Dec 6, 2014

#aesa2014 Work Life: Gamifying the Classroom: Framework of Fun

Gamifying the Classroom: Framework of Fun

Why I chose this:
I'm interested in helping schools incorporate gaming, so thought I'd check this out.
*Note: sign outside door says "Glamifying the Classroom"

What we covered:

Why have games gotten more complex over time?
Free time
Better at problem solving
No fear of failure in games

"Better theories of learning are embedded in the video games children play than in the schools they attend" - James Gee

Highly Effective Learning environment:
Flexible furniture
Technology to show/work together
Students Make choices
Students become experts
Solving problems
Immediate feedback

(Substitute "Gamers" for students)

There is always an answer
"cheating" is allowed - walkthroughs, helps, etc
Failure isn't bad
Learning is collaborative

(told story of a history teacher that showed first part of Saving Private Ryan and talk to veterans. The kids paid little to no attention. Next year, had kids play Medal of Honor then watch video and talk to veterans - 100% engagement after the connection, asked questions, shed tears)

Gamification - modifying reality to resemble a game

  • - use for review, make it interactive, real-time. Can download the results. Students can make kahoots under teacher account. Leaderboards 
  • Status/Level up - levels could follow your content. 
  • Badges, achievements - badgemaker (Chose topic, completed outline, etc)

Game-based Learning - Learning itself comes about via game

  • Economics
  • Geography
  • Planning
  • Politics
  • Recreate periods in history, to scale
  • Choice and control
Dr. Mike Wesch - How do I get students to EXPERIENCE this?
  • Marshmallow Wars
Students can help design games based on what needs to be learned/discovered.

What's next?
  • Learn more about games - what makes good games, replayable games
  • Howard Gardner - AppGeneration
  • Mark Prensky - Don't bother me, Mom - I'm learning"
  • Jane McGonigal - Reality is Broken ("Serious Games")
  • David Williamson Shaffer - How computer games help children learn
Can we create a game that teaches you gamification concepts, ideas, etc? 

Make a pancake - try it, fail, try again, get better

Introduce teachers and admins to games
Train teachers to use them appropriately
Let kids learn through game play

Dec 5, 2014

Snow at petco!

via Instagram

#seaportvillage had a bite to eat, walking around.

via Instagram

A group of girls getting professional photos taken. No idea why. Haha! #wannabefamous

via Instagram

Hooking up the train in the lobby display! #modelrr #choochoo

via Instagram

#aesa2014 Work Life: Improving information usage through regional data hubs

Improving information usage through regional data hubs

Why I chose this:
Interested to see what services other co-ops are offering. (Note: I didn't realize this was an ed-fi session. We use ed-fi in Arkansas already, but it was neat to see what other states are doing)

What we covered:
Think of education as an enterprise: state, regions, local districts, students/parents

Information flows among stakeholders

- Inaccurate or inconsistent data
- Various data formats
- Securely transferring data
- Timeliness of data
- Prone to breaking
- Need for actionable data

Michigan legislature awarded $1mil for data integration

  • Integrate disparate SIS data into a common infrastructure
  • Develop standardized systems to move to fewer SIS systems
  • Transition to a statewide SIS program
  • Build on work being done 'at scale' in other states.
  • Explain how it would interface with a "classroom readiness" project
Vision: Common Data, Common Solutions

Solution based on NCES data standards

ed-fi alliance 

Data standards
Data store
ed-fi dashboards
ed-fi tools
ed-fi data warehouse

Student record movement

AR did watch lists for students with automated scheduling

Data is stored/housed at state/region level. Ed-fi does not store/house data.

Michigan built a cockpit to allow stakeholders to move data between applications using ed-fi

(gave a demo of their cockpit system - easy interface for connecting sites to data systems)

(gave a demo of the dashboards)

#aesa2014 flashback to last year's AESA conference! #timehop

via Instagram

#aesa2014 Work Life: I Am New School

I am New School

Why I chose this:
Interested to see what technology offerings other education service centers offer. I'm not really sure what this session will over, so we'll see.

What we covered:
What verbiage do we use for the shift underway with technology? "New School"

Parents are naming their children things like hashtag, google, facebook...

Display of Maslow's Hierarchy - created in 1963

Kudoso wi-fi router that can manage family bandwidth, tie it to chores.

Teach digital safety. Digital footprints.

The goal is to give teachers and administrators the power to use new technology.

Used Polleverywhere to ask questions of participants. The problem is, as posed by presenter, that these devices (phones) are banned at a lot of schools. Kid forgets calculator, can't use the one in his/her pocket!

How many devices do you have connected to your network at home?

Personalized Learning - Content is interesting to ME and I have a purpose - a reason to use it.

"Why do I need this?" "Because it is on the test." - not relevant.

Competency-based programs

Flexible learning environment

Personal learning path

profiles for learners - interests/aspirations

Why type a paper? Speak it.

Collaborate and build classroom projects.

Move teachers to next level of engagement, technology use. Rethink assignments, assessments, etc.

If we hold kids to expectation that is too low, what happens when they pass it?

As ESAs, we need to model the change.

Be social - be transparent with stakeholders - wins and losses
Be innovative -
Be relevant - relationships
Be willing to learn - be willing to make mistakes, grow from them.

New School tool - iPads, ex: new school that we shut down and close up into old school ways.

#aesa2014 Work Life: Student Voice Q&A

Student Voice Q&A

Why I chose this:
After seeing Dr. Russ open the day, I wanted to come hear him speak in a session. Plus, he will be one of the headliners for a program being held by the co-op where I work!

What we covered:
Examples of places they've been working. Called "demonstration sites" in differing areas. Make sure students have voice, but also make sure teachers have a voice. Providing training in aspirations and student voice. Sometimes you don't need a survey to hear what students are saying.

They do a study that is tailored to that specific district. Absence rates for teachers and students. Discipline and types of discipline. Students do teacher assessment pieces.

"I know my class" piece asks things like "does teacher know your name?" Is content related to me and/or other classes? Ask kids about themselves - Do you come prepared to learn? Do you respect your classmates?

This program does not modify curriculum etc because the states have their standards. The program addresses the core concepts of Student Voice and Aspirations

More than a paradigm shift, this is a movement. Every year, teachers have to do a research paper regarding 'promising practices.' Some are great, some are not. But, the point is they do it and they learn and examine.

This is about turning a school around and have them serve as the impetus for other schools.

Change at classroom level - teaching and learning environment
Change at building level - bell schedule may change, structure may change
Change at central office - Student voice data incorporated into staff evaluation
Change at state Level - rolling upward changes such as state-level agencies allowing/changing evals to include student voice data
Understand your student backgrounds, culture as a basis for helping those students grow and find their voice.
This does not dismantle and restructure, but rather how can this help you with what you are already using. Puts personalized learning 'on steroids.'
We have to work with parents and community to help them understand where we need to help our students go. We have to work together by building and using trust. Changing schools comes from the inside out - because we do not want the folks that went through the system keeping things "the old way." (my words)
What are some pitfalls?
Not using the information is the biggest mistake.
We did not have a Teacher's Voice, and that is being addressed and fixed.

#aesa2014 Work Life: Friday General Session

Today's general session opened with the Helix Charter High School Pipe Band. Very entertaining group of young folks!

Brian Talbott Award handed out to Grant Wood agency technology team.

Grant Wood Area Education Agency Technology Team
Cedar Rapids, IA

AESA annually recognizes outstanding accomplishments and contributions to education and AESA.

Congratulations to the Grant Wood Area Education Agency Technology Team, winner of the 2014 Brian L. Talbott Award which recognizes contributions in the area of technological innovation and support to local districts and educational service agencies. Grant Wood AEA is one of nine AEAs in Iowa. The some 500 GWAEA employees combine their efforts to support 32 school districts and 22 accredited nonpublic schools.

Among their efforts in technology are:
• a model classroom (Student Centered Learning with Upside- Down Pedagogy) that highlights a technology enriched, agile learning environment
• an innovative collaboration for personalized learning which this year will focus on blended learning
• a 21st Century Learning Institute to develop and enhance the technology skills of educators
• meeting the needs of school aged children with disabilities
• providing Innovative Technology support to business and back- office functions in their LEAs

Listen to comments from the LEAs that they serve:
“Our student achievement has increased significantly over the last few years.”
“I give a great deal of the credit to the Grant Wood AEA.”
“As a result of the 21st Century Learning Institute, my confidence is much stronger.”
“Grant Wood AEA makes our school district a better place”
and the comment that says it all: “We are simply thankful beyond words for their support with our technology needs”

Keynote Speaker: Russell Quaglia

"What's going to make a difference in American education?"
Staff and students work together
Schools that value community
Use technology driven by experiential learning
...Want to improve? Start injecting common sense!
"Just be normal - asking kids what they think. Work in a collaborative atmosphere. That's not special. That's NORMAL!"

