Games Based Learning and Gamification
It is no secret that video games capture the attention of young and old for hours upon hours. They are engaging, motivating and above all fun. When an activity or task is turned into a game, there seems to be this instant motivation to want to play. Judy Willis argues the importance of using the principles of video games in the classroom as a way to increase the motivation of students as well as resiliency when they receive feedback.
Games are always goal oriented whether it is to complete a level or end up with the most money at the end of the game. There is always something you are aiming to achieve. This idea of achievement motivates the player to continue until they are successful. Games provide a low rate of failure as they allow the player to try repeatedly until successful. Games are always providing feedback to the player. Sometimes the feedback is not being able to make it past a certain point in the game until the player figures out a new strategy.
This past year, our Year 5 classes created a gamified unit of mathematics called the Battle 4 Chatz. Our goal was to make the entire geometry unit one big game where each class ('gang' or 'team') had to battle the other 2 classes in order to win over the various sections of the school. This unit was played as a mixed learning environment both online and in person components. It had a narrative of a MR. ME character taunting the students to get better at math so they could capture each other and defeat the other teams only to have things change drastically in the final boss level. Along the way, there were also many sidequests for the students to participate in. Motivation and participation in mathematics was at an all-time high as students were completing work at home and in class with enthusiasm to work towards badges and help their team achieve their goals.
Breaking it down by Willis' main ideas, you will see that we took the principles of video games to create a positive experience for our students:
- Motivation: Gain more points than the other two teams through completing individual activities, which would then allow students to capture different areas of the school.
- Incremental Goal Progress: Students rewarded when a number of activities completed. A class could capture a portion of the school at the end of each level if they had the most points.
- Individual Achievable Challenge: There were 2-3 activities per level that were mandatory based on the grade expectations with tutorials for support. Students had to complete tasks individually in order to help their team. If they completed the mandatory tasks (main storyline), they could challenge themselves by doing sidequests for bonus points to add to their teams total.
- Feedback: Students received immediate feedback every time they completed an individual activity on their progress. As a class, their point totals were seen on the game site and updated in real time.
If you are interested in learning about the theory and reasoning behind the game, feel free to check out the link here: https://sites.google.com/a/chatsworth.com.sg/battle4chatzsite/
You can also access the game site itself here: https://sites.google.com/a/chatsworth.com.sg/math-turf-wars/
Willis, J. (2011) A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool. Retrieved from http://www.edutopia.org/blog/neurologist-makes-case-video-game-model-learning-tool
In our Primary School, our current situation is that there are Promeathean interactive whiteboards in every classroom. The boards are mounted on the wall and the projector is mounted from the ceiling. All teachers have a laptop with the ActivInspire software so they can create interactive lessons from home or school. The use of the IWBs varies from class to class and the teacher’s comfort with technology.
Interactive Whiteboards are seen from various perspectives. However, I believe they still can be a useful tool in the classroom just like every other piece of technology if used appropriately. Short small group whole class lessons and small group activities are great for IWBs and a fantastic way to illustrate expectations for students for activities.
Of course, there are some challenges as well. It is stationary so you have to plan your lesson around one spot, similarly to you reading a book and students sitting and listening. I find the ActiveInspire software to be older and can lag with newer MacBooks at times.
One of the biggest challenges is that teachers are often not trained in how to use them. Just like with any piece of technology or a new program at a school, without training we can’t expect our teachers to be successful to the extent we would like them to be.
Often the lessons can be a bit time consuming to make. However, I would argue that often when making your own content, you need to take the time to create quality instructional tools (whether technological or not). In addition, because resources are built using a computer, the teacher can save and reuse resources easily as well as share with others. In addition, using technology helps to engage students using 21st century tools. Thus, it is important to explore all options, including the IWB.
