Tag Archives: ISTE

A Curated List of Hyperdocs, Playlists, & Choice Boards Presented at #ISTELive21

Playlists, Hyperdocs, & Choice Boards . . . What’s the difference?

Playlists are a series of activities focused on specific content and matched to student needs. The intent of playlist-based instruction is to differentiate instruction while providing students control over various aspects of learning, including path, pace, or modality. 

Hyperdocs are interactive digital documents where all components of a learning cycle have been pulled together into one central hub. Within a single document, students are provided with hyperlinks to all of the resources they need to complete that learning cycle.

Choice Boards or Learning menus as Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning defines “are a form of differentiated learning that gives students a menu or choice of learning activities. It is simply a menu of choices from which students can choose. Student choice is the big idea behind learning menus and choice boards.”

Here is a list of different playlists, choice boards, and hyperdocs I have created in the past three years for middle school students (and showcase at edtech conferences). Feel free to make a copy of these and adapt for your own classroom use. Please be sure to credit those whose materials you are using, adapting, and borrowing. 

Humanities:

Anti Asian Hate Now & Then: Parallels W/Japanese Internment & WW2 

WW2 & The Holocaust

World War II Military

The History & Fiction of Hunters on Amazon Prime

19th Amendment Centennial

Literature & ELA:

Animal Farm Week One & Week Two 

Raymond’s Run Hyperdoc

Ransom of the Red Chief Hyperdoc

Poetry Choice Boards

Mystery Writing

Social Justice Choice Menu

Movie Viewing & Media Literacy:

Black Panther Origins (Pre-Viewing Guide) & Viewing 

Black Panther Movie Analysis Choice Board

Twilight Zone

Getting to Know Your Students:

Get to Know You Think Tac Toe (Choice Board)

Link to Slide Deck

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Get Your Students Creating Podcasts — ISTE Blog

The following post was a guest blog post I wrote for ISTE this past week. You can read the entire post on ISTE’s Blog.

Tai Poole is a ninth grader in Canada and has been hosting the podcast series Tai Asks Why? with the Canadan Broadcasting Company (CBC) since he was 11. Each episode is under 30 minutes and delves into thought-provoking topics: How much is too much screen time, what is love, and what’s happening to my teenage brain with insight from Tai’s family members, experts and scientists. Tai is one of many young people starting their own podcasts, building an audience and brand around them. 

Why not get your students in on the podcasting action?  You don’t need fancy equipment to get started. Just an idea. Producing a podcast requires students to articulate an idea, as they showcase their understanding and learning. Students can create them independently or in collaborative groups. The content can be serious or light hearted, fictional or grounded in truth. Podcasts cover a wide variety of subjects including science, current events, history, fan fiction and storytelling. If they aren’t sure where to begin, they can listen to published podcast examples to help determine the direction and format.  

Podcasting builds skills

When students produce a podcast, they become problem solvers and enhance their technology skills. The ISTE Standards for Students call for students to express themselves in a variety of formats and platforms. Throughout the podcasting process students apply research,  writing  and verbal skills to communicate a message. When students create their own podcasts, they act as knowledge constructors and empowered learners. 

Here are three more reasons to create podcasts with students. 

  1. Empower learners

Most of the information students receive is in multimodal formats: digital, print, visual and audio. Podcasts are tools for learning information and content. Podcasts come in a variety of formats and topics. My students are currently listening to the murder mystery podcast series Tig Torres: Lethal Lit as a mentor text for their own mystery stories they are creating. 

  1. Initiate global connections & collaboration

Creating podcasts for a wider audience is engaging and authentic. The New York Times and National Public Radio both host annual podcasting contests for teens to create and record original audio material under 10 minutes on any topic. Sharing student-created podcasts with the world enriches the learning experience for the listeners as well as the podcast creators.

  1. Apply Digital Citizenship 

Sharing podcasts with local and global audiences requires students to create a positive, safe, ethical and legal digital behavior. Producing a podcast requires students to record and edit digital content. Students are required to choose sound effects, record interviews and include sound bites from experts to add engaging features that draw the listeners attention. Podcasting depends on creative communication. 

