Another school year has passed and many accomplishment and learning moments came and went.  This year has  a been a year where I’ve pushed myself in a variety of directions which had an impact on my teaching practice, relationship with students, and school culture.


Transforming Mindset

I took a huge risk to present something I was not an expert at, at a location that I wasn’t familiar with and with people whom I didn’t know.  I presented a workshop on Instilling the Growth Mindset in Youth to participants of the Coalition of Essential Schools Fall Forum.  Researching about the growth mindset was an exciting  venture and through this process I learn about the type of mindset I go to in particular situations.  I was there in Maine, guiding the participant in being aware of where they are at in the fixed and growth mindset spectrum and how to instill the growth mindset in our youth.  If you want to read more about my learning journey in Maine here is the link.

Personalization as a Guiding Force to a Holistic Education

When you apply personalization to a class,  teacher equate it to differentiation and that is not true.  Differentiation is a process in which strategies and goals are created by the teacher to assist the students in reaching their learning goal.  Personalization is empowering and supporting the student(s) in reaching their learning goals by having the teacher guide the students through a process that the student choose.  Through personalization

  •  we put the control of learning back on to the student and
  •  our roles as educators change from a person who hold information to a facilitator of learning.

When we apply personalization to an educational experience, students will care about what they learned because

  • student choose and own what they learned and how they learning it (Autonomy),
  • what student learn is important to them, their culture, and their lives (Relevance),
  • how we guide student to reach mastery (Competence),
  • how we empathize and acknowledge where our students are at (Relatedness).

Personalization helped our STEAM students take agency over their own learning as they made their games in our STEAM:Coding class, claymation video in my STEAM:Theater class, music videos our STEAM:Spark class, and student engineering clothings for the It’s Lit Fashion show in our STEAM: Innovation Class.  Each of these product were authentic assessments where the assessment is the learning. Below is the personalization vs. differential vs. individualization framework I used to define the qualities of personalization in STEAM class.

Race and Class

In our team work, I felt that we’ve scratched the surface in seeing how Race and Class has an effect on our students.  Looking at race and class goes beyond culture clubs and cultural awareness day.  Looking in Race and class is nitty gritty stuff in which we have to look at our environment to see if there is something within our ecology, which consists of the students and the environments that they interact with, that is causing a group of students to be left behind.  Looking at race and class is a social justice and equity issue that

  • needs language development amongst our staff to practice,
  • it needed to be part of the vision of the school and everybody needs to know why this matters so much,
  • it need strong trained faciliation so that everyone is equitably represented in a safe way,
  • it needs to push staff into a discourse 2 stance where we are asked the uncomfortable questions.  Through an uncomfortable stance in a safe constructive and well facilitated environment, change in our own perception, teaching practices,  interactions, and school culture changes.  Below is the Discourse 1 vs. discourse 2 table that I refer to.  

At the end of the day, I felt that we were ill prepared for this teamwork, more guidance and stronger facilitation was needed for us to get to the uncomfortable questions.   Thoughts were being tossed here and there for the time’s we met and coherence was needed as everyone has a different definition of what equity meant to them. As a co-facilitator of this group, I needed norms, scaffolds, protocol, and guidance to structured and equitable focused conversations and structure a safe space for teacher to talk about difficult conversations.   Where I see this going is if I were to go into the another teacher’s class,  I would be able to provide warm, cool, and hard feedback on equity practices within the school and classroom, the interaction with our students, and our families.  We all need to get there if we are to close the achievement gap in our school context.




