Superheros and Gamification

image from Six to Start

A few days ago, I read about a new gamified fitness app called Superhero Workout where you essentially workout, battle off aliens and save the world! After only completing the tutorial and one mission my thoughts are:

  • this is immersive
  • includes an epic soundtrack, sounds effects and visuals
  • has a narrative and builds
  • includes power-ups
  • it’s playful and fun yet gets you to workout

Check out this trailer to get a sense for the epic soundtrack and overall concept:

image from Six to Start

I’ve been interested in gamification for sometime seeing services like LinkedIn become more gamified and fun (they do a clever job of making it fun to connect and vouch for someone). It’s very cool to see gamification coming to more fitness apps (looking forward to more missions and a surge of diverse gamified fitness apps). So far Six to Start seems to be doing things right with Superhero Workout, The Walk and Zombies, Run!


Imagine the possibilities if Six to Start created an education app or if more educators used this recipe.

image from Six to Start


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Connecting Today

At Learning 2 this year I was asked to be a Learn2Leader. This was an experience that I will comment on further in my next reflective Learning 2 post. One of the opportunities, I had was to give a Learn2Talk to around 500 delegates. I wanted to build on my interest in socializing face-to-face and virtually and give the audience an accessible way to think about  how we connect today. I started by taking them back to the future past and bringing them to the future present (at Learning 2).

My talk was titled Connecting Today and here is the slideshare and video to follow.

Connecting today by robert appino from Robert Appino


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Remixing Through Digital Storytelling

This unit started with the story Inanimate Alice. It is an immersive digital story that redefines how students read stories.

Here is my UbD unit: Remixing Interactive Stories through Programming 

  1. What were your goals for your lesson/project (Standards)?

My goals for the project were to teach the multi-modes of a digital story and to implement a unit using the SAMR model to redefine the learning. This unit would not have been possible without the use of technology. Using Scratch Programming facilitated student learning in the creation of a multi-modality (containing text, image, sound and interaction) digital story.

See my unit for more specific goals and standards.

  1. What tools did you use? Why did you choose this/these tools for this/these task(s)?

The tools used in this unit were firstly the digital story Inanimate Alice which was the inspiration for the whole project. Students remixed new scenes and altered scenes of Alice using Scratch programming which helped in the creation of three modes (text, image and interaction). The Scratch website was vital in learning programming as it includes a huge community with millions of projects to learn from. Also, the Scratch wiki was a critical in better understanding certain blocks and scripts. Lastly, students used Garageband on the iPads to create sounds and soundtracks to enhance the mode of sound in their projects.

  1. How did you go about introducing your lesson/project?

We began by viewing the digital story Inanimate Alice which uses four modes (text, sound, images and interaction) to immerse the reader into the story.

  1. How did the students react? Include actual samples of student reflection (video, images, etc)

Students were engaged and really liked the story from the beginning. They liked that they could remix a scene to change and manipulate the mood of the story through the modes.

(see Student Videos and Reflections)

  1. Outcome? Did you meet your goals?

Yes, exceeded but I had to build extra time into the unit. This was an incredibly creative project and students really took ownership with their stories and especially with the sound and interactions in the project. Also, many students had to use complicated scripts to fulfill the interaction criteria. Programming requires lots of steps and trial and error to get the desired end result.

  1. Evidence of learning? Remember to include student evidence like video, images, reflections.

Here are some samples of student projects. This one illustrates all modes but highlights interactions and this project incorporates sounds and creates a mood throughout the scene. Please note the student projects are just one or two scenes from the entire 26 scene story so without reading the original Inanimate Alice story the student scenes might seem out of context.

Student feedback (to be updated soon)

Here is one student’s reflection and here is another of the overall project.

  1. What would you do differently next time? What did you learn? (Reflection)

Firstly, I allowed some students to work in groups. I would change this and have all students create their projects individually. This would allow me to better assess each student’s individual understandings in the unit. Also, I would have all the projects align. Instead of letting students remix any scene they want, I would assign each student a scene and they would need to remix it and talk with the person with the scene before and after to create a cohesive whole class story. Also, I may consider using one week to create a short remix scene of Alice and then have them write a story story and use the four modes to tell it.

Alternatively, I have considered using the story Inanimate Alice as background knowledge and an introduction to the modes – not the backdrop/concept for actual project. This would give students the opportunity to create new stories rather than remix Inanimate Alice. This would promote more creativity and likely accomplish the same.

  1. How do/did you plan to share this with your colleagues?

All of the projects the students created have been uploaded the to the SSIS channel on the Scratch Website. Also, students have embedded them on their blogs and reflected on the project. A playlist will be created and sent to all teachers on World Scratch Day (May 18th) to showcase learning and some of the possibilities with programming in Scratch. Also, a selection of projects will be showcased at our next staff meeting.