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ISTE’s Virtual Creative Constructor Lab Inspires Creative Storytelling

Last week ISTE kicked off its first ever Creative Constructor Lab bringing together amazing educators to inspire ALL, experiment with digital storytelling, design thinking, coding and more. Over seven days there were 70 virtual hands-on sessions, daily creative design challenges, and lots of sharing among participants. Innovative leaders and presenters included Tim Needles, Claudio Zavala, Holly Clark, Josh Stock, Sean Arnold, and many more talking about injecting creativity into our classrooms through hands-on presentations and design challenges.

What inspires you? That was the theme that was threaded through each presentation and design challenge. #Eduleaders and presenters invited participants to be courageous and creative throughout the week in order turn around and do the same for our students.

Here are five innovative projects to do with students that are grounded in storytelling and video creation.

  1. Craft Your Own Narrative Based off Humans of New York. Kelly Hilton, TK-12 Professional Development Integration Specialist, designed a creative and captive digital storytelling project that is based off Humans of New York Stories. First, students explore photography and read the stories told by the famous writer, photographer, blogger, Brandon Stanton. Then, students learn about the potential impact of telling a story through writing and photography on social media when they study a specific news story. Next, students, are invited to take photos and tell their own stories. Finally, students publish an Adobe Spark Post and write a social media post telling the story of the photo. Stories and posts are shared to celebrate community.  CLICK HERE to see the #HyperDoc lesson plan.

2. Middle School educator Sherri Kushner @Sherrip shared a visually powerful project her students created in order to speak out against injustice. Students designed portraits for change. These mixed media designed highlighted student voice and activism.

3. Author of the new ISTE publication, Awesome Sauce: Create Videos to Inspire Students, Josh Stock shared dozens of quick video and bigger projects. From choice boards to PSAs, Test Reviews, Travel Videos, Screencasts, and more, Josh is a wealth of information and ideas to use videos for communication, learning, and showcasing understanding.

4. Tim Needles is the master of design challenges. An art teacher and artist in New York, Tim emulates creativity. Some of the daily challenges included: create an untraditional selfie, animate a selfie, create a 4 frame romance story, and create a Spark Video Poem. Here are the directions for the Spark Video Poem and the untraditional selfie. I am going to do both with my students in the upcoming week.

5. Design a Virtual Tour. Virtual tours are a way to expose our students to a whole new world view, and there is a plethora of free tools to utilize along this journey to discovery. Virtual trips can be built into menu choice boards or educators can lead live virtual tours for distance learning. There are many pre-made tours that are already available at no cost, and also discover how to create their own using websites such as Google Earth, Google Arts & Culture, 360Cities.net, and more. Virtual trips enhance learning and knowledge of resources to help empower students on their quest to becoming global citizens. This Wakelet collections contains virtual tours, resources, and articles from Amanda Jones.

I am still reviewing and rewatching the presentations that I did not get to yet during the Creative Constructor Lab. This virtual experience provided creative ideas to bring into our classroom and inspire students as innovative designers and knowledge constructors. Whether learning in person or remotely, students need the opportunities to create and teachers must personalize learning experiences that foster independent learning across content areas using a variety of digital tools and resources that engage and support learning.

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#ISTE19

Beginning Saturday, June 22nd The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) kicks off its annual conference in Philadelphia, PA. This conference is the mecca of edtech. There will be over 1,400 sessions for professional development learning from coding to maker space, Google innovation, gamification, and so much more. I will be blogging from #ISTE and continue to share innovative technology and teaching practices on this blog.

#ISTE19

Below are the hyper doc and slide deck for my workshop Giving Voice and Power to Readers: Tools and Strategies to Maximize Learning Potential. This workshop is for educators and literacy specialists looking for digital tools and strategies to support diverse student readers. Due to the diverse readers in our classrooms, teaching reading has taken on a variety of approaches to promote literacy that not only addresses functional reading, but promotes reading in a way for students to be critical consumers of information and effective communicators. Being literate in today’s society is not merely about consumption and intake of information but about creation and meaning making.

VP Reading Hyperdoc

Access VP Reading Hyperdoc here

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Teaching Digital Responsibility in the Age of Online Hate

Last week the New York Times published the article, On Instagram, 11,696 Examples of How Hate Thrives on Social Media (NYT 10.29.18) three days after the mass shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA. This article highlights social media companies attention to or lack there of “treatment of toxic language and hate speech” on their platforms. Interestingly, “Social media companies have said that identifying and removing hate speech and disinformation — or even defining what constitutes such content — is difficult.”

