I taught junior high and high school English in Edmonton for a decade. I loved it; the job was demanding, but getting to know so many remarkable young people was a joy, and poring over stories, poems, and plays with them and exploring how to write about them and create their own was a blessing.
That being said, I was trained in a specific mode that hasn’t changed much in a long time. When I left public school teaching more than a decade ago, my distance from the classroom made me more capable of seeing my previous blindspots and the deficiencies of a traditional classroom.
In my experience since then, the most electrifying development in education has been gamification. You can find plenty of internet articles telling you why it’s a bad idea, claiming it amounts to bribing kids. Those people clearly don’t know what gamification is or can be, especially in the context of fantasy role playing games. It’s not simply handing out prizes for completion of tasks kids don’t care about—many parents and teachers have been doing that for ages even though research proves that doing so decreases enjoyment of the rewarded task.
Gamification is applying the process of games—what makes them fun, engaging, and addictive—to the experience of learning. Add in the aesthetics and imaginative story worlds and characters of role-play games, and you can create an immersive learning adventure that kids can’t wait to re-engage and which gives them reasons to learn content and skills that might otherwise bore them into failure. Gaming is a core human drive. While some other life forms play, we’re the only ones who make games, and we do so in every culture. Why not harness that essential drive?
To discuss how to gamify your classroom to help students learn more and love learning, I spoke with Scott Hebert. He’s the author of Press Play to Begin, a manual for teachers on how to implement game principles into their classes. He teaches at Our Lady of Angels in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta, north-east of Edmonton. The Alberta Excellence in Teaching Awards named him a Top 20 Teacher in Alberta in 2013, and the World Gamification Congress honoured his work with its Best Gamification in Education Project Award in 2015. His website, mrhebert.org, contains videos and articles on gamification, and a link to buy Press Start to Begin.
We spoke by web video on May 22, 2018. We discussed:
So many people dream of being a children’s author, yet few take the plunge. Of those who do, far fewer decide the way to go is writing about a Muslim Somali girl and her family. Of the remainder, how many get national newspaper and CBC radio coverage? To my knowledge, only one, and she’s my guest today for the amazing success of her debut book, Muhiima’s Quest.
Rahma Rodaah came to Canada with her family from Somalia when she was eight years old. She’s lived in Quebec and Ottawa, and she now lives in Edmonton. Her path to children’s authorship was far from obvious: her degree is in international business, and she works for the Government of Alberta’s Ministry of Community and Social Services in Social Work and Income Support. While she grew up loving Anne of Green Gables, after she became a mother she grew concerned that most images aimed at girls pushed European standards of beauty, and no stories she could find embraced either her Somali heritage or Islamic faith. And taking a page from her business education, she saw a need and decided to fill that need herself.
The result was Muhiima’s Quest, illustrated by Daria Horb, the indie-published story about ten-year-old Muhiima and her delightful birthday bicycle adventure of self-discovery. After coverage on Omni TV’s Somali programme, the story of Muhiima’s Quest went national in the pages of the Toronto Star. Now a traditional publisher is courting Rodaah, and her second book, Little Brother for Sale, is already complete and just about to debut.
I spoke with Rahma Rodaah on June 26, 2018 at Simply Done Café in Edmonton’s Gallery District. We discussed:
African-Canadian Children’s Authors + Illustrators
Many people dream of making independent movies. I know I did. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s I was so inspired by Spike Lee that I read all of his “making of” books and in 1995 wrote a screenplay called The Coyote Kings for which I actually shot some test scenes with a group of friends in 1997. Of course, it didn’t go anywhere.
But some people don’t stop at obstacles the way I did. They go around them or climb over them. Angie Zimaro is an Edmonton-based filmmaker went to film school at NAIT, the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. She wrote and produced the post-apocalyptic indie film Dr. Plague.
Shot on location in Sherwood Park, Alberta and directed by her film school classmate Nathaniel Goselwitz, the film stars Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens legend Georges Laraque, and it won a Bronze Remi at WorldFest-Houston International Film & Video Festival 2018. Quite an achievement for a debut film!
On June 15 I met sat with Zimaro at the Simply Done Café in Edmonton’s gallery district to talk about making an award-winning debut short film. We also discussed: