So, what is a (video) game these days?

A question I have been asking the past few weeks is the place of video games in society these days, the ‘what are they’ question. Sure, we could go back to the beginning where it was an electronic game that was played on a video screen, heck, even computer game is fairly self-explanatory. But what is it? entertainment, distraction, hobby?

My work these days is now in the sport field and more often than not I have been thinking of video games, or games, as just another sport. Both can be done for fun, or be part of serious competition. Both may require a lot of training, practice and knowledge to get better, or just be a causal play session with no prior knowledge or skill needed. Both can be played alone or in teams. Both can transcend language, culture and distance. But most importantly, (and in most, but not all cases) both require some input and direction from the player (a fact that separates video games from other media such as movies or music). I won’t even get into the nitty gritty detail of how video games as a medium have come so far from mindless entertainment to develop complex and branching narratives and messages – That is a conversation for another time.

I have been thinking of video games, or games, as just another sport

Video games tend to get highlighted when ever anything negative comes up (a lot like sport) but the positive effects they have on education, wellbeing, community and more tend to get left in the background in the main stream press (us teachers have known about the positive effect gaming has on learning for years now)

Maybe if we change they way we think and classify video games, it will help in changing the way we get others to engage in them.

Video games are an expressive medium, a cultural platform: like movies and TV, they have something to say and they fit together with other ways in which we communicate with each other and explore ideas as a society.

Further reading? – Keith Stuart writing for eurogamer on Why I will never call video games a hobby


There’s Money in Teaching Yet, well, at least $27.56 – How Google AdSense can work for Teachers

In a previous post I showed you how you could make some extra cash for your school using Apple’s Affiliate Program, well, now I will share with you how to make some cash for yourself! (or school if you are so way inclined).

I have been posting videos on YouTube now for years, most of it educational content I created for my classes or students. These videos have produced many, many thousands of views over the years, and recently I thought, “what if I tried some of Google’s advertising options?”

When you setup a YouTube account you have the option to monetise your videos. This, I think, is an area you want to be a little careful with, for me, this is educational content I am putting up so my main goal here is to help students, not hit them with ads. Thankfully Google give you a range of options to how you monetise your videos.  Check out the image below:

Ways to monetise your videos.

As you can see from the three options, they really are a range of how intrusive the ads will be, option one and two, I feel, add a bit of extra work for viewers of your video, no one wants to sit through an ad (especially students that are watching this to learn something) so these two options are providing a small barrier to that content. These two I avoid, I use the last option which puts an ad on the side panel of the webpage, not interfering with your message (and to be honest, far enough out-of-the-way to be forgettable).

Of course, one thing to bear in mind is that each of these options of ad placement also affect the payments you receive, longer, non-skippable ads will earn you quite a lot more cash, but again, I was really just experiencing with how this works and not in it for the money…clearly, when you see my results.

So, I had a look art some of the hundreds of videos I have made, the most popular? How to use Google Maps to find contour lines on any map. 

It then became the first result when doing a google search on the topic!

This video, was one of those perfect teacher moments. I was teaching a Geography class and we were looking at maps, specifically, contour maps. During the class I had a question from a student; “How do I use Google Maps to find corner lines?” at the time there was no easy way shown on how to do this, so, I just did a super quick screen recording on how you find them – Student Happy, Class Happy. Then I thought, well, if my students wanted to find this info out and couldn’t, others might, so in one click I uploaded it to YouTube and quietly forgot about it – It then became the first result when doing a google search on the topic!

Then, it was just set and forget.

With over 40,000 views I thought this would be a perfect test video. So, I went through the process of setting up monetisation (just sign up to Google AdSense), and turned it on.

Then, it was just set and forget. I am not exactly sure how the whole ads = cash work, but it basically comes down to views. The more views the video has, the more ad impressions it can serve, the more cash you will make.

 I am earning a massive 10c a day!

Again, I am not going to retire off this, but this is how it worked out over the next few months:

What is going on with that spike there?

As you can see, I am earning a massive 10c a day!, if this keeps up I could retire, by the year…. 2899.

What is that spike in the middle there, when I earn an unprecedented $1.53? let’s have a look:

Thanks Norway, today I can buy a coffee…maybe I will pay in krone?

Yep, Norway. Why the surge? Who knows, maybe it was a national exam on geography the next day?, Norway teachers are running a class on contour maps?, either way, I was rolling in the kroner

I was rolling in the kroner

So that was my little experiment, what did I learn from this?

