Tag Archives: #gamification

You Have to Be the Book: Live Action Role Play (LARP) for Learning

Live Action Role Play can be applied to any and all major works of literature as well as almost any content area (scientific inquiry, mathematical reasoning, stage play, history). The rules you make are your own or by others. In my gamification question I have learned more about LARPs and realize that much of the theater and reenactment we do in our classroom is Live Action Role Play. To heighten the stakes, engagement, and learning I was part of a workshop with the Kennedy Center and ArtsEdge Games. Here are some basic elements to get started in your classroom:

The participants

The Game Master – These are the facilitators of the game.

The Players – These individuals have active participation in the story, inhabiting a player character. Note that not all players have equal roles, some have different strengths and weaknesses.

How to Play

Player characters interact with the created world by declaring an action and then determining if that action is successful through the rolling of dice. This process is called an Encounter. Think of an encounter as a conflict between two entities, typical in any good story. Typical conflicts in literature include person vs. person, person vs. nature, person vs. society, and person vs, self. It also includes action and reaction.

Much like the story itself, a proper game attempts to tell a story through a succession of events, both heroic and tragic. Sometimes these events seem like random fortune, other times karma is at work, serving the player character he or she deserves.

An important part of role-playing is understanding your particular character’s motivations and what drives them to do what they can do. Certain characters are driven to their goals so deeply that a part of their consciousness is forever devoted to that cause. The goal with character creation is to design and shape a player-character that not only represents their persona in the subject text but also that fits into the structures of the game itself.

For example, Odysseus of the famed Odyssey – a man of great cunning and ingenuity, uses his intellect to overcome the many obstacles in reaching his home in Ithaca. However, Odysseus is merely a man and thus not without fault. As the greater mind of his era, Odysseus gains Advantage when using non-weapon tools or machines to overpower, kill, or deceive. At the same time one of Odysseus is tantalized by the pursuit of adventure and prestige. If faced with the possibility of fame, fortune, or the protection of his price, and he chooses against it, he gains disadvantages. Every merit is balanced with a flaw. A flaw is simply being an effect that grants disadvantage. Characters are incentivized to use inherent character traits and behave like the characters in the text. For Odysseus, his most common and frequent intent is simply to protect his men from the dangers of adventure. As the book is a “journey home” Odysseus’ standard goal is to make it back to his kingdom in Ithaca.

Inventory is an enhancement in the game. Inventory are usable items that can represent anything from money, to weapons, to social and spiritual representations. The crown of a king represents more than just ornate wealth, it is the very key to ruling people, governing, and influencing. Inventory doesn’t just add items to a player character, it might unlock events or areas, restrict behaviors of characters, change a character or change the surroundings.

LARPs can be open-ended adventure and are open to interpretation. Of course, there are more elements that you can add and build into the game and I have just give you some basics to begin game play in your classroom. For more information about ArtsEdge Games and resources,  click here.

 

 

 

 

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Make 2019 Magical!

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JK Rowling says, “Something magical happens when you read a good book.”

Tisha Richmond’s book Make Learning Magical: Transform Your Teaching and Create Unforgettable Experiences in Your Classroom is a book that will inspire and ignite. I first met Tisha through the weekly #XPLAP Twitter chat and was always enamored with the pictures and ideas she shared on Twitter regarding gamifying her culinary classes. I was honored when she contributed a chapter in my book Gamify Literacy (ISTE, 2017) on the culinary missions her students embark on each semester. Her passion and commitment to education is contagious. Taking cues from Mary Poppins and Mr. Rogers, she shows us that play, laughter, and fun is necessary for learning.

Make Learning Magical is filled with amazing magical learning experiences. She sprinkles joy and love in all that she creates. The seven components she writes about in her book and ones that I will continue to adopt in my own teaching include:

Memorable Beginnings – Warm welcomes, entertaining hooks, passion and enthusiasm are important in creating a classroom community. I love that Tisha has a coffee bar in her classroom and rewards students with a trip to the coffee bar for winning special challenges.  Think about the vibe in your classroom and what kinds of activities you can do in your classroom to build a spirit of community and belonging.

Authenticity and Agency – Kindness, gratitude, and passion are important, even more so, giving students voice in the classroom. Teachers need to provide more hands-on activities and connect with students to personalize learning.

