Technology Pursuit

Blending Technology Into the Language Arts Classroom

Category: Uncategorized (page 2 of 11)

Playing it Smart with Summer Planning

Last week, I got a wake up call from my body.

I was in the ER with my son and his broken arm (Moral of the story there: Don’t ride bikes next to a kid who is texting and biking) and I inexplicably passed out. Whether or not it’s connected, the next day I started the worst case of bronchitis I’ve had in 20 years.

Over the past three months, I’ve been more sick than I’ve been since my three kids were extremely young.

Message received, universe: I’ve worn myself out. I need to take better care of myself.

Obviously, rest is the first priority this summer, but I’ve also had to think about my priorities. I often do “fun” school stuff during the summer. The stuff that isn’t vital to learning. Stuff like

  • Creating new gamification ideas
  • Reading lots of education books
  • Re-designing my physical classroom layout
  • Browsing Pinterest boards

These aren’t bad activities. To some extent, they all have a positive benefit in the classroom. However, I had to re-examine my priorities and what has landed me here in the land of cough drops & cold medicine.

It was time to take an honest look at what took up the most time or gave me the most stress this year. At first, the answers varied. Assessing writing and work. Staying caught up on planning during speech season. Motivating the senioritis stricken. All of it came down to one word.

Feedback.

This is what stresses me the most. When I’m on top of it, my teaching is most effective. I’m in the flow. When I’m behind, I’m straddling water, and it’s easier to lose student interest, and in turn, student learning.

This summer, I’m focusing on these goals:

  • Revamp my peer feedback methods. Teach them to give stronger feedback. The more students can give feedback, the less weight is on my shoulders.
  • Making a visual layout of each unit of learning — and accepting that it’s a work in process. This includes reviewing the “rough” areas of my units the past two years and smoothing them out.

For years, I’ve heard the tired mantra “Work smarter, not harder.” It’s about time I took it to heart.

Final Countdown!–#games4ed Chat Takeaways

This past Thursday (May 18, 2017), #games4ed took on the end of the school year as the chat focus. As usual, I have some favorite takeaways from the evening:

  • Minecraft Beta Codebuilder: Microsoft recently released the beta Codebuilder for Minecraft! I wasn’t sure about the access to it, so Minefaire shared the options:
  • Some educators like @MarianaGSerrato have their students write letters of advice for next year’s students. Other twists include @PerkyScience’s method of students creating videos on Flipgrid or having students write letters in their avatar character.
  • Reflection can also be shown through game design. Have students create a game as a capstone project based on something they’ve learned this year.
  • Finally, I’m very excited to be playing with the app Deck.Toys. I’ve been dreaming a “game map” for my units for a couple of years now, and this app combines this idea with locks ala “Breakout” Games. Check out the samples below:
  • Join us for the #games4ed any Thursday at 8pmET!

 

Hosting a Words With Friends Challenge

It’s the end of the school year here. Seniors are gone, but British Literature is 50% juniors, most of whom have qualified for skipping finals.

So just what do you do for two days for students who have “checked out”?

Host a Words With Friends challenge!

Matt Farber inspired me to do this when he wrote about Words With Friends Edu in his book Gamify Your Classroom. I set up an account and a classroom, and then shared the code with the students.

After that, the challenge took off! Many students worked on their games throughout the two days. The best part was tallying up the scores. Even after students posted their total points on the board, they returned to their games and continued playing!

 

Flipgrid Reading Reviews

For our final reading response of the year, I tried the new Flipgrid app, and let me tell you–amazingly simple and simply amazing.

After creating a Flipgrid account, I started my first grid and shared it with students with the following information:

Share the best book you read this year! Include a SUMMARY of the book and WHY the book was the best!

Things to consider for your video:  Background music? Setting/background? A guest? Notecards? Props?

Awards will be give for the following videos:
-Funniest
-Most attention grabbing
-Most creative
-Most persuasive

I was so impressed with the ease of the program. Students could easily make their videos. Plus, creating the videos also provided another way for students to practice their speaking standards and overcome nervousness of speaking to a camera (which is similar to nervousness of speaking to an audience).