The past three weeks I have been dealing with my own ordeal of hate speech and false representation on Twitter. After five years and 40 twitter book chats with my students, three weeks ago I moderated a Twitter book chat and an ambiguous avatar joined the chat sending funny pictures and memes. When they did not identify themselves I blocked the account. That did not stop my students participating in the chat from seeing the stream of continuous  tweets from this person. If fact, the images and tweets escalated to spread hate speech, anti Semitic photographs and sexist and anti gay memes. The person’s tweets were directed at myself and a student of mine. I reported the tweets to Twitter and within a day the racist, antisemitic, homophobic, and sexist tweets were removed and the account was suspended. But that did not stop this person.

The next day a new account was created by this same person and they used my image as their Avatar. The name of the Twitter handle referenced a Nazi program, Nacht und Nebel (German for “Night and Fog”). This directive issued by Hitler targeted political activists and resistance “helpers” in World War II to be imprisoned or killed. The person sent tweets to me telling me to die and making derogatory statements. When I reported the tweets to Twitter my reports were denied telling me that this was not a threat. The tweets escalated over ten days and the person tweeted in binary code, hex64, and other code threats to me and students of mine. All the tweets were reported to Twitter but Twitter did not consider it a threat or hate speech written in code!

I contacted the FBI, I filed police reports, the DA was involved.

It took legal action to get the IP address which was connected to a residence in the town where I teach. This residence has a young person who is a student in my school, he is not a student in my class. The family is cooperating with the police and the school;  additionally, the family has agreed to get counseling for their son. Since the police approached the family my image has been removed and all the tweets have been taken down.

My principal sent the following message out to our community:

Dear Parents,

We at XXXXX Middle School pride ourselves as educators who not only attend to the academic needs of our students but who also focus on their social and emotional needs.  We share your challenge in teaching these young adolescents how to judiciously and ethically use contemporary technology as moral citizens of the school community and ultimately the world.

Dr. Haiken, Team 8R ELA teacher, has been using Twitter for the past six years. With the consent of parents, she and her students tweet about the books they read, creating a sort of twenty-first century book club.  Unfortunately, someone has used this account to insert horrible, racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks, some directed at one of our students.  We are investigating this and are making every possible effort to discover who the troll is.  The police and Twitter administrators have been notified.  A full investigation is being conducted and appropriate consequences will be implemented.

We are having discussions with our students about the deeper issues involved, and we need your help. As we partner to help our young people grow into empathetic, responsible adults, we need you to have follow-up conversations at home not only about social media but also about how we treat those who might be a little different from the mainstream. 

Bullies hide behind the anonymity of social media.  All children regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs deserve a safe and healthy environment in which to thrive and learn. Please help us deliver this message at home.

These events impacted by teaching and the educational environment. It saddens me that this person who has digital smarts chose to use them for evil and spread hate.  In the meanwhile, I think about what are the best ways to promote positive digital citizenship and responsibility so that my students make smart choices online and not become a victim or perpetrator of hate online.

Recently, The Wall Street Journal published a video:

Two educators talk about teaching students to think critically and keeping personal politics out of the classroom.

I concur with the two teachers in the video when they talk about teaching empathy and modeling positive (digital) behavior.

Digital Citizenship is an ongoing lesson that needs to be addressed every year with every student. Social media is not going away, and blocking websites in schools or telling students they cannot use phones is not a realistic solution. These events have helped me to look more closely at the role that social media plays in our lives and how I can promote positive digital behavior in my classroom so all of my students use their digital powers for good.

Below are five resources to teach digital responsibility and citizenship:

Wicked EdTech – Here you can find a video playlist on Digital Literacy

Google Applied Digital Skills  – Ready-to-use video lessons teach digital
skills that have immediate, real-life application.

Be Internet Awesome – Google’s Digital Safety Resources for the
classroom and home.

Common Sense Media Digital Citizenship – Empower your students to
make safe, smart, and ethical decisions online.

ISTE Digital Citizenship – Here you can find articles and resources connected to digital
citizenship in schools.

 

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Reflections & Takeaways from #ISTE17

How do you envision technology in your classroom?

