UNM Portfolio

My experiences as a learner have informed my approach to designing learning as much as my experiences as an instructor.

Learning Computing

I am the last person anyone, especially myself, would expect to find in a computer science class. Not due to lack of interest, but lack of prerequisite knowledge and—well—competency. Math is not what I am good at.

Learning Computing gave me the experience, as a graduate student, of being the only absolute beginner in class full of computer science majors it was extraordinary and transformed my attitude toward myself as a learner and the learning process itself.

Image created in Logo processing language

Throughout Learning Computing, I discovered that we all have much more capacity for understanding complex and highly abstract concepts than conventional education methods lead us to believe about ourselves and others. Much of the focus was on how to teach computer science in such a way that we broaden the appeal, support success, and increase retention – which are goals that can be applied to education in general. The essence of the course was addressing how to engage learners exactly like myself in discovering and developing their capacity for computational thinking. It was in this class that I discovered some favorite thinkers like Seymour Papert, Mitchell Resnik, and Jeannette Wing.

Image created in Logo processing language

I was under the impression that we would not actually do any programming in this course, but much to my terror—and surprised delight—we did.

Image created in Processing programming language

My main project for Learning Computing was a course I designed in Moodle, the premise of which was that playing Minecraft incidentally teaches computational thinking skills. Using Minecraft as a vehicle for instruction is well-documented, but it is the incidental learning inherent in Minecraft, that interested me here.

A Brief Demonstration of Logic Gates Created in Minecraft

I incorporated how creating logic gates in Minecraft could help learners understand concepts of Boolean Logic and Logic Gates taught in fundamental electrical and computer engineering/science courses. Learners are tasked with creating functioning virtual models and solving problems using redstone, the electrical component of Minecraft. This deeper exploration of what is possible in Minecraft was my introduction to the idea of a virtual learning environment.

Exploring Virtual Worlds & Virtual Reality in Online Learning Environments

This course allowed me to put into practice all that I had been learning so far in the OILS MA program, and it began about a week prior to the Covid-19 shutdown, so the timing could not have been more perfect. It was here I understood social learning, and it was here I experienced flow – that beautiful, engaging balance between frustration and fun.

El Torreon Group Build Project in Second Life
A Quick Tutorial on Outfit Changing in the Virtual World Second Life

The VWBPE (Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education) 2020 Conference was the first virtual conference I attended. It luckily coincided with the timing of the course (and global pandemic shutdowns). A lecture called “Design for Difficulties and Disorienting Dilemmas” (Kae Novak & Chris Luchs) was another seminal learning experience for me. I saw the connection between hard fun and flow. Whether I am gamifying learning, learning from games, exploring the potential of virtual learning, or exploring learning itself I want it to be hard fun for me and for other learners.

Instructional Use of Computer Simulations and Games

Genome Island Group Critique in Second Life

A perfect endnote to my Instructional Design & Technology studies, I was able to immerse myself in what has developed into my primary educational interest: how to leverage games and simulations to enhance learner experience and knowledge transfer.

There is no need for all learning to be gamified and there is no reason for all games to have learning benefits – but there are plenty of opportunities to use games, gamification, and simulations to enhance even the most serious learning situations.

On a team with two other students, we created a storyboard for a training simulation. Included here are both a PDF and a video of our PowerPoint presentation.

Video presentation of simulation storyboard