Monday, February 01, 2010

Change of Venue

have moved my posts off the ECSD server and this blogger site and am now posting at

The idea for the Casual Teacher site name was given to me by one of my co-workers and it represents two things. First, it relates to my relaxed and uncomplicated way of living. Second, it uses the currently popular tag for the "Casual Games" to draw a link towards digital games as learning tools. I am very excited to have my own site and I hope it draws me into more current and relevant classroom practices

I am now posting on my own site so that my message doesn't get confused with the districts message. I love the ECSD community and I am sure I won't say anything controversial but I want to move my thoughts away from their property so that there is no confusion about what I say and what they stand for. Trust me ECSD is a great place to work and this is really more about protecting them than me.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Micro Societies

This is sort of a shout out to anyone who might have been thinking about this or who has read up on these ideas else where. I'm happy to say that chances to do research and read are few and far between since Madeline is taking up most of my time (waking and sleeping). If anyone knows of any research in the area of micro societies/values in the classroom and in the video games give me a shout out. Yeah pretty vague request I know.

I've been thinking a bit lately about the artificial society I create in my classroom. The rules that I have established with my students and the freedoms they enjoy when they respect the rules. My micro-society is not a good representation of the community outside my classroom (heck school's) doors but I feel that it is a good start based on the needs of the students and the expectations placed on me by parents.

I haven't used the games the I listed way back in June to teach with but have instead started giving them out to the grade five students at my school for two weeks at a time. They have to promise to come in and talk with me about the game once they have played it and if they get bored they need to discuss that as well.

I've been questioning them on their perceptions on the games 'realness' and how close the game is to what it is meant to represent. A few have had troubles with the lines of reality and fantasy in games like SimCity and Civilizations. They assume that the thin layer of control and perception they have is all that they need when they play the game. Many of these views are artificial and that is easy enough to see with many fantasy games but with the simulation games students seem to trust the content more and aren't as likely to question it. Without feeding them the answer I have been trying to draw out that these are just someone's artificial representations which (like the rules in my classroom) are flawwed. I'm hoping that they can learn things fom the mechanics of the game. More than just the old story in Sim City about Raising Taxes= Angry Citizens. I want them to learn that raising taxes means more in the game but even more still in real life.

I guess that's how the rules work in my classroom. They teach students what is important in class and hopefully those same things transfer out to real life. Especially the no running in the halls rule!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Long Time no Post and Baby Ball

Things are going very well at St. Leo lately and even better at the Ball house hold. Mrs. Ball and I are now the proud parents of a baby girl. She is a great blessing to our lives and the main reason I have not posted in a long time. I made the choice to sleep rather than post.

The other reason that I have not posted for a while is that I've been preparing the grade threes to use literacy centers in the morning. The class takes great joy in the freedom of expression that this offers them in their reading and writing. I've even worked in a videogame center for them to use. Most of the games are Edutainment stlye but the games are varied and open ended enough that no one is getting bored. I have wanted to do centers since my first year of teaching but I didn't have the resources. Now that I have built up my personal library to 940 books and I've started taking inservicing on Lit. centers I figured now is the time.

While I'm typing I thought I should post up this link to a paper that Mr. MacKenty has linked to.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Procrastinating and Prenatal

I've been putting off my capping project as the Mrs. and I prepare for the arrival of our baby in November. I think that this is the first blog post about the baby that I have made. Mrs. Ball is starting to prepare the nest which really means that I get to move things around. I've very excited about the baby. Every morning I get to feel it kicking and it is amazing! We are very thankful that we have been blessed with a child. There is an ultrasound picture from June below. I can't tell if it is a boy or a girl. Post if you have a guess or a name.

I am still thinking and writing notes about the game but I haven't done any coding since I left the U of A in August. The start of the new school is more than a full time job. I'm thankful for Raj over at (formerly of for his comments and suggestions. He always has good insights into topics and great book suggestions!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Youth Choir

Here are the sites that the Youth choir are going to be exploring. If they have more they would like added they can leave the link in the comment box for others to find. - Search through this open source music catalog for tunes that have an African sound.

Music Notes: Interactive Interesting use of everyday instruments to make some pretty cool music. Check out the html Sounds page to see and hear some of the cool instruments they are using.

Musical Mysteries: BBC Schools This is a fun musical mystery game where you need to find musical clues so you can solve the (you guessed it!) mystery.

ArtsAlive - The National Arts Center

DSO Kids (Dallas Symphony Orchestra)
SFS Kids - San Francisco Kid's Site

Games - Check out the interval game. Can you name a Major Six?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Movie Maker

Much of the music, activities, and crafts students are doing at Singspiration are based around Africa. Today we're going to start building videos based on the theme of Arica. Here are some sites we will use to get the pictures and movies for our videos. With CreativeCommoons we will primarily be using Flickr. We will use the image search on

Students can explore the regions of Africa courtesy of this PBS website. When we do our searches we'll be using keywords like:
Africa, African, Elephant, Rainforest, Savanna or Lion. There are many other words that relate to Africa. If you can think of any try them out in the search engines.

I would like to see how many students are able to tell a story using the pictures they find. Not an easy task.

Tomorrow we will put music to the images. Hopefully we'll have time to burn the CDs so that we can take the videos home.