Gamified Experiences – Immersive learning happens in Tisha’s culinary class. She has gamified each of her classes from Masterchef and the Great American Food Truck Race. She uses Mystery Boxes and mini games to promote learning and critical thinking. She deconstructs basic games and shows you how to design them into content specific learning opportunities.

Innovation – “Thinking about things differently, shaking up the status quo, and devising new and better ways of teaching – is how we make learning magical.” It is about being open to using technology in innovative ways and adapting existing things (and even lessons) for new purposes.

Creativity, Collaboration, and Curiosity  – Creating missions for students to demonstrate their learning and go above and beyond the required curriculum is another gasified element in Tisha’s classroom. She allows students to create videos and other artifacts to showcase their learning and talents.

Authentic Audience – School today is about real and relevant. The assignments that students create should help them not only get a grade in the class but also give them skills and knowledge they need to succeed outside of the classroom. Meaningful learning experiences are key. Students aren’t only creating for the teacher but for a wider audience and build connections.

Legacy –  “Every day we have the power to transform students’ lives.” How do you celebrate student successes and how can you help your students realize they have worth?

The new year has just started and our resolutions are in place to be better in the new year. Transforming our classrooms into a magical space where students feel valued and heard is important in building community and making learning happen. Tisha’s book has give me some new ideas how I can adapt my current practices and games in my classroom to spark magic, play, and meaning everyday.

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Pathways to the Standards #CECACASL18

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On Monday, October 22nd I attended and presented the CECA/CASL 2018 Annual Conference. There were more than 50 presentation from educators, authors, and administrators addressing topics that intersect literacy and technology.

One of the key strands of the conference was differentiation and ways to differentiate in a student centered classroom. By differentiation I mean including EVERY learner in the classroom (not just the ones who are struggling). The key is that there are multiple ways for students to demonstrate understanding and instruction needs to change when evidence of learning has not occurred.

Steven W. Anderson of web20classroom.org shared 10 great tools to help differentiate content, product, process, and assessment.

  1. Poll Everywhere is an online polling platform that does more than just have students respond to a survey or multiple choice question. With Poll Everywhere students can respond to an open ended question and even formative assessments where students can pin a location on a map or diagram.
  2. Padlet – Yes, the online sticky notes where students can respond to a question or post a response. Padlet let’s users respond in text, drawing and images, and even audio. I recently had students share book reviews on Padlet of nonfiction independent reading books.
  3. Quizizz is so much better than Kahoot because it is not a competition but an assessment tool similar to Kahoot that let’s students work at their own pace to show their understanding.
  4. Nearpod is an interactive slideshow creator with a quiz feature. Nearpod does so much more and the paid version even offers AR & VR components.
  5. Edpuzzle is great for sharing videos in class and then students can answer questions before, during, and after viewing of their learning.

Teaching is an art more than a mechanical exercise. Students vary as learners and not everyone’s road map is identical for learning. When we know our students we are able to better create learning opportunities that honor their strengths, abilities, and cultures.

6. When thinking about differentiating the process and student’s understanding Anderson spoke about Gamification (Oh, Yeah!!). He shared Breakoutedu, Classcraft, Class Badge, Mincraftedu, and Duolingo – many gamification tools that I blog about regularly.

7. Flipgrid is now free since Microsoft has acquired it and it can be used in so many ways for the classroom from students reflecting on their own learning and thinking to posting a book review or explaining how they solved a math problem.

8. Book Creator is one that I am going to invest more time and attention to this year. Book Creator allows users to create their own interactive ebooks.

9. Microsoft’s Sway lets you create visually appealing and multitiered presentations. You can record audio on the slides and it will even grab resources for you when creating a presentation about specific topics. This is one to check out if you are looking for more interesting Google Slide Decks or Prezis.

10. TextHelp is the makers of Fluency Tutor and Read Write, these two Chrome extensions offers assistive technology that supports literacy in different ways. Fluency Tutor allows students to record text passages to help build their reading fluency and comprehension whereas Read Write has a dozen different tools on its toolbar to support readers and writers.

The key is choice when thinking about differentiating in your classroom. Choose technology platforms that allow students the opportunity to create new products and new knowledge. Remember, it is not technology for technology’s sake, but about creating a learning environment where there is “equity of access to excellence.”

 

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Teachers are Busy Bees: #HiveSummit

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#HiveSummit is a free, 14 day virtual educational conference that started on August 1st. Organized by author and Gamification guru, Michael Matera @mrmatera,  the Hive Summit brings some of the best and the brightest minds together to do what bees do best… work hard for something sweet! The objective of this virtual conference is to help teachers jumpstart the school year with successful practices and positive energy. All the Presenter Bees” talk about ways to design learning experiences that promote engagement and student learning.