How do you utilize technology with your students to promote deeper learning, critical thinking, and creativity?

How do you see technology enhancing your teaching goals?

Technology is transformative. It is more than an instructional tool. Teachers need to decide for themselves the technology tools they should use for instruction to benefit student learning. Today is about understanding the possibilities and gaining more knowledge for teachers to embed technology more fluidly into their daily classroom practices and curriculum.

Where better to help answer these questions, learn from edtech leaders, and be inspired to integrate technology in meaningful and creative ways to support our students as learners and digital citizens than the International Society for Technology Education Conference (#ISTE17).

This year, #ISTE17 was held in San Antonio, Texas with 18,000 attendees and more than 5,000 edtech companies, start ups, and industry leaders (Google, Microsoft, Apple). The conference was jam packed for five days of workshops, panels, key notes, playgrounds, poster sessions, and exhibitors.

Here are five key ideas, themes, and takeaways I found dominating the event:

  1. It’s not about the tech, it’s about meaningful and purposeful teaching and thinking. Author and Edtech leader Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) tweeted, “Tools don’t teach. If you’re looking for a magic bullet look in the mirror.” Students learn best by doing. Many of the tech trends throughout the conference highlighted games, play, and hands on learning. Technology integration must have a clear purpose, tap into standards, have clear goals for the role of technology in enhancing the teaching goals, and be adaptable to meet different learning abilities, subject areas, and grade levels. Technology Integration should have the following components: students are actively engaged in using technology as a tool, students should use technology tools to collaborate with others, students should use technology tools constructively to build rather than simply receive information. Technology should be authentic (to solve real world problems meaningful to them rather than artificial assignments). Lastly, students should use technology tools to set goals, plan activities, monitor progress, and evaluate results rather than simply completing assignments without reflection.
  2. ISTE unveils the new Standards for Educators (and Students). After ten years, ISTE has updated their standards to focus on next generation teaching and learning.  The ISTE Standards for Educators are your road map to helping become empowered learners. These standards deepen practice, promote collaboration with peers, challenge us to rethink traditional approaches and prepare students to drive their own learning. The ISTE standards coincide with Common Core Learning Standards to maximize student success.ISTE Standards for Educators

3. Maker Everything. Makerspace is here to stay and it is only getting bigger. Makerspace is not just tinkering but teachers are using it as a way for students to deepen their understanding of a concept, lesson, and idea. Makerspace does not have to be a stand alone club or activity, many educators shared their integration of maker space across the curriculum.Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 3.48.08 PM

One of the coolest Makerspace ideas I saw at a poster session was shared by Heather Lister and Michelle Griffith of Brannen Elementary in Brazosport ISD. Their poster session was jam packed with maker space ideas, suggested supplies, challenge cards, and project examples. Heather shared a World War II Map of Allied and Axis Powers that could light up with copper sticker tape and LED circuit stickers.

4, Next Generation Learning NOT 21st Century Learning. Let’s eliminate the saying 21st Century Learning. What does that mean, anyway? It is 2017 and we are almost 20 years into the 21st Century. Here are 8 habits of Next Generation Teachers as defined by Andrew Churches. How would you rate yourself?

Adapting the curriculum and the requirements to teach to the curriculum in imaginative ways.

Being visionary and look ideas and envisage how they would use these in their class.

Collaborating to enhance and captivate our learners. We, too, must be collaborators; sharing, contributing, adapting and inventing.

Taking risks, having a vision of what you want and what the technology can achieve, identify the goals and facilitate the learning. Use the strengths of the digital natives to understand and navigate new products, have them teach each other.

Learning and continue to absorb experiences and knowledge to stay current.

Communicating and fluent in tools and technologies that enable communication and collaboration.

Modeling behavior that we expect from our students.

Leading is crucial to the success or failure of any project.

5. Sketchnote It & BookSnap It, Blog It, Podcast It, Vlog It. Because we live in a visually rich digital culture there are so many different ways to share, reflect, and show our understanding and learning. People are sharing through Twitter, Instagram, Podcasts, Blogs, and Videocasts. Sketchnoting and BookSnaps are additional ways to help present learning and thinking. Sylvia Duckworth shared a Sketchnotes for Educators Workshop at a playground session I attended and Tara M. Martin, Booksnaps founder, presented an Ignite Session on Booksnaps for learning. Sketchnoting is a great tool that I have shared with my students to showcase their learning and understanding. In the new school year, I will offer Booksnaps as an option for students to share their reading and thinking about a text. The booksnap below was created by Tara M. Martin.

