Graphite and Me Cycle 6

“I hate everything that merely instructs me without augmenting or directly invigorating my activity.”   – Goethe

Although I personally try to avoid the word hate I do wholeheartedly agree with the overall sentiment of what Goethe was communicating. So, permit me to share the fact that Graphite has augmented and invigorated my activity.  I’m new to the world of online education and the plethora of information available on the web pertaining to education can be overwhelming, and certainly absorb one’s time. I’m not saying that searching on the web is a waste of time, but that there are stretches in life where one does not have the luxury to poke about and investigate. Graphite was introduced to me during one of those periods and has saved me a great deal of time. This content rich affinity space provided me with reviews and useful information pertaining to products that would have required a much larger expenditure of time. That is if I was even able to find these products and trustworthy reviews elsewhere on the web.

Not that this is my only like about Graphite, as this affinity space is a place where one can learn from educators, what worked, and what hasn’t worked for them, and importantly, why. Gee and Hayes (2008) describe how a nurturing affinity space is a place where “Both individual and distributed knowledge are encouraged (p. 26). The idea of distributed knowledge really appeals to me and I find Graphite a great example of what is possible if this distributed knowledge is shared in a dedicated space and can be used to improve one’s individual knowledge. This space for educators is well funded, designed, curated, and moderated. A space for educators created by educators where they and all members have a voice.

According to Gee and Hayes (2008) “Affinity spaces do not segregate newcomers (“newbies”) from masters. The whole continuum of people from the new to the experienced, from the unskilled to the highly skilled, from the slightly interested to the addicted, and everything in between, is accommodated in the same space” (p. 24). The voice of the masters can be heard in the staff reviews, as well as seasoned teachers and the fact that newcomers like me are welcome to participate in the same space increases the value of the shared knowledge.

Open discussion is important to me as I have learned that those who claim to know some great Truth and work to convince others of it have little of value to share with me and are often so uncomfortable with doubt, and not knowing, that they grasp at some small truth and interpret as a great Truth and force it on others. I find none of this behavior on Graphite as members interact in a healthy, helpful manner not pushing their opinions on others.

Graphite is an affinity space where all participants are engaged in a common endeavor and communicate quite freely. I truly appreciate and value the open-minded sharing that I have experienced on Graphite where members share a passion for technology and teaching. Gee and Hayes (2008) address this when they describe one of the features of an affinity space as a:

  “A common endeavor for which at least many people in the space have a passion—not race, class, gender, or disability—is primary. In an affinity space, people relate to each other primarily in terms of common interests, endeavors, goals, or practices—defined around their shared passion—and not primarily in terms of race, gender, age, disability, or social class. (p. 23)

I’m very fond of, and highly value science and philosophy and often look to them for answers that are difficult to unearth elsewhere. And yet, after looking to philosophy and research I like to learn the outcome in a real world setting. No, I’m not trying to diminish the value of either, but believe that they are steps on the path to real-world experience and knowledge. I’ve become a bit of a pragmatist in late middle age and therefore look for small truths that have been “tested” by us regular folks in our natural environments. Learn the truth and then test it, no faith required, and keep in mind that these small truths are fleeting. Graphite lives up to my expectations as it tests what has been designed for learning and is being promoted to educators with feedback from educators. (Gee & Hayes, 2008) Information that is updated as our world and technology continue to evolve. Real-world experience and testing by those who use the products, with the outcomes, shared, for the benefit of the community.

Below, please find my Affinity Space Presentation: “Graphite and Me”

 

 

References:

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2008). Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning. Retrieved April 24, 2016, from http://www.letras.ufrj.br/anglo_germanicas/cadernos/numeros/072011/textos/cl2831072011gee.pdf

17 Comments

  1. Hi Robert,

    Thanks for sharing your presentation of Graphite with us! A general comment that your screencast is very information, straight-forward (that is, easily understood!), and clearly organized so that we’re able to appreciate your perspective and your participation. In addition to the Hypothesis annotations which I’ve embedded above, a few additional comments and questions:

    The theme of interest-driven learning stands out throughout your engagement with Graphite. You’re able to create collections (on your desk, great orientation!) that match your interests – games, creativity, and ESL. Your demo of the Phonics Tic Tac Toe resource is a great example of the ways in which you’re navigating this space, taking advantage of affordances, and curating your own resources as relevant to future activities (such as teaching courses).