  1. What was your greatest learning in this course?

How creative projects allow students to innovate in ways I had not predicted. Students took the interactive mode seriously and went above and beyond to make their project interactive. Some students even made them playful like a game. Students took advantage of the huge community on Scratch and learned some complicated scripts that went beyond the requirements. Also, using Garageband on the iPads took away any barriers in creating music. Students that didn’t feel confident with creating music picked up an iPad and really got into crafting the perfect song and sounds for their projects. Sound set the tone and mood for the projects and students are more aware of the influence sound has (and how it can transform a project).

  1. Did this implementation meet the definition of Redefinition?

Redefinition was met as this project would not have been possible without a computer or the iPads. The projects are now being viewed by people from all over the world via the Scratch website. A few students already commented that other Scratchers (people in the Scratch community) liked their projects. They were very enthusiastic about people outside the school could see their projects and even remix them thanks to the ease of Scratch 2.0.



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Game-Based Learning TTT

Here are the slides from my session today and the link to the backchannel.

Also, here are is the workshop feedback form (


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Vietnam Tech Conference 2013

Here are my workshops for the first annual Vietnam Tech Conference here at Saigon South International School.

This conference was a collaboration between Saigon South International School, Ho Chi Minh City and United Nations International School, Hanoi. The structure of the conference included workshops, speed geeking and unconference sessions. We made the conscious decision to utilize the talents we have in Vietnam and not bring in a keynote speaker or specialist from outside. This kept costs down and personalized the conference’s focus on international schools in Vietnam.

In addition to presenting, I also co-organized and ran the conference. This was a great experience and I was fortunate to work with such a great team (Clint, David, Ed and Theresa). Next year, the conference will be held at UNIS, Hanoi with the hope that each year the conference alternates between Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

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My Day Through Apps

Here is my presentation on My Day Through Apps for Pecha Kucha Vol. 2 HCMC, Vietnam. I explore how I’m able to multitask, stay updated and organized and also how I relax thanks to my smart phone.

I hope you find some of these apps useful.


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Speak Up @ 21CLHK

Thanks for your thinking and participation in my workshop Speak Up! Transforming Classroom Discussions presented at 21st Century Learning Hong Kong 2013.

Here is the slideshare of  the presentation and the link to download my full writing called Discussions in Classrooms which I wrote for my Master’s.

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Learning and Games

image by carianoff

Playing games has been something I’ve always enjoyed. As kid I spent countless hours playing Zelda, Metroid, Wrath of the Black Manta and Techmo Superbowl (I still play this when I get together with my brother) learning the secrets and always checking my friends Nintendo Power for tips and cheats. That said, I also played games outside from typical sports to water fights to night games (hide-n-seek but at night). Today I tend to play board games with family and friends and digital games on my computer or iPad. Currently, I have been playing World of Padman (an open-source first person shooter), Minecraft, Portal and a variety of games on the iPad.

In the past two years, I’ve been reading about Game-Based Learning and have begun revisiting my interest in games. I play games regularly, which generally means for a few minutes a day. On the odd day I may spend 30 minutes.  The driving interest for this is the students I am surrounded by. They love games. Most of them talk about Minecraft, Star Quest, Adventure Quest, Pokemon and many others.  Student interest and engagement in games is incredible and I want to leverage that in the classroom. I’ve experimented with gamifying class assignments and having students use a game to create and present projects (such as the Boston Tea Party in Minecraft). I see a lot of skills being taught in games and think as the Horizon Report has indicated (see page 18), that game-based learning will continue to be adopted in education and learning.

James Paul Gee is certainly one of the first names that come to my mind when I think about learning and games. I am currently reading his What Video Games Have to Teach about Learning and Literacy. Though I do wish this were in kindle or iBooks format (I prefer searchable text and less weight in my bag) it is a fantastic insight into why playing games is educationally relevant. Also, his website has loads of his publications available in pdf to download. Another great resource is Jane McGonigol she has written a book that is currently in my queue called Reality is Broken: Why games make us better and How they can change the world. Her TED talk is inspiring and give me more reason to continue to setting aside time to play games.

image by kjarrett

I’m looking forward to spending more time with Minecraft and learning from the students in our upcoming Middle School Minecraft Club. I am learning something new about Minecraft everyday from student conversations in passing, in class and at break time when some of students play in their Minecraft worlds. Over the winter break one of our student’s sent me a download link to the documentary about Minecraft called The Story of Mojang. In the email, the student told me that the creators of the documentary decided to pirate their own filmand make it available and so it was okay that he sent me a link. It was an excellent documentary and made me think more about what Matt Barton pointed out, in his review on Gee’s book What Video Games Have to Teach Us, that Gee’s

“basic thesis is that good videogames do a really great job of teaching kids how to play them. The best games aren’t simple passive enjoyments, either–these things require complex thought and make substantial intellectual demands on their players. They also allow players to indulge themselves in make-believe realities and identities.” 

