Tag Archives: technology

My Chess Project Is Finally Over…

My Chess Project Is Finally Over…

This semester has flown by, and so has this learning project! As part of ECMP 355, a class about using technology in the classroom, I was required to use online sources to learn a skill of my choice and to blog about it weekly to share my progress.

I chose to learn how to play chess because it was a skill I had very limited experience with and I thought it would be nice to have something completely different to work on that still counted as homework. I also felt chess was a solid choice because it is one of my fiancé’s passions, so I knew he would be able to direct me to useful online sources and support me in the process.

So I bet you’re wondering how my epic chess quest turned out.  Was it a nice break from homework? Not at all. Was my fiancé helpful and supportive? Absolutely. Does that mean I enjoyed the process? Not a chance. This project really challenged me, and although I definitely feel I’ve grown in my chess abilities, I can’t say I enjoyed the whole process.

Now my negativity has you hooked!  Check out this recap of my learning project posts to find out more about the ups and downs of my journey:

Learning Project Recap

So I’m learning to chess…

  • Introduction, inspiration, and rationale for my learning project

The Opening (of my epic chess quest)

Valiant Knight Crushed in Grueling Battle (My First Chess Tournament)

Dropped Pieces + Shattered Dreams = Fresh Determination

  • Describing challenges:  finding motivation to play chess games when busy/tired, dropping pieces in my games
  • Video where I analyze one of my online games
  • New action plan:  play and analyze 4 games/week, continue doing tactics puzzles every day, watching instructional videos and live streams more often
  • Tools to share learning:  Screencastify

Chess Cognition (AKA Thought Process Boot Camp)

  • Description and key learnings from Chess Cognition video series by John Bartholomew
  • What I liked and didn’t like about this video series
  • Identifying specific chess skills to work on

Chess Games: The Ultimate Relationship Test

  • Picture and cheesy fast-motion video of me playing chess against my fiancé, Kelly, to show my progress
  • Video of our joint game analysis (with highlights provided) to show my progress and teach others about chess skills
  • Tools used to share learning:  Samsung video editor app (recommended by Curtis), phone tripod (borrowed from Curtis)

Curtis Reply on LP

S’more Chess Updates (not the graham cracker kind)

Tried-and-True Resources to Help You Learn Chess

  • Annotated collection of resources I have used to improve my chess game
  • Tool used to share learning:  Padlet

One Assessment of My Learning

It’s kind of tricky to show my level of mastery now vs. when I started this project. My Chess.com started me with a provisional rating of 1200, so I had to keep losing games until my rating became more accurate. My rating is now 980, and I’m still not sure how accurate that is.

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 12.31.39 AM

One aspect I saw definite progress in was my tactics! My goal was to reach a rating of 700 on my tactics, and I achieved that on April 4th! Here is a chart that shows my tactics ratings over the past three months:

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 11.58.32 PM

Reflections on the Process of Learning Online

What does learning online make possible?

  1. The ability to express frustrated and/or angry reactions without fear of being judged.

This was a huge difference I found between playing chess online and playing chess in person at the chess tournament. When playing online, I could moan, groan, pout, or yell at my computer screen without worrying about what my opponent would think of these (over)reactions. When I played in the chess tournament, I had to keep my emotions in check and be polite and courteous at all times.


My face after every chess game…

Photo Credit: Scott SM via Compfight cc

  2.  The ability to play a chess game with little to no social interaction with your opponent.

This might sound like a negative thing, but I appreciated having no social interaction with my online opponents. At the tournament, I was annoyed at receiving a comment about my appearance, distracted by my opponents’ facial expressions during the game, and embarrassed to be seen losing to an 8-year-old. When I played online, I didn’t have to worry about any of those kinds of things.

   3. The ability to receive feedback and encouragement from others on your learning.

I received encouragement from classmates and people outside the class on my learning project:

Zach on Chess Cognition

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 11.27.37 PM

I also received feedback on the ways I chose to share my learning project:

Screen Shot 2016-04-14 at 12.51.35 AMScreen Shot 2016-04-14 at 12.51.41 AMT on Smore

   4.  The ability to learn from and feel connected to experts who are far away from you.

Had I not used YouTube as one of the main sources for my learning, I would not have been able to learn from International Master Daniel Rensch or International Master John Bartholomew, who are both professional players and coaches. I also found that after I watched several of their videos, I started to feel like I knew them personally.

What might the process of learning online make impossible?

  1. Private one-on-one learning sessions with another person.

Choosing to learn a skill online usually means that you learn from a variety of sources, which might reduce the possibilities for intimate learning sessions and one-on-one relationship-building with a teacher. For example, if I had learned piano from online sources rather than through private lessons growing up, I wouldn’t have developed such a close relationship with my auntie/piano teacher.