    I’m very curious about your participation with other members of Graphite. You noted that Graphite has been created by educators for educators. A sense of agency is also prominent in your reflection above. Did you have a chance to interact with other members? If so, how? You noted that you’ve found content for two courses this semester, and that you plan to become more active contribute to the space once you begin teaching later this year. How do you plan on doing so?

    • Robert

      Hi Remi,
      I did not interact with other members beyond one review for Zaption that I posted and one like it received. I read multiple blog posts and responses and perused quite a few lesson plans. I researched various games that were said to aid in SLA and saved several to my collection. The fact that I am not currently teaching and have little experience as a formal educator left me with little to share. I basically lurked in the space, and due to my lurking learned a great deal from it. Once I begin teaching I will happily provide feedback and enter into the discussions pertaining to products and lesson plans.

      • Susan

        Hi Robert,
        Thank you for presenting Graphite. I knew what Common Sense media was, but I didn’t realize there was an affinity space called Graphite inside of it. Are there other affinity spaces within the organization?

        • Robert

          Hi Susan. I believe they do have other spaces but not sure what they are as I was focused here. Although it’s surely worth investigating!

  2. Hi Robert,
    Thank you for sharing this affinity space. It looks like a great place to get ideas for Pre-K – 12 teachers. You mention Minecraft, did this affinity space help you with your understanding of the game?

    What does it mean to be an insider? How do you know? And how would you describe this space to an outsider?
    An insider in this space might be one of the graphite experts. These experts provide their feedback and opinions on apps and games that might be useful for teachers. An outsider would use these resources to determine if the games or apps would indeed be useful for their learning experiences.

    How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?
    It looks like you mostly contributed by creating collections. Did you try out any of the apps and provide feedback? Were there any discussion forums and did you participate?

    What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    The affinity space seems to be very well organized and funded by some prominent philanthropists and companies in education. This gives the space some credibility and creates trust among its users.

    What other aspects of learning theory helped your peer to understand this affinity space?
    Although you reference Gee and Hayes quite a bit, I think that a majority of our class readings had an effect on your participation in this affinity space. Did you ever look to see if any of the games were created by students? Most the games also seems to be mobile friendly (referencing cycle 6 readings).

    • Robert

      Hi Lisa,

      Yes, the affinity space did help me to understand WoW, especially how it is used in education. I did not look to see if any if any the games were created by students as my interests are a bit different.

  3. My affinity site had a Twitter posting that lead me to this affinity site. Looking a bug games for early education teachers. I have to say I am impressed with the side regarding resources and will be sharing it with my student over the next semesters. A. I appreciate that teachers on this site have actual pictures and names. Seems more friendly. Do you think that the certification helps people to feel like an insider? Looks like the there are some pretty good standards to align with the title. B. How do you see your participation growing changing as you continue to participate in the group? C. You comment on several strengths of the site. (I see several of them also – ex people in the real world with their feet on the ground) What would you say are some of the limitations? D. This place does feel very welcoming and open. Plus there is a level of professionalism because they are all teachers (at least the majority). I might have missed it is there more than one route to gaining status besides the certification?

    • Robert

      Yes, I think certification may help some feel like an insider and not sure if there are any other means to gain status. Once I begin teaching I will happily provide feedback and enter into the discussions pertaining to products and lesson plans.

