One part of my morning routine recently has been to skim TED talks to look for interesting topics.  Usually the topics that grab my attention are ones that relate to either education, gaming, or both.  During my COETAIL courses I was introduced to the work of Jane McGonagall and the idea of gamification.

While I am intrigued by Ms. McGongall’s works and am memorized by her speeches, I have difficulty trying to figure out how I as a teacher could create something like her World Without Oil (insert video) experience for my students.  In order to achieve this vision of gaming, it would require a lot of planning, collaboration, and programming.  While I am alright with the planning and collaboration, I am certainly not a programmer and would need to work with someone who understands this aspects of computing.  However, about a month ago I stumbled across Seth Priebatsch’s talk: the Gaming Layer on the Top of the World.  His talk gave me a whole new perspective on what gaming could look like in education.  Instead of focusing on gamification strictly involving technology, he focused his talk on game mechanics. 
            In his talk he goes over game dynamics and talks about how they are already employed through points systems within various rewards systems for different companies.  He states plainly that these systems are currently not good and that they need to change.    As he goes through his talk he specifically talks about four different game dynamics, one being influence and status.  As he explains his examples he talks about schools and how they are already using this game dynamic in marking, reports cards, school rewards, and scholarships.  During this section he continues to talk about how this dynamic could be changed in education so that instead of failing a course, your work until you level up.  This could be used very nicely and easily with various math concepts.  

            While the use of game dynamics in education may be already in use and I may already use influence and status within my class intentionally and unintentionally, I can’t help but cringe.  On one hand I want my students to learn simply for the joy of learning and not for the purpose of  geting a good grade, a nice comment on their reports, or a new toy.  In other words I want them to be learn for intrinsic instead of extrinsic reasons.   Is there a way to balance the use of game dynamics so that students develop an intrinsic love of learning and enjoy the extrinsic as a byproduct of that joy of learning, or is our culture on a path where everything must come with some sort of physical reward or point system and if it doesn’t, then it isn’t worth doing?

Credits

Welcome to a World Without Oil uploaded on YouTube by WorldWithoutOil
The Game Layer on Top of the World by Seth Preiebatsch, found on TED.com, uploaded by TEDxBoston 2010
 
Toward the end of last school year I e-mailed my future co-teacher in Busan and asked her if it would be possible for our students to have their own individual Gmail accounts.  Within a few days I heard back from her and said that yes they would set it up and that we no longer have IT classes but instead an ICT facilitator.  I was thrilled but was incredibly busy packing up my life in Tokyo to start seriously thinking about what the implications would be for this.

            When I arrived in Busan I had a rough vision of where I wanted to take the students and what I needed them to do learn in order to get there.   However, after having the students read the ICT Policy and realizing that they did not understand it, I knew the plan had to be modified.  I immediately put out a call on Twitter for a list of resources that I could use to get the students to analyze and create their own digital citizenship policy which demonstrates an understanding of how to conduct oneself appropriately and safely online.  After discussions with my co-workers we decided on the following plan of action to introduce the students to both Google Apps and Digital Citizenship. 

Introduction:

During introductory lessons, students were asked to explore the Webonauts web-site and Professor Garfield’s Digital Citizenship guide.  After the students explored these sites we had a brief discussion on Digital Citizenship and they demonstrated through their responses that they had understood the information on these sites.

Gmail and Google Apps:

Over the past few weeks we have been introducing our students to the various aspects of Google Apps.  Currently we have gone over Gmail and Calendar.  Over the next few weeks we will be introducing the students to Google Docs and how to work collaboratively.  In order to help students understand the various features of Gmail and Google Apps, I created some video demos and uploaded them onto my Vimeo site.
Digital Citizenship:

Currently we have requested that the students only communicate with others in the class and have reminded them that if there is any issue to let us know.  Our goal is to have the students work together in groups to research and work together to form specialty groups and by the end of it create their own digital citizenship policy and awareness campaign for the school.  (Embed Assessment task information).  Once the students have a detailed understanding of Digital Citizenship, we hope to open up our classrooms to begin working collaboratively with other schools.

So far this has been a long road of preparation but one that I feel will pay off in the end.  It is interesting to watch students learn how to efficiently manage their information and I can’t wait until they learn how to create documents on Google Docs and work collaboratively together to create a project..  This process and journey will be one of the main features in my COETAIL Course 5 presentation.    

Credits

Archiving by Brendan Lea, uploaded to Vimeo, Creative Commons Licensed
 

BIFF

This week marks the start of the Busan International Film Festival.  Tickets sell out quickly and due to timing and compatibility issues* I wasn't able to order tickets online.  Luckily Tuesday was a day off of work and I was able to go to the bank and score tickets for several of the shows.  As such I am going to endeavour to flex my muscles and write reviews of the films that I see (as well as catching up on my COETAIL work).

Japan's Tragedy 

The first film that I had the privilege of seeing was the world premier of "Japan's Tragedy." The movie is a drama that wants to encourage people to talk about mental illness. In Japan this is a much needed discussion but one that many people refuse to talk about.  The film itself is tragic in every way possible and as the movie draws closer to the predictable conclusion, one can't help but feel the deep sorrow that the two lead characters are going through. 