The nine presenters and their key ideas are posted below. If you are reading this before 8/14/18, register for The Hive Summit to view the videos and learn more.

Rabbi Michael Cohen @TheTechRabbi – Designer Educator, Creativity Instigator, and Director of Innovation

Rabbi Michael Cohen, a keynote presenter at #ISTE18, speaks passionately about design thinking and the need for creativity in the classroom. He was keen to say that creativity needs to be cultivated in the classroom; creativity is not something you have or get. In our world today students need to have the time and space to tinker, make, and create in order to figure things out, explore, and experiment. The Tech Rabbi shared one activity to ignite creative thinking and problem solving in the classroom: 30 Circle Challenge. For the 30 Circle Challenge give students 3 minutes to turn as many circles into recognizable objects as you can. This isn’t about: your artistic ability or filling 30 circles. This activity is about fostering meaningful conversation and a discussion about our awareness of creativity. This is a concrete way to model thinking outside the box.

Carrie Baughcum @HeckAwesome – Doodler, Teacher, YouTuber

Carrie is awesome and I am not only saying that because she was a contributor in in my book Gamify Literacy. Carrie is a special education teacher and sketch note advocate. In her talk she shares the learning experiences that sketch noting promotes for ALL student learners. Below is a video from Carrie’s youtube channel that introduces sketch noting as a learning tool.

 

Rick Wormeli @rickwormeli2 – Teacher, Author, Education Consultant

“A teacher’s job is to ensure students learn,” so begins Rick Wormeli’s presentation. And there is no where in research or life where someone has said that grading motivates learning. Rick talks about standards based grading and having teachers look closely at their own grading practices. We need to teach what we need students to learn and
create tasks that answer the critical question: “Do you have evidence you’ve mastered the stuff?” Standards based grading is more effective than percentages and extra credit. The key questions to ask are: Have students hit the learning targets or not yet? “How do I get students to learn this…” and Does every student need to demonstrate mastery at the same time? 

Tara Martin @TaraMartinEDU – Curriculum Coordinator, Lead Instructional Coach, Author

This week I finished reading Tara’s new book Be Real: Teaching From the Heart which was honest and insightful about teaching. The reality is that technology can never truly replace teachers because it is a teacher’s compassion, energy, and passions who make them memorable. Tara believes in being REAL:

 

  • R Be Relatable
  • E Expose Vulnerability
  • A Always be approachable
  • L Constantly Learn through real-life experiences

When you bring your realness to the table (and it’s enough), you make the world a better

 place. Tara is all about becoming the best version of yourself. No one else has exactly your talents and your experiences that you draw from. You’re the only “expert” at being you. Everyone has a purpose.

 

Matt Miller @jmattmiller – Teacher, Author, Speaker

It is important to be a maverick teacher– take risks. If you model taking risks (and potentially failing) for your students, you empower them to have a voice and choice. Don’t focus on technology, rather focus more on how it can be used to effectively reshape instruction. How can we leverage technology to make the most out of every class moment? Assemble a toolbox of a wide variety of tools and ask, “What tools do I need to do…” Technology is an opportunity, not a thousand dollar pencil. Think how you can remix apps and utilize technology in ways that are relevant to your students’ learning from global collaboration to rethinking the way you use Google Slides.

 

 

 

Michael Matera @mrmatera – Teacher, Author, Speaker

Most of what I know about gamification, I learned from Michael Matera. “Gamification entails applying the elements of a game, or mechanics, to non-game situations.” It’s a way teachers can overlay a game on top of already well-developed content and instruction. If you’re willing to give gamification a try, start small: gamify a lesson– then a unit– then a course. Use board games, television game shows and video games as models and mentors for building your own games. Gamification is about building on different game elements – many teachers allow the game to unfold as the school year blossoms. Three key things to think about when implementing gamification: Theme, Teams, and Tasks. As Michael states, “Play isn’t a pedagogy, it’s a way of life.” Bring play into your classroom to boost learning and have fun.

 

Sarah Thomas @sarahdateechur – Regional Technology Coordinator

Sarah talked about building a professional learning network. This is key for teachers since teaching can be an isolating job. Social Media like Twitter, Facebook, and Voxer have allowed teachers to connect with like minded people to share, collaborate, connect, and learn from one another. I know personally how twitter has become a game-changer for my teacher and professional learning. There are endless ways to connect with other professionals globally. Authentic connections can change your life trajectory.