Student Voice and Aspirations - study of a million students

Students are the potential, not the problem
Students have something to teach us
Working together is the only way forward.

Aspirations - Ability to dream about the future but be inspired in the present to reach those dreams.

Low dreaming, low doing - untapped potential, just there (Hibernation)
High dreaming, low doing - Imagination
Low dreaming, high doing - perspiration state - hard workers now, but don't know what they are doing down the road
High dreaming, High doing - Aspirations

You must DO in addition to DREAM!

How do we move to aspiration?

Self-worth - critical to who we are and what we are about. We are crushing this is kids in school. How do we create this? Make sure they feel like they belong (not looking the same, etc; part of the community without losing individuality) Become heroes to our students. You are a hero: are you a good one or a bad one? What do we do to become a good one? Be honest, let them know they matter. We have expectation gap, relationship gap - fix those, and achievement gap will disappear. Let teachers know they matter; students know they matter; staff know they matter. Recognize students for social interaction, citizenship - caring for others (pick up paper not yours; collect food every week, etc)
46% of students say I am valued member of my school community
51% of students say teachers care if I am absent
60% of students are proud of their school

Engagement - Balance between teacher, content and students. Being curious, creative. What are you curious and creative about? Spirit of adventure - not be afraid of trying something and succeeding. Kids are afraid to succeed. We have not made it cool to be successful in school.
Make learning fun! Lose track of time and space.
43% say school is boring - this should bother us!
44% say school helps me understand everyday life - worse over time, longer in school, the less they know why they're there
34% of teachers know my hopes and dreams

Purpose - Guiding principle that moves our kids to aspiration. Biggest issue? Teacher expectations are lower than the kids expectations of themselves. Tell kids to stand up for something.
93% believe they can be successful
76% say teachers believe they can be successful
71% believe they can make a difference

Student Voice
What are you doing with the data you get back?
47% say they have a voice in decision making in school
52% teachers willing to learn from students
50% know what goals the school is working on this year

What your students say about your school and their experiences?

Impact on motivation:
Self-worth 5x
Engagement 16x
Purpose 18x

Student Voice 7x

- Have an attitude - what I do matters, makes a difference
- take time to reflect
- never stop listening and learning from students
- never forget kids need heroes, role models
- be normal
- embrace every possibility ahead
- do something once  aweek that scares the hell out of you
- talk to kids about where they are going, not where they are from
- dream big
- have a bowl of ice cream and feel good about it
- believe and never forget that wonderful surprises are waiting to happen.

Helix Charter High School Pipe Band at #aesa14 #aesa2014

via Instagram

Scanned this qr and it was a link to I kinda felt like Ralphie #crummycommercial

via Instagram

"What am I doing with all this worthless fruit!?" - jim gaffigan #jimgaffigan #bacon

via Instagram

Dec 4, 2014

#aesa14 Work Life: Implementing hybrid learning in classrooms: Innovative partnership between ESA's and school districts

Implementing hybrid learning in classrooms: Innovative partnership between ESA's and school districts

Why I chose this:
As we move to help schools comply with Act 1280 (Digital Learning Act), it's important to keep searching for new, innovative ways to bring hybrid digital learning to our students. I am hoping to learn some tricks, tips, and strategies.

What was covered:

IU13 (Pennsylvania) does not get money from state nor from local districts - grants, marketplace initiatives

Technology Integration, 1-1 and BYOD, interest in online learning + IU12 focus on marketplace growth and school needs, focus on 21st century skills = new opportunities for beneficial partnerships.

PA Hybrid Learning Initiative formed in 2011. Partnership between ESA, businesses and higher ed

Participating districts included member districts and others around the state; also did some PD about hybrid but not part of the overall program.

