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Posts tagged ‘video games’

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

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.

Webinars

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.

 

Tip of the Week: Game-based learning in the social studies

It’s the final day of the KCHE / MOCHE Best Practices in History Education. Last session of the day? On a Friday? In downtown Kansas City just minutes from the Power and Light District? Yup. That would be me. But lots of fun cause these people are truly committed to learning.

I got the chance to lead a conversation with a full room of folks about using video games to teach social studies. We spent 90 minutes talking about reasons to use games, ways to use games, and different kinds of games – including the potential of MineCraftEDU, SimCityEDU, and serious games.

And no, 90 minutes is not enough time. It was definitely a tip of the iceberg sort of the thing.

But still a great time. My hope was that people would walk away open to the idea of looking into the idea of using video games and sims as part of their social studies instruction. In Kansas, we continue to push the idea of historical thinking skills and video games can be a huge part of that process.

My sticky idea for the presentation? Read more

Smarty Pins – Google Maps, geography trivia, and video games

Google Maps. Geography trivia. And video games. Three of my favorite things. And now, they’re all together in one place.

Google’s new Smarty Pins. (Get it? Smarty Pants – Smarty Pins? You nutty Google engineers!)

Smarty Pins is basically a simple trivia game that asks questions with geo-tagged answers using the Google Maps interface. Read more

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