Joe Sanfelippo @Joe_Sanfelippo – Superintendent, Speaker, and Author

Joe has amazing positive energy as an administrator that I wish I was around him more to experience his ideas and passion for his school community. Based on his book, Hacking Leadership, Joe talked about the three main components he practices to cultivate a positive school community:

 

  • Be Intentional About Your WHAT & WHY – Share out about the good things that are happening in your school or classroom– there is power in sharing the good intentionally
  • Open Doors – By “sharing the good,” you have the opportunity to change the school narrative and create a culture of sharing instead of a culture of competition
  • Build Staff – Place value on all parties trying things outside of their comfort zones– value on the journey and the growth will reshape school culture. Joe shared that every day he writes 2 positive notes to share. He said that teaching is a thankless job but when someone stops and says thank you it means so much more. Administrators needs to recognize and thank their teachers more often.

 

Dave Burgess @Burgessdave – Author, Speaker, Game Changer

I have to say that I have been a Dave Burgess fan for many years and use his book Teach Like A Pirate with my graduate students as a required reading for Literacy in the Content Areas. I want my students to remember to infuse passion in all of their lessons. Dave promotes doing awesome stuff in your classroom. Teach like a pirate isn’t about choosing one method– it’s about incorporating others’ great ideas into your method. How will you make a first impression with your students? How are you going to get them excited about your content area and school? Be bold and take the best of everything to create a classroom where students cannot wait to return. “We want to educate makers not memorizers.” 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trending EdTech at #ISTE18

One of my personal highlights ending the school year is attending ISTE – The International Society of Technology in Education Annual Conference. This is my third ISTE conference and with the tens of thousands of people attending, you are sure to meet edufamous authors, edtech companies, friends, and teachers who are excited by technology and teaching, just like yourself! This year ISTE has taken over Chicago and the learning is nonstop from workshops to playgrounds, to parties, and demonstrations. I most likely burn the battery on my phone and laptop within the first two hours of getting to convention center before I take out my Rocketbook and start jotting down notes in an old school way.

My first two days attending ISTE I have noticed some common themes running through the conference among presenters and edtech companies worth noting as we reflect on the future of schools and educating young minds.

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  1. Let’s Play: Gamification and Game Based Learning are Thriving. Don’t confuse the two. Games for learning or game based learning is using games to meet learning objectives. These are the companies that are putting out games for skill knowledge and mastery like science based Legends of Learning or a new company Go Go Brain, a new startup, who offers free games online that build metacognition and executive functioning skills. For Game Based Learning think Quizlet Live, Quizalive, Plickers, and Kahoot. Whereas, Gamification is using elements of games to engage students.  As my friend and amazing teacher, Tisha Richmond @tishrich, presented a workshop “Game On: Adventures in the Gamified Classroom” on Sunday, “gamification is a framework to layer over curriculum.” With gamification there is a story, theme, and game mechanics. In her own culinary arts classes she has gamified her culinary arts class with three different semester long thematic games: The Amazing Race, Master Chef, and the Amazing Food Truck Race. Gamification is immersive. To read more about Gamification and my own adventures in Gamifying my 8th grade ELA classroom you can check out my previous posts on gamification.
  2. VR and AR are more than just a Trend – I am talking augmented reality and virtual reality, Merge Cubes, Google Expeditions, and more. After meeting and speaking with 2018 ISTE Virtual Pioneer of the Year, @mrshoward118,  I am imaging so many more awesome scavenger hunts and learning experiences that I can create for my students using AR and VR to promote literacy. Here is a great beginner’s guide to using Merge Cubes in the classroom. There are so many ways that you can use this technology across content areas and grade levels. In my new book Personalized Reading I talk about Virtual Reality for building background knowledge but it is also a vehicle for storytelling and teaching content like with Story Spheres. Story Spheres allow users be the authors and creators of interactive experiences using 360 images and sound.
  3. Creativity needs to be taught, it’s not innate. It was about six years ago that Sir Ken Robinson stated in a TED Talk, “schools kill creativity” and since then there has been the Makerspace Movement and Genius Hour. These are two vehicles for promoting creativity in the classroom but in actuality, creativity should seamlessly be embedded within content area classrooms and across grade levels. The ISTE standards even require students to be Creative Communicators. Our students are in school preparing for jobs that have not been invented yet and for world problems that need solutions. We need students to be creative thinkers and problem solvers to help repair our world and the growing problems — social, emotional, economical, and scientific, including health and environmental. Teachers can foster creativity in the classroom by including play, problem based, and project based learning that are meaningful and authentic. I had a meeting with the CEO of EdgeMakers, Chris Besse and their new curriculum that promotes innovative thinking, creativity, and entrepreneurship. I was excited to see some of the lessons and pieces of their middle and high school curriculum because its objective was to cultivate creativity, growth mindset, collaboration, and problem solving among teachers and students.