Hybrid Learning
Takes two things (teacher trained in instruction, meshing with online media) to provide a strategy for instruction.

Seeks to improve academic performance by increasing student engagement and motivating students to succeed.

Rotates students among different learning stations with digital and face-to-face instruction to differentiate a student's education.

How do we change the traditional classroom design/layout?

Students during pilot program helped get their non-participating teachers to implement the station rotation method even without the tools and technology.

The program has grown, the ESA provides the PD to help schools implement the program. It is a huge instructional change. Instruction should be driven by the data the teachers get. Three stations are Independent, Direct, and Collaboration.

Difference: students work at home with online content and rest of time is traditional instruction. Everybody gets the same instruction. In hybrid, instruction changes based on what's happening in each station. Ex: if they have mastered something, why keep teaching it?

Direct Instruction
Personalized Learning

Hybrid is efficient and effective because it is based on data teachers read everyday and make changes for each day.

Tools are needed to get and analyze the data.

Fits in current classroom. Students are grouped, desks rearranged, etc

Must have accountability built-in to each station, activity.

Hybrid Agenda (photo):

Direct instruction does NOT mean teaching the same material.
Teacher is remediating, extending knowledge
Could use a curved table, sit among students - personal rapport
  • Formative assessment, Poll everywhere, padlet
  • Direct Instruction
  • Peer Tutoring
  • Group Work
  • Compare and Contrast activities
  • Quizzes
  • Exit Ticket
Not always mean they are online
Different types of contents - skill-based, instruction, etc
  • Writing Prompts
  • Reflection
  • Discussion forums
  • Journaling
  • Interactive websites
  • Flipped Lesson
  • Assigned Websites and YouTube, etc
This is NOT worksheets!
Authentic projects - 2wk-to-4wk projects.
Highest part of their grade.
Generally, group table setting. Show students HOW to work together, build activities that help them learn.
  • Authentic projects
  • STEM-based projects
  • Range from few days to full 9 wks
  • Graded most weight
  • Have check points to make students accountable
Teachers become connection to how the students will use that new learning in the real world. Make it relevant to students.

Student results:
  • 40% had better grades than non-HL classes in previous year
  • 33% had better grades in current year
  • 65% were satisfied or very satisfied with HL class
  • 60% reported learning more and/or more easily in hybrid setting
Build financially stable product:
  • Business plan for each dept - put it in content, then tech
  • Effective pricing ($850/day at 40 days, but can work out other options)
  • Partnering where possible or makes sense
  • Leverage grants and revenue - in-house R&D, grants, fee for service
  • Develop associated services through ongoing convos with schools
  • Held accountable by the deliverables
  • (in-house R&D fund something built up to provide start-up cash for projects)
  • Ultimate goal is get the set up, then fade away

#aesa14 Work Life: Measuring the Effectiveness of your ESA

Measuring the Effectiveness of your ESA

Why I chose this:
Phoebe, my Director, was presenting at the same time as this session and she asked that I attend in order to help get information for her. I'm looking forward to hearing how other agencies figure out how, and if, they are succeeding - and in what areas.

What we covered:

Motivation and a process to help motivate/engage employees.

ProMES - teams work together. NEFEC has 80 employees, 12 teams. This was phased in but every employee is a member of a team.

"It's not that I'm lazy, it's that I just don't care."

ProMES - measuring individual performance as well as team performance. Research-based. This could be applicable to schools and/or districts, not just ESA.

People want input as to how they are measured. We don't want subjective feedback. The feedback is in the conversation.

Different than strat planning and team-building. ProMES works from bottom up.

What motivates the individual? What does the individual bring to the organization? What does the organization bring to the individual?

Need controllable, quantitative measures.
Clearly defined roles and expectations.
Participation and team-based decision making
Accountability through ownership of the system
Evaluative and descriptive feedback

Teams are people that work together, but not necessarily arranged so in your org chart.

Select Objectives - What do the individuals add to the org?
Define Indicators - Measures to see if team is meeting objectives
Develop Contingencies -
Periodic Review of System

  • Manage resources effectively - % of total budget funded from outside
  • Develop programming code to meet district needs - Ratio of programming call tickets completed to received
  • Provide quality data-drive PD - % of PD generated based on district performance data
Team members have to discuss what they do, what they bring to the organization. "What are you paid to do?"

