Combining physical and digital

Technology doesn’t seem to give us teachers a break. Every time I look around, I find a new term and there are times that I feel I can never really keep up with it all. And of course, we can’t! What we can do though is try to understand the new digital trends that comes on our way. One way to try to understand digital games, for instance, is to refer back to the games we’ve played. If you ever played games in your life ( and I hope you have, at least as child) you will find some similar aspects between analogical and digital games. But it was when I was just getting my head around simulations, RPG, etc.that the idea of mixing real with virtual hit me. Or augmented reality as it seems to be the latest term in fashion.

PokemonGO is on the news though. It’s also on our friends’ timeline/feed and your child/student probably already mentioned that to you. My 6th graders have, right in the first week of the release in the States. Our kids/teens get the news much faster because their favorite youtubers are already talking about it. What is PokemonGo about? Simply put, if you have ever gone egg hunting, you won’t have trouble understanding the basics of PokemonGO as it reminds us straight way of that. Pokemon Go can also be recognized as a location-based game. There is much more, however, to (dis)cover when comes to Pokemon Go. By reading/listening to educators online discussing PokemonGo and the various aspects that involve the game, it’s obviously not just about walking around town with the camera on and collecting digital stuff. So, don’t underestimate it and its power to engage people.

Image Source: PlayStore

Here is a very useful discussion on PokemonGO – by the ISTE GAME and SIMs network:

I haven’t blogged for while and when I do in the past year or so, I seem to write about games. The reason I seem to be so obsessed with #Games4Edu is a simple one. The level of engagement and investment of players in a game is insane and the social aspects that involve them is even more so. That puzzled me to the point that I ended up playing games myself. I wondered what was so great about games that made my students/son long to play. However, keep in mind that there are learners’ assumptions and differences between players that need to be taken into account.  Not every student is a gamer. There is much more to the Game4EDU discussion that meets the eye. I’m not saying that we should use every game out there in class, but trying to understand games and what they have in terms of design to help us design our own classes/tasks will definitely empower us.

If you want to explore PokemonGo with your students, here is a post by Shelly Terrell that will guide you through it with resources and ideas.

Is it possible to use location-based game for language learning? How about creating simple ones which can change the way learners experience the environment they study in and learn? Maybe, as a way to collect items for vocabulary practice, add interactive texts, solve puzzles and learn something new? Apparently, we can. Here is an MIT project called TaleBlazer.

“It’s an augmented reality (AR) software platform. Developed by the MIT Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP) lab, TaleBlazer allows users to play and make their own location-based mobile games. By situating games in the real world, AR games seek to engage people in experiences that combine real landscapes and other aspects of the physical environment with additional digital information supplied to them by smartphones.” MIT STEP lab

Recommended Reading:

Medlock-Walton, Michael Paul (2012). TaleBlazer : a platform for creating multiplayer location based games. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dept. of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

TaleBlazer documentation:

Lu, Y., Chao, J. T., & Parker, K. (2015). HUNT: Scavenger hunt with augmented reality.
Interdisciplinary Journal of Information, Knowledge, and Management, 10,21-35.
OH! Also check out Paul Driver’s website called Digital Debris and check out his GPS-based game Invaders.

Follow-up post to THE HILLS song

In my previous post about songs, something I rarely write about, I shared a way to find out about students preference for music.

And the song chosen was The Hills.

I prepared the class around the following topics:

Who is Weeknd? Is it a band?

Most people would think so, and so did most of my students. In pairs, they researched online and wrote a mini-biography. Then, on the board we decided what info to keep and what to leave out using everyone’s searched information. We posted a picture of the board in our Whatsapp group.

What kind of music does Weeknd sing?

We reviewed types of music and discussed his songs briefly.

What do you like the most in this song?

I mentioned in the previous post that most students just listen to music without paying any attention to the lyrics. However, they pay a lot of attention to the video clip. It tells a story, there is attitude and they love that!

Another activity was to read the lyrics in English and Portuguese and give their opinion. I wanted them to engage with the text of the song by connecting the message/text/story to how they feel about things.

Here is the only response that concentrated on the lyrics. Other students didn’t seem to be able to really tell how they feel about the lyrics or wanted to share it.

“I don’t love this song, but I like it. In the lyrics, I like this part the most. “Hills have eyes, these hills have eyes/Who are you to judge?/Who are you to judge?/Hide your lies, girl./Hide your lies/Who are you to judge?/Who are you?…’

The last activity was rewriting the first stanza using complete sentences.

For example the first verse was:

“Your man on the road, he doing promo.”

You man IS on the road, he IS doing promo.

We talked about grammar in the song and how it might affect their learning. Just so they become aware of it!

We actually didn’t even listen to the song in class.

Our next song is…





Have you ever had trouble choosing songs for your classes?

It is true that our classes are filled with differences but we tend to focus only on the level of English of each student, and placement tests are there to prove it as an attempt to group people in somewhat the same level. But it is not how much grammar and vocabulary they know that shows how different they are, but who they are.

Thinking about diversity, something I am reflecting on this week because of my studies for the new B.A I am taking (Computer Science for education), I decided to discover how a group of students in their third semester of English differ in their taste for music.

In a group of 9, 8 listens to music on a daily basis. One of them listens to songs in Portuguese more than in English and most of them seems to listen only to songs in English. I decided to do the following as a way to find out their music preferences to help me decide which song we would be using in our next class. I’m not a very musical person, so music doesn’t visit my classes very often as a teaching tool. But here is the thing. If students matter and in order to learn something, they have to be engaged, their preferences need to be taken into account. Okay! I haven’t done that when it comes to music mainly because I find it hard to really bring songs that will engage everyone. Another problem is that music is used as a language learning tool by just a few of them. Most of them just like listening to it without bothering to learn the language.

Now, I know that handing this to students choice and not mine is like entering in a mining field. I might get a song that some wouldn’t think it would be appropriated. But songs reflect who they are and how they feel about the world around them. It also reflects their doubts and frustrations as well as their expectations and dreams. How I am going to prepare the tasks and deal with the song that comes up is problem for me as an educator to solve. IMHO there is no such a thing as bad music or good music as music reflects more than just music, it reflects one’s culture.

I asked students to line up one beside the other and told them:

If you like the song, one step forward.

If you don’t, one step backward.

If you can’t decide, stay where you are.

This was a group of students with a year of studying in English. So, I kept instructions simple and modeled for them moving myself forward and backward and asked them to repeat the instruction while moving or not after me.

I sat back on my desk and played this video.

I took notes of the songs and number of people who stepped forward. Among 50 songs only one made to the common list and supported by only 8 of the 9 students.

The winner is:

They loved getting out of their desks, being able to give their opinion on something while listening to music. Three words come to my mind when I think of the system and why we have so much trouble engaging students in regular schools.

too static


one size fits all

I’ve been there and I’ve done that myself. I know.