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Posts tagged ‘video games’

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.

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

Explorable explanations and 4 ways to encourage active reading

I love Sylvia Duckworth’s version of the SAMR tech integration model. The whole idea of any ed tech is to support student learning. And the SAMR is a nice way to think about the tech you’re using or planning to use. Is this just substituting for paper and pencil or is this true redefinition? Something that we couldn’t have done without the tech?

One level in the SAMR model is not necessarily better or worse than another. But it can help help us stop and think about appropriate usage. And a spat of reading over the weekend about a recent edtech idea had me flashing back to Sylvia’s version.

First called “explorable explanations” by a guy named Bret Victor, the idea can take reading to high levels of modification and redefinition. Victor, in his 2011 article, starts with a question: Read more

Fellowship of the Brick – Using Minecraft to recreate history

The more I talk with elementary and middle school social studies teachers, the more I realize that a ton of their kids are playing Minecraft. My question to the teachers is pretty simple. How can you leverage the interest in this tool and begin to incorporate Minecraft into the learning that happens in your classroom?

And the response has been fairly positive. A number of teachers are working to find ways to use Minecraft as part of their instruction. Yesterday, I wrote a quick post about my own experience of being the type of teacher that focused instruction around the memorization of content knowledge, rather than the authentic use of that knowledge.

It was Trivia Crack instruction – random facts that mean nothing without context.

Over time, I moved away from that and begin to realize that there are a ton of ways for kids to learn and for me to teach. One of those methods is to integrate the use of games and simulations into the learning process. The cool thing about games and sims is that to be successful while playing often requires “non-traditional” types of classroom learning: non-fiction and technical reading / writing, research, teamwork, cross-curricular content, emotional connections to content, cause and effect, and the use of lots and lots of evidence.

Another cool thing about the use of Minecraft is the fairly easy ability to mod – modify – the game. Many current games have this feature built in but Minecraft software is basic enough so that even elementary kids are doing it.

And several weeks ago, Read more

New Mission US game released!

It was almost five years ago that I first ran across Mission US and wrote a quick blurb about it.

“Designed specifically for the educational market and aligned to national standards, Mission US is a multimedia project that immerses players in U.S. history content through a free interactive game with extensive teacher materials and resources. Students playing the game will walk away with a solid knowledge of the pre-Revolution period. And for the most part, the game does a good job of engaging kids in thinking and asking questions.”

At the time, there was just the one game teachers and kids could play:

“For Crown or Colony?” puts players in the shoes of Nat Wheeler, a printer’s apprentice in 1770 Boston. They encounter both Patriots and Loyalists, and when rising tensions result in the Boston Massacre, they must choose where their loyalties lie.

In the years since, Mission US added:

In “A Cheyenne Odyssey,” players become Little Fox, a Northern Cheyenne boy whose life is changed by the encroachment of white settlers, railroads, and U.S. military expeditions.  As buffalo diminish and the U.S. expands westward, players experience the Cheyenne’s persistence through conflict and national transformation.

And just this week, they’ve added a fourth game. Called  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

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