  4. Lainie

    I enjoyed getting to know about Graphite, particularly because I use Common Sense Media all the time at work for books, but haven’t really taken the time to look through some of its other options. Plus, I like anything that has organizational features
    ** Observe: What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why?**
    It sounds like most of the interaction and discussion is focused on reviews and feedback on the various products being highlighted. From your description, I would infer that because the site is intended for educators, there is a general expectation of professional behavior and I didn’t hear you mention anything other than straightforward discussion. Where there any spots where you felt that people were letting their personal opinion override an objective opinion of the product’s quality and usability?
    **Contribute: How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?**
    You explored the site, signed up, created lists and collections within your account, and wrote a review.
    **Reflect: How was learning social, collaborative, and/or contested?**
    It sounds like there was a lot of opportunity for discussion, linking members with each other and with outside resources. You mention that the interactions appeared respectful, with people accepting differences in thoughts and opinions.
    **Connect: What other examples of games and learning literature were useful points of reference, and why?**
    The use of Graphite as a way of getting a picture of how these resources are used in real life situations, as well as how the people using them have made them work or not work, reminded me of the discussion of “situated learning” in the Stevens et al. text from Cycle 2. In this case, members can share and receive information from one another about contextual use of a resource, as well as how that use played out in a real life situation. Rather than being outsiders simply observing or researching theorizing on use, the actual people using the resources share their actual experiences in actual classrooms. Neat!

    • Robert

      Hi Lainie,
      Thanks for the important question!

      I feel that the reviews offered by Graphite staff were indeed objective, and where they compared products they gave a very balanced view of those products. Objective pros and cons review based on varying educator needs.

      The teacher reviews were more subjective, where opinions, based on actual classroom experiences were shared. Although this is what I preferred to hear, as I value the opinions of those who have first-hand classroom experience with the products.

  5. Brian

    What are the cultural norms – the means of interaction and discussion – that are prominent in this space? And why?
    The core aspect of this community is to critically vet academic technology hardware and software. This is accomplished through both staff and user reviews. For the good of the community, members that create reviews are encouraged to write and rate frankly about the products that they have used.
    How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?
    I am very curious about your engagement with this community. Did you write any reviews? Did you communicate in Graphite’s discussion threads?
    What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    The funding that Common Sense Media receives is used to support the site’s design and maintenance. Additionally, crowd sourcing the reviews gives educators a reliable resource for getting useful opinions about educational technologies.
    What other aspects of learning theory helped your peer to understand this affinity space?
    Although we didn’t discuss this in class very much, I think that Vygotsky’s Social Development Theory plays a significant role in this site. The whole premise of the site is that user will asynchronously engage with each other through the social interaction of reviewing products. Deeper understanding of a product is gained through this interaction.

    • Robert

      Thanks, Brian, and yes I did write one review which was for Zaption. Other than that I was guilty of lurking as I am currently not teaching and therefore felt I had little to offer in the discussions.

  6. Robert,

    Thank you for sharing your affinity space presentation with us regarding Graphite. I have used and directed others to Common Sense Media before viewing your presentation. However, I was unaware of Graphite.
    What observations about game/ing communities and cultures are shared?
    Participation is very genuine and for the greater good of the learning community. There is a vested interest in providing a strong, experienced based reviews and thoughts surrounding the platform. From what I saw, it had a similar infrastructure as Pinterest, with the board aspect. And like you mentioned, it seemed really intuitive based on how one interacts with the space.
    How did the nature of your peer’s contributions change over time? And why?
    Robert’s participation and contributions shifted over time as he became more familiar with the space and its objectives. From having no knowledge of the space to actively engaging to presentation on the topic, Robert’s confidence advanced as the presentation progressed. I also think that the more value you believe the affinity space has or offers, the more bought in one is, and can readily speak about it. The disconnect has been eliminated.
    What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?
    I perceive Robert’s beliefs about the space are that it adds a significant level of value to educators, parents and anyone who is interested in learning, and is a well respected space based on the sponsorships by high-level individuals and organizations. Therefore, participation is more for the community as a whole, rather on what the contributor receives, or benefits from, as result of their participation.
    What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?
    I think Robert focused primarily on both the ‘insider versus outsider’ concept & the nurturing principle described by Gee & Hayes. ‘Outsiders’ of specific educational apps, games, and learning digital outlets, access Graphite to obtain knowledge and reviews from ‘insiders.’ Also, since it is mostly a review based platform, I would only imagine that the space by definition, is mostly nurturing, again, tying it back to being more for the community of education at large, rather than the specific benefit of the actual user. Did you come across any negativity or discourse within the platform by users?

