Sunday, March 5, 2017

#EdTechBridge Done Right: Legends of Learning



I've been interested in working with EdTech companies for years. I have always appreciated the EdTech companies that seek and value teacher and student input when it comes to product development. This passion led me to working with Katya Hott from E-Line Media and then Brainpop, two companies that I have had wonderful experiences collaborating wit /h. Together we founded #EdTechBridge to address the important issue of the culture gap that appeared to exist among EdTech stakeholders. It was apparent that Educators wanted to work with EdTech companies and vice versa, but these groups often had trouble developing and nurturing relationships. Our goal was to build and facilitate a community that set out to help bridge this gap.

In many cases these relationships formed and often this leads to the development of ambassador programs that provide opportunities for educators and edtech companies to really deepen these opportunities to work together. The best case studies start with authentic relationships. A few  successful ambassador programs that immediately come to mind include the Brainpop Certified Educator Program, Common Sense Media: EdTech Mentors and the Minecraft Mentor Program.

Along comes Legends of Learning...



Over the past year or so I got to know Aryah Fradkin. We developed a relationship as I like to... through twitter chats. Aryah became a regular in both the #EdTechBridge and #Games4Ed chats, the two chats I am most involved in. The thing I like most about twitter and twitter chats is that we start to find like minded people and develop true friendships through interactions. Aryah and I quickly became friends as we have many common interests and very aligned ideas regarding education and EdTech. As is often the case, our conversations went from online interaction to emails, phone calls, and more.

I met with Aryah and Legends of Learning CMO, Geoff Livingston. We discussed the idea of involving teachers in the process. I am always sure to impress upon the importance of ensuring that educators feel valued in the process. It quickly became apparent that Aryah and Geoff completely understood this.

As we talked, Aryah and Geoff shared the vision of Vadim, the CEO and founder of Legends of Learning. Vadim is a research scientist by training and brings great experiences to the development space in terms of iterative design, and often building by trial and error. He has a solid background in using data to improve a hyptothesis and make it stick.


Dr. Vadim Polikov recently founded and is serving as CEO of Legends of Learning, a game-based learning company dedicated to improving the way we learn to function in the technologically driven society of the future. He started Legends of Learning to create solutions to the current education challenges facing the United States.
Prior to starting Legends of Learning, Vadim started and sold two companies for more than $50 million each. Vadim received a B.S. and a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from Duke University. He has two boys and one girl, and his favorite superhero is Batman. 


Initially, I had no idea how expansive their vision was! I figured they were planning on putting out a few science games and wanted to reach out to several teachers for feedback. Early on, Aryah asked if I had some science teachers in mind. I gladly connected him with a few great science teachers in my building.

Well... clearly the Legends of Learning team had much bigger plans than I imagined! One day I received an email inviting educators to get involved and become ambassadors. The email indicated that Legends of Learning was going to take 50 (yes you read that right) ambassadors to ISTE in San Antonio as a thank you for their hard work and involvement in helping to shape the development of Science games to positively impact learning.

Legends of Learning is creating an amazing ambassador program, including educators in every
step of the process. If that wasn't enough... they're bringing 50 ambassadors to ISTE in San Antonio
This was interesting because often ambassador programs look for educators already actively using the product. Legends of Learning took a very different approach. They understood that they needed to recruit educators from the very beginning. They created a program including hundreds of educators spanning every area of the science curriculum. In addition, they contracted a number of game developers to create games based on suggestions and feedback from the educators. When I first entered the Ambassador community I was overwhelmed initially. There were discussions based on hundreds of different learning objectives that Legends of Learning is aiming to hit through their vast selection of games being developed. The overall idea is to create a repository of science games that are bite sized and teach to specific learning objectives. This will allow educators to build playlists of games and integrate them within the existing curriculum. This addresses an age old issue in game based learning where games often are seen as taking away from valuable teaching time as teachers race to complete the curriculum. The Legends of Learning approach addresses this issue beautifully.



