July 26, 2013

Gameworks: Gamifying “seatwork” (choke)

Filed under: iste13,learning,teaching — Candace Hackett Shively @ 9:11 am

monopolyI had a conversation this week with a sixth grade teacher/university teacher-educator about the concept of “seatwork.” Many years ago, after teaching in middle school for nine years, I moved to an elementary gifted teacher position and was stunned to hear this term. “Seatwork” simply was not part of my teaching vocabulary or repertoire.  Frankly, I choke on the term and the idea of keeping kids busy during transitional times using pieces of paper whose primary value was to fill time.  I do not mean to offend or condemn teachers’ need to preserve their sanity during bus arrivals and instructional times while they pay attention to a small group and others are working on something “in their seats.”  We all plan lesson times where students work independently — from kindergarten to high school seniors. But let’s get rid of “seatwork” for the sake of soaking up time. Let’s gamify ” seatwork into Gameworks! (A tribute to #iste13)

Kids love games and invent their own all the time. (Watch a playground!) Even teens invent challenges for each other (not necessarily safe or positive ones). Instead of handing out “worksheets”  and filling time with “seatwork,” have kids create games and challenge their peers with their creations. Yes, you will may have to show the littlest ones how to make a game, but having an audience and purpose for their efforts will generate more meaningful practice with the spelling words or colors or numbers. The game creator and the subsequent players all benefit as you create a community of game-players (and even build some sportsmanship). Arrange the “seats” into  game circles or pairs. Bingo! (oops, pun),  you have gamified “seatwork” into Gameworks. In single computer elementary classrooms, use student computer center time for students to create games, then share them during Gameworks time.

Here are some simple tools to get you started  gamifying seatwork into Gameworks in a non-tech classroom. The TeachersFirst reviews give more details and the links.

Puzzle maker (TeachersFirst review) Use this oldie but goodie to make traditional paper puzzles or get a little tricky and use them electroncially on an interactive whiteboard “gamespace” for student gamers.

Bingo Baker (TeachersFirst review) Create Bingo games. Yes, Gameworks bingo will make some noise, but it will be on-task, productive noise.

Word Search Builder  (TeachersFirst review) Another word search maker. This one makes both printable and online versions you solve by clicking the letters to highlight them in yellow. There is no way to SAVE the online version, though. This is great for game-making on the fly. Try it on tablets for student gamemakers to pass to a neighbor to solve (does not use Flash).

How do You Play (TeachersFirst review) Find rules and ideas for nearly every game you ever knew and some you never did! Gameworks creators can invent their own games on ANY topic using these ideas. There are even simple games for little ones.

Tools for Educators (TeachersFirst review)  Among the many useful items on this site are game board makers and more. Kids will LOVE being the new Parker Brothers!

Online Egg Timer  (TeachersFirst review)  Handy for game players or to declare the end of Gameworks time.

Timer-Tab  (TeachersFirst review) Online alarm clock/timer for your Gameworks that displays the countdown in the actual browser TAB

Countdown Timer (TeachersFirst review) An online timer that looks like the kitchen classic. (Don’t forget to turn up your speakers.)

Next week I will share some “tech” tools for classrooms where students have access to laptops or other devices to play the games.

July 3, 2013

The ongoing project

Filed under: edtech,education,iste13 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 3:49 pm

34804162David Brooks recent column, “Why They Fought,” describes a bygone era of bloodborn patriotism and passion for a cause, a time when men (and women) faced unthinkable circumstances at Gettysburg, firm in “a belief that they were born in a state of indebtedness to an ongoing project” [the noble Union called the United States]. It is certainly hard for us to imagine this pervasive sense of mission in a day when YouTube talking puppy videos garner more attention than hard news.

We rarely witness such shared sense of mission among today’s citizens. I do, however, witness a safer but parallel passion among educators whose ongoing project is re-visioning education. These teachers converse, blog, and adamantly promote reframing education into 24/7, global, student-centered learning enabled by today’s technologies. I do not see any teachers willing to die for the cause (thank goodness), but I do hear more and more articulate voices joining in to explain the vision, punctuated with viable examples and thoughtful questions. They converse and retweet in #edchat on Twitter. They convene at EdubloggerCon, Hackeducation, EduCon, or the many unconference venues where they can find like souls.  They host discussions like Deeper Thinking w/ EdTech: Do we know it when we see it?  They inhabit endless blogs and social networks. They proffer articulate spokespeople whose posts and interviews occasionally find their way into mainstream media (whatever that means). Some of these spokespeople build second careers offering keynotes and inspirational talks to paying school districts. Some are passionate enough to stand alone offering TED Talks. They can be heard in nearly every session at ISTE, and certainly in the Blogger’s Cafe. But most of them (us) are simply teachers who enter the fray every day, willing to continue the passionate construction of true learning communities where our students can find their voices and become self-directed, motivated learners for life.  Though the unthinkable circumstances of our “battlefield” do not  include anything like Gettysburg, the circumstances of teaching grind and disable many.

Thinking Teachers simply don’t give up. They/we have a sense of  “indebtedness to an ongoing project,” the metamorphosis of education from an industrial era model to an information era model of thinking, questioning, and learning anywhere, any time — for life. Given the pace of change in public policy and in education’s institutions, this sounds like a pipedream. But I don’t hear anyone giving up. If you have not heard the voices and you care about the future of education, you owe it to yourself to listen more carefully. Start at #edchat and build your network to learn about this ongoing project. What history will say in 150 years, who knows.