Minecraft is a complex game and players invest hours in reading through the Minecraft wiki and watching tutorials on Youtube because they think Minecraft is fun and engaging. How can we transform and redefine our school curriculum to make learning this exciting?


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Speak Up! Transform Classroom Discussions

Thanks for taking the time to view my contribution to K12online 2012. The slideshow is below should you want to view it again, share it or download and reuse it.


Also, here is my full writing called Discussions in Classrooms. I completed this for my Master’s degree through SUNY.




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Minecraft in the classroomTechnology will continue to make education more accessible and ubiquitous. Access to the internet in the world is increasing and this will give more people access to education. More Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) will open up. Sites like Coursera and edX will continue to expand their course offerings and form more partnerships with other universities. As edX’s tagline on the sites opening page says “The Future of Online Education for anyone, anywhere, anytime”.

I think this is simple but a realistic future we will see. Many schools, SSIS included, have moved to 1:1 environments (be it iPads, laptops or both) for a number of reasons but anytime anywhere access is up towards the top of the list. The NMC Horizon Report 2012 confirms this by stating as their first key trend is that “people expect to be able to work, learn, and study whenever and wherever they want to” (p. 4). Personal devices such as iPhones, iPods and other personal “computers” already allow for this to happen. The gap between what you can do with a laptop compared to a mobile phone or iPad is lessoning. I am continually using my iPhone and iPad to do tasks I use to do exclusively with a laptop. This is fantastic because more and more people are getting  connected smart phones which gives anyone access to learn anytime anywhere.


Technology will continue to transform the classroom from to more student centered and with this students will become more self directed. Dan Pink the author of Drive said that one day of  “autonomy produces things that would have never emerged” he is speaking in particular about work environments but the same applies for the classroom. Google and a number of companies have gained from this and as a result the whole world benefits.


I think game-based learning will continue to be more accepted and respected in education. As the NMC Horizon Report 2012 points out “the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration and engage students deeply in the process of learning” (p. 7). James Paul Gee’s talk on Learning with Video Games talks about how games are effective learning tools that foster collaboration and motivation. Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) games like Minecraft and World of Warcraft will continue to be “repurposed” for learning and be integrated into course curriculums. Currently, we are hosting a Minecraft Server at school and are testing it out. Right now, students are playing in Minecraft during break time. We established some norms and the students took off with it. Students are motivated to collaborate with other students and have form alliances on their own and built incredible structures. I have been amazed by what students have done with little direction and all in their free time. The engagement and excitement of the students is something teachers need to tap into and design curriculum around. I have been utterly surprised by the new language I’ve learned from the students and the amount of time they have invested in Minecraft. What blows me away most is that in Minecraft there are no clear instructions. You have to explore the Minecraft world and read the Minecraft wiki to learn how to craft items and survive. Students have spent countless hours researching how to do certain tasks. They have learned through play in a game “with a purpose beyond play” (1). This goes back to what was said earlier “the greatest potential of games for learning lies in their ability to foster collaboration and engage students deeply in the process of learning” (p. 7). Students are highly motivated when playing minecraft and strive to achieve mastery. It’s like Dan Pink said in his talk about “The surprising truth to what motivates us” from his book Drive, “autonomy produces things that would have never emerged.” Students have had autonomy in our SSIS Minecraft World and they have and are building cities. Also, it has leveled the playing field for students that don’t socialize face-to-face and are more introverted. They collaborate through chatting virtually and work with other students in Minecraft. Schools will continue to “play a critical role in fostering learning in association with game play” (3). At present students are so interested in Minecraft we have had to  freeze students so they can’t move and play Minecraft during classes. This type of engagement and motivation to want to play Minecraft is all the more reason to combine it with curriculum and bring it into classrooms.  As a technology integrator, it will be critical for me to support teachers with integrating games into the classrooms.

“Don Menn (1993) claims that students can only remember 10 percent of what they read; 20 percent of what they hear; 30 percent, if they see visuals related to what they are hearing; 50 percent, if they watch someone model something while explaining it; but almost 90 percent, if they engage in the job themselves, even if only as a simulation” (25).

Let’s engage students by adopting Game-Based Learning, the future is now.


Here is my Telling Stories Through Scratch Unit

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