Saturday, November 23, 2013

Video Games in Education

Video "Gamification" of the Classroom

If anyone told me that the future of education was in video games a week ago, I would have not believed them. Since then I experienced an AHA moment when listening to a guest lecturer Jennifer LaGarde on using video games in the classroom. She really opened my mind to video games in education through her personal experience and their data from improved test scores. Open mindedness is needed when hearing about this topic for the first time, but once you hear it and decide to jump on board, it is an awesome concept. You may ask "video games, I though they were leading to more violence in youth, why would teachers promote this?" Let me first put this into perspective for you skeptics. According to CNN Researcher, there is no evidence that violent video games lead to increased violence in the youth, but keep in mind that the video games in public schools would not be violent. Also student are increasingly technology savvy, which is need skills for the work force and upper education and using video games is a language they speak and understand. Join the Team also makes a good point that games are no new thing in the classroom, teachers have always used word games and math games to understand topics. The only thing new about video games is the technology. I really relys on how the teacher uses the video games is what counts and makes a difference in education. And something we all can agree on is that video games has the 100% attention of the students. If you ask me as a pre-service teacher, I want to tap into that student attention and use that to my advantage in my own classroom.    

Here are the 3 major consoles in which video games are played:   

          X Box 360                                                                  Play Station 3
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Why educators decided to look at this idea is the overwhelming captivation that video games have on the young generation of students. Kids spend countless hours playing video games. Early gamification thinkers asked "what is it about video games that makes kids want to spend SO much time on?" The answer is in the detailed programming and reward system. Each level is graduated challenges for the gamers to face. Each level giving the player needed skills and knowledge for the next step. The struggles are never impossible, or the players would quite, nor easy, or the players would win the game too fast. The levels are challenging to a point of valuable encouragement. Also what is addicting about video games is the constant reinforcement with rewards and points. When a player fails a level there is no deduction of points, no points are deducted only a new chance to triumph over level is presented. Here is about the point that early gamification thinkers said to themselves "could we use these concepts of challenge with constant positive reinforcement in the classroom? Could we use video games in education?"  

The surprising answer to the questions are yes. My thinking is if the students like it, teachers can use it for curriculum, why not use this technology to the schools advantage. On the topic of The intersection of gaming and education, an American University Professor Lindsay Grace says, 

"You have entire generations of people who are devoted to gaming,

 if we can harness that into something that motivates and educates,

 we can create learning environments that students will be receptive to."

Another thing that is exciting for video games being used in the classroom, is that there are ways to incorporated video games throughout all curriculum throughout any grade level. This means that elementary through high school can use video games for any subject as long as the game is appropriate for the age level and pertains to the subject area. Using video games in learning is more exciting than traditional learning styles and will hopefully the students will leave with more understanding and memory of the topic

Photo credit college.library

In my future classrooms I am super excited to use video games in the classroom. I will model my usage after people like Jennifer LaGarde and their experience and advice. In lecture, LaGarde explained how they used PRE-EXISTING games to use in the classroom, not "education video games," not educational video games are bad, the normal games are public and therefore kids already want to play them. I thought to myself, "how cool, these are games that a student very well could have a home. These games are absolutely tangible and suitable for them." 

The challenge then lies in the hands of the teachers to decide what curriculum each game is optimum for. In lecture we discussed how the students were able to link a concept to a game and then correctly recall it on a standardize test. 

For example in math, thinking about mean, median and mode, the students played a basketball mini game on Wii to get data. Once the data was taken the students were to calculate the mean, median and the mode. This memory of how to mathematically calculate the mean, media and mode is linked to the fun basketball game and now is memorable learning for the students. From LaGarde's school the test scores were noticeably higher after the insertion of video games in the classroom. 

I also really like the other, domino effects that video games had for her school. With the students having "fun" in school and the learning was more relatable to the student, the attendance of students increased, they cheered each other on with increased moral in subjects like math, kept discipline down in order to get to "fun" classes. Those results in LaGarde's school are hard to dispute and dismiss. I am all for video games in the classroom when their are great models already preforming to guide.     

