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Posts tagged ‘games’

The Game Believes in You – Using video games as instructional tools

During an extensive spring cleaning binge over the weekend, I had the chance to sort through a ton of memories and personal primary sources. And I ran across some ancient artifacts. Yup. Five and quarter floppy disks.

Actual floppy disks.

Yes, I am that old.

I know many of you have never seen such a thing. So a quick overview. Think of an app that you install on your phone. Same basic idea. Except the size of the file on the floppy is smaller than most of the images in your phone’s camera roll, it has minimal graphics or none at all, you have to reinstall it every time you want to use it, and you need a special disk drive attached to your computer to access the software.

I’m not sure why I saved them. Obviously I can’t use them. Even if I could find a 5 1/4 disk drive, there’s not an operating system around that would run the program. Part of it, I’m sure, is that the history nerd in me wanted to save them for . . . I don’t know. It’s just cool saving old stuff.

But the teacher in me flashed back to a couple of classrooms when those floppies did some pretty amazing things. Read more

Graphite: Your search is over

Looking for a handy site that helps you locate useful apps, games, and websites that also provides ratings and reviews? That also includes teacher feedback? That has awesome search and sorting functions? That organizes all of its goodies by Common Core – giving you the chance to find activities aligned to ELA literacy standards for history?

Then, yes. You are in the right place.

What you’re looking for is called Graphite

. . . a free service from nonprofit Common Sense Education designed to help preK-12 educators discover, use, and share the best apps, games, websites, and digital curricula for their students by providing unbiased, rigorous ratings and practical insights from our active community of teachers.

 Their team of professional educators – early childhood development experts, doctorates in education, and teachers with hands-on classroom experience – rates each website, game, and app on Graphite based on their detailed rubric. Every product on Graphite is rigorously reviewed to dig deeper into what and how your students will learn with it.

Start with the basics. Head straight to their Top Picks for Social Studies.

graphite top picks

Reviews & Ratings

After the basics, try it yourself. Head to the Reviews & Ratings, adjust your search parameters, and find useful stuff. Be sure to also check out the Field Notes – specific feedback by teachers who’ve use the tool.

Common Core

Get Graphite’s aligned to Common Core ELA literacy standards by grade and content here.

App Flows

An App Flow is an interactive framework tool that enables teachers to seamlessly flow apps, websites, and games throughout lessons. Starting with the familiar five-part lesson plan, an App Flow provides scaffolding to think with purpose about where, why, and how to integrate digital tools for learning into the curriculum.

The flow follows five teaching components:

  • Hook
  • Direct Instruction
  • Guided Practice
  • Independent Practice
  • Wrap Up

Teachers choose individual apps, games, or websites that match each component. Find the social studies App Flow here.


Want to hear from teachers about the best apps, websites, and games for learning? Join Graphite for Appy Hour, a monthly series where they discuss their favorites from Top Picks Lists, have teachers demonstrate a selection of tools, and share ideas on how to use them with students.

And when you’re done all of that, start over. Cause there’s sure to be something new by then.


7 geography games that align to the Common Core

I’ll be honest. I threw that “align to the Common Core” phrase in there to suck in more site traffic. But, hey, you’re already here. You might as well browse through these sweet geography games that really are good for kids.

(Kidding! Common Core and C3 alignments at the bottom of the page!)

Read more

Reynold Redekopp – I Love EdTech Blog Swap

As part of the I Love Ed Tech Blog Swap sponsored by SimpleK-12, Ryenold Redekoop of Redekoop’s Rant is guest posting today. Thanks Reyn!


I am Reynold Redekopp from the University of Manitoba where I work in the Faculty of Education – my teaching involves mainly a course called Teacher and Technology, but also a graduate course called Internet Pedagogy.

Glenn asked me write about the Girls In Gaming project that I have been involved with for the past 4 years – and I gladly do so!

Girls in Gaming is the brainchild Norm Lee through his work with MindSet – a part of the Manitoba Department of Innovation, Energy and Mines. He approached me in September of 2006 to assist him in identifying and organizing some schools in Winnipeg to participate in a program to promote female interest in technology careers. We wanted to show them that there are great career opportunities in the industry that do not involve sitting and typing in code all day. There is art, story, sound, design, production and more!

Getting girls involved in IT careers has always been a challenge and we sought to provide girls with a fun and interesting way to learn about and experience these opportunities. In so doing we hoped to help develop the pool of skilled employees for our IT industries in Manitoba. The program has run in Winnipeg since 2006, and we added a rural program in southern Manitoba in 2008 and this year we have added another section a bit further north in Swan River.

What do we do? For the most part our sessions are a combination of teaching the girls some aspect of game design as well as bringing in presenters from the gaming, video, or design fields. They talk about their career paths and what they love about their careers, and how our girls can get involved. There is always plenty of Q&A and our presenters have been very enthusiastic about participating and allowing the girls to contact them. We have even had a couple of girls arrange internships.

For the most part we use Flash and GameMaker for the game development part. We have learned that the girls are quite willing to learn the programming part (and are sometimes ahead of us), but that the frustration of ‘missing semicolons’ or ‘mismatched variable names’ was a real hindrance. GameMaker reduces some of this frustration at the beginner level, but you soon run into some complex problems there too.