4. Meaningful Makerspace. Makerspace and DIY is huge right now as we continue to fuel student creativity, curiosity, and failing forward thinking. The concept is to be a spark students and help them to ignite a passion for making, creating, tinkering, and problem solving. But maker space and STEM Labs must be not for the sake of creating a kitchy 3D printed key chain but more thoughtful in the use and purpose. For example, The Hand Challenge  was born of a desire to help anyone with access to a 3D Printer be able to be a part of work that can change the life of a child. Or having students who are working on Genius Hour projects that help the community in some way. Makerspace and STEM should not just be for the sake of a trend, but incorporated in authentic ways that are community based utilizing 21st Century Skills: collaboration, digital literacy, global connections, problem solving, and more. Thoughtful objectives and planning need to go into creating Makerspace and STEM labs with proper training and support for teachers to be facilities and support design thinking.

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5. Party Like a Rock Star Teacher – Teachers and EdTech companies really know how to party and hopefully you continue to party when you go back into the classroom (make learning fun, playful, and social when teaching). Evenings are filled with lots of PARTIES and events that allow teachers to connect and unwind and this year #ISTE18 was no different. Everyone is hosting a party and the hottest ticket is Edtech Karaoke if you are able to get a VIP pass at the House of Blues but there are also smaller social events going on like Alice Keelers’ #eduCoffee at 6AM for early risers at the hipster coffee house The Spoke & Bird or Edmodo’s party at the Field Museum after hours. Every tech company has something going on so just ask – or if you rather have a bite to eat of a Chicago hometown eat, get a bunch of people together and enjoy. ISTE is about connecting, learning, and celebrating teachers of course. As @theTechRabbi mentioned in his keynote, We have to cultivate passion and creativity in ourselves if we are going to expect it from our students.

6. UDL – I wrote in my book Personalized Reading, “Learning is blended, personalized and digital.” Universal Design for Learning or UDL is a framework that is at the forefront of education today. UDL is a framework for designing instruction that meets the needs of EVERY learner. UDL is not about technology but it is clear that technology is powerful for the options it provides. When teachers plan and facilitate learning with all learners in mind, offer flexibility in the methods of presentation of content material, student participation and expression increase along with high achievement for all students, including those with disabilities or limited English proficiency. Alongside of UDL, assistive tech can make learning awesome for all. It’s about offering multiple means of engagement and empowerment, multiple means of representation, and multiple means of action and expression.

 

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Summer Spark 2018: Powerful Learning Experiences to Ignite Passion in Teachers & Students

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Today was a fantastic day in Milwaukee, WI for Summer Spark presented by University School of Milwaukee. Summer Spark is a two day professional development conference with a host of keynotes and workshops for teachers and facilitated by teachers.

Google Innovator, Jeff Heil said, “We are all here because we want to do what’s best for our students and to be better teachers for the students we serve.” This is the underlining mission of Summer Spark, to support teachers with engaging, relevant and fun professional development.  Today I had the opportunity to learn from amazing educators that helped to refocus my teaching purpose and passion.

The keynote was presented by Tom Murray(@thomascmurray), co-author of Learning Transformed. He introduced eight key ideas about teaching today to help students succeed in the future. The main point is that stand and deliver method of instruction doesn’t work today and that we need to make learning personal. Questions are more important than answers and we need to support students and allow them to figure things out, flip and twist in order to engage and create – not regurgitate answers. He used the analogy of a Rubik’s Cube . . .

The rest of the day I was on a gamification kick and attended three workshops on games and game building.

Melissa Pilakowski (@mpilakow) shared the Top Ten Games for any classroom. From Jenga writing and Scattegories to Gimkit and March Madness Brackets, Melissa had a game and gaming ideas to inspire students and make learning fun. Some digital games are helpful for basic vocabulary concepts and formative assessments like Peardeck’s Flashcard Factory and Vocabulary Dominoes, where others were great for argumentative and or creative writing like the card game Fun Employed and Storiumedu.

