Sunday, September 6, 2015

I just completed another MOOC, "Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology" from MIT

I was a bit of a rebellious student in the fourth MITx class on educational technology: MITx: 11.133x Implementation and Evaluation of Educational Technology.

This course was less interesting to me than the previous two on educational games because it focused on traditional classroom management and government school administrators and evaluators. I'm not that hopeful about trying to enhance the current system with technology.  And, I'm biased against central planning.  I'm more interested in the use of technology to allow kids to do self-directed learning.

Anyway, I watched all the video lectures, did the readings, did some assignments and participated in the student discussions to see what I could glean.

Much of the material seemed irrelevant to my interests. And, I saw evidence of many things I already knew: Technology is not a magic bullet. Change is slow and painful in U.S. government school systems. Childrens' curiosity and initiative get squelched in schools.

But, I was surprised by some new information. Also, I participated in specific discussion groups on game design, math teaching and homeschooling.  Beyond these groups, I was delighted by the many intelligent viewpoints and projects of the other participants who live all over the world. Many of them were dedicated teachers.

My top 10 tidbits from the  course:

10. A new position in some U.S. schools is "Educational Technologist".  An Educational Technologist helps teachers find good technology to help them teach and checks to see that it will work with the school's computers and connectivity. This position is often held by the geekiest teacher in the school for no extra pay. They may also be responsible for maintenance and repair of the equipment.

9. In the state of Massachusetts (for example) there are hundreds of entities that must sign off on any technology proposed to be used in the public schools.

8. A computer game for use in a classroom doesn't have to be very well designed for kids to want to play it. As one prof said, It just has to be "better than jail".

7. Homeschooling parents are actively interested in computer games and debate their efficacy.

[The four above affirmed my focus on the consumer market for my games.]

6. My questions about the development of logical thinking in children may be better answered by Vygotsky than Piaget. We'll see. I've acquired two thick books to study. And, the reason I'd never heard of Vygotsky when I studied development psychology in the 70s? He was considered "Soviet" at that time.

5. You-tube is a fabulous technology for learning just about anything.

4. The public library is probably a better place to facilitate self-directed learning than the public school.

3. In a case study a grant-funded iPad learning app needed to be tested in preschools. So it was put in the iTunes Store for free. The kids (inner city) mainly had iPads and so did their teachers. But, the preschool teachers couldn't download the free App because they didn't have credit cards, which are required by iTunes.  [This speaks to the advantage of easy access to HTML5 games on the Web]

2. There's nothing new under the sun in educational technology.

1. Or maybe there is.

Friday, June 26, 2015

My Newest Game, NUMBER ROUND-UP Is Ready for Testing

The games in this post have been moved. You'll find the latest versions of my games at the Logical Game Studio.

I've been working obsessively on this game. Lots of fun to code and (I hope) to play. Number Round-Up runs on Safari on the iPad and in most computer browsers.
It's not completely done, but I'd love to have you try it out. All critique and suggestions are welcome.

I haven't set up a form to receive reports on testing this time. But, I'd very much appreciate any response by email.

Like Marble Factory, Number Round-Up is a cooperative game for two players using one iPad (touch) or computer (keyboard  arrow keys and mouse).

Number Round-Up includes 3 activities at 4 levels.
I hope you'll try each type of game: Practice, Round-Up, Ribbons Round.
The Challenge Level (Level 4) can be customized. Click the menu button to see the customization page.

Please, first take a look at Marble Factory if you haven't already seen it.

Some concepts of sorting into sets are presented in Marble Factory which provide background to playing Number Round-Up. So, kids who have already played Marble Factory will understand much about Number Round-Up without a lot of instructions.
Please note that some usability tests of Marble Factory have shown me that several basic changes need to be made to that game and I plan to work on those soon. Meanwhile, I've incorporated those suggestions into this game.

Public thanks to my sister, Jan, who has been tirelessly testing this game for weeks.

More information for those who like reading long blogs:

Number Round-Up is the next of several games I'm working on to help kids learn logic, attributes and sets.

Because I always tried to help my young math students become logical thinkers, my first learning objectives for these games are these 3:
1. Observation of attributes, similarities and differences of things (in this case some marbles) then, in Number Round-Up moving on to the attributes, similarities and differences of numbers.
2. Introduction to set theory including cardinality, intersections and empty sets.
3. Gaining clarity in the logic terms: and, or, both, neither, not.

Number Round-Up can also provide practice in multiplication facts and factoring.

These are cooperative games and I hope that lots of thinking together and conversation between the players as they work as a team to win will enhance the learning.

The ability to customize a challenge will allow kids, teachers, parents to focus in on what needs practicing. I plan to allow multiple challenges to be saved, but currently you can only save one.
Should you come up with a challenge that you think is especially useful, I'll share those ideas around.

