Tuesday, October 16, 2012

serious games for learning

Citizen Science is a great game to send kids home with after a science lesson on lakes and being environmentally conscious.  It would be most effective with older children in an environmental science class who are ESL students.  I have personally played it about 4 times and found great information from it. Objectives of this game can be learning how to choose appropriate topics to make good arguments as you have to be able to convince people not to do things or to do things by using information you have been collecting through out the experience.  Its also a good way to get kids to learn vocabulary.  A great way to assess this would be to have kids write down any words they come across that they do not understand and find a definition for it that way they are learning on their own and you can see that they are playing the game as well as giving them guidance when they need it by seeing what they are bringing in to class the following day.

Their are other games to promote learning on the site games for change that can help students learn on their own to reenforce knowledge learned in class.  These games incloude games on poverty, the environment, and economics, to name a few and can be classified by age groups to see what is most appropriate for your class.

Monday, October 15, 2012

the Rewards of Gaming

These days games play a huge role in the lives of our children whether we like it or not.  Although the kids pictured above are not my own, Ive seen images like this in my household as my husband finds a new game for my daughter to play with him and my son (6 months old) sits in his chair with his own controller watching intently.  I had been against this vary situation for a while and had finally given in to the inevitable and began to actually watch my daughter and my husband interact over a good game with Dora the Explorer and what I realized was eye opening.  Not only was it engaging for my daughter but she was actually learning something from it; counting, word and letter recognition, reading comprehension, and following directions (to name a few).  In the end I learned that education can come from anywhere, even games and TV (with STRICT limitations) as actually interaction with a parent or a teacher is still a main form of education.

For a class assignment I had to think of a rational for using games for learning and it wasn't that hard to think of why its a good reason as I have a living example in my household.  I think that games can help language learning, especially for ESL students because it helps to match pictures with words for word recognition and it helps engage learning in a fun and entertaining way with both challenge and reward.  And that's only one of many benefits of using games. As I mentioned above there are several educational purposes for games that promote language learning.

After reading 10 Gaming Genres to Adapt in Class I had looked for a fun and engaging point and click game to play to see how you could use one in a classroom.  I found the game Heart of Tota and the walkthrough, the instructions, for it.  After playing the game about 10 times (I'm not addicted I swear!) I figured that although I am not sure if it has education purpose AT ALL it still has the potential to teach children something.  For example if you let the children play the game with the walkthrough (because its almost impossible to get through without it) then they have to read the instructions in order to get to the certain areas and collect and open the appropriate items so they are using reading comprehension and they need to be able to follow directions which both have an implication in language learning.

As a teacher in this situation I would simply be there to help the children when needed, but other then that I think the challenge of such a game is what makes it engaging and fun and if you take that away from them then it is unnecessary to  to use games for learning.  I believe the best way to use these games for ESL students would be in group setting so they can work through the directions and comprehension together then not only are they reading and thinking but they are actually communicating and using oral language to learn. With any kind of education you want to make sure that the children are actually learning something and the best way to do that in these situations, with reading comprehension and following directions, would be to simply assess how and if they had completed the task by looking through the walkthroughs of them.

Not only can games play a role in education but they can play a role in almost anything now.  from points and rewards points to using it for news, all of this can be read about in the article entitled gamification.  Gamification is simply defined as applying game design thinking in non-game situations to make them more fun and engaging.  So although it is my main focus to think about what will help make education and learning more fun and engaging I feel its worth it to mention that with the technology we have now we can create anything to be fun and engaging especially with the new form of gamification.  And as surprised as I am, I have to say that there are rewards of gaming.

Monday, October 8, 2012

learning through tweets

I'm sure every one has heard about twitter, how can you not, there's always some stars tweet all over the news lately.  What I never considered was that there was another side to tweeting..a more educational side.  I know I shouldn't be surprised, learning can come from anywhere these days, and I have to admit its actually a great idea!  Not only can your students connect with you through a tweet they can also connect to the school, their parents, and most importantly....THE WORLD.  I've always heard the saying "The world is your oyster" and I know its supposed to me the world is yours to explore and with twitter that exploration gets a whole lot better!

Once I thought about using twitter in the classroom, or for my own personal use to connect with other educators and talk about important topics I looked at two great sites that helped me jump start some ideas.

