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Posts tagged ‘gaming’

Tip of the Week: Using board games for teaching and learning

Video games and simulations have always been part of my instructional DNA. I started out with a basic but powerfully engaging archeology simulation during my first month in the classroom, used text-based games to teach medieval Japan, added PC based simulations to highlight economic impacts, integrated cutscenes into instruction, encouraged the use of game specific wikis for building content knowledge and have watched first person shooter console games used to embed students into World War II.

I’ve also had the chance to work with a variety of software developers to pilot several different computer and online based simulations. So . . . yes. A firm believer in the use of video games and gaming theory as part of teaching and learning.

But not until recently have I given much thought to using board games in the same way as video games and sims. Most social studies teachers have incorporated some sort of paper-based or board game-based simulation as part of they do. But there is a whole different level of board game out there. This is more than just Monopoly or the simple roll the dice to see what happens to your Gold Rush bound wagon train. Read more

Hacking #iste2015: Subversive teaching and video games

Back in the day, during my high school and college journalism period, every advisor I ever had always said the same thing.

“Never bury the lead.”

Greg Toppo, author of The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter, during an #iste2015 Playground session:

“Think of the havoc you can wreak in your classroom, good havoc, with a really good iPad game.”

I love that. During his 30 minutes, Toppo shared a preso he called To the Moon and Back in Five Minutes: Technology as a Subversive Force. And while he did talk about video games, his main point was that technology can be a way for educators to have a huge impact on learning. 

Toppo asked us to think about Moore’s Law, the idea that computers continue to get faster while costing less. If applied to the automobile, he suggested, using a 1970 car as the starting point, a current car would cost nine dollars, be as large as a match head, be able to travel across the country on a half cup of gas, and make it to the moon and back in five minutes.’

Yet education continues to be satisfied with a culture that seems stuck in the past. As educators, we can use video games and gaming theory to subvert that culture. Some teachers and administrators are afraid of games and technology because they see control of the process slipping from their fingers.

His example?

The Photomath app makes teacher both harder and easier. The app uses the cell phone camera to view any math problem. It then solves the problem for the user and provides the steps. It shows the work.

So is that good or bad? It is very subversive – taking the role of teacher by showing the answer and the steps needed to solve the problem. In a traditional classroom with the teacher in charge of all learning, this sort of tool is a threat. “What is the role of the teacher?” But if we see Photomath as a way for kids to think more about process and problem solving then teachers can spend more time helping students understand the steps, showing uses for formulas, and discussing the why of math. Higher level thinking becomes the focus rather than simply memorizing formulas.

Toppo did share some games. If you’ve read the book, the list is familiar. But he did say his current favorite game is Monument Valley.

Get a sense of the book and Greg’s ideas by viewing an earlier conversation.

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Just before Greg spoke, Matt Farber of Gamify Your Classroom fame spent his 30 minutes sharing characteristics of a good game. He talked about chocolate covered broccoli to describe many ed-related games. They look delicious on the outside but really aren’t that tasty once you get past the outer shell. 

I hate broccoli so Matt’s analogy . . . pretty spot on.

The important parts of a good game?

  • goal – may not be winning
  • rules – working within constraints
  • Space – “magic circle” where play happens, a field, chess board, the classroom
  • core mechanics – repeated actions that happen in a game. “actions of play”
  • components – avatars, dice, etc
  • interconnected systems – means understanding a system

Find Matt’s preso here. It’s got some interesting things to say about how and why games can be engaging for learners. Find out more of what Matt does here and here.

Matt also suggested a few games that I need to look at more closely:

A great 60 minutes, filled with helpful ideas and thoughtful conversation.

Educational buzzwords, gamification, and Classcraft

It often seems as if K-12 education is nothing but buzz words. Problem-based learning. SAMR. Close reading. College and Career. Flipped classroom. Disruptive technology. BYOD. Data driven. MOOC.

We’re good at that stuff.

Administrators read a book or attend a conference and next thing you know . . . a new program or initiative with a hour of “training” at the next staff meeting. Sometimes there’s so many buzzwords flying around, it’s just easier sometimes to ignore all of them. I get that. As schools, we’re great on jumping on the latest trend and not always following through in the long term.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that all buzzwords are bad. I think most admin types, and all of you trend following classroom folks as well, do it for a reason. You all want the best for your kids, you’re all looking for what works, for ideas and strategies that might make a difference.

So I think it’s okay to throw out another one. Read more

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

Tip of the Week: Video games equal effective formative assessment

Last month at the AESA conference, Curtis Chandler and I had the opportunity to do a presentation on gamification in education. I always have fun working with Curtis and when we get the chance to talk about games, even better.

One of the things we talked about was how game design and instructional design are very similar. How game developers use brain research to create engaging, profitable games. And how we as educators should be using similar research to plan lesson and unit design but often don’t.

As early educational game researcher James Paul Gee says

Better theories of learning are embedded in the video games many children play than in the schools they attend.

One of the conversations that we especially enjoyed was asking teachers to describe what an effective learning environment looks like. The list ended up looking like this:

  • students make choices
  • students become experts
  • solving problems is required
  • immediate feedback is key
  • there’s always an answer
  • working with others – in and out of the classroom – is allowed
  • failure can be a good thing

We then asked teachers to think about characteristics of engaging games. It ended up looking like this: Read more

Tip of the Week: Fantasy GeoPolitics

I got the chance yesterday to spend time with some of the middle / high school teachers from Manhattan. We chatted about primary sources and DBQs and historical thinking and Sam Wineburg and all sorts of social studies stuff.

Doing tech integration stuff is fun. But spending a whole day with other history and social studies nerds is good for the soul. These are my people. And I always walk away from those types of conversations smarter than when I walked in – teachers share ideas, resources, web sites, strategies, all sorts of goodies.

I, of course . . . steal all of those great ideas, resources, web sites, and strategies and pass them on to you.

Yesterday was no different. Shane and Alex, a couple of world history guys, shared how they use what looks like a very sweet tool for geography, world history, and current events teachers. Called Read more