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Thursday, January 30, 2014

STAAR Wars App (In the Making)

I'm building this app as I'm teaching, one lesson at a time. When adding new things, I tell my students they have "unlocked new levels." They have been so excited seeing the new things I add each day.

So, if you're wanting to gamify, but are unsure about how much work it will require....take it slow. Build as you go! The kids will love it!

Here are some screenshots from my app, so you can see the beginning of the gamification process.


Home Screen



STAAR Wars: This houses all the introductory resources that I used for engaging them in this game. This is where the leaderboard will go, along with any other videos I make along the way.




FDP War: Fractions, Decimals, Percents
This is the first war that we are fighting. I used the STAAR released test questions as my basis for the first major war (unit). Then I used backwards planning, to think of all the skills they would need to be able to do in order to answer the questions. (ordering decimals, ordering fractions, ordering integers, and of course converting between FDP.) I told my students these were the missions they needed to complete in order to be prepared for the war. The missions came from Khan Academy videos and interactive lessons. The battles are printed worksheets from math-aids.com. The scores from the battles will be used for the leaderboard.



Combat Training: I used the analogy of soldiers engaging in combat training for this part of the app. Just as soldiers need to continuously practice skills, so do the students. All the games come from mangahigh.com, which my students love!




RELATED POSTS

Gamification One of the newest buzzwords of education is GAMIFICATION. Put shortly, gamification means using game principles to engage and motivate students. Gamification is NOT putting a student in front of a computer all day, every day.

The Flipped-Then-Re-Flipped Classroom As exciting as flipped classrooms are, the question is always asked, "What about the students who don't have the technology?"

Grades vs. Experience Points Last week I had the opportunity to discuss gamification with a team of professors at Texas A&M University. As I presented my understanding of this concept, I came to an important realization on the negative impact of grades.

The Magical Leaderboard As many of you know, this is my first experience with gamifying my classroom, and there is certainly a lot for me to learn! As a teacher, my focus is on the content/curriculum, and game design comes second.

So You Want to Gamify?

Based on the popularity and interest of my last blog, Gamification, I decided to create a list of resources, for those brave enough to embark on this journey.

What is Gamification?

Top Ten Examples

How to Gamify Your Classroom

Ten Specific Ways to Gamify Your Classroom

Cool Classroom Gaming Blog

Game Platform with no programming experience required, for the serious gamer (Summer plans, anyone?)

Free App Maker for Droid and iPhone (Very basic and easy to use)

How I Gamified My Class (Not me.....some other really cool teacher)

Gamification MOOC (Summer professional development, anyone?)


Have others to add? Tweet @VenegasKeller

RELATED POSTS

Gamification One of the newest buzzwords of education is GAMIFICATION. Put shortly, gamification means using game principles to engage and motivate students. Gamification is NOT putting a student in front of a computer all day, every day.

Gamification Mistake #1: Fair Play I titled this post Mistake #1, because I am certain that I will make many more mistakes while gamifying my class.One thing I've been learning about is the aspect of "Fair Play," which basically just means making sure the game is fair for the players.

Grades vs. Experience Points Last week I had the opportunity to discuss gamification with a team of professors at Texas A&M University. As I presented my understanding of this concept, I came to an important realization on the negative impact of grades.

STAAR Wars App (In the Making) I'm building this app as I'm teaching, one lesson at a time. When adding new things, I tell my students they have "unlocked new levels." They have been so excited seeing the new things I add each day.









Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gamification

One of the newest buzzwords of education is GAMIFICATION. Put shortly, gamification means using game principles to engage and motivate students. Gamification is NOT putting a student in front of a computer all day, every day, and oddly enough it is not the same as game-based learning. You can even gamify without using any technology at all, though admittedly, technology does make it easier. The point is this is not about technology or games, but about finding the elements that motivate people to persevere.

Unknowingly, I have been using elements of game design in my classroom since my first year of teaching: I level my assignments from easy to difficult, I use positive motivation often and regularly, I offer some form of reward for behavior and academic achievements. I de-emphasize failure as a negative concept, choosing to consider it as an opportunity to learn and try again.

Naturally, than, this new wave of gamifying everything has been very intriguing to me.

Yesterday, I implemented a full-force gamification-based unit for state test review. My students struggle with math in general, so spending weeks involved in the rigorous critical thinking processes required for test prep is a monumental challenge, to say the least. As their anxiety and frustration increase, their motivation and desire decrease. Many days, getting my students just to try feels like a triumphant victory.

My game is app-based, so the students could download it on their phones, and Star Wars themed. In Texas, our test is called the STAAR, and since all of my students have failed the last test, I named my app STAAR Wars. I created this really fun video to get them excited:

Click here to watch

I know that this seems really complex - creating apps and making videos......

BUT....

In just two days, I have been BLOWN AWAY by the level of engagement!

I had planned to write a full post about gamification in education, but Paul Anderson does a much better job of explaining it.




If you will be in the North Texas area, come join my gamification discussion at EdCamp Roanoke on May 3, 2014!

Click here to see 8th Grade STAAR Math App      
       OR                                                                  
Scan below                                                              

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RELATED POSTS

8 Film-Makers for Students: Free, Cheap, and Easy Film-making is such a great way for students to express their understanding and learn from other students. These days there are so many drag-and-drop programs, that even the least techy person can create a professional-looking and imaginative product.