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Other than Jennifer LaGarde leadership in her school as a librarian leading the way, there are some other great role models for teachers looking into bringing in and incorporating video games into their own classroom. Such as:
  • Joel Levin who teaches with MineCraft in his 2nd grade classroom and has a YouTube channel explaining how he incorporates it and teaches with it. Awesome resource if you are looking into how to use video games. 
  • Lucas Gillispie uses World of WarCraft in a fully-developed language arts course, aligned to middle grades standards. He has a blog explaining what they are doing and also they are apart of WoWinSchool which is bringing main stream games into the schools. 
  • Christopher Lazarski is using The ReDistricting Game in his high school American Public Policy class to help visualize and manipulate voting districts. 
  • Shawn Cornally who is experimenting with multiple sites, but likes Portal 2 for his high school physics class.
  • Denise Cruz involved in beta-testing of SimsCityEdu for her middle school computer education class and thought very highly of the game for the students. This is brand new and just opened November 2013, the concept is to take already known game brand and tweak it to fit education.    
Here is just a short list of different curriculum teachers of different grade levels doing super exciting things in their classrooms with incorporating video games. All of these teachers are passionate about using technology in the classroom and getting video games to be used as education facilitators for lessons while speaking the students language. I plan to take the lessons I have learned from these great leaders of video and online games in the classroom and take these valuable lessons with me to which ever school I end up having the pleasure of work at. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Assessing Learning

What is the best way to assess learning? 

Gosh that is a huge question that I think most political people have been scratching their heads about for years. Now we have lots of standardize testing to best "assess learning." Primarily standardize testing has been in the American education system since 2002. No matter how you feel on the issue, you should see both sides. 

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Pro: Standardize testing is a way to level the playing field for school, classrooms and students. You can take test scores from one city school and equally compare it to a rural school and expect to get accurate correlations. You can look at one classrooms' scores to another classroom and see if one teacher is teaching the content better for the grade of students. You could also look at different demographics within schools or classroom and compare student to student test scores. Standardize testing is incredible in the fact that comparison is now possible with data. 

Cons: Standardize testing is now guiding everything that is taught and done in a school. With strong test scores as the only goal in a school system, the curriculum is only what is testing material. This could only creates a new and different tension in the classroom that affects the students stress levels and creates anxious students at a young age striving for perfection in elementary school and on. Standardize testing also curves off the value of the arts and creativity. Not that is was a target effect of testing, it just happened because how can one standardize creativity, how do you test art accomplishments? 

So now how do you feel on assessing learning? For me the jury is still out. I think in some ways standardize test is good for core subjects. But in different circumstances there are alternatives to assess learning in the classroom based on content. 


Another way to check learning is through a rubric for projects within or out of the core subjects. A rubric is a document that articulates the expectations for an assignment by listing the criteria, or what counts, and describing levels of quality from excellent to poor. This uses a formulation for the students grade. If the project earns certain points on some of the criteria, them the summation of the total points earned will be the student's grade.  
Here is a blank example rubric:
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A huge pro for using a rubric for an assignment is it helps the student understand what is expected and helps the teacher for grading. 

It helps the students to realize what effort will earn the grade they are striving for. A rubric allows the students to plan how to do the project to get the maximum points, check as they are in progress working as well as persistence to check before turning in the assignment what is expected and how many points the student(s) is expecting to receive. From the student stand point, since I am still in school, rubrics are one of my favorite assignments to receive. I feel like the communication between the teacher and student is amplified with a rubric with the added plus of checking while in progress. Overall I definitely feel like a rubric assignment is easier on the student. 

A rubric helps teacher with grading by giving them a formula to create the final grade. It takes the issue of deciding what has what value and take out some bias. A rubric give ease to the teacher grading the project.  

