Technology, motivation, coding, copyright and more

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Monday, November 11, 2013

Technology, motivation, coding, copyright and more

Technology. Programming, Motivation. Copyright.

Technology. Programming, Motivation. Copyright. When you attend a great conference, there’s a ton of ideas that spring from it. Here’s my recap of the 2013 NAGC conference.

When you come across a treasure trove of great ideas, you have to share them.

I recently attended the National Association for Gifted Children annual conference in Indianapolis. The quality of presenters was fantastic, and I learned a lot, not only about helping the gifted children in my school, but also about using technology to its fullest.

So here’s my Evernote dump, from my notebook to your computer screen. I’ve selected the five best ideas and listed the rest at the end:

Using technology to change thinking

“Unless we think differently about them, new media are like old media but shinier.”

Technology can be leveraged to strengthen education — and life — by adding to our decision-making processes. Here are some ways:

  • By adding more memories (i.e. accessing other people’s experiences through searching online, by saving digital pictures)
  • By generating more options (i.e. crowdsourcing for ideas)
  • By adding more senses (i.e. technology can see ultraviolet/infrared light, measure barometric pressure/humidity, which our human bodies can’t)

(Source: “Beyond Content Delivery: Enhancing Thinking with Technology”, by Eric Calvert, Northwestern University,,

The five C’s of motivation

Motivating factors for students can often fall into these five C’s:

Choices: The Internet provides more choice than we can imagine. In information-gathering, the question becomes: how do we sift through the vast amount of information on the Internet?

One answer: Become a Google Power Searcher (or an advanced Google Power Searcher).

“We carry in our pockets devices more powerful than what NASA used to put man on the moon.” — Brian Housand

We have to harness the power.

Challenge: Students are motivated when they are appropriately challenged. If challenge is “sufficiently challenging,” students are in a state of flow (correct ratio of challenge vs. their skill). Video games utilize this flow state well. If our classes do as well, students will be in the same state of mind: losing track of time (“Wow, class is over already?”), engaged in the task, not noticing distractions.

Curiosity: We have the unique capacity to attain ever-increasing amounts of knowledge. Episodic curiosity, as Brian Housand explained it, is a cycle more than a line:

  • Become curious about something.
  • React; do something about it.
  • Find resolution in the process, leading to more curiosity.

The cycle is broken when there’s too much time between the resolution and the next curiosity.

Cooperation: Feeling part of something bigger than yourself increases intrinsic motivation. When students work together with others who have like abilities and interests, there’s an energy develops.

Competition: It’s useful in the learning of gifted children, but also in all children. When the achievement of a group is recognized over individual achievement, the needs for personal recognition can go undersatisfied. Challenging, competitive environments can feed those needs.

(Source: “Mechanisms of Motivation: 5 C’s for Promoting Creative Productive Giftedness” (Presentation:, by Brian Housand,, @brianhousand; and Angela Housand, @housanda)

Computer programming in school

Students can learn to develop their own games and programs with a free programming tool called Live Code (available at

Even if the teacher or students have no background in programming or coding, Live Code can be picked up enough to start creating.

The result: Students often develop grandiose ideas for creating games. They run into problems. They have to find ways to solve those problems to realize their ideas.

Not a coding expert? No problem, says presenter Cyril Pruszko. “The best computer science teachers don’t know programming, because they can’t fix problems for the students.”

View his programming lessons, games produced by his students, and his resources on HTML.

(Source: “Why Game Programming Should Be Taught In Your School”, by Cyril Pruszko, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Greenbelt, Md.)

Copyright and fair use: the right way

Copyrights were created for the people, not for the big corporations, to encourage them to be creative.

To be copyrighted, material must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression”:

  • Must exist in physical form (blog posts and even tweets count)
  • Must be original
  • Must be the result of a creative effort by someone
  • Cannot be ideas or facts only

Creative commons gives creators rights but also allows others to benefit from and use their creations to make life better.

Great sources of creative commons content: Google (in settings (gear/cog button) > advanced search > usage rights), Wikipedia or Wikimedia (lots of creative commons photos/content), Flikr Creative Commons.

Copyrighted materials can be used under fair use if:

  • the original has been transformed
  • the original is factual, creative, consumable by nature
  • only a necessary amount is used
  • you’re not taking someone’s profits

Determining whether your actions are covered by fair use is not a black-and-white, yes-or-no process but a thought process in gray area. Make sure to go through that thought process (use this form to work through your reasoning process).

(Source: “Copyright Confusion and Fair Use in a Digital World” (Presentation in this LiveBinder), by Ginger Lewman,, @GingerLewman,

Learning outside of school

Students took an entire summer course to make progress on a specific problem: childhood obesity as it relates to sugar in food.

Their encouragement for the course: Come as you are. Use your talents, whatever they may be, to contribute to the project. Some contributed writing, music, graphic arts and video/film skills, among others.

In the end, the students created an iBook (and a YouTube video of their work).

This made me think: What if schools selected a topic of the year (or of the semester) and created a useful project from it to serve their communities? Teachers could connect lessons to the project to help it progress. Students could contribute their best abilities, whatever they may be.

If a goal of school work was to work together to solve problems and benefit society, think of what school — and the world as a whole — would look like.

(Source: “The Shifting Terrain of Out-of-School Learning”, by Craig Watkins, University of Texas-Austin,

My notes

Here are links to my Evernote notes from all the sessions I attended. There’s a lot of good stuff here!

The Shifting Terrain of Out-of-School Learning by Craig Watkins

Why Game Programming Should Be Taught in Your School by Cyril Pruszko

Beyond Content Delivery: Enhancing Thinking with Technology by Eric Calvert

Organic Creativity: Infusing Creativity into Academic Subject Matter (panel)

Driving in the Express Lane: The Power of the Nerdfighters Community by John Green

Video Games and Gifted Kids: What Would Vygotsky Say? by Brian Housand

60 Tech Tools in 60 Minutes for NAGC’s 60th by Brian Housand

Mechanisms of Motivation: 5 C’s for Promoting Creative Productive Giftedness by Brian and Angela Housand

Copyright Confusion and Fair Use in a Digital World by Ginger Lewman

Thoughts? Any information to add? Please give us your comments!

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  • Wow, Matt- you are so generous to share your notes and learning with us! I’m envious- I would love to attend this conference next year. I especially liked that you gave us the information on coding- my son is using Khan Academy to teach himself some coding, and now I have more resources to give him. And it’s my first time teaching advanced classes, though I live with two advanced students of my own- I’m eager to look into these Gifted student resources (which with modifications can even work for low ability students- good teaching and learning comes in a different package but still works for all kids in some way). Our school is also going towards Problem Based Learning. Sounds like this conference was right on target- on the “pulse” of education in 2013. Thank you for sharing!

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