And the games didn’t stop there, Stephanie Crawford (@MrsCford_tweets) presented a session on Engaging and Empowering Mini Games that ignite the classroom by providing hands on assessment and critical thinking. Take out the play doh, legos, and dice and let’s have some fun. We had different challenges and in a short amount of time were given four types of challenge that promoted collaboration, creativity, and fun.

Michael Matera’s (@mrmatera) session on getting started with gamification was a reminder of the elements needed to sustain playfulness with challenge and purpose. In gamifying you classroom you need to choose a theme, create epic learning experiences, and set up the game mechanics. Matera’s Master Chef challenge is one I would like to replicate in my own classroom. Twenty students were selected to compete in this challenge and working on teams of four or five, students had to answer questions from a mystery box correctly. Strips of paper with the assessment questions on them were put into a box and students had to select a question and write our their answers on a team answer sheet to the questions. The teamwork and random selection made this game exciting for the students and fun.

The last workshop of the day was lead by Shelley Burgess (@burgess_Shelley), co-author of Lead Like a Pirate. We began by sharing our top three movies and then discussed what these movies say about us as educators. She reminded us that our job is to “raise human potential, and that raising test scores is not the end all, be all.” Education today is a people business and about relationships.” She asked us what type of germs are we spreading throughout the school and spoke about inspiring and supporting adults and students in our schools.

Of course the day was not over after a keynote and three workshops, there was more fun and collaboration to be had. Throughout the conference we were put into teams and played Goosechase, a digital scavenger hunt taking pictures, videos and sharing ideas to compete against each others. Before the end of the day we met in our teams to create a teacher superhero modeled from the super hero teams we are on. Lastly, trivia night was the most challenging trivia I have ever played. Despite the crazy questions and questions that stumped my team it has been an inspiring day and I have many ideas for the wild and wonderful first day of school come September.

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Gamification Lessons from Jumanji & Ready Player One

Two of the most popular movies these past six months have been the reboot of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle(2017) and Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One(2018). Both movies are about gaming and teachers interested in gamification can borrow some elements from these movies to boost their game-infused classroom. In this post I am not going to review or critique these movies, both have merits and criticism. Rather, I want to identify the gaming elements that can be models and mentors for our own gamified classroom whether you are an expert player or noob.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle Game Conventions:

3 Lives – Each of the main characters in the movie has three lives. Some characters risk these lives in order to level up, challenge, or help one another. What if students had “three lives” or three tries to complete a task to quest? How would this impact their effort and abilities to succeed in the classroom game?

“NPC” or a “cut scene” – Once the four main characters arrive in Jumanji, they meet Nigel, an NPC (Non-Player Character), and as such is only programed with certain responses for certain questions. The characters even audibly freak out when a “cut-scene” comes onscreen, before Spencer (Johnson’s character) explains that many games have them to explain backstory. What is the backstory to your game? The more backstory your students know or learn, they are more invested in the game.

How to Win the Game – The only way to escape the game and survive is to complete the task, so the four students try to survive the jungle of Jumanji with various threats bearing down on them. The key here is that the players had to work together in order to finish their quest and win the game to get back home. Team work is essential and similarly, team work can be the key to success with quest based learning.

Reading Player One Game Conventions:

Similar to Jumanji, Team Work is essential in Ready Player One. The protagonist, Wade Watts actually wins the Oasis with the help of his friends. If students are given missions and tasks where they have to work together, are able to crack codes, uncover the treasure, and battle the bosses by putting their heads together.

Easter Eggs – An Easter egg is an intentional inside joke, hidden message or image, or secret feature. Some websites state that there are more than 120 Easter eggs in Spielberg’s Ready Player One adaptation. Most of the Easter eggs in Ready Player One happen to be allusions to retro video games and movies from the 1980s like RoboCop, The Flash, Freddy Kreuger, The Iron Giant, to name a few. For a complete list check out this blog post from ScreenRant. The idea with Easter eggs is to provide another layer of challenge or hidden message to the game. In fact, before the movie was released, there were Easter eggs dropped all over Twitter to promote the movie (See below). What if you were to plant a few Easter eggs in your homework assignments, Google Classroom, or dare I say worksheet. Imagine the fun students might have cracking the secret message or to uncover a new side quest or mission.