Learning vs. Laundry: 12 Ways to Engage the Online Learner The power of online education extends far beyond providing access to non-traditional students -those who are limited by time, location, or expense. It has the power to transform and revitalize the educational experience for the learner.

Grades vs. Experience Points I've never really been a fan of grades, even as a child. No matter how systematic we try to make the grades, they will always be arbitrary: what quiz we decide to give, what questions we ask, how we weight homework vs. classwork vs. tests, etc. What is the point?

STAAR Wars App (In the Making) I'm building this app as I go. When adding new things, I tell my students they have "unlocked new levels." They have been so excited seeing the new things I add each day.

Using "The Hunger Games" to Manage Behavior Walk into a Kindergarten class, and you will believe in magic. How one lady manages to get 20 5-year-olds to snake quietly through the halls with only her smile and a charming, "Follow me, boys and girls", is an amazing thing to see.

So You Want to Gamify? Based on the popularity and interest of my last blog, Gamification, I decided to create a list of resources, for those brave enough to embark on this journey.

Gamification Mistake #1: Fair Play I titled this post Mistake #1, because I am certain that I will make many more mistakes while gamifying my class. One thing I've been learning about is the aspect of "Fair Play," which basically just means making sure the game is fair for the players.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How Not to Use Technology in the Classroom

Technology should be used to engage and enhance, not to distract and ignore.

As somebody who identifies as neither Gen X nor Millenial, but rather someone caught in-between, I have a fascination with technology, but it is blended with an understanding that education can and does happen with pencil and paper, and that meaningful learning does not need to have a screen. My childhood classrooms had at most one computer, which was reserved primarily for those students who finished work early. I sympathize with teachers who remember the days of carbon copies, and who are frustrated by this technology infiltration.

BUT.....I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE technology in the classroom!

My students use technology almost every day in my classroom, and they do most of this with their phones.
  • They listen to music on their phones.
  • They use calculators (when appropriate).
  • They watch instructional videos.
  • They play a variety of educational games.
  • They perform simulations.
  • They create videos to demonstrate their knowledge of a topic or skill.
  • They communicate with each other, asking for help and responding to prompts.
  • They self-advocate by promoting their own learning. 
I will write more detailed posts later about how I use technology, but in this post, I want to discuss an issue I see with technology that is used poorly.

The problem is, though, that there are also several "edutainment" programs that do little to promote critical thinking, collaboration, discovery, learning, and reinforcement of skills.

Thanks to No Child Left Behind, students who struggle in core subjects are now entitled to intervention that is targeted to their specific needs. Computer-based intervention programs offer an easy solution for the already overloaded teacher. There are several of these programs for all core subjects, many of which are research-based and are individualized each student. Many of these are game-based and have some sort of award or incentive for completing tasks. I want to be clear: This post is not about discussing the value of these programs, but rather to question the way these programs are often used.

There is no question that technology engages our students, but what must be very clear, is that it also mesmerizes them. It leaves them spell-bound. I see daily how quiet and still even my most active students become when placed in front of a blinking screen.

It is very easy, then, to allow my highly distractible (and DISTRACTING) students to use these research-based, individualized programs every day. And actually, some of my students proclaim to love these programs. A quick glance into an intervention classroom would show students engaged and working on individualized assignments. This is an amazing thing to see - a student who never sits still, who rarely accomplishes tasks or finishes assignments, suddenly focused and engaged in learning.

On closer inspection, however, what I really see is this:
  • Students who are distracted by flashing lights and animations.
  • Students who have learned the appropriate pace, to make it appear as if they are working.
  • Students who hide behind a computer screen.
  • Students who have masterfully learned how to avoid working.
I know that this is true, because when I ask students to show me the skill, (that the computer just said they mastered), they can't.

I know that this is true, because when I ask my students for their honest opinion (Are you using this, because you learn, or because you are avoiding work?), they tell me, they are just avoiding work.

I know that this is true, because my data reflects this.

Our students have become masters at manipulating these programs.

Again, I am not debating the worthiness or value of these programs. But, I am stressing the importance of the teacher's critique and observations. Do not let a student's silence blind you into believing he is engaged. Be absolutely, unequivocally certain that the computer is not baby-sitting your student.

It is far too easy to dismiss our students to these programs.

The harm in this comes when the students fail, and we are falsely led to bad conclusions: The program is research-based, so the problem must be in the student.


RELATED POSTS

Gamification One of the newest buzzwords of education is GAMIFICATION. Put shortly, gamification means using game principles to engage and motivate students. Gamification is NOT putting a student in front of a computer all day, every day.

The Flipped-Then-Re-Flipped Classroom As exciting as flipped classrooms are, the question is always asked, "What about the students who don't have the technology?"

Intervention, Remediation, Special Education...What is the Difference? Intervention is not reteaching or special education. It is the intentional instruction of targeted skills. This is for the student who is multiple grade-levels below. 

Learning Gaps One of the most common frustrations heard from secondary math teachers: HE SHOULD ALREADY KNOW THIS! HOW CAN I TEACH HIM MATH IF HE DOESN'T KNOW HIS BASIC SKILLS?!?!

How (and Why) to Level Assignments One of the most important practices I keep is "leveling assignments." I do this with nearly every concept I teach.

Digitally Illiterate Parents I realized that many of our parents do not have the technology literacy for this type of communication. This made me wonder: What responsibility do we have in educating our families about technology?