Nielsen (2010) states that the teacher’s back is to the audience most of the time when using the interactive whiteboard. My question is ‘Why is the teacher at the front of the room using the IWB?’ While I understand the need for teacher led sections of lessons, in my eyes, it should be the students who are at the front of the room interacting with the board. Thus, leaving the teacher to speak facing the students and move freely around the room. Typing is a skill that is learnt but it doesn’t replace writing (or writing on an IWB). Handwriting and printing will always still be needed in education.I also disagree with Nielsen’s thoughts about professional development. I believe professional development is useful for any tool. Many teachers don’t have the time to just ‘figure things out’ when they have a number of other responsibilities each day. With tailor professional development, teachers can learn the skills they need to be effective. Neilsen seems to have a very narrow view of the use of the interactive whiteboards.
Interactive whiteboards do not just have to be for whole-class lessons with the teacher at the front as Neilsen (2010) suggests. Rather, if used appropriately can be integrated into the classroom and used as needed just like any other resource. The benefit of IWBs is that the tool can be used by up to 4 people at the same time (which is not the case for an iPad or laptop computer).
Our school is about to embark on a new trial of comparing Promeathean boards to SMARTBoards and also how to best use the SMARTBoards in our classroom. We have replaced 1 Promeathean board with a SMARTBoard and will be working with that teacher to develop this trial. We are not sure what we will find out or the full details of this trial but it should be interesting to use what we know about IWBs to compare and contrast and find best practice for making them useful tools in our school.
Nielsen, L. (2010, December 8). Are interactive whiteboards a smart idea when they make even the most innovative of educators look dumb? – 10 reasons to ditch the board [web blog post]. Retrieved fromhttp://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com.au/2010/12/are-interactive-whiteboards-smart-idea.html
Word Processing & Keyboarding Skills
Keyboarding is a skill just like learning your multiplication tables, collaborating with others and learning to read. You can type if you understand how to read letters and spell, but you learning proper keyboarding skills can help you be more accurate, save time, present your work in a variety of ways and be able to share typed documents with others easily (Roblyer & Doering, 2014).Knowing how to use word processing documents effectively can enhance the learning experience.
I believe students should learn start using word processing when they are exposed to using laptops and computers. At this time it is also necessary to begin teaching keyboarding skills concurrently. In our school, our 1-1 laptop program begins in Year 3. At this point, students should begin to focus more of their final products as being published online. By teaching students how to keyboard at this age, it will also allow them the ability to type with more speed and confidence. As teachers teach word processing, they need to also explicitly teach different skills within the word processing programs. This is an excellent time for teachers to talk about design, visuals and digital literacy.
With anything, the more time you spend learning something, the better you will become at it. Thus, the more students are exposed to proper keyboarding techniques, the more proficient they will become. In addition, as students spend more time learning keyboarding, this also means they are spending less time on their handwriting skills. It is important that students know how to write and read letters before beginning keyboarding. I believe that there should not be a 100% transfer to keyboarding from handwriting as handwriting helps students develop their fine motor skills. Both of these skills are important and help students develop different needs.
Last year I previously taught Year 5 and almost all writing assignments were submitted via online tools (such as Google Docs, FlipSnack, e-portfolio etc.). This was easier for me to read as a teacher as I didn’t have to worry about decoding handwriting that was messy. I was able to take only my laptop home rather than a stack of books. My students were allowed to do their rough draft on Google Docs, thus allowing for corrections and feedback to be easily done using comments and suggestions by both peers and the teacher, saving valuable learning time as well.
Another point to note about using online tools is the accessibility options that are built into many of the word processing programs. Whether it is speech to text or text to speech, highlighting of words or increased font size, many programs allow the accommodations needed for students to succeed. Autocorrect was of great importance to one student in my class with dyslexia as it allowed him to gain more confidence with spelling and also get the instant feedback about incorrect/correct spelling and how to fix it. The downside to spellcheck is that sometimes it changes a word to another word than the one you want. Thus, students must still read and review before submitting.
With any technology tool, it is important to remember that it is still just one of many tools for teaching. No technology can replace bad teaching. If students don’t understand the writing process, then using a word processing software will not make their writing better. It is still up to the teacher to teach students using best practice and the best tool to support their learning intentions.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2014). Integrating educational technology into teaching [Sixth Edition].
