Monthly Archives: January 2014
Today I’m sharing something we do in the classroom for indoor recess or a break. Since I teach in the computer lab, students just come to me for 30-50 minutes from their regular classrooms, so I don’t really have recess time. However, on days when they are needing a break from Standardized testing, or before a holiday, I like to “assign” them a selection of themed games to play.
For example, around Christmas I find a few fun Christmas themed puzzle games and put the links to those games on my website (I have a wiki at http://tlsonline.pbworks.com where students can go to find their activities and links they are working on that day in class). Then I let them choose which games they want to explore. This way, I know they are safe, but they are still getting to have some fun.
My topic for today’s blogging challenge is a book I have read for professional purposes. The book I am recommending is Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better And How They Can Change The World, by Jane McGonigal.
This book may seem an odd choice for an educational read, but it has many tie ins to educational theory. This book isn’t just about playing games. It’s about how the theory behind our favorite (and the best) games can apply to other areas of our lives, especially education. For example, two of McGonigal’s Four Secrets to Happiness, corroborated by years of psychological research, is that we crave “satisfying work,” and “social connection.” Combine these two and you are more likely to have a successful and fun learning experience. She advocates 14 “fixes” that would make the real world, and our participation in it, as fulfilling as video games. These are things such as “tackling unnecessary obstacles” in order to increase our self motivation, and “seeking more epic wins” by achieving things on a grander and more self-fulfilling scale.
Teachers can incorporate these things into their classroom to make lessons more fun, fulfilling, and engaging for students.
For more information, I found a thorough and excellent review of the book here.
As a technology educator, I fight a constant battle. Students LOVE technology, but don’t always want to use it the way I want them to. They want to play games. All. The. Time.
One simple way I deal with this is to make sure all of the computer screens are facing me. I placed tables around the perimeter of the room, with monitors on the front wall, back wall, and on two tables in the sides of the room, facing inwards.
This way, when I am in the front of the room, giving directions from the front computer and screen, or even if I am walking around helping students, I can see all of the computers with one quick glance. It really helps cut down on off task behavior.
Of course, there are always those students who try to minimize the window of the game they are trying to play “on the sly” … as if I wouldn’t know what they are doing!! For those cases, I have a discussion with them about honesty. I tell them, if you have to hide what you are doing, then you are not doing the right thing, and you KNOW IT. Which is even worse. Even the students can’t argue with that one!
Well, with the MLK Jr. Holiday, me taking off due to moving, and the surprise snowstorm here in the Northeast, I missed a few days. So I’m doubling up on the Blogging Challenge today. The two topics I’m combining are Assessment and Something You Wish You Could Improve. Because for me, assessment is one of the things I wish I could do better!
It’s hard to assess technology prowess. I can assign content based lessons, but then sometimes the results show a deficiency in reading, writing, or the content area, not necessarily the technology. Sometimes it takes certain students longer to complete a project, so their grade reflects the incompleteness. But what if they were taking longer because they were putting in more effort along the way and that’s why they didn’t finish? These are just a few of the issues I struggle with when assessing.
One thing I am sure of is that one-size-fits-all assessment does not work. I’ve found that through years of trying to assign the same lesson to everyone on the same day and have everyone finish at the same time. Not happening. Some students are done early and then want to have free play time, some finish just as the class is over and get no reward for their hard work, and some never finish! I am working on transforming my curriculum into a more self directed type of learning, at least for my middle schoolers. My goal is to provide lessons that they can access on-demand, via screencasts, and then they can work on the lesson material at their own pace. I’m fascinated with Gamification, or making learning more like “leveling up” in a video game. I think the students would really enjoy this, but would they put in the effort to really learn, or just do the minimum to get by? The only way I can find out is to try. I’ll be working on planning this out to put it into place for at least one grade level next school year (with perhaps a pilot for the end of this school year if I can get it ready). Stay tuned for more information on that as I work on it!
Hello! Today is the fourth day of the Blogging Challenge, and I’m having fun! I hope you are too. I love how a format like this helps me figure out what to blog about.
Today I am sharing an idea from my classes this week. A while ago I heard about a cute “avatar” builder called Build Your Wild Self. I’ve incorporated it into my second grade curriculum. During their classroom unit on animals, we use this tool to create a fantastical animal character, and then write a story about it. Here’s how it works:
First, go to http://www.buildyourwildself.com/. Click Start.
You will begin with a blank canvas, and choose whether you want your character to be a boy or girl. Then you can begin adding features using the buttons in the middle of the screen. Here’s an example:
When you are done, DON’T CLICK “I’m done.” If you want to use this character in a word document, it looks better if you keep this smaller version, rather than the full page version you get when you click done.
Then, press the “PrintScreen” button on your keyboard, which takes a screenshot of your finished creature, and paste it into a Word document. Now your students can write about their character. You could have them describe the different animal parts, tell about their imaginary character traits, or write an original story. What other ideas can you think of?
The theme for today’s blog is “One Website You Can’t Live Without.” Well, there are many. I’m kinda addicted to the internet. Perhaps I should seek help. 😉
But, for today I will mention just one, and that is how I found out about this blogging challenge in the first place. It’s…. FEEDLY!
Feedly is a blog feed aggregator. That means, it lets you put in your favorite blog addresses and then displays them all for you in one place. I love to read what other teachers are doing in their classrooms, such as Kevin Jarrett’s K4STEMLab; and find out about educational websites from great resources such as Richard Byrnes’ FreeTech4Teachers. But I don’t have time to sit and click through EVERY blog I want to read. Just the time spent typing in all the addresses would take me an hour. And I probably couldn’t remember them all. I also categorize my feed, because I follow not only educational blogs, but also blogs by other moms, recipe blogs, craft/DIY blogs, and fashion blogs.
Feedly puts it all into an easy to read format. I can tackle one category at a time, or just go through the list of posts by most recent. I can also organize them to display pictures, and arrange them on the page so it sort of looks like a newspaper. But I prefer a nice, simple list, and I just go through post by post to see if there is anything I can learn from or find new websites to try with my students or share with my colleagues. It’s easy to sign up, just go to http://feedly.com/ and create an account. Click on “Add Content” and paste in the address of a blog you want to read (like https://agentlaurasmith.wordpress.com/) and you’re off and running! You can also browse for content based on keywords. So if you want to find blogs about computer science or recipes or whatever, just type it in the search box and feedly will show you blogs that fit that description.