I love playing games in my classroom. I create games as well as use board games and dice games to create engaging learning experiences for my students. When I started presenting workshops on gamification in the classroom, I found this great carry-all storage box to hold all the gaming paraphernalia from classroom to workshop space. Here is a similar one at Michaels and it is under twenty dollars.
Now, the contents:
Dice – Dice are great for think-dots activities, random rolls, story cubes, roll and tell, dice breakers. I have foam dice, Rory’s Story Cubes for writing prompts, and metaphor dice for poetry and figurative language review. I keep extra dice from board games like the ones pictured above from Legends of Hidden Temple which have pictures of animals on the dice.
Play Dough – Looking for a quick do-now for your students to showcase their thinking or an idea, use play dough. It is perfect for students with sensory and kinesthetic needs. Students can recreate a scene from their reading using play dough or create a sculpture of a symbol that represents the text. Edutopia has an article with fifteen ways to use play dough in secondary classrooms. I like giving students their own individual play dough and then having a gallery walk after they make their sculpture individually or in small groups.
Lego Mini-Figures – Legos are also great for building representations or showcasing a scene from a book students are reading. I carry around a small tackle box filled with mini figure parts for building avatars. Avatars are often a game mechanic to allow personalization in a game, you can choose the gender and adapt it’s appearance, from skin and hair color to dress code typically. I provide students with an opportunity to create and design their own avatar and then write the backstory of the avatar: who are they, where are they from, what are their strengths and weaknesses?
Hot Potato – The hot potato was something that I had to have because it is perfect for passing around the classroom or in small groups to share ideas and thinking. This toy shakes after a certain period of time and when it shakes, the student who is holding the potato is the speaker. I often have sentence or question starters for students when in small groups to select who will share next.
Stickers – Stickers can be used as rewards or badges when playing a game. I have been using Sticker Mule the past few years to personalize stickers for my classroom. The stickers that are on the top of the game box are from the television game show Legends of Hidden Temple. The image is of Olmec. Outside of Legends of Hidden Temple, the Olmec colossal heads are the most famous artifacts left behind by the Olmec civilization. The Olmec people are believed to have occupied a large part of modern-day Southern Mexico. Olmec was part of Legends of Hidden Temple and the sticker, personalized on Sticker Mule is a “The Pendant of Life.” If a student wins the pendant of life, they can use it for a free pass on an assignment.
If I could fit more into the game box, I probably would. I do have all my board games and card games in a different bin. I will save my favorite board games and card games for another blog post. For now, stock up and get some of these gaming elements to bring some fun and friendly competition into your own classroom.
In beautiful, upstate New York, SUNY Empire State College and Saratoga Springs City School District hosted the 3rd annual Learning with Innovative Technology (LIT) Conference. The goal of the conference was, “to bring teachers, scholars and practitioners together to share knowledge about the effective use of educational technologies that will provide more enriching learning experiences.” With more than 40 workshops and hands on learning experiences throughout the day, there were many opportunities for collaborative learning and enriching educational experiences. Sessions included gamification, project based learning, digital citizenship, robotics, virtual reality, makerspace, and STEM.
I presented a session titled, “Operation Game Design: Building Quests for Personalized Learning In Your Classroom.” This session provided teachers with an introduction to gamification versus game based learning and a step by step approach to building a quest for classroom learning. Participants learned how to organize an overarching mission in which assignments are like a sequence of game levels students need to successfully complete in order to “rank up” and complete all the required learning targets. To view the presentation slides, see below. For your own copy of the game design template, click here.
After presenting, I was excited to attend other sessions and continue to learn from other experts leading workshops at the conference. I attended a session in the afternoon on “Making Google Forms Engaging Using Branching Form (Assessments and Scavenger Hunts)” led by Carolyn Strauch where I learned how to extend the standard Google Form by making it interactive with the ability to guide students and lead them through prompts based on their answers. I love this as a way to scaffold student writing based on their responses to questions and answers. Here is a video for more clarity.
I am a proponent of Socratic Seminars and after building out a short response assignment for my students with scaffolded prompts in Google Forms, I moved on to a session titled, “Socratic Seminar, Meet Social Media” presented by Sarah Fiess. In a Socratic circle, participants seek deeper understanding of complex ideas in the text through thoughtful dialogue, rather than by memorizing bits of information. A Socratic Circle is not debate. The goal of this activity is to have participants work together to construct meaning and arrive at an answer, not for one student or one group to “win the argument.” Not only did we participate in a socratic circle, we examined this teaching practice as a way to engage ALL students in the conversation utilizing back channels and reflections created in Google Forms.
The last session I attended was “Beyond Hating Group Work” presented by Theresa Gilliard-Cook. We all assign group work in our classrooms but how do we make group work more effective and engaging, rather than hated and dysfunctional. Teachers need to be intentional about group projects and scaffold collaborative work for it to be successful. Creating a list of teamwork projects and possible solutions, particularly regarding conflict is useful. Additionally, providing videos and articles how to resolve conflict, creating a list how to work through conflict, and providing specifics how you, the teacher will get involved when conflict arises. Tech tools like Google, Slack, and Padlet are three student collaboration tools.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nearpod is an interactive slideshow creator with a quiz feature. Nearpod does so much more and the paid version even offers AR & VR components.
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.”
#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, 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 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.
“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?
This week I finished reading Tara’s new book Be Real: Teaching From the Heartwhich 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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
QUENCH YOUR THIRST FOR A CHALLENGE OF PURE SPEED AND SKILL WITH NO ROOM FOR ERROR AND NO TIME TO SPILL RISK YOUR LIFE TO GET INSIDE THE ENEMY’S LAIR BUT IF THEY FIND YOUR ID YOU HAVEN’T A PRAYER
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.
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.”
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.”
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.