Acceptable Use Policy
I work at an international, PYP school in Singapore and we indeed have an Acceptable Use Policy. In fact, in my new role this year as EdTech Coach, I actually had to rewrite the Acceptable Use Policy in conjunction with our Director of Education Technology.
The AUP is for all students in our school. In the primary level, students use the school's technology whether that's iPads/iMacs in Kindergarten - Year 2 or the 1-to-1 laptop programme in Years 3-6 or the BYOD (MacBooks) from Middle School onwards. There is also a teacher's AUP as well as now a parent AUP as the Middle/High school parents have school emails to access ManageBac.
One of the major challenges is finding wording that is suitable for all students, especially the younger year groups. This year we rewrote it to make it more positive and student friendly. Thus, instead of saying "Don't do this", it now reads "We will...". This provides a more community approach that we all are responsible for abiding by the rules and frames it in a way of what students should be doing.
Our Acceptable Use Policy is broken down into different sections:
1. Be polite and respectful
2. Be responsible
3. Care for the devices
4. Keep your information private
5. Access appropriate information
6. Reference your work
8. Social Media
Each section is expanded on with a few key bullet points. The social media section was added this year to fill a much needed gap. While we do not use social media often at our school, it is important to have the policy in place for if/when we use social media for specific needs.
The other challenge with developing an Acceptable Use Policy is that technology is always changing and the policy needs to be created in a way that will allow for new technologies to be fit in to the existing AUP. Thus, not always so specific to a certain tool but rather more the overarching ideals.
When going into each of the classrooms to talk about the AUP, I had to have very different approaches for the younger and older students. Some classes were more of a discussion while others were hands on practice of how to hold, carry, use, etc. the devices. I am interested to review the document after a year in the role and see what I would change after experiencing the role and the challenges within it.
Social Media in the Classroom
Social media allows individuals to have a platform to communicate and connect around the globe. I agree that the bullying can continue away from the educational institute, causing the student to ever have an escape from the bullying.
We do not use social media too often with our students, have an acceptable use policy and most social media sites (Twitter, Google+ , Snapchat, etc.) are blocked on the school network. Unfortunately, this does not eliminate what happens on cell phones and personal devices that are not connected through the school wifi. One of the ways I have worked with students in a closed and supportive social media network is through Edmodo. Edmodo mimics Facebook for students in a closed group that is created and monitored by their teacher. Students can communicate, share resources, etc. in small groups, through the discussion feed and learn how to navigate social media. When using Edmodo, we discuss a lot about digital citizenship, digital footprints or digital tattoos, online identity, creating profiles, how our 'brand' is seen by others, etc. It allows students exposure to social media without some of the challenges that are experienced through open social media tools.
I have personally not had to deal large scale issues of cyberbullying. However, social media also has the opportunity to take a turn for the worst allowing the 'trolls' to come out. I use Twitter to build my Personal Learning Network (PLN), gather ideas and resources, and share resources I have created. I find it to be a positive experience, though some of my colleagues have had very different experiences where people have 'trolled' them. Trolling is when someone posts negative or mean comments at another user. My colleague had others call him all kinds of things just because he had a different opinion to theirs. These are educators. If adults who are supposed to be role models for their students spend time trolling the internet, how can we expect our students not to? We as educators have to role model for our students safe and responsible use of social media.
It was nice to see when I read the article 'Why Twitter is Finally Taking a Stand Against Trolls' (Lapowsky, 2015) that the social media sites themselves understand the importance of not tolerating people who cyberbully others. Twitter is flagging inappropriate comments, indirect threats, violent threats, underage usage etc. This is essential for making the social media experience enjoyable for all users and it is positive to see resources put into identifying and eliminating those who do not wish to use social media in a positive manner.
Connect With Students and Parents in Your Paperless Classroom | Edmodo. Retrieved September 12, 2015, from http://www.edmodo.com/
Why Twitter Is Finally Taking a Stand Against Trolls. Retrieved September 20, 2015, from http://www.wired.com/2015/04/twitter-abuse/