Then, one student took it another step in creativity by adding credits:

Jacob’s video opened the door. Then Chism, whose book was Gym Candy, set his reading response in the weight room:

From then on the creativity exploded! I never imagined two students teaming up to do this:

Or an homage to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off!

On just one assignment–so much creativity! Yes, some students kept it simple and straightforward (you can see more here), but they were able to face the camera and create a great go-to resource for next year’s students who are looking for an independent reading book!

 

 

Hiding Easter Eggs in Google Drawing

Easter Eggs in gamified classrooms come in myriad forms. I’ve seen drool-worthy Easter Eggs as cryptic messages, invisible ink, and thousands of other amazing ways.

But Easter Eggs don’t require a lot of time and energy. For my Hamlet unit, I hid Easter eggs using invisible links in Google Drawing.

I organized the unit using a Google Drawing map, as seen above. Most of the links are obvious–links to the videos on Edpuzzle, reading check quizzes, and choices of assignments. You can also see a link at the bottom of Hamlet’s illustration that connects students to Ryan North’s game To Be or Not to Be, if that’s something they want to pursue. (I also own a version on my iPad).

However, I also hid Easter Eggs within the document that linked to other interesting Hamlet links, including the Simpsons’ version of Hamlet, comics about Hamlet, and an article that describes Hamlet being translated into wacky languages.

Here’s how I did it.

First, use the drawing tool to draw a shape–doesn’t matter what shape. Change the line color to invisible.

Then, click the edge of the shape again to highlight it, and link it (Shortcut: Command + K on Mac, Control + K on PC) with the URL.

That’s it. Now I have  7-8 different Easter eggs hidden within the Hamlet map. As of now, I’ve had some students find some of them, but some still lie hidden, waiting for a curious student to find them.

GameJam Takeaways: #games4ed Chat 4/27/17

 

Thursday night, I enjoyed my very first chat with the amazing Tammie Schrader @tammieschrader, who first led an Edtech Interactive on planning a regional game jam, followed by an entire hour where we got to chat about it on Twitter.

Let me tell you–the amount of planning Schrader puts into her game jams: Remarkable! If you’re planning ANY type of an out-of-classroom game jam in the future, you definitely want to review this webinar first

So many ideas were tossed around during the #games4ed chat that followed that there’s no way I could read them all the first time through the chat–a second time of reading the chat archives (found here!) was needed for me to get through everything!

Schrader shared so many essential things that need to be covered when planning and hosting a regional game jam that I can’t list them all here. However, I do have my favorite takeaways:

  1. Location, Location, Location! Schrader spent a lot of time scouting potential venues for her game jam. In fact, there are so many potential places: schools, of course, but also libraries, community centers, and college unions. The time span of the game jam heavily impacts your venue choice. Schrader hosted an all night jam (what an exciting jam idea!), but hosting it at a school forces you to follow even more administrative rules for that location. Another alternative you might want to look into is a private tech business that wouldn’t just be supportive of your mission, but also have the tech infrastructure you need if you’re planning a digital chat.

That said, maybe you decide on your school. Nothing wrong with it. If you do, though, host it in the media center or commons area. Rearrange the furniture. Make it seem as “unschoollike” as possible

2. Donations!  Schrader first started with a grant that helped fund the game jam, but other businesses also donated prizes and, most importantly for teenagers: FOOD.  Actually, just important for any game jam.

3. Staffing. If you’re hosting a digital game jam, find some computer science mentors to come in and help advise groups. Schrader used local college students. But the staffing doesn’t end there. Adult volunteers will still be needed to help with supervision and keeping food stocked.

4. Theme. Perhaps my favorite idea was using a them for a game jam. Asking students to create a game jam that deals with a community problem, or the Hero’s Journey, or any other idea provides a starting line for the groups.