Screen Shot 2017-06-29 at 4.44.09 PM

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Technology to Aid the Struggling Reader:

ISTE, Capstone, Amplify & School Library Journal are collaborating and hosting a webinar on how to leverage technology to help new and struggling readers.

I am honored to be part of this panel discussion along with

K.C. Boyd, Lead Librarian, East St.Louis (IL) School District

Cynthia Merrill, Literacy Consultant

and Moderator, Kathy Ishizuka, Executive Editor, School Library Journal

During the webinar I will be sharing strategies and technology tools to aid struggling readers.

Technology tools that I use in my classroom to help support the diverse readers in my classroom include the reading platform Actively Learn. Actively Learn is an online tool with a library of thousands of texts and Common Core-aligned lessons that both teachers and students can interact with in real-time. In the reading platform, teachers assign pre-existing Actively Learn materials to students or upload their own content, then track student responses and activity using data tools within the platform. Students can interact with a text by digitally highlighting and annotating, responding to embedded questions and content, and leaving feedback and comments for peers. Students can translate the text in their home language and define unknown words within the platform. Students can mark their confusion within the text and the teacher is able to annotate the text with additional links for clarity and deeper meaning to support student reading. In my classroom I utilize Actively Learn weekly for Articles of the Week in order for students to make connections across texts and address current events.

Audio books are another tool beneficial to struggling readers. I love my Audible App on my phone and listen to books every chance I have including my commute to work and home. Listening to a text while reading can help students visualize and comprehend complex text. Students are using different skills when they are listening versus reading but research shows that students have a higher listening comprehension than reading comprehension. In addition, podcasts are great texts for students to listen to explore concepts and ideas. My favorite include NPR’s Radiolab podcasts and any podcast from author of Tools of Titans (2016), Tim Ferriss. Check out Tim’s Podcast with YA author Soman Chainani.

the_school_for_good_and_evil_book_1_cover

Two great resources with more about technology tools and strategies to engage diverse student learners include  Jules Csillag‘s  Differentiated Reading Instruction and Robert Furman‘s Technology, Reading & Digital Literacy: Strategies to Engage the Reluctant Reader.
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5 WAYS TO GAMIFY YOUR CLASSROOM

The following post is a guest blog post I wrote for ISTE’s EdTekHub and was published on  1/5/2017

Many of our students are among the 155 million Americans playing video games regularly, and you might be, too. That’s a good thing. When my 11-year-old is playing video games, he’s using many skills – facts and information are tools to solve problems in context, and he gains actionable feedback he uses to win the game. When he fails to level up, he doesn’t give up, but continues playing until he progresses to the next level. He also seeks information online to help him find Easter eggs hidden throughout the game. He teaches his friends how to power up with each level of the game. Failure is a source of feedback and learning, collaboration is necessary, and learning and assessment are tightly integrated.

How can we use this pervasive and engaging gaming phenomenon to redesign and supercharge the learning experience?

Here are five ways to gamify your classroom to boost engagement, collaboration and learning:

  1. Adapt old-school games for classroom use. Scavenger hunts, bingo, dice games, Connect Four and Scrabble have been around for decades and can be adapted for classroom learning. Put vocabulary words on bingo cards and see if students can match the words after hearing the definitions. Working in groups, students can play Scrabble by spelling out answers to content-specific questions. Using the app Goose Chase, create digital scavenger hunts by sending students off to take pictures, create a video, or search for an answer online related to a specific topic.
  1. Play digital games. Students love playing Kahoot!Quizizz and Quizlet. These free platforms allow teachers to create multiple-choice questions that players answer on their own devices. Teachers can also choose from the thousands of quizzes already shared on these sites or create content-specific questions to use as pre-assessments, quizzes or exit tickets. Breakout EDU also has a collection of digital games, puzzles and ciphers that promote critical thinking.
  1. Create a quest. A quest is a mission with an objective. Every year my students participate in an adventure quest based on the weekly current events reading. Students who correctly answer a specific text-dependent question earn points. The student with the most points after six weeks wins a prize. I post additional questions on Remind and Twitter to allow students to earn extra points. Quests can also be independent projects or activities for the students who have finished their work.
  1. Battle it out with a boss battle. In gaming, a “boss” is a villain who the hero must defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level. On the gamification platform Classcraft, teachers can create their own boss battles using questions from any content area. Teachers can also create boss battles using Google Forms or Google Slides, creating their own unique fictional boss.
  1. Earn a badge for mastery. The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts recognize mastery and achievement with badges. Teachers can do the same by rewarding student accomplishments and mastery with badges, which go beyond grades because they represent more than just academic achievement. Students work toward completing different badges to show mastery of a concept, standard or skill. Badges can be presented digitally using Classbadges or can be displayed for all to see once students have earned a specific badge.

Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and regular activities into a game. It requires creativity, collaboration and play. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the content area classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Whether teachers are looking to bring some aspect of gaming into their class or use a game platform across the curriculum, they can use gamification elements to enhance learning and student engagement, tap into Common Core State Standards and address the 2016 ISTE Standards for Students.

 

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Get Your Game On: Boost Content Area Learning with Gamification Guest Blog Post for Project ReimaginED – ISTE

The following post was written and published for ISTE Project ReimaginED.

Gamification is about transforming the classroom environment and regular activities into a game. There are numerous ways to bring games and game playing into the content area classroom to promote learning and deepen student understanding. Whether teachers are looking to bring in some aspect of gaming into their class or utilize a game platform across the curriculum, they can bring in elements of gamification to enhance learning and student engagement, tap into Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and attain ISTE Standards.

I first gamified my middle school English class last year and I have continued this quest for a second consecutive year. The response from my students has been positive and enthusiastic. Participation has increased among my students and students are inclined to do additional work for the game. Within my classroom I have eliminated homework grades in lieu of game points and on a weekly basis I have students battle each other for powers and privileges. Privileges include asking the Gamemaster (aka, the teacher) if her/his answer to a question is correct on a test and getting an extension on an assignment. Students earn points by being positive and hardworking in class, correctly answering a question in class, or helping another student. At the same time, students can also lose points by disrupting the class or coming to class unprepared. I am currently using Class Craft, an awesome gaming platform that has allowed me to turn my classroom into a role playing adventure. My students sign a “Hero Pact” which articulates the rules and goals of the game and they have Avatars. As the Gamemaster, I am able to customize the rules to fit my students needs.

Good gamification promotes problem solving and collaboration and failure is an essential source of feedback and learning.  Gamification is not worksheets for points; facts and information are used as tools for learning and assessment. Effective games are customized to different learners and  students are encouraged to take risks and seek alternative solutions. In classrooms today, it’s not only about learning content material. Students must experience and build the necessary skills to be creators, innovators, and problem solvers in order to develop critical thinking and improve academic achievement.

Here are some ideas to promote transformative learning experiences with gamification.

Collaboration & Teamwork

The Beatles sang, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” and I transfer this principle to my classroom with gamification. Learning is not an isolated task. When students work collaboratively, there is more ownership of the material and more opportunities to contribute in class.  In my classroom students are assigned a team. Each team comprises four or five students, depending on the class size. Students work both independently and cooperatively within our gaming structure to earn powers than unlock privileges. Because I teach English, the team names are based on genres, authors, and book titles from Young Adult Literature. For example, in one class,  team names are based on current fantasy based young adult literature—Potter, Eregon, Everlost, and Land of Nod—and in another class team names are based on contemporary YA dystopian texts—5th Wave, Divergent, Legend, Matrix, and Rook.  Teachers can have students pick their own team names for ownership in the game.

ISTE Standards for Students #2, Creativity and Innovation, states: “Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively … to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.” Working collaboratively helps students enhance their oral communication skills and meet the Common Core State Standards for Speaking and Listening (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1). Students meet this CCSS by working in cooperative groups and teams, and then participating in “conversations and collaborations with diverse partners.” Teamwork and collaboration requires students to listen to one another and broaden their roles as dominant speakers in the classroom, rather than a teacher presenting and students only listening. As teammates, students “work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.B) Working with student teams also requires teachers to model and practice how to work well with one another and resolve conflicts in positive ways addressing ISTE Standards for Teachers  1.d: “Model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students, colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments.”