Thanks for your interest and for testing Number Round-Up!

 The Logical Woman

Monday, June 1, 2015

Girls and Tech and Grace

This is a long post, but read to the end for a video and a punchline.

I've become an edX course junky.  And I recently decided to improve my skills by taking another course on HTML5 and Javascript.  That course begins today. Here's an interesting statement from the online introduction:

Breaking news: you are one of the 60000 students who enrolled this course! This is both exciting and terrifying ;) We'd love to see more women enrolled though, as only 18% are female students. Please urge your wives, daughters, female friends and colleagues to sign up!

Currently there's a lot of interest in why so few women are going into tech.

My granddaughter, Grace, has just completed her first year at the University of Michigan in the art school.  She's a very talented artist who has won state and national awards for her political cartoons and especially her sculpture.  And, I'm sure she'll continue her development as an artist. However, recently she did an unusual project for her class.

Here's her report on

The Tiny Toilet Project

This project was assigned by my Methods of Inquiry Class. Where we were given problems to solve in creative ways. These problems were either design based, aesthetically based (just an art project), or assigned as a collaborative project (which could be design or art based). The toilet was my collab project.

At the beginning of the semester each student was assigned a partner. I worked with Sana Mirza. Once we had a partner, each group then came up with problems (any problems) that could be solved with a design or art project. We put the problems on sheets of paper and then put them on the wall for another group to pick. Sana and I ended up getting a sheet that had ten different problems that we could choose from and we picked the problem: Toilet seat gets left up by boys.

There was some trial and error in our plans but this is what we ended up doing in the end:
I learned the software for 3D modeling called Rhino and I modeled a small toilet and seat that could be 3D printed in our engineering building.

Once it was modeled I did a few test prints (which used a lot of the plastic we had- which is a PLA plastic) on the Cube - which is the small 3D printer available to students. The print took about three to four hours.

After the toilet was printed, my teacher provided me with a small servo motor and an Arduino board. I downloaded that program onto my computer and then programmed the servo motor to take commands from a button that would instruct it to go up or down when clicked.

I then attached the servo motor to the toilet seat, and used a soldering iron to wire the button to the Arduino board (not directly, but I used the iron to join the wires that would plug into the board- it was super hot and I didn't need help from my teacher: Proud moment).

So in the end this toilet seat button was created to deal with the problem of the seats being left up. This class is intended to provide us with the materials to make a product that we could actually patent- but really we just created something that solved the problem. My group consisted of just Sana and I, and I modeled the toilet, printed it, programmed the motor, and attached the motor and board. Sana made an advertisement for our product.

I basically did everything- but whatever we passed!

This project stirred Grace's interest in tech. She asked me if I thought she should go for a double major or minor in engineering. She feared she "wasn't smart enough". Apparently many women drop tech studies with that fear.

Grace now plans to discuss engineering classes with her advisor.  In the meantime, she's going to try a couple of computer classes from HarvardX and MITx through this summer. She's definitely smart enough and I think she'll realize that. At any rate, I expect she'll keep on combining her art talent and her tech talent.

Friday, May 8, 2015

My Venn Diagram / Logic Game Needs Testers

Update:  Marble Factory now runs on iPad

I've been taking the next edX MIT class in the game design series. This one is "Design and Development of Games for Learning".

For this class, I've prototyped a game that will be part of a series of logic games I've been thinking through for some time.

This one is a Venn diagram game called "Marble Factory".  So far, I've coded two levels for Marble Factory.  I've worked through several prototypes, done technical testing and some play testing with classmates online. Now I'm ready for some user testing.

I want to get feedback from as many testers as I can. I plan to make adjustments to the game based on that feedback. Then, I'll continue with the next levels of the game.

How to test Marble Factory:

          1. Try the Marble Factory Discovery Level:

          2. Play the real game, Marble Factory Game 1: 
This game can be played by one or two players (cooperating, not competing).

          3. Most important! Give me feedback on your experience playing. Fill in this Google Form:

Please note: Due to limitations in the MIT Gameblox language, the games don't work on touchscreens yet. You'll need a mouse and keyboard to play.

What is this supposed to teach?
Because I always tried to help my young math students become logical thinkers, these are my learning objectives for this game:
1. Observation of attributes, similarities and differences of things (in this case some marbles) then, in the next game moving on to the attributes, similarities and differences of numbers.
2. Introduction to set theory including cardinality, intersections and empty sets.
3. Gaining clarity in the logic terms: and, or, both, neither, not.

I'm moving from Gameblox (MIT's game editor) to HTML5 for future iterations. And, that's where I'll be making changes based on your feedback.

In their final form, these games will be playable by two people, playing cooperatively.  The player's conversation about planning and strategy will provide powerful reinforcement for real learning.

Thanks for your interest and for testing Marble Factory!

The Logical Woman