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Game Based PD for an Epic Win

UPDATE:  Since writing this post I've received many, many requests from librarians around the world (!) wanting to join this PD group in Edmodo.  This is wonderful and I am so flattered!  However, I'm leaving the decision to open the group up to my local colleagues for whom the training was initially intended.  So... if you've sent me a request to join, I won't be approving those until after August 30th (if at all).  If my local group decides they want to keep this training closed, I may create a SECOND group for others to join.  In the meantime, thank you all so much wanting to share and learn with me!  I will update this post again once a decision is reached.  Stay tuned!


In addition to providing professional development for my school, I also get to plan, coordinate and, in many cases, deliver PD to the other librarians in my county.  This is a job that I am always very excited about at the beginning of the year, but then less so as the school year progresses.  Don't get me wrong, I LOVE learning and sharing - and, to be frank, there's always some new _________ that I just can't wait to tell everybody about.  It's just that as real life and the demands of running a hustling/bustling media center kick in, the harder it is to devote the time necessary to plan multiple, meaningful staff development opportunities for the 36 other rock stars that I work with.  So... this year, I'm trying something new.

In addition to several other (some optional, some mandatory) PD training that we'll participate in this year, I've designed a year long, totally gamified, PD Game for my colleagues that explores 21st Century Literacies in the 21st Century Media Center.

Level Up Literacy PD from Jennifer LaGarde"Level Up" Image Designed and Shared by Matthew Winner

Now, before I go any further, I should say that this is a total ripoff remix of Tamara Cox's work which was, at least in part, inspired by the reading and learning we've been doing all summer as a part of Level Up Book Club - which, as I've written about before, is an online community of librarians, teachers and other educators who are interested in exploring game based learning and the gamification of education.  I gotta tell you, this learning has been the best part of my summer, but now I'm anxious to put all that I've learned to work both at my school and in my district.  Which brings me back to the task at hand.

Of all the books #levelupbc has read so far, Jane McGonigal's Reality is Broken has been the most meaningful to me.  Maybe it's because it was the first one we read or maybe it's just because McGonigal provided so many concrete examples of how game based learning/play impacts motivation, self perception and, ultimately, achievement - but either way, I continue to refer to it as I think about applying gaming elements to my instruction - and this PD is no exception.  According to McGonigal, all games share four basic components and it was crucial to me that this learning opportunity contain all four.  They are:

  1. A Clear Goal:   The goal for this PD is two fold.  One is student driven, the other is teacher driven.  For awhile now, I've been singing the song that libraries are about more than books and reading, they are about all types of literacy - but even I recognize that literacy is an evolving and sometimes murky term.  So... part of what I wanted to do with this training is to explore what being literate in the 21st Century means and how libraries have to grow in order to help learners master these new literacies.  Secondly, this is a big year for librarians in my state.  In addition to adopting the Common Core, we're also implementing new Information Technology Standards, new professional teaching standards and a new evaluation instrument for librarians.  Along with all of that has come the new requirement that all teachers (and librarians) earn "literacy" credits as part of their renewal cycle.  And thus, the goal of this PD is to explore the wide range of multiple, dynamic and evolving competencies that represent new literacy AND the role of the library in helping students master these skills.  To me, it's essential that, whatever the goal, it be authentic.  Hopefully, the majority of participants will jump on board because of a desire prepare students for the future, but even if they're doing it only because of the credits, the need is still an authentic one and, you never know, the game may be so compelling that their motivation will shift mid-play.  (A girl can dream, right?)

  2. Rules:  All good games have rules and this is no exception.  Because folks will be receiving credit for this, some rules are non-negotiable, but others I was able to have a little fun with.  The important thing is that the rules are outlined up front - so that all the players know what they are getting into.

  3. A System of (Immediate) Feedback:  I've decided to provide feedback in two ways.  One is throughEdmodo - the entire staff development will be delivered through this online platform where players will earn badges for completing certain tasks.  My kids love Edmodo, but I've never used it for PD before.  Each month, I'll post several (dare I say many?) tasks that participants can choose from in order to earn badges.  They can complete as many as they want - but must earn 20 badges by the end of the year.  I've created a leaderboard in Google Docs and will post it occasionally so that the appropriate level of smack talk can ensue.  I've also scheduled a series of 2 hour face to face meetings/work sessions (one per month) .  At these meetings, I will go over tasks and answer questions as necessary - but mostly, I'll just be there to offer moral/technical assistance as well as deliver the occasional in person "pat on the back." Most of these sessions will be optional, but I know that the online game play won't be enough for some - they'll need that face to face time.  Plus, scheduling 2 hours each month to work on this PD will be helpful to many of us as we try to juggle lots of other demands on our time.  

  4. Voluntary Participation:  While I'd love to see all of the librarians in my district participate in this, no one will be required to play along. :)

Other stuff:

  • I've started creating a document/resource library in Edmodo with resources that I will either use for the quests or will just share with participants.

  • I uploaded a bazillion badges - which I found thanks to #levelupbc member Kristina Thoennes.  This may be the least important part, but gosh is it fun!

  • Tasks! A lot of the tasks still only exist in my mind - my main goal is to make them meaningful - they will vary in difficulty (some requiring more work than others), but I want them all to have meaning and be applicable to what we do.  The first one, which I've already posted, is designed to help set the stage.  I want it to be an easy entry into the group but also set a tone and help empower the participants.  Big thanks to my buddy Steven Anderson for sharing this video with me! 

So... will this be a success?  Of course, the jury is still out - but I'm excited about where it's headed.   We've all got big years ahead of us and, for better or for worse, prescribed PD will be a part of it.  It's a shame that, for many of us, the professional development outlets where we receive our best ideas:  Twitter, webinars, etc., are ones for which we can receive no staff development "credit." For me, learning has to be about more than just the clock hours, but if we have to earn those hours, it would be great if we could earn them for what we consider our most meaningful learning.  That said, I'm hopeful, as a greater emphasis is placed on the importance of being a connected educator, these alternative ways of learning will be recognized as legitimate forms of PD.  Until then, my fingers are crossed that this will provide a different and motivating way for librarians in my district to meet, head on, the pedagogical/instructional changes that are coming our way.  If you've got some super PD plans for the coming year, I hope you'll share!  I'd love to steal be inspired by your work! 


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