Borrowing elements from 80s video games. Each level that Wade must reach references an 80s video games. We can look to games of over times for elements to use with our students from Dance Battles to scavenger hunts.

Whether you use all of these elements or just a few, adding a few gaming touches helps to draw in your players and students into the game of school or the game narratives you have created for your classroom.

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To Gamify or Not to Gamify a Holocaust Unit of Study

BreakoutEDU does not accept or recommend creating games on topics such as slavery and the Holocaust. In fact, on the website it states, “Not all topics are suitable for a Breakout EDU game. For example, topics like slavery and the Holocaust are better suited for a classroom discussion or reflective essay and should not be gamified.”

With a sensitive topic like the Holocaust, I am reflecting on whether or not to gamify an 8th grade Holocaust and WWII unit of study.

There are a few games related to the Holocaust currently on the market like Secret Hitler which “is a social deduction game for 5-10 people about finding and stopping the Secret Hitler. Players are secretly divided into two teams: the liberals, who have a majority, and the fascists, who are hidden to everyone but each other. If the liberals can learn to trust each other, they have enough votes to control the elections and save the day. But the fascists will say whatever it takes to get elected, advance their agenda, and win the game.”

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I came across a game in development titled Rosenstrasse by Moyra Turkington and Jessica Hammer last summer at the Games for Change Conference. Rosenstrasse is “a tabletop freeform scenario with a strongly defined historical story weaving the lives of four pairs of men and women bound by love under the tightening chokehold of Nazi Germany. Players work through two characters to deeply explore two of these relationships as the clock ticks towards WWII and the Final Solution. Ideologies will be challenged, marriages tested, personal losses will be grave, and they will have to hold tightly together to see it through. The stories of these eight people will converge in a historic moment of terrifying civic defiance.”

stronghold_metadata_image Additionally, Call of Duty WWII depicts the Holocaust where “the player controls an American soldier fighting in the European theater. In addition to shooting Nazi soldiers, players will also be exposed to racism towards Jews and African-Americans within their platoon.”

I have thought about giving students passports or avatars, similar to those guests received upon entering the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. Students go on a mission to uncover the events and actions that led up to Holocaust, collecting evidence on both allied powers and axis powers for their roles during WWII. Furthermore, students examine primary documents to address the refugee crisis, decision to use atomic weapons, and the trial of Nazi War Criminals to explore the complexities of this time period. What are the choices and decisions that were made and how did it impact masses of people.

I am still thinking this through and developing lessons. The one burning questions at this time is when a game is created to address a sensitive topic what is lost and or gained building students’ understanding and empathy?

Please share your thoughts in the comments section on this blog.

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4 Ways to Personalize Reading for All Learners

This post was written for ISTE’s Blog on 4/17/2018.

To be successful learners, students need to be proficient readers. Our classrooms are filled with a broad spectrum of readers: some are advanced, some struggle, some are English language learners and others are reluctant readers. And there may be other types of readers you can identify in your classroom.

As a result, teaching is not “one size fits most.” We need a variety of approaches — and for a variety of mediums. Teachers must not only address functional literacy, which includes reading of visual, print and digital text, but also encourage students to be critical consumers of information and effectively communicate their thinking about these texts.

Technology has allowed teachers to diversify their teaching and provides leverage for all students to succeed. More important than the technology tools you use, however, is that you create meaningful classroom experiences to promote reading, critical thinking and digital literacy.

Here are four strategies and digital tools to curate personalized learning and reading experiences that expand student knowledge and promote critical thinking, digital citizenship and the literacy skills of proficient readers:

HyperDocs and playlists. Similar to a Google Doc, these digital documents allow you to pull together learning resources in one place. The document contains hyperlinks to all aspects of the inquiry unit — videos, slideshows, images and activities for students to complete and gain understanding. Students have multi-modal opportunities for learning, and there is less teacher lecturing at the front of the class.

HyperDocs allow students to work at their own pace and offer a road map for student learning. Depending on the HyperDoc the teacher makes, differentiated activities and technology-rich assignments can help students learn and show their understanding while completing the activities included on the HyperDoc. Teachers might have students complete only a certain number activities on the HyperDoc or require students to do them all.

Differentiated choice boards. These can range from no-tech to high-tech and are another way to provide students with individualized learning by providing choices or options based on their readiness, interests and learning preferences (think multiple intelligences). As education author Carol Ann Tomlinson explains, differentiation is a way of “tailoring instruction to meet individual needs. Differentiation can be based on content, process, products or the learning environment.”