  7. Robert and Graphite

    Robert,
    Thank you for sharing your well said affinity space review of Graphite. I think this space is intriguing because it seems more about curation and collection of resources than discussion (which is more common in other affinity spaces). I think this lends itself to a very professional space. How do members interact with this sort of theme?

    A2. Observing the affinity space:
    What does it mean to be an insider? How do you know? And how would you describe this space to an outsider?

    To be an insider is to be an educator. It seems the space focuses on K-12 as it mentions “Common Core State Standards” as part of the focus. Graphite is an affinity space curated by experts for educators. It seems to be well funded and resources are vetted well.

    B1. Contributing to the affinity space:
    How did your peer first begin contributing to the affinity space?

    Robert started adding to his collections of Graphite reviewed products on his “desk.” His contributions included reviewing other games by searching for them and then adding them to his boards. Gather lesson plans into own collections as well. Robert feels this is an “intuitive” way to participate in this space.

    C1. Reflecting upon affinity space participation:
    What does your peer perceive to be the strengths of this affinity space?

    “Teacher Center” -professionally curated resources for educators makes the affinity space reliable. The space does not segregate newcomers. It is well funded and robust.

    D1. Connecting affinity space participation to literature and theory:
    What 3 features from Gee and Hayes (2008) describe your peer’s experience, and why?

    1. Gee and Hayes (2008) describe how a nurturing affinity space is a place where “Both individual and distributed knowledge are encouraged (p. 26)

    2. According to Gee and Hayes (2008) “Affinity spaces do not segregate newcomers (“newbies”) from masters. The whole continuum of people from the new to the experienced, from the unskilled to the highly skilled, from the slightly interested to the addicted, and everything in between, is accommodated in the same space” (p. 24).

    3. Gee and Hayes (2008) address this when they describe one of the features of an affinity space as a: “A common endeavor for which at least many people in the space have a passion—not race, class, gender, or disability—is primary. In an affinity space, people relate to each other primarily in terms of common interests, endeavors, goals, or practices—defined around their shared passion—and not primarily in terms of race, gender, age, disability, or social class. (p. 23)

    The space appears to clearly facilitate a common endeavor, that is teaching. Anyone can participate in learning about these teaching resources. It appears nurturing by the way in which users can interact with the site but it was not clear how others interact with each other and if this is done so in a nurturing way. Where does discourse and Discourse come into play?

    • Robert

      Hi Kirk,

      I’m afraid I was guilty of lurking in the space which is a behavior that I engage in face-face, as well as online. Graphite does have discussion areas, I just failed to actively enter into the discussions, as I’m not currently teaching, and as I said, I feel more comfortable lurking. Although when I revisited the teacher discussion areas this morning I found the latest posts in most of the discussions to be weeks old. Hence, I agree that Graphite is primarily being used for curation with valuable teacher feedback.

  8. Hey Robert!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 Here are my insights on your affinity space experience and practice.

    Observe: Graphite is a robust affinity space that is a great resource for teachers to improve their craft. Are you excited to use your finding in the classroom Robert?

    Contribute: It seems like your contribution is a curative approach. You’re hand-picking different games for different themes to fit what is happening in your life.

    Reflect: This will be a great resource to compliment your work as a teacher. You truly maximized on the opportunity that our Games and Learning class offered in finding a relevant and fulfilling affinity space.

    Connect: Passion for teaching seems to be an obvious guiding force for this affinity space. On a side note, Robert, what made you want to become a teacher?

    • Robert

      Hi Susannah,

      Thanks for your time and thoughtful questions.
      Yes, I truly look forward to using the tools and knowledge I have been gathering. My wife and I plan to establish a small hagwon in Korea later this year, where we will have the “freedom” to actually apply what we have learned.

      A preoccupation with leading a good and meaningful life has fed my motivation to become a teacher. I believe that there are three noble professions and they are: healers, farmers, and teachers.

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