesting way to engage students during Picture Book Month this November.

Blogs provide everyone with an audience and allows news to be shared easily. As an elementary librarian, my audience includes my students, their families, and my colleagues. Helping these members of the learning community understand the what, why, and how of the learning taking place in the Learning Commons starts with sharing the news of our work together. By incorporating the narrative style of Andy Plemmons into my own library blog, I can help teachers and parents better understand the expectations of the library media curriculum. Including photos, videos, and other artifacts as Plemmons and Jones did, will reinforce stakeholders’ understandings and allow them to encourage transfer of knowledge and skills outside of the library. Including contests and opportunities for students to interact and connect with the Learning Commons even when they aren’t physically in the space as Tuttle has done, will help build personal connections within the learning community. These connections to each other and the Learning Commons will encourage students to use the blog and libguide as a reference while in their classrooms and at home.

Works Cited

“Blogs in Plain English.” YouTube, Common Craft, 29 Nov. 2007,

Ferriter, William M. “Digitally Speaking/Positive Digital Footprints.” Educational Leadership, vol. 68, no. 7, Apr. 2011, pp. 92–93., Accessed 24 Oct 2017.

Jones, Gwyneth. The MHMS Daring School Library Blog, Accessed 1 Nov 2017.

Plemmons, Andy. Expect the Miraculous: Barrow Media Center, Accessed 1 Nov 2017.

Tuttle, Michelle. The Book Nest, Accessed 1 Nov 2017.