Happy Independence Day.

June 28, 2013

The DIT and DAT world of ISTE

Filed under: edtech,iste13 — Candace Hackett Shively @ 3:27 pm

I am back from ISTE 2013, the annual conference for the International Society for Technology in Education. It was enormous, collaborative, and agile. My colleagues and I think of ISTE as the preview of what will become commonplace in 2-3 years. Imagine about 20,000 people, all passionate about learning and using educational technology to make learning both possible and powerful. Imagine 20,000 people, each with at least one device to take notes, tweet, take pictures, vote, save bookmarks, post to Facebook, text, question, and generally share. 

Every line you stand in at ISTE  is a collaborative opportunity, even the inevitable lines in the women’s restrooms. Sadly, the ubiquitous devices tempted some attendees to share via device, ignoring actual humans close by, but that was their loss.

My observations during ISTE bring our own device sessions reinforce my thoughts about my own iPad and iPhone.  Mobile devices force us to be connoisseurs of DITs and DATs.

DIT: do it tool

DAT: device agnostic tool

Whether using school-owned or “bring your own” devices, teachers and students need Do It Tools for each task we face.  It might be an app or a web tool, but the DIT must match the demands of the task: I need to draw and add text labels. I need to annotate an image. I need to collect poll results via smartphone. I need to take notes and be able to access them from my laptop, my iPad, and my phone. I need to track a twitter hash tag. We need to collect urls and citations along with them. Some DITs simply solve the problem of getting “stuff” from one device to another or sharing “stuff” among multiple people. Startup DITs appear daily and die off nearly as quickly.

My experience tells me that the app version of a DIT is often a willing compromise to gain mobility at some loss of ability. Over and over at ISTE I hear, “The app version does this, but the web version does these other things as well.” Using a mobile app reminds me of shopping at Walmart. I enter Walmart looking for something to accomplish a certain task or meet a certain need, and I end up purchasing something that meets about 80% of the need. Mobile DITs therefore must be DATs to ameliorate the Walmart effect.

Device agnostic tools (DATs) allow us to access the work begun on a phone and continued it on an iPad or a laptop. A DAT lets us share the file with an Android user or reopen it in a laptop to finalize the task, often using enhanced or quicker tools. The web version is mostly likely the most able while being the least mobile.

At ISTE connected educators vocally share solutions to the DIT and DAT challenges that emerge during BYOD sessions. ISTE attendees are collaborative problem solvers. As our world becomes a full time BYOD environment across work, school and personal life, all of us must be fluent finding DITs and DATs to simply live and certainly to learn. Once again, ISTE is the preview of the world to come, a world of DITs and DATs.

February 7, 2013

Real and Permanent Good: A teacher’s mission

Filed under: iste13,myscilife,Teaching and Learning — Candace Hackett Shively @ 3:30 pm

mysciLifelogo-portraitRI often hear NPR underwriting messages about The Carnegie Foundation and their mission to do “real and permanent good.” Isn’t that why we became teachers, to do real and permanent good? How do we know whether we are accomplishing our mission? How do we assess real and permanent good?

Surveys ask businesses what they seek in their employees, and policy makers try to respond with accountability measures such as NCLB and Common Core. Every teaching professional organization has standards of its own, from the NSTA to ISTE. These standards are all efforts to define what comprises success in educating our students.

The frustration that I hear from many teaching colleagues comes when an individual teacher tries to assess success, to feel that he/she is doing real and permanent good. Evidence of real and permanent is elusive. A test score might show real progress, but test score improvements can easily feel impermanent or even unreal. Teachers feel we know real and permanent good when we see it, but often we do not have time to watch for it. And we certainly have trouble defining it. So I offer one example of real and permanent good  in teaching and learning.

MySciLife® offers learning that is real and, our research shows, permanent. MySciLife uses a social media platform for students to live science roles as they learn science. Watch the student/parent video to see how MySciLife works (and it’s free, I might add). We have just completed the first semester pilot of MySciLife with six middle school teachers in four states, and the research results show real and permanent good. Our first semester research asked both an outcome and a process question:

Outcome Question:  What effect does social media-based learning have on middle level science performance?

Process Question:  How does social media-based learning affect student attitudes and perceptions about learning science?

Roughly speaking, I see the outcome question as the real, and the process question question is the permanent.  The real knowledge is something middle level students take with them from MySciLife and apply to their understanding of the world around them. The two classes in the research study showed 20 to 40% greater understanding of the science compared to what they knew before “living” a MySciLife identity. We are researching further during the current semester to compare real learning using a larger sample and controlled study.

The permanent question about attitudes toward science is the one I find most exciting. Fully 86% of the students responded that they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “MySciLife was more interesting as compared to how I typically learn science.” Science is INTERESTING to them when they learn this way(!) That’s permanent good.

There are further results from the pilot, and we are busy formatting the downloadable version of the first semester research to share. I will also be sharing the results along with MySciLife participant panel at the ISTE conference in San Antonio in June. I have to admit, though, that the words real and permanent good resound differently inside my head these days thanks to MySciLife. 

What buoys your sense that you are doing real and permanent good as a teacher?