Tag Archive | Gaming

Digital Mentors

For months now I have jokingly called myself a Black Ops Widow. While My husband’s playing gives me the time to work, I am noticing that it gives the people he plays with something else. Socially, the game fulfills the needs of belonging, significance, and fun for him and the others in his clan (the team he’s on). There are two kids between the ages of 13 and 17 in the clan and since August the two teenagers have been back to school which decreases their play time. I enjoy hearing snippets of the conversations the clan engages in with these teenagers.

Daily they ask them about school, their classes, homework load, etc. They are always encouraging them to stay in school when the kids complain about the work. And they give them a hard time if their homework is not done and they are playing. These two kids are pretty valuable teammates, but they encourage them to come back after their homework is done.

Recently, one of the clan kids was grounded and could not play for a couple of weeks. He was grounded because he was supposed to be cleaning his room and instead chose to play Black Ops. I clearly remember the day he was supposed to be cleaning his room because my husband and the other adults in the clan told him repeatedly to get off the game and clean his room like he was supposed to. And when he told the clan why he wasn’t on, they surely told him that he was missed, but that next time he needs to take care of his chores.

But I also hear them coaching the kids about their social skills. They often tell the kids to speak clearly and loudly. While a big deal of the conversation is ribbing and joking, there are times when they have to tell the kids to watch the language they use (the adults only swear when the kids are not playing). Some kids who are not a part of the clan, but often join in playing use some pretty racial language and the adults give them pretty clear expectations: either stop using that language or you’re not playing with us. Typically it works and those kids often come back to play with them again.

While I’ve been thinking about this post for a couple of days, today is the first day I’ve had time to sit down and write it. Sadly, my heart broke for my husband and the other clan members when they were rendered powerless last night. One of the kids told them that his mother physically abuses him. I could tell this was a serious statement in the way my husband looked at me and how the tone and confidence of his voice changed (the conversation started pretty jovial as it usually does). None of them knew what to say to the teen. But they are able to provide him with this place, this space, this small community.

When engaging in online multi-player games the opportunities to ‘meet’ people from all around the world are endless. There are different socio-economic backgrounds, different cultures, various ages and genders, and different languages. Oddly, it comes down to one thing – relationships. I wonder what they’ll do when Call of Duty releases a new version of their game. It is likely to happen and I do hear the clan talk about it now and then. And while it is ‘just a game’ I’m not sure any of these clan members’ lives would have been the same had they not ‘known’ each other.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Game On!

Just a few days ago I drove a couple of hours to attend a gaming conference. The purpose was to discuss the role of gaming in education. For some time now, I have been contemplating this. What role does gaming play in education? Notice I said what role…gaming has it’s place.

The closing keynote speaker is doing fantastic research around gaming. And I really heard his message for how to implement game theory into our classrooms, in particular recursive learning. Here’re screenshots of my take-aways:

Even if we don’t use video games in our classrooms we can, at the very least, use the theory.

The opening keynote’s games struck me. They were absolutely educational, but they were a video game! Sure kiddoes would be engaged in some higher level mathematical (or language) thinking, but they would be doing it to solve the problem posed in the video game! Kind of like a Mario Brothers, but with more embedded academics. The game, Labyrinth, is free and may be available in the app store.

During the conference we had the opportunity to play a game (not created by either of the keynotes). For me, this game was a standardized test cloaked in animation. The goal was to build a tower, what for I’m not sure but I think just to build as many towers in your kingdom as possible. But the only way you could build a tower was to answer a series of questions correctly. So if you got an algebra (or history, science, or English) question correct your tower grew. Very much like Jeopardy except money was replaced by stones and mortar.

There was also a posted leader board so you could see, along with everyone else, where you ranked. All well and fine if you are the one leading, but if you’re not…

This game was also billed as requiring student collaboration. Well sure if you group kids together and have them work on one computer. Labyrinth, the game designed by the first keynote, provided for collaboration. But virtually, much like Call of Duty Black Ops does.

Upon leaving this conference I wondered if our students, who are adept at video games, would feel betrayed if we used this clearly educational game with them. Even though many of the questions posed were higher on the bloom’s scale, that’s all they were ~ questions that had to be answered. In real video games they have to solve problems. Problems that are authentic to the goal of the game.

If we are going to use video games in our classroom, then we should honor the genre, much like @danroy and @MitgutschK do. Just because they are educational doesn’t mean they have to be behaviorist. They can be constructivist.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Rethinking Film and Television

Many of us already use National Geographic, Disney Nature, and Discovery documentaries to enrich science and social studies concepts. Many of us also currently engage our children in critical thinking activities when we partner books with films. If video is overused in this manner the novelty will wear off.  Rest assured, there are other ways. There are a few sites that I use as my go-to sites (other than YouTube) to sprinkle video in to learning. PBS Kids, Teachers Domain, and BrainPOP Jr. all provide brief cartoons that serve as a