As I said, I have hundreds of videos on my channel, most of these are lessons for my students, student work, and other things like that, but from those I am lucky to get a few cents. In fact, this contour map video made up half of my complete earnings from all my videos in the time frame.

it answered a simple question that many people around the world were asking

Why?, well the answer is simple. All my videos are for my students, the world as a collective whole isn’t searching for them, but this 1 minute video – it answered a simple question that many people around the world were asking, it was what they were searching for, why it is on the top of the google search listings, and why it is watched.

My advice for teachers? What is the constant question you are getting in your classes, the one that all students seem to ask every class, lesson or year? – The one you answer and explain simply so they get it? – Well, film it, put in on YouTube and see if the world is asking the same questions?

You too could be retiring with me…in 2899

Design your App first and your website second?

As I plug away on designing the ‘what‘ of our project, one thing is clear, user engagement and usage. Accessing the web via mobile is ever-growing, and the benefits of the ease of was of an App; being able to access more functions of the device easily, will be key in our users using our product.

So, why go to the trouble of building a web platform at all? (think of what you are doing right now..yep, at work, wasting time, on your work computer)

 it is a one screen, one purpose space

The biggest thing to consider though is the window the mobile platform gives you. To me, it is a one screen, one purpose space. You need to capture the users attention and be able to deliver what ever you need in one screen. Sure, you will have other functions, but these can be on other screens (and hopefully be intuitive to slide between).

The web?, well, that can come later. Once we have a solid App platform, redesigning and repurposing that for the web is the easy part.


From Industry to Teaching and Back Again (and what the teaching profession could learn)

As you know now, I am on to career number 23 (but who’s counting?)

how can you teach a design class if you never have had to design a product and get it to market?

I started in industry many years ago focusing on design, production, making stuff and everything in between. It allowed me to learn on my feet, travel, and most importantly, bring some genuine knowledge and experience to my teaching and in my classroom. This is something I feel is very important for all our teachers, how can you teach a design class if you never have had to design a product and get it to market (after many failures)? The reflection on my work and what I learnt helped me create some real thinking and discussion in my classroom. Of course, I know this is not always possible (heck, I taught Year 8 History for two years without ever traveling back in time to Medieval Europe, but that’s not my fault, it is really this guy’s). tumblr_msnyf479g51qban3jo1_500 Now I have headed back into industry (still with an education focus) it got me thinking about the difference between the two (and not the fact that I can get a coffee without having to pay for the weekly coffee fund…but only 4 weeks holiday a year… swings in roundabouts). But the time that is placed on ones skills and how they are valued.

You skills are not only valued but sort-out and used!

What I found in teaching was that your skills, passion and time you put into making what you do for your clients (that would be students) is often taken for granted. You know, some people just want to work harder, try new things, and engage students. If you went above and beyond that was just what you do. This is not the case I have found these last two months. You skills are not only valued but sort-out and used!, colleges see ways in which what you know or are doing may help them and instead of ignoring that fact they ask “how can this benefit my project” – you know, how can we all work together, and share our knowledge. Time is given for this, people learn and grow from each other and we become a better organisation. Now, if only this was the case in all our schools?*

*Thought this one needed a bit of a ‘but’. I know this is not happening everywhere, in fact, my last school really promoted and celebrated what I was able to bring to the school (shout out Good Sam) but imagine if this was an approach that all teachers and leaders in schools took on board, given time in the week to focus on, celebrate and share? 

I will be presenting at the HTAA National History Conference – 29 September 2015

NapkinYes, blatant self promotion.

I have been asked to present at the HTAA National History Conference this September (29 to be exact) at Flemington Racecourse. I will be giving a workshop: Teach the Past with Tools of the Future – a hands on session that will allow participants to see how powerful, and easy, it is for teachers to create original, engaging and interactive content for their students. My focus being creating Multitouch Books and using online platforms like iTunes U, and empowering the participants to leave having done (or at least started) the same.

If you’re a History teacher, come along. Should be a great day.

You can find out more details on the event soon here.