Basically its a win win for student and teacher. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Digital Storytelling

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Digital Storytelling:

Digital storytelling in the classroom idea of combining the art of telling stories with a variety of multimedia, including graphics, audio, video, and web publishing, the topics used in digital storytelling range from personal tales to the recounting of historical events, from exploring life in one’s own community to the search for life in other corners of the universe, and literally, everything in between. Digital storytelling can be used in the full spectrum of learning, young elementary as an introduction to a topic to graduate students as an assignment. The lessons learned though digital storytelling are boundless. 

What is Digital Storytelling?

Video credit Jerome Gratigny

There are many value of digital storytelling in the classroom. Not just in young learning classrooms but in secondary and collegiate classrooms as well. There are also different forms of digital storytelling though lessons and assignments in a classroom.

Digital Storytelling in secondary schooling and collegiate level:

The shame about the growing mathematical, scientific world is that creativity is less valued. Yet in real world jobs, students/ future employees need to be able to be flexible and creative to find solutions and improve. A cool idea for high level classrooms, it take a complicated subject in biology or calculus and have the students try to make a story about it while using technologies. To make a story about characters with a plot line shows the full understanding about a topic, not just the definitions and facts. Although a subject does not seem like the place to write a story, it actually shows a deeper understanding to delve deeper and see character traits in factors or processes and make a plot line about a chemical reaction. It uses higher order thinking skills in Bloom's taxonomy.  

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Digital Storytelling in young grades:

In a younger classroom, a digital story can be used just in a different way. In elementary school a digital story with memorable characters can be a great way to introduce a subject, learn tricky vocabulary, or add to a lesson plan. The students could watch to learn rather than create a digital story to learn. In a controlled, monitored and supportive environment, young learners could create their own digital story. This approach has pros and cons with pros being creativity, organization and persistence with cons being labor intensive.

An example is in this digital story titled Margaret the Monarch Butterfly teaching students about butterflies metamorphosis and migration patterns with the help of her friend Sally Student.

Margaret the Monarch Butterfly

Video credit Leanne Stoltzfus

What can student learn from creating a digital story:

In class with guest Ms. Kerri Brown- Parker, we talked about the MANY lessons that students can learn with and through digital storytelling. The discussion we had with Ms. Brown- Parker's website, made me realize the full worth of digital storytelling so I would like to share it with you. 

These are the extra skills that are exercised though a digital storytelling assignment. These are the skills that are above and beyond the story's topic or subject. Students have five basic steps:
  • Story Planning with storyboards, story maps, collaborative brainstorming creates skills of critical thinking, summarizing, organization, logical progression, chronological thinking and increased vocabulary. 
  • Pre- Production with finding pictures, video or sound clips has skills of research skills, prioritizing and self analysis of individuals work. 
  • Production with the tools like imovie or moviemaker, has lots of technology skills, initiative, flexibility, revision and persistence.
  • Post production which is the finial editing and peer review, has revision skills, collaboration, handling constructive criticism and listening skills.  
  • Distribution develops skills for publishing with technology effectiveness.  

Why use digital storytelling in the classroom: 

In my eyes as a pre-service teacher, these are all skills that students should be learning and perfecting throughout their schooling. 

I really like how Bernajean Porter worded in her blog Creative Educator "The digital storytelling process helps us transform isolated facts into illuminated, enduring understandings. By “living in the story,” we make information come emotionally alive. By exploring “lessons learned,” we go beyond telling about content to find its deeper meaning."

And also this quote by Annette Simmons in The Story Factor “By telling thoughtful stories, we clarify our own thinking about what we have learned to share with others in a profound way that sticks with us over time.”

In this video by Carl Anderson titled Wes Fryer on Digital Storytelling In the Math Classroom speaks about how when subjects or topics are in a story, students and people are more likely to remember it. In math, concepts need to be tangible and he does that in his math classroom. I feel very strongly about "Memorable Learning" as I have coined it. I believe in doing anything and everything that a teacher can to make a topic memorable whether that be a field trip to the Capital, a nature walk or a digital story for a topic. I think that digital storytelling in all its forms and uses in the classroom will help students. And that makes it worth it.