Develop Contingencies
  • Create scale graph for each measure. Scale of potential performance against effectiveness. 
  • Overall importance (Ex: -100 to +100) - overall, this would be important. Other example: -50 to +50 so, not quite as important.
  • What is the zero point? Don't want to fall below zero. May not be at the halfway mark; depends on the measure.
  • Check priorities at any given time. Where are compared to where you want to be, then prioritize based on those stats/measures. Ex: from 0 to 60% may be a 77-point gain, where moving from 60% to 100% may be a 23-point gain.
  • System itself is partially subjective, but should be based on previous data the group wants to use as the baseline.
  • Based on what the group has determined they want feedback.
  • Use software to measure the effectiveness
  • Effectiveness gains and losses
  • Need outside perspective to provide objective feedback
Periodic Review:
  • Monitor and adjust
  • Dedicated time to do this
  • Once folks are embedded and have ownership, they want to be successful
  • Things get better, use as launchpads for further development. Ex: Did teachers enjoy the PD to data-driven PD
  • Can adjust along the way. Ex: as you grow, you move the bottom up to keep yourself from falling back again.
Input will be gathered from the stakeholders affected by the various teams/measures. Interview the stakeholders and find the areas of need/weakness to be addressed.

AdvancED accreditation achieved by NEFEC through the use of ProMES goals, etc.
Moved toward organizational data-driven Goals and Objectives
Developed an Organizational Mgmgt System
Incorporated into Performance Appraisal System - Based on evidence of meeting, collecting data, conducting feedback sessions - using the process. 15% of individual performance eval

#aesa14 Work Life: Session 1 - Partnering to Protect Agency Systems andData

Partnering to Protect Agency Systems and Data

Why I chose this:
I am always interested in ways to help the technology at the co-op. I thought this session might help provide ideas that I could share with schools and other co-ops in the state.

What we covered:
From Iowa's AEA System

Presentation available online at the AESA conference site.

Collaborations among AEA's:
  • Internet aggregation out to the schools
  • PowerSchool Support (Student mgmt system)
  • School finance
  • Zoom videoconferencing
  • iBoss filtering
  • Area tech director meetings
  • IEC (statewide buying program)
  • Statewide WEB IEP
  • ITEC (Statewide tech organization, conference)
  • Clarity Survey (BrightBytes) - statewide
  • Tech consultants and shared resources
 These are services offered at co-op level or higher.

Reasons to collaborate:
  • Cost savings
  • Logical to use existing systems
  • Similar work
  • Natural disasters
Partnering to protect data:
    • Competition replaced by partnerships
    • Same goal in mind
    • Trust each other
    • Friendship
    • Relationships
Created a data center
  • $100,000 for building
  • $100,000 for foundation, electrical, etc
  • 12'x27' 69000 lbs
  • Three 6 ton 24/7 a/c units with spare
  • 16 steel gauge door
  • fire suppression system
  • 150+ mph winds
  • Generator protected  
  • Building set up high on the foundation (4ft off ground)
Lesson learned:
  • Locate units so that they are not sun-facing
  • Will units shut down if too hot? Ask!
Phones - Need POTS in case power goes out!
UPS/APC units - make sure you have enough backup coverage to last as long as you need.
Monthly generator tests - exactly what does your kill switch kill?
Have pertinent order/serial numbers easily accessible and readable

ICN - Iowa Communications Network - fiber going everywhere. State-owned and leased operated fiber. Local last mile is leased by district off the state network. Connects schools, colleges, medical, etc. ICN is 10Gig each, but looking at additional bandwidth to handle data.

Avamar by EMC in place

All data backed up to one site, then just servers are backed up to another site.

Starting to look at Hot Sites; point-to-multipoint; VSphere replication with SRM; Data and software duped in real time; currently only financial software is hot-sited, but looking at other software/services.

Charge schools flat fee or per student fee for costs.

Possible future:
Statewide SIS
Statewide RFP templates for erate AEA and LEA
iPad repair

#aesa2014 Work Life: AESA Conference 2014 - Opening Session

Walter G Turner award presented to Dr. James Denova from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This award is given to nominated persons who have helped enhance and/or expand the reach and awareness of educational service centers in their region, state, or nation.