Through differentiation and choice, you can provide alternative ways for students to learn and show what they know. Choice menu boards are a great way to do this and, once again, technology can help.

You can create choice activities for before, during and after reading to highlight reading strategies, content understanding and multiple intelligences. Whether in the form of a Bingo board or a Think-Tac-Toe, choice in the classroom empowers students, while at the same time adheres to learning goals. When students are able to select choices that most appeal to them and that they’re comfortable completing, they can master the activity and move on to more challenging activities.

Quest-based learning adventures (and gamification). This approach to learning connects game mechanics with content objectives to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Through gamification, you can transform literacy instruction into a game with creativity, collaboration and play while still meeting Common Core State Standards and ISTE Standards for Students.

Exactly how you bring games and game playing into the classroom is really a matter of thinking creatively and playfully about what you already do. For example, you could tie assignments to point values and badges that students could then use to unlock privileges, such as a homework pass or preferential seating.

As with choice menus, students would choose which assignments to complete and when, but with the aim of collecting as many points as possible or a “literacy champion” selection of badges. Alternately, you could organize an overarching mission in which assignments are like a sequence of game levels. Students would need to successfully complete each assignment in order to “rank up” to the next and eventually complete all the required material.

Digital reading platforms. Actively Learn and Newsela are just two platforms that offer accessible text that you can use to build comprehension and conversations in the classroom. Both are available free for teachers and students, or you can upgrade to the subscription-based pro versions. In both versions, teachers can embed quizzes, annotations and writing prompts with every reading. The pro edition adds such features as the ability to view individual student progress, track student progress against the Common Core State Standards, and for students and teachers to see each other’s article annotations.

Actively Learn allows teachers to upload their own material to the platform. Customizing assignments with a digital platform leads to more effective and independent instruction that targets students’ strengths and weaknesses by giving support to students who need it, while omitting it for those who don’t. You can use Actively Learn, Newsela and other reading platforms in a variety of ways to support diverse readers and build content knowledge with jigsaws, do nows and flipped learning.

The readers in our classrooms are individuals with unique needs and preferences. Technology allows teachers to offer learning experiences to support these diverse student learners. As Alabama Principal Danny Steele commented on Twitter, “It is good to know content. It is great to know pedagogy. It’s imperative to know the kids.”

Once teachers get to know their students, they can incorporate meaningful and thoughtful learning experiences for all learners.

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The Most Dangerous Games & Other Mini Games for Popular Short Stories

My middle school students are reading various short stories for a unit that focuses on author’s craft and structure. The three Common Core Learning Standards the overall unit addresses are:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.4
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.5
Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.6
Analyze how differences in the points of view of the characters and the audience or reader (e.g., created through the use of dramatic irony) create such effects as suspense or humor.
from http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy/RL/8/
Mini games are a great way to infuse gamification into your lessons, work collaboratively, encourages students to make connections across texts to show their understanding.
The first short story students are reading is Richard Connell’s The Most Dangerous Game about a hunter who becomes the huntee. Before students began reading, I created a game for them to play to initiate thinking about elements of the story. Students worked in teams to complete various tasks. Some of the specific questions led to deep questions about larger themes in the story: the relationship between people and animals, Violence can be psychological as well as physical, Fear brings out animal instincts in people, the ethics of hunting. 

 

After our close reading of The Most Dangerous Game we moved on to O’Henry’s The Rasom of the Red Chief, about a kidnapping gone wrong. O’Henry’s stories are filled with humor and irony so we focused on these aspects in our reading and discussion of the text. To spark our class activities I supplied each student with an O’Henry style mustache for inspiration and a little humor. Students visited different learning stations to play Roll the Dice, Think Tac Toe, and complete an irony maze created by Not Just Elementary.

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Awesome Irony Maze created by Not Just for Elementary

 

Our next shorty story in the unit is Raymond’s Run by Toni Cade Bambara. As a check for understanding I created a Raymond’s Run Maze with comprehension questions for students to complete and the game Farkle to address figurative language in the story. Farkle is played by two or more players, with each player in succession having a turn at throwing the dice. Each player’s turn results in a score that equates with the number of questions to answer about Metaphors and Similies in the short story Raymond’s Run, and the player who accumulates 10,000 points earns additional XP.

 

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