Ever since we started  developing the Hawkeye Flight App.  I’ve been obsessively researching on how to add game elements into our school (a non-game context).  Why is the concept of gamification so important to me?  Because we still have a huge pocket of students who are disengaged in learning.  They are “forced to learn” rather than “they want to learn.” rather than “they need to learn due to a root cause.”  They are forced to learned state and district mandated standards that they don’t really care about unless the designer of the course structures it otherwise.  Our students are then rewarded with a extrinsic motivational factor that all schools have in common — GRADES.  How do we access human focused intrinsic motivational factors so that we engage students in learning?  Unfortunately, using grades to motivate students is a nation-wide status quo that has detriments. Even though this is another conversation, the use of grades is a ranking system created by our elites and dominant culture to separate those in power and those who don’t have power.   When students don’t have power, destructive emergent behavior come about-  they will cheat, give up, or join forces with others who don’t have power. It’s kind of like the issue of poverty- when you don’t have enough money to get by,  you will cheat to live, gather with people who don’t have power, or simply give up.  When our learners don’t have the resources and they don’t achieve a certain rank, they will cheat, gather with other’s at a certain rank and perform destructive behaviors, and/or they will shut down . . . and that is an equity issue. We shouldn’t be focused on ranking student.  We need to get back to what makes students excited about learning.  We need to celebrate student learning.  We need to design an educational experience focused on the experiences of our students.  More importantly we need to be empathetic and step into the shoes of our students to see what they are actually going through, what they are passionate about, and more.  When we get there, other positive emergent behavior will emerge and our school culture will progress.  I can’t wait till that happens.   In all in all what it comes down to are these 5 factors that motivate students to learning:

  • Autonomy and Choice:  How are we giving student choice of what and/or how they want to learn?
  • Relevance:  How is our instructional design catering to our students interests and learning needs?
  • Relationship Building:  How are we as educators empathizing with our students so that we can guide students to their educational goals?
  • Competence:  How is our instructional design allowing for students to feel successful?

The theme of next year is pushing personalization in my classes by leveraging what drives and motivates student.  This is where the concept of “human focused design” comes into play.  An example of human focused design with in the educational context is that in today’s society, we see so many of our kids on their mobile devices checking out their instagram posts or playing Clash Royal.  To us, this is a complete waste of time for our students. For our students, this is their work.  What about the interfaces that they interact with causes them to voluntarily and sometime obsessively interact with those interfaces?

I’ve been obsessively researching this whole concept of gamification and how gamification is a human focus design because game in general use certain human drives to motivate people to voluntarily perform a particular behavior.  For example, even though I don’t earn a living playing my Super Nintendo games when I was 11, 12, and 13 years old, it was work that I fully enjoyed. A game I reminisced about called Chrono Trigger is a game that I kept coming back to even to this day at the age of 35 years old.  Why?

1.) There was calling— I was the hero capable traveling through time to save people I love and the world.

2.) I was empowered–  I was able to fail and start over until I got the game play right.  There was scaffolding so that my current ability level matches the challenge of the game.  I wasn’t bored of the game nor was I frustrated. As a game-player, I easily got into the groove because my skills and ability match the challenged that was given to me.

3.) I was able to converse with character who helped me along the way.

4.) There was some sense of unpredictability. Sometimes monsters appeared out of no where and you had to fight them.  Sometimes you found a treasure in some random place in the world and with that thought it made me more curious about the game world and what it has to offer.   There was also a specific actions that you performed that resulted in a story with a different ending.

5.) There were some areas I needed to avoid because I didn’t want my character’s to die and I didn’t want the world to end.

6.) There were items there were scarce and my goal was to get those items to better equip my characters for the journey ahead.

7.) There was an emotional ownership.  I traveled through time with 8 of these wonderful characters and experienced the character’s high and lows as we experience, sadness through death, happiness through celebration, and anxiety through difficult moment.  I see myself in each of these characters.

8.) My characters can level up in ability, magic, technical skills, etc.

Wow!!! If only life was a game . . . wait it can be.  If only school was a game that I was emotionally attracted to . . . wait it can be.

After reading blogs, video, and book on gamification, I came across a book that went into the bigger picture of gamification rather than the process.  I emphasize the last statement because I’ve experienced games that sucks even though it had the best graphic and gameplay.  But something about the game, made me turn my console off within the first 30 minutes and I’ve never return back to the game after.