Morning keynote: Andrew Bennett

Shared story of working with Jo-Ann Fabrics and Ross Perot's EDS. The differences between where things were and where they've moved. Different cultures in the workplace as well. EDS was nurturing, allowing employees to thrive. Jo-Ann Fabrics was one in which the surviving mentality was king - reaction-focused.

Thriving environment is about the future, requires conscious effort. Surviving environment where brilliant people cannot get things done. Thriving allows regular folks to excel and exceed.

How do you (as ESA's) deal with the challenges that you face, especially in a world where things change rapidly and get much more complex as time goes on?

Today is not about being sick and getting better, but rather how to get better than you are. This is about being creative, finding solutions that come faster and provide better services; inspiring environment.

Creativity and Collaboration from the World of Magic

Transformation from surviving to thriving - leadership is everything. Not from a title perspective, but in your heart/spirit. It can come from anywhere, any position. By managing your thinking, and accessing your spirit, that's where you improve your performance. Not religion, but the creative force we have - joy when serving others and when we 'do good.' Success comes by tapping into that spirit.

Appear, disappear, restore

Most powerful forms of transformation. What do I need to make appear? Disappear? Restore? By asking those questions, it provides mechanism for more robust results.

Six creative Powers:
  • Words
  • Self-Awareness
  • Inspiration
  • Relationships
  • Authenticity
  • Mastery

APPEAR: We hide the truth and then reveal it. Act of revealing the truth. You gain great power when you find the deeper truth about contribution, service, and what gives us hope? Gallop Poll 70% of world workers are either not engaged or are actively not engaged - not thriving, they are surviving. 450-550 million dollars in lost productivity in the U.S. No hope. How do we create something with value that means something and creates hope.

Incorporate inspiration into our work. Old way = motivation; impel, dangling carrot; limiting because relies on external sources. Inspiration = breathe life, emotional, self-sustaining.

The power of WOW! 
We feel it when we are connected to something we do at work or in our lives. "Because of my/our work, I see a world where..." Take 5 minutes to freehand write an answer to that questions.

In ESA terms, do you remember that your work results in some kind of betterment for children in some way - whether directly or indirectly. We must take time to reflect.

Burning platform and burning desire - the energy to make our future appear.

Fear does not motivate. Need something to pull you forward. Need something to light the fire, but need excited picture of the future to pull you forward.

Power of Words
60,000 thoughts per day. 95% are same thoughts we had yesterday. Things like driving.
BALL - words conjure pictures.
BOWLING BALL - clearing picture

"abracadabra" - What I speak is what I create

What we speak to others has influence on their performance; what we say to ourselves influences our own performance. Sometimes, we have to stop and regroup and find/remember what makes us create.

The vision that inspires you must be nurtured. Are you painting a picture of an inspiring future that ignites a fire?

David Copperfield flying - beautiful illusion. He opened communication and collaboration. "I want to fly." He did not want to rework levitation. He wanted to FLY. Seven years to develop the illusion.

What language might be limiting your creativity? Personal language, company language, organization language. What would a company word audit show?

Literal and symbolic disappearing.

What do you need to stop doing?
What tolerations do we need to let go of?
What should we say NO to?

The act of making something disappear is often one of concealment. We hide things to make them 'disappear.'

Symbolic is concealment. What we really want to make disappear is our anxiety over a situation.

Fear of not being good enough - protecting stance, critical, judgmental; points potential problems; criticizes others.

Fear of rejection - complaining; likable, following the rules; supportive; subordinate their own ideas

Fear of failure - Controlling; driven, dictator; get things done; push own ideas

Which of those do you use? Which is your core strategy? How does that hold you and your team back?

How do we create a culture where people can become aware of their own reactive behavior and change it?

Power of relationships - how can we be box jumpers for each other? Find someone to help you overcome your fears.

Managing anxiety is how we overcome fears and get past making things disappear.

Substitution used in magic. When we want to restore something, we need to substitute a new story.

What if our scars can help us thrive? Suffering is relative. Businesses have suffering. Surviving is easy - we are resilient. But, do we want to just survive or do we want to thrive? You must make a decision, a conscious effort to thrive. The work that we do matters - our goal is to make strong children.