The movie starts off with Yoshio returning with his father, who has stopped treatment for lungcancer, from the hospital. During the movie's first act we learn that he ran away from his wife and child to seek treatment for depression and as a result his wife asked for a divorce and moved to her family's home along the coast.  Upon Yoshio's return his mother falls ill and he remains her caregiver for the next four years.  Yoshio also has no job and is living on his father's pension and feeling ashamed. His father meanwhile decides that the six months he has been given is too long and decides to lock himself in his room and refuses to eat or drink. While in his room Yoshio's father recounts events from his life. Yoshio meanwhile spends the majority of the movie pleading with his father to stop and to reminds his father that he needs him. 

The movie is painstakingly shot in black and white to emphasize the lack of happiness in the lives of these two men. In fact there is only scene that contains any colour at all.  This effect doesn't seem contrived while watching the movie but it is a predictable and easy way to get the point across.

One of the key moments in the film has to do with the March 2011 earthquake. Having 
Iived through that experience I was worried how the film would address this. During this  sequence you hear the sounds of the quake and the voices of Yoshio and his father as the father recounts the events. As the father stares into the camera, you see the sheer terror in his face as he recollects the events of that day. This part almost had me in tears. 

Throughout the film there are many phone calls. All of calls received during the film bring bad news. By the end of the film the connection becomes so engrained into the audience that you are left with no doubt about the conclusion of the film. 

I went into this movie not knowing what to expect and was treated to a movie character drama that touched me on many levels. As the credits begin to roll the audience is presented with some stark statistics. Rather then tll the audience to donate money or scold them into changing their minds about mental illness, the movie seems to be a plea for a much needed discussion n how society views and treats mental illness.

 

The apartment

I arrived in Busan after a long journey and was picked up by one of my two co-teachers.  Immediately we hit it off and started discussing the direction we would like to take the students this year.  At the end of our taxi ride we arrived at my apartment.  At first I thought it was an joke.  Surely I couldn't be living in a place like this?  As we entered the huge lobby with lots of comfortable chairs, I kept thinking this must be a joke.  As we rode the elevator up to my apartment.  I still couldn't get over it.  Then we entered my apartment.  It was how can I say stunning.  Even though it was night time I could tell that the view would be stunning to say the least and that the apartment would get a lot of sun and fill me with lots of energy.  

To say this apartment is the opposite of the typical apartment in Tokyo would be an understatement.  I have 1.5 baths, 2 bedrooms, 3 verandas (one off the guest room, one off the living room, and one that is connected to the living room and room master bedroom), 4 air conditionars, in floor heating, a gym and sento in the basement, an massive outdoor balcony on the seventh floor, and a tenant only coffee shop on the 39th..  The space is huge and I'm finally accepting that this place is my home and not in fact a hotel.  Below are some pictures that compare my old apartment with the new one.  I'm sorry for the mess in the old apartment they are pictures taken after the earthquake.  

The School

The facilities of Busan International Foreign School can only be described as spectacular   Every room gets lots of natural light.  There is a soccer field, basketball court, gym, music room, Mac Mini lab, Av room (with green room), and much more.  In my classroom I have a two whiteboards, two cork boards, and a Smart Board.  I have also acquired a 4-point server which allows for my students to have access to computers at any point.  Currently I am in the process of creating a list of free programs that I would like installed to help students with various topics.

To say I am pleased with the school and the staff would be an incredible understatement.  I'm looking forward to a rewarding experience at this school and I am loving Busan
 

An end to an era

I arrived in Tokyo to begin my employment at the Canadian International School in August 2006.  During that time I held many different roles; I was a Grade 4, 3, and 6 homeroom teacher and I also was the school's librarian for 2 years.  While I was working at the school it went through its first WASC and IB PYP accreditation processesses.  Outside of the traditional roles I was also the producer/stage manager for the winter and spring concerts. For allowing me to develop such as wide range of experiences and perspectives during my time and for providing me the opportunity to have access to annual PYP training and giving me time to pursue my COETAIL courses, I will always be eternally grateful.  I am also grateful that I got to meet and work with a variety of people during this time.

During my personal time I managed to get myself involved with the Tokyo International Players.  I remember when I first went to audition for a show, I put down that I'd rather be backstage.  For that first show I was onstage stage, however for the many shows after that I was always wearing black with usually a pair of cans attached to my head.  For providing me a space to reignite my passion for live theatre and giving me for trusting me with the running of many shows, I am grateful.

As I was preparing to make my final move from Tokyo in July 2012, I was a mix of emotions.  On the one hand I was excited about the moving to a new country.  However, I have called Tokyo my home for six years and it is a city that has a magical hold on people.  In the end I was sad to leave the city but new that it was best decision.  

To all my friends I left, I am only an e-mail, comment, or tweet away.  Also, for Tokyoites, I am only a short flight away and have a guest room with a beach in walking distance.

    Author

    Brendan is an international school teacher.  He currently teaches grade 4 at Busan International Foreign School.

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