A book that I am currently reading is called “Actionable Gamification: Beyond Points, Badges, and Leaderboards.”  This book goes into a framework called Octalysis, which is a systematic framework that systematizes 8 core drives that motivated people to do particular behaviors.  If we design learning experiences, around a combination of these 8 core drives, learning and education will become a good productive addiction.  Like right now, learning about Gamification is becoming my learning addiction because of the following core drives (meaning, empowerment, ownership, accomplishment, scarcity, and social pressure

My essential question for next will be:

How might a human focused design aka gamification of STEAM class and our school culture influence student engagement and learning (micro-view) and student buy in, ownership, and enhancement of our school culture (macro-view) respectively.

My action plan for the summer into next year is:

1.) Continue researching about human focused design aka gamification

2.) Participate in online Octalysis seminar and learning by learning about the 8 core drives and analyzing a variety of systems that are optimizes those core drives.

3.) Redesign my teamaringo site so that it encompasses the 8 core drives.

4.) Design, analyze, evaluate, and optimize  the Hawk Eye Flight App to make sure that it encompasses a variety of Octalysis Core Drives.  Fully understand the purpose behind the Hawk Eye Flight app so that it is well communicated to staff.

5.) Continue school wide, district wide, city wide, and nation-wide leadership and work in the areas of growth mindset, project based learning, authentic assessments, and gamification of educational systems.

6.) Hangout with my students and get to know them really well. This will inform me of how I should design my class and it should inform us of how we design our school.


Metacognition has been a habit of mind that is a work in progress.  Unfortunately the process of how to make metacognition an important part of learning seems to be drag for many of my students.  It’s been about answering questions vs. an authentic narrative about their learning journey.  If you ever read the hobbit, that is a learning journey of Bilbo Baggins and that is Bilbo being metacognitive about his learning journey as he travels through middle earth.   I introduced the heroic journey to my student in the 2nd and 3rd wheel of my STEAM class and I was astounded by the learning opportunities that our students faced and surpassed.  It came to mind . . . why not make their learning blogs about their learning journey and emphasize the heroic journey framework to help our learners be aware of where they started, their process of learning, and what they got out of the learning experience.  It sound like a mini version of J.R.R Tolkien’s “There and Back Again” and Joseph Campbell “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”.  Below is the heroes journey framework and video that I showed to my students.  Emphasizing learning as a journey makes the learners the hero of their own journey with a story to tell.

The implication behind using the heroic journey as a model for reflection and growth is that their learning journey is about them and what they went through (Relevance).  It’s motivating to tell stuff about me and what I went through  . . . why can’t we give that gift to our student (Autonomy).  The heroic journey and learning blog is a personalize learning structure where student tell their story and not about the teacher structuring the story for the student rather guiding the student to structure their own learning process.  From the teacher’s point view, it allows to empathize with our students and it informs us of any modifications to our instructional design.  (Relationship Building)  All I have to do is scaffold how I would tell my learning story to model this skill and provide students with constructive feedback on how to improve their learning narratives. (Competence)

I can’t wait to read my student’s learning stories for the upcoming year.


Eeks . . . Haven’t really gotten to this yet.  More to come.


STEAM Wheel class and Lego Robotics

Even though I teach coding, it is expected that all 6th grade should experience computer science.  I’m planning to bring in robotics during the 6th grade wheel which is the perfect place to introduce computer science and the STEAM Machine. More to come . . . I’m still ironing on the details in my head.



Something I am extremely sad is that this will be the Coalition of Essential School’s last Fall Forum that I will be participating in for the upcoming year in Dec 2nd and 3rd.  This organization has definitely change my views of what education should be and I am proud to have taken part in it.  I’m in the process of writing up a proposal to present this last workshop that will guide teacher’s and administrators from other institution in the Application of Gamification in an Educational Setting.  At this point, I’m still in a work in progress stage and I know my proposal is due on the the 9th of June so I’m sort of freaking out about it.  More on that soon!!!