What is it that you want to make appear, disappears, and be restored in your life - personally and professionally?

Nov 29, 2014

Memory Lane: Dad's Computer Games

While my wife and daughter went off shopping, I decided to take some time and clean up the ol' home office. Now, mind you, I did say "clean up" and not "clean out" nor "tear down and start over." Believe me, that is an important bit of information. However, I will say that while "redding up" (well I am used to calling it, having been in Pittsburgh and all), I did a LOT of cleaning out. I threw out things that have been hanging around for decades. And, that is where this tale comes into play (slight pun intended).

I found a lot of CDR and DVD discs that had never been labeled, so after I was done cleaning, I fired up the computer and starting sifting through them. There were a LOT of them, and I tossed many of them away - mainly because they wouldn't even read in the drive.

I came across one that was made in 2005 or so and it had several folders: "Add-ons," "Patches," NoCD," etc. These discs used to be quite prevalent in and around the Henderson households (that is my family's household and my parent's) back in the day when we had dial-up. At work, I had much faster access and would grab all kinds of game enhancements and share those with Dad.

My main target were NoCD patches. Back before Steam, UPlay, and the like, you *HAD* to install software by disc (my preferred method still, frankly). And, often, as a means of copy protection, you had to have the disc in the drive in order to play the games. Well, someones out in the world figured out ways to let you play the games WITHOUT the discs. That was awesome. Hunting for and swapping out discs was a pain in the butt. I know, that sounds like whining, but we played a LOT of games.

In addition to the "Patches" disc, I decided to consolidate the several binders in which Dad had kept his discs. He was far more organized than I in that regard. So, after I consolidated, I started leafing through the binder's pages. Memories, wonderment, and puzzlement all came flooding in as I took a walk down computer gaming memory lane. And, this is what I am going to share with you now. Grab a Coke, a snack, and maybe a tissue or two. We may need them.

Before I get rolling, let me share a little about me and my Dad. I don't remember much of what my very young years were like in terms of him playing with me and my brother. I know he liked to attend certain activities with us (or, more to the point, TAKE us there: wrestling matches, indoor soccer games, Sea World and Geauga Lake...), but I don't really remember connecting with my dad on a "playing" level, if that makes sense. That all changed when I got my first computer. Well, really, I suppose that changed a little when we had our first "console" system: Atari 2600 followed quickly by Intellivision. I do remember playing some, but what really changed things was my first computer: a Commodore 64. He worked with a guy who helped us get all kinds of games for the thing. Dad and I would play some games together or watch each other play.

Fast forward to roughly 1998. I'm not sure if Dad had a home computer before 1998 or not. But, what I do know is that when my wife and I moved into our new home, my parents moved into the house we used to live in. Dad and I each had a computer and we spent many, many evenings playing together - well, watching each other play, really. We didn't have a way to do multiplayer games then. usually, the scenario went like this: Shan and my Mom would watch TV shows and Dad and I would hang out in his home office and play games. I loved every minute of it. I don't know if he knew that or not, though I suppose it would be hard to miss, but I couldn't wait to sit and talk about the latest games, the new mods for certain games (more on that in a bit), and how we needed to upgrade our computers for the next games coming out.

As I said, he kept his game discs in binders with special CD-ROM pages. So, tonight, I walked through those pages again after a long, long time (Dad passed in 2007). To be honest, I don't remember much about many of the games themselves. But, what I do remember are the things Dad and I would talk about RELATED to the games.

The binder (everything was moved from 3 binders to 1 very thick one) starts with Doom 3. This was one of Dad's favorites. Back in the Windows 95/98 days, Dad fell in love with 1st person games. Now, his all-time favorite was Clive Barker's Undying, but that game wouldn't run on Windows XP and he spit nails because of that. Anyway, he loved Doom 3. I remember watching him play through the opening sequence and I explained the history of Doom and id software and such. After he played a while, I installed the original Doom, Duke3d, and Wolf3d. He was not impressed. Haha! He was spoiled by the much better graphics and handling of Doom 3. In fact, that quickly became one of the running "benchmark jokes." When a new game would come out, he'd ask something like, "Is it better than that Wolfenstein game you showed me?" I would invariably say something like, "Yes, Dad. Wolf3d came out way before this new one."

I will not list every game in the binder, but I am going to show you what a varied taste in games my father had. The next page has the 10th Anniversary MYST, Riven, and Myst III on it. He loved puzzle games. He loved to hunt and click and figure out how certain pieces fit together to make something else happen. Later in this post, you'll come to see the true obsession he had with the genre.

He also loved war games. I remember the two of us playing through Call of Duty, Medal of Honor, Brothers in Arms, and Iron Storm. He usually had the controls and I would call attention to snipers he didn't see or enemy tactical movements he was missing because he was focused on the action in front of him. We would feed off each other, too. When we weren't in the same room, we would each play the games and then help each other through the rough spots. In a way, it was like some kind of single-player buddy system. Of course, many times, we would encourage the other person to go headlong into a firefight to see what happened, not necessarily willing to do the same in our own game.  He had other war-related games like Silent Hunter III and Enigma: Rising Tide or Shellshock 'Nam 67.

Remember what I said a bit ago about adventure games? I am pretty sure my dad had every Dreamcatcher/Adventure Company game ever developed. He absolutely loved playing those. Some of the titles in here are Syberia, Syberia II, Dracula, Lights Out, The Black Mirror, Dark Fall, and the list goes on and on. Seriously, he became obsessed with those games from that publisher. I think he bought a title every week for a while there, or it sure seemed like it. I suppose I should give one a try. I have never played any of them that I can recall.

One of my all-time favorites was XIII. Oh, man, he and I geeked out (though we didn't call it that in those days) over the cool cel shading technique used in that game. It was like playing a comic book shooter. I think we played through it a few times each, just not able to get enough of it after it was over.

He also loved utilities. Yes, you read that correctly. In fact, there is a 3.5-inch floppy with WinZip on it in the binder. But, he also had things like ULead video makers, Seagate hard drive utilities, Dragon Naturally Speaking (lol, the 1999 version is in here), PrintShop, and more. That's all well and good, but he would use certain utilities in ways that no one else would, and that was not always a good thing. I remember he tried to ZIP up his Windows folder once. He used some kind of "cleaner" utility to delete a "bunch of useless DLL files taking up space" that he then later called me to ask why his computer wasn't working correctly. He especially loved image programs. His favorite was "ACDSee" though he used a plethora of others as well.

And then, there were the sports games. He made the folks at EA Sports a LOT of money, let me tell you. He bought just about every EA Sports game they made: Tiger Woods, NHL, MLB, Madden, FIFA, NCAA Football (the one time they had it on PC), you name it. I think he even bought Cricket or Rugby or something (those have since disappeared from his binder, before i got hold of it). His desire for the games was not really to play the games themselves, but rather to MOD the games. He first started back with NHL '98. I remember this like it was yesterday. I came home from work, and he had been online all day (dial-up back then) downloading some kind of "Add-on" for his game. He learned where to put the files that would replace the original ones. In this case, he found arena files that would update all the in-game boards with the actual ads from the real-life counterparts. I have to admit, I thought it was awesome. We would play against each other in near-replica arenas. He didn't stop at boards, either. He downloaded crowds, uniforms, ice graphics, you name it. and, he didn't stop at hockey. FIFA was his all-time favorite to install these add-ons. He would search for add-ons and then hand me a list to download during my lunch at work. We had team kits, stadium updates, and at one point, he found the Spanish-language commentator files and had me download those so that he could play his game with Spanish commentators! haha! Oh, man that was a riot. Every sports game he bought, he would immediately install and start the hunt for modifications to enhance the game.

Looking through this binder, I find flight simulators, real-time simulations, pool, bowling, and casino games (even an autographed card from Annie Duke, no less!), the whole "CSI" series of games, "Splinter Cell," "Mafia," "GTA Vice City," and so much more.

I truly wish Dad would have been able to see games now. He would be flipping out over the latest EA Sports games, all the "Seek and Find" games available, 1st person shooters, and anything else he could download and find add-ons to change up. There are many things I miss about my father. One of the strongest, though, is being able to call him up or run up the hill and tell him about some new game we could play or some cool new add-on he'd enjoy. Every now and then, I get that urge and it stops me dead in my tracks that I have to remind myself he's moved on.