Join us for #games4ed on Twitter any Thursday night at 8pmET/7pmCT

 

 

 

The Easter Egg: The 4/20/17 #games4ed Chat

Nearly every week I participate in the #games4ed chat, and every week I am so blessed to learn new takeaways from some of my favorite Twitter peeps! Last night’s chat focused on Easter Eggs in games, and here are some of my favorite ideas:

 

Tale Blazer: New to me, Tale Blazer is MIT’s AR software that allows teachers and students to build mobile games around any subject. It sounds like it has amazing potential and can’t wait to play with it more!

 

Easter Eggs Throughout the School: I loved the concept of planting eggs for the entire student body. One very simple idea was putting Easter Eggs in the daily announcements–something that would be great for middle and high school students. Another idea shared was setting up Easter Eggs during Back to School nights or Student Orientation Days–a great way to get incoming freshmen to interact with their surroundings more!

Games that use Easter Eggs–Literally: While planning the chat, I ran across some great idea for actually using eggs, like using eggs to teach prefixes, roots and suffixes. Other uses could be for math problems or any type of game that connects two ideas together–Great for tactile learners!

Full Transcripts from the Easter Egg chat can be found here.

 

If you’ve never been to a #games4ed Twitter chat, come check it out! Every Thursday, 8pmET/7pmCT/6pmMT/5pmPT!

 

 

 

 

The Peer Review Process

It’s spring, three weeks left with my seniors, and time to review what worked well this year–and what didn’t. And one thing that I’m never fully happy with is my peer review process.

I’ve used myriad ways: Google forms, Google docs, plain old hard copy. This year I used peergrade.io, which is a handy tool and helped the organization of it all.

But still, I’ve never been content. Some students take it seriously. Some don’t. Although I know these are teenagers, and I may not get 100% engagement every minute of every day, some peer review half-heartedly.

I don’t blame them. I blame myself–at least partly. As a teacher, I don’t feel like I’ve yet truly prepared them all for peer review. In fact, there have been years I bypassed using peer review completely–after all, I decided, I’m the teacher. Shouldn’t they get their feedback from me?

Then I think back to my masters degree workshops. I learned just as much about writing reading and thinking through giving feedback on others’ papers as I did getting feedback for my own. Perhaps even more.

This past week, I read Starr Sackstein’s new book Peer Feedback in the Classroom, which gave me a great idea: Jigsaw peer review. Rather than having students assess all aspects of writing, Sackstein describes how “expert groups” focus on one area of writing, such as introduction, analysis, and organization.

I love the advantage of having students focus on one area. It’s less overwhelming to them, especially for those who aren’t completely confident in their feedback.

This is certainly something I’ll try next year–and if you get a chance, take a read of Peer Feedback in the Classroom. It applies to ANY type of peer feedback, whether it be writing, art, science projects, or any type of student creation.

https://giphy.com/gifs/ELyJbZQhncObu/html5

 

Listen Up! Two New Gaming Podcasts

A few weeks ago, I finished forensics season. I was spent. Exhausted. Dare I say–a bit burned out.

What better way to get rejuvenated than to tune into a couple new podcasts while out walking in the spring weather?

  1. Legends of Edgames Podcast: The Legends of Learning crew launched their podcast this past January, focusing on #GBL in the classroom. This past weekend, I listened to Episode #4 with guest Chris Aviles, gamification guru. Anything with Chris is a great read (or in this case, listen) as he shared his insights and learnings about gaming in the classroom. Plus, if you’re a middle school science teacher, you definitely need to check out the hundreds of games Legends of Learning website now has to offer!      
  2. Well PlayED Podcast: Michael Matera and Tisha Richmond talk about gamification, game-based learning, and just plain old playful learning. Just launched, this podcast promises to be another staple in the game-loving-teacher’s toolbelt. In the first episode, Michael and Tisha share the reasons they love gamifying their learning and their overall process in how they started.

 

Of course, there are always amazing Twitter chats to join for game-based learning and gamification! All three of the chats are filled with great minds, always welcoming new folks and lurkers!

Tuesdays, 7pmCT: #MinecraftEDU

Wednesdays, 7pmCT: #XPLAP

Thursdays, 7pmCT: #games4ed

 

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