The first site was The Teachers Guide to the use of Twitter in the Classroom.  This site was a great way for me to understand how to use twitter in a K-8 classroom.  It also gave some great examples of teachers that are tweeting in their classroom, and of course given the information I had to look and see for myself.  Specifically, I looked at MDEkinderkids twitter account and found a great resource for tweeting in the kindergarten classroom (not to mention a great blog from the class as well).  After looking at her classes tweets and the article on twitter in the class I have decided that I will be using twitter in my classroom for several reasons:
  • To keep parents informed in the classroom, not only is it a great way to keep parents involved and active in their childrens learning it also gives a great reassurance for parents to know that their children are not only learning but having fun.
  • To connect with other classrooms around the world, it would be a great way to get information about different cultures and could be a great learning experience.
  • To teach writing skills, this is a great way to get kids to write.  Having them write out a tweet before it is posted is a good way to to teach grammar skills needed throughout an education.
  • To teach communication skills, since twitter only allows a certain number of characters children have to be learn how to get a point across in an interesting and appropriate way. 

Another helpful site was called How does #Edchat connect educators which helped me realize that not only can you use twitter for the classroom (and to catch up on what all the stars are doing) its also a great way to connect with other educators and ask questions and have discussions.  By putting #Edchat in the search you can connect with other teachers every Tuesday ( now called Teacher Tuesdays) at noon and 2 and discuss whatever topic was polled as the most important of the week.  I think that this is not only a great way to connect with other teachers through out the world it is a great way to learn something new from it.  I will definitely be watch for this chat on Tuesday to see what will be discussed and how it can help better my own education.  If anyone is interested in what these topics can include just check out the polls and explore the endless opportunities twitter has to offer.

All in all, whether its to create an account for your classroom or to learn something yourself twitter is definitely the way to go.  Its simple and short and there's always something new when your learning through tweets.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Social Networking

Social networking is proving to be a key in staying up to date with anything these days.  And Ning is a great networking site for teachers to communicate with other teachers or even for teachers to use in their classrooms to engage their students and keep them connected throughout the school year or throughout their lifetime.  With this networking site there's no need for you to have any kind of technical skills to create a place of your own where people can connect over common ideas and goals.

I have actually found a specific network called The Educator's PLN for personal learning for educators.  This site has everything an educator would need to help them be a good teacher by keeping them up to date with any new information that comes up or by learning from other peoples experiences of what worked well for them and what didn't.  With this site you can go to a forum, look at blogs or podcasts, and watch tutorials of learning tools.  There are even groups to join specifically for science or math teachers, or simply for new teachers that need support from other new teachers to learn how to build their framework and make an impact on their students.  All of these things combine to make a site that can keep educators educated through connecting with others and learning endless amounts of knowledge because thats what good educators do right?

Connecting to learn and learning to connect

When I was asked to make an analogy for what a learner is like I starred at this statement for days trying to figure out what a learner is like, "The learners of today are like....."  And honestly, I have yet to come up with a good answer.  Ive heard learners compared to many things but I cant say that any analogy is good enough for the amount of knowledge a learner can obtain in a lifetime.  Now that learners are able to connect with others through social interactions or simply "google it" the amount of learning that can be done is exponential.  The era of simply sitting at a desk and learning all you can from a teacher or from your parents is now outdated and we are entering the era of endless knowledge.  "What we know today is not as important as our ability to stay current....if we are not continuously learning we are becoming obsolete in our particular field."(George Simmons in his YouTube video The Network is the Learning).   With this endless stream of knowledge it is with networking that people are able to learn continuously throughout their lifetime.  As you make connections with others that are interested in the same fields as you you can learn from each others experiences or from research done by others that can in turn create new knowledge for you.  "Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions" (George Simmons in his article A Learning Theory for the Digital Age).  And with the, basically, combined knowledge through networking it is through peoples opinions, research (from books, journals, websites), and personal experiences that we as individuals can stay current with not only interests in or country or small communities but we can essentially communicate and connect with people from all over the world. 
I, being a mother, have made a connection through networking on a site with mothers in the Buffalo, NY area.  With these connections I have been able to stay up to date on all topics pertaining to child rearing that includes anything from new developmental research to good tips on how to get toddlers to potty train to the best pediatric doctors in the area.  So in essence with these connections I have made I am actually able to learn a huge amount of knowledge and stay current without having to sit in a seminar or read a large amount of books that would probably take me a lifetime to get through.  I simply have to create a topic in a forum and ask a question and sit back and wait for the information to come to me through my connections with others.

With this all being said I think its fair to assume that an analogy for a learner is almost impossible to apply because there is nothing in nature neither an object or a living thing that is able to change and adapt to the amount of knowledge that is being created every day.  Not even a learner can learn everything there is to know in this day and age, there is simply to much knowledge being created.  I guess if I had to create an analogy though it would be that of a spider weaving its web, each silk strand standing for a new connection the human mind (spider) has made to a new form of education.