So in addition to GameMaker we now come in with our own Flash game templates (developed by Robin and Sandy Debreuil) that the girls can modify easily and with reckless abandon, because they can always re-load the template. By the time they have made their adaptations it is often hard to recognize the original template.

The program has been successful in terms of maintaining the girls interest and in making them aware of the possibilities in the industry. There are also some interesting unintended effects – the development of small communities of girls with common interests. The comments that the girls post to the blog are quite different from boys! They are much more oriented toward the social aspect of the program and do not get into many technical details. This is significant in terms of how we want to show girls about the industry  – that it is highly interactive, social environment and for the most part not an isolated “sit at the computer all day” way of work.

We average 15 – 20 girls per session along with 3 or 4 teachers (who are learning like crazy alongside the girls) and this year will run eight sessions. The organizers, presenters, the teachers and the girls have been very excited about the program since the beginning (and yes we get many complaints from the boys!!).

Questions and comments are welcome: rredekopp at (you have to type the @ yourself. I get enough spam as it is J .)

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Constitution and other law related games

Deb Brown, former president of the Kansas Council for the Social Studies and current K-12 Social Studies specialist at Shawnee Mission School District, sent me this web site review several months ago. I asked if I could post it and she agreed.

I’m just now getting back to it. Christmas, the Super Bowl, several ice storms, winter high school sports, March Madness and a couple of books by the fireplace all got in the way.

I’m easily distracted.

But Deb’s review is too good to leave behind so . . . here ya go.


I am absolutely enamored with this website for interactive games and simulations dealing with Law Related Education. This website is from Law Focused Education, a branch of the Texas Bar Association.  You really need to explore and take part in a couple of the activities.  Great classroom review and can be used for instruction.  Some of the activities are specific to Texas law but I have included application to our classrooms below.

Who can use this?

  • Appropriate for High school: Foundations of American Law, Legal Studies, American Government or even United States History
  • Appropriate for Middle School: Many of you may be beyond your Constitution, Government and Law units but check it out and bookmark it for later.
  • Elementary Teachers: A variety of activities for you as well.
  • ELL students and teachers: Some activities are appropriate

I went through all of the following activities:

  • Bill of Rights Match Game – Has an elementary and secondary version.
  • Pick Six – Geared toward legal studies and street law. (High School)
  • Constitution Relay – Wow . . . great review for all things Constitution including the Constitutional Convention. (Middle or High School)
  • Pirates of the Preamble – This was not easy. (Middle School)
  • American Symbols – Good click and drag of symbols to clues. (Elementary or ELL)
  • Preamble Scramble – Wasn’t working when I tried it.  Looks like another click and drag.  (Upper elementary and Middle school)
  • Pick Twelve – Interactive Jury game with a downloadable printable version.  (High School)
  • Federalist Anti-Federalist – This is a tough one, you would really need to know your stuff. (High School, challenging even for AP classes)
  • Pledge of Allegiance – Click and drag the pledge into the correct order of the words.  (Elementary and ELL)
  • Declaration Clarification – Click and drag the Ceclaration into the correct order. (Middle School)

A more detailed synopsis about a couple of the activities I checked out.

The Pick Six Game
A case is presented dealing with a juvenile alcohol issue.  In addition to selecting whether to be the prosecuting attorney or the defense attorney, participants must go through the jury selection process (voir dire) and will be scored on how well they selected a jury for their side.

The Bill of Rights Game
I really like this one. Situations vary each time you play.  Students must determine if the situation is constitutional AND determine which of the 10 amendments applies to that situation.  There is an elementary version and a secondary version.  If students miss a question they do have the opportunity to try again.   Students’ final time appears on their certificate of completion that can be printed out.  Did I mention students can print out a copy of the Bill of Rights to assist them if they need it?

Pirates of the Preamble
Incorporates history, geography with questions about the Constitution.  If you miss a question you have to swab the decks!

Thanks Deb!

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Tip of the Week – Video Game Research

We’re busy putting together some podcasts designed to help parents understand and use video games with their kids. And while we won’t spend much time on all of the brain research, it was nice to see eSchoolNews publish a useful article last week summarizing the contents of a couple of MIT papers titled Moving Learning Games Forward: Obstacles, Opportunities, and Openness and The Instructional Powers of Digital Games, Social Networking Simulations and How Teachers Can Leverage Them.

As video games continue to permeate our culture, schools and students are increasingly interested in using video games for learning. This interest has prompted universities and neurologists to explore what makes a successful educational game, what the current barriers to adoption are, and how gaming as a whole affects the brain.

According to a recent paper by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), games, when developed correctly and used appropriately, can engage players in learning that is specifically applicable to school curriculum—and teachers can leverage the learning in these games without disrupting the worlds of either “play” or school.

If you have questions about whether video games are good for kids or how to use them, the eSchoolNews article and these papers are great places to start.

To read the entire article online, you may need to create a free account at eSchoolNews. (But you should be able to print out the article without an account by clicking the Print button that’s just to the right of the article’s title.)

You might also be interested in a couple of articles over at the Education Arcade. Both articulate research demonstrating the power of gaming and specific ways for teachers to use them as instructional tools.

Looking for specific games and simulations to use in the classroom? Try:

To learn more, head over to the Having Fun is a Good Thing and Video Games in Education sites.

    Have fun!