Challenges & Quests

Design a quest or challenge that sparks learning and engagement. While my students are reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I have them complete a “Mockingbird Amazing Race” QR Code Quest. Each team of students is given a map with QR codes that takes them around the school to complete text based activities. Students use their mobile devices to read the QR Codes at the different stations and complete the challenges. I designed the Mockingbird Amazing Race for students to “apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and synthesize information” (ISTE Standards for Students #3, Research and Information Fluency) about the text and and standards.

World History teacher Michael Matera uses simulations as a teaching tool with his sixth grade students. He designed a China Silk Road Simulation to bring to life entrepreneurship, supply and demand, the power of negotiation, and the costs and benefits of technology for society. He describes all the ingredients and directions for the simulation on his blog. The goal of the simulation is to have a rich product diversity without conflict. Throughout the simulation, Matera stops to ask questions to the groups about their choices and their connections to the learning objectives.

Leveling Up

Some students are motivated by badges or points. In my classroom, points unlock powers. Powers are important features that represent privileges players earn as they progress in the game. Some powers are cooperative where others only benefit the individual player. With Class Craft, players must level up to earn Power Points so that they can unlock new powers. Once a power has been learned, they can use it for the rest of the game. Some individual powers have nothing to do with English but they are still fun. When my first ten students earned over 1,000 points, I brought in doughnuts for them to eat during class. Many of my students are working towards the power that gives them access to their notes during a test.  The key is that leveling up, badges, and points track mastery.  Students can even contribute to how they earn the points and suggest powers or privileges.  Gamification facilitates more responsibility on the part of the student to take charge of their learning.

Wheel of Destiny

Want to inject a bit of a lottery system or the selection process from the reaping in The Hunger Games, but with less deadly consequences? Utilize a Wheel of Destiny or Random Name Generator to select students to complete a mission or answer a question. Students will be sitting on the edge of their chairs, but the spontaneous, random events/selection gets everyone involved. Good games are not predictable. And as with all games so too in your classroom: predictable can quickly become all too boring. Keep students on their toes and engaged in the game with random selection and events.

Boss Battles

Transform assessments with Boss Battles. A “boss” in gaming is a villain who the hero must face and defeat to save the day. Think of the monster at the end of each level in the original Super Marios Bros. who must be defeated before moving to the next level.  The boss is the final challenge a player faces and utilizes his or her skills and abilities to defeat the boss. Boss Battles can be used as reviews or as a test. Check out how Mallory Kesson of Gamindex uses Boss Battles in her classroom by posting multiple choice questions on the SMARTBoard and giving students 30 seconds to select the correct answer. If the student answers incorrectly, the boss will attack. If a teammate has the correct answer, a student can dodge the attack, but if you miss, the entire team takes damage and loses points. When Boss Battles ask higher order thinking questions, students are “using critical thinking skills to plan and solve problems, and make informed decisions,”thus meeting ISTE Standard for Students #4, Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making.

Teacher as Gamester

Gamification can be lots of fun for students and teachers alike. At the same time, gamification can help students build skills and confidence. In gamifying one’s class, the learning goals and objectives should be the guide. Think about how you will assess your students and help them meet the learning targets. Gamification privileges and powers have replaced extra credit in my classroom. As a reminder, homework in my class is not graded, but students earn Class Craft points. All tests, quizzes, and assessments that measure learning goals are uploaded onto Class Craft for additional points. Students are not penalized grade-wise if their work is late because they are graded based on the standards; however, in the game they deal with the damage of that lateness and can fall in battle. As the Gamemaster, one must be consistent and fair, adjust settings for different groups of students, and create flexible learning goals to meet the needs of all students. Effective Gamemasters “model and apply the ISTE Standards for Students as they design, implement, and assess learning experiences to engage students and improve learning.”

If you are considering implementing gamification into your classroom, check out Class Craft or read Michael Matera’s book, Explore Like a PIRATE: Gamification and Game-Inspired Course Design to Engage, Enrich and Elevate Your Learners. As the Gamemaster, you have the ability to transform your classroom with games, quests, and adventures that can inspire and empower student learners.

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