Click here for the advanced Conference Program

Design your next big project like your last great product

Sorry for my lack of posts in the past few weeks, but let me explain. Being on the ground floor of an entirely new project is exciting, you are essentially working with a blank canvas, but how do you start to get the idea into something tangible, that can be explained to others and can become a framework for you to add, modify and improve upon? – oh, and it can take a lot of time (that is my excuse part – moving forward, I will be using this blog as a way to document this little project of ours…)

I have been tackling this project in the same way I used to create products. You have the idea, now it is time to work on the look and feel. Storyboarding ideas, building prototypes, and then constantly refining these – or completely thowing away what doesn’t work. It is far cheaper to do that now than when after you have built it, it also allows you to be completely free in what you are doing, no limits on budgets, stakeholders or time…yet. It has been said that:

Innovation is saying “no” to 1,000 things

This is the space to figure out what those things are.

Below are a few of my steps:



pencilPencil and paper, always the easiest way to start. Quick to visualise your ideas, develop some structure and create links to functions and features that may be floating around in your head.

Prototyping in Keynote:

Napkin 31-07-15 12.23.56 pm

KeynoteIconPeople really do underestimate what this little guy can do, yes it can make presentations, but it is a perfect for fleshing out your ideas a bit more. How will things flow, link to each other and just look on a screen? You can also use the great hyperlinking features to create a workable version of your site, app or anything.

Wireframing in Sketch:

Napkin 31-07-15 12.24.53 pm

app-iconSketch is my new favourite program (for this week) a very powerful and simple tool for creating full wireframes for websites, apps, user interfaces, icons, anything you can think of. You can completely design, iterate and refine your project in this space. Then, in  a few clicks had your designs ready for implementation.

Change of theme (literally and metaphorically)

So, you may have noticed a little radio silence from me in the past few weeks. I won’t go into all the details, but I have been offered a rather exciting and spiffy new opportunity (aka: Job). It will allow me to focus on all the things that have done in the past, and hopefully leave a bit of a legacy on the future. Still in the education space, but with the complete freedom to design, build and develop something new.

You will no doubt see a change in what I post moving forward, the what, how and why of it all (and a couple of look at this shiny thing for good measure)

So what is this new role all about? well, that is the exciting part, it will develop over time. The key words right now being:

wellbeing and resilience, gaming, education and stories…


iTunes U Version 3 – Annotating and Submitting Student Work

I have had a very quick play with the new tools in iTunes U V3, it has now become a more of a complete place for educators to deliver content but also assess, make and return work.

One of the new add-ons has been the ability to annotate PDFs, yes, I know this sounds simple and other apps have been doing it for ever, but the key here is everything can be done in the one iTunes U app, keeping students focused is much easer when they don’t have to bounce around constantly. It is also much easier to guide them in completing a task.

So, had a quick test. I captured this in the animation below. Basically (S: Student, T: Teacher):

  • T: As a teacher I added a resource (PDF) and turned on the ability for the student to hand it in and it be marked.
  • S: Gets a notification of some new work. After reading my instructors they tap on the PDF and it automatically has its editing tools. They can write, type, and more. All of this is editable. You can even save it and come back to it later, again, very handy to do this in the one app (and save Paper!!!)
  • S: When happy, student can submit the work, or have a private 1:1 conversation with the teacher.
  • T: Gets a notification when new work has arrived, I can mark it, edit it and send it back. Or can send some extra resources to help.
  • T: Can keep track of the work, what students have seen it, submitted it, asked a question, etc.
  • T: All of this can be done from the iPad, or any PC (Mac or Windows)

So far so good. Google Classroom also has their version of this, but due to the way their apps work on the iPad it requires a lot of back and forth, if you are going iPad only, this is a great advantage of using iTunes U.

And remember, students can also work in other apps such as Word, Pages, Keynote, etc. and submit these as assignments (if the PDF option doesn’t suit – I think the best, first step in using this would be using the PDF annotating to get rid of those hand-out sheets that still plague the world!)

click for a full-size (and clearer) view of this

Apple’s iTunes U gets 1-to-1 discussions, importing from other apps, PDF annotations, grade book, more

So, this is nice. PDF Annotations means iTunes U can really be a one stop shop for offline resources (students can submit work when back on Wifi). 1:1 conversations with students also opens up a great new discussion platform. For me, I am looking forward to seeing how this can be used as a way to deliver specialised courses (such as a wellbeing program) that normally have a lot of the dreaded ‘hand-out sheet’ The 1:1 conversations could then allow some private feedback and conclusion in an easy way to both teacher and student.
Timely, as I am working on this right now… Will keep you posted.

More details on the new iTunes U site here.