If you are an ambassador you know that the discussion boards are quite active and the direct interaction with the developers has been a key component from the start. Games are starting to launch in beta which will continue to allow educators to further shape the development through continuous feedback and iteration.

I am so happy to see this authentic approach to EdTechBridge collaboration by bringing educators, students, and developers together from the beginning and through every phase of development.

Kudos to the Legends of Learning team. You've demonstrated #EdTechBridge done right!


Aryah and Geoff will be co-moderating the #EdTechBridge chat on March 29th at 7pm ET. We hope you can join us!

For more information, please check out the following:






Saturday, January 14, 2017

Leveraging Student Voice: Showcasing student work to an authentic audience



Our goal for students is for them to demonstrate their learning. Student expertise should be celebrated and shared. I have become increasingly interested in how students learn in informal settings. Minecraft serves as a perfect example. The game comes with no instruction manual. Who knew how brilliant that would be! Essentially, all of the content for this game is user generated.
The official minecraft wiki contains over 5,000 articles and close to 11,000 files all contributed by members of the minecraft user community. When you do a youtube search with the query minecraft it yields a modest 147,000,000 results. Other sites like Instructables, Snapguide, and Pinterest will prove my point further regarding the plethora of user generated minecraft content out there. 

I believe strongly in student voice, student choice, constructivist and constructionist learning. I am committed to providing opportunities for my students to contribute to this growing knowledge base around the game. It allows them to demonstrate their understanding while writing or producing for an authentic audience. It is safe to say that our students perform better when they know their work is out there and available to the public. They typically take more pride in their work when this is the case.

In this blog post, I will share my approach to showcasing student work and making the meaning relevant to them and the global minecraft community. 

My game design and development course is choice / quest based. I use 3dgamelab and students choose the quest lines that appeal to them. Quests revolve around many learning pathways including coding, analyzing and reviewing games, writing step by step tutorials, learning skills related to game design, and of course creating their own games. Many of the quests are submitted in a public manner so they can be shared with the world,


We have a class YouTube channel. Student projects are showcased throughout the channel. Currently, my 7th grader cycle class is working on a project where they are using Minecraft to Reimagine Timeless Fairy Tales We have started to post walk through videos of the stories as well as 8th graders games in progress:




A while back, we created a number of redstone tutorials to demonstrate the use of redstone when it was released in the Windows10 Version of Minecraft. Microsoft featured these videos on the Minecraft in Education Blog :) My students were super psyched to create these knowing they would be available on youtube. They came in for many lunch periods as well as before and after school  to record and edit their videos.




We have a number of other Minecraft related videos on our YouTube channel. One of my favorites (I apologize for the poor video quality) is a walk through of the student created mini game Cart Wreck. It includes a conversation I had with the students about the development of the game. I'm blown away every time I watch this. The thought and planning that went into this is amazing and it is a great demonstration of student expertise.





A few years ago I was introduced to Snapguide and Instructables, two DIY sites designed for users to create step by step tutorials complete with images and text. I love this as a way for students to teach others while demonstrating their understanding. If they can write a guide that others can replicate from their directions, it is quite evident that they understand what they are explaining. This activity is a quest that repeats as I am happy to have students submit multiple tutorials and receive credit for them. When they are completed and worthy of sharing, I pin them on one of my class showcase pinterest boards. One board is dedicated to Minecraft Tutorials and Videos and is full of great snapguide tutorials.

This particular snapguide tutorial teaches you how to use noteblocks in Minecraft to play the Mario theme. I especially loved this one as I sat with the student for him to explain the process to me and was thrilled to learn how to do this. Hearing his explanation was great as it served as a terrific authentic assessment and opportunity to hear how enthusiastic he was to share his work :) 

I love the way the completed tutorials come out and really love sharing them with the world!

The process of sharing student work has become a natural part of my workflow. I use the pinterest chrome extension and while evaluating student work, if it is worthy of publishing to a wider audience, I simply click the extension and add it to the appropriate board. It's been fun to see the showcase evolve as I currently have close to 300 student projects shared.

I hope you will share my enthusiasm for student choice and student voice as we can really amplify the great work our students are doing.