   2. Using all the free time you have to focus on learning the skill.

The process of sharing about your learning can be time consuming. Throughout this project, I sometimes felt like I was spending just as much time writing blog posts about learning to play chess as I was actually learning to play chess.

I can’t think of anything else that learning online makes impossible. Feel free to drop me a comment if you have any ideas!

Final Thoughts

My biggest challenge throughout this learning project was getting frustrated when I lost games. I took my losses really personally, especially at the beginning of my project. As I began to learn more about chess, I discovered how technical it is and found that even really talented players can learn sometime from each game they play. After my losses, I had to constantly remind myself to say “I made this mistake” instead of “I suck at chess,” which was something I really struggled with.

I think the negative self-talk I fell into often happens to students in the classroom when they make mistakes. When I have my own classroom, I really want to emphasize that it’s okay to make mistakes and that mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process. This is definitely easier to say than to put into practice, but I think I could share the story of this learning project with my students to show them how negative self-talk detracts from learning and how adults also struggle with it.

I definitely see the benefits of learning a skill online and sharing that process with the world. Through this project, I was able to: learn from and critically evaluate a variety of online resources; share my progress openly through my blog and Twitter using the hashtag #learningproject; receive encouragement and feedback from my PLN; and explore new tech tools to document my learning. Although attempting to learn chess was challenging, I’m glad I took it on and I think I learned a lot more than chess skills from this project.

So I’m learning to chess…

Intro to Learning Project

This week, I started my #LearningProject for ECMP 355, a class about using technology in the classroom.  The purpose of this assignment is to choose something significant and complex to learn online (using videos, text resources, podcasts, etc.) and to share progress openly in an online space.  I decided to work on improving my chess game for my project.


I was inspired to learn to play chess by my wonderful fiance, Kelly.  Kelly started playing chess online last year and soon became quite addicted to it.  He played live games on Chess.com off and on for about a year before enrolling in a Prodigy Program, which includes live lessons, study plans, homework, and guidance from a team of chess coaches, through the website.  He also plays in the University of Regina’s Chess Club.

Anyway, when he first started playing I learned some of the basics with him.  We used to play against each other once in a while, but he improved really quickly and I hate losing, so I started to reject his offers more often than not.  This Christmas break, he convinced me to play a few times (by giving me a handicap of him playing down a rook) and I started to enjoy playing chess again (even though it’s still extremely frustrating).  Now I’ve decided to fully take it up for my learning project for the next 3 months!


I think this is a good choice for my learning project for a few reasons:

  1. It is very complex, so I know I can easily put lots of hours into learning it.
  2. I already know of quite a few online sources I can use to start improving my chess game.
  3. It is something I can easily work on every day if I choose to; I don’t have to set aside a ton of time to do it.
  4. I have a support person who is super passionate about chess and already tries to teach me chess stuff all the time.
  5. I think learning chess could actually benefit me in ways other than just getting better at chess (i.e. staying calm in stressful situations, thinking ahead, problem solving).  It also might be good for my brain!

Have you ever played chess before?  Do you find it fun, challenging, or frustrating?  Share your thoughts/experiences in the comments!

Technology and Anti-Oppressive Education

How might the changing nature of learning and the increased prevalence of technology be related to social justice and anti-oppressive education?  What is made possible/impossible by these tools and this type of learning?

Here are a few of my thoughts on this question:

According to Kumashiro, teaching for social justice means preparing students to succeed in whatever context they find themselves in.  Technological skills are becoming increasingly important in schools, universities, and the workplace, which means our students will need these skills and if we are teaching for social justice, we must provide them with the opportunity to develop those skills.

What do technological tools and learning based on collaboration make possible?

–      Opportunities to connect with a variety of role models for students

–      Learning that involves ending up with knowledge that could not have been predicted, which is part of Kumashiro’s model for Learning in Discomforting Ways

–      Students may view things on the Internet that reinforce an oppressive status quo  (This is why we must teach students to think independently, critically, and creatively about whatever story is being taught.)

What do technological tools and learning based on collaboration make impossible or difficult?

–      Having students learn about what they resist learning.  (Since learning with technology is interest driven, students might continue to learn what they desire but never learn what they resist learning or think about why they resist learning that.)

–      May disadvantage certain students

  • Students who don’t have access to smartphones, iPads, or computers at home
  • Students who are uncomfortable with sharing online or whose parents aren’t comfortable with this

How can we, as teachers, work against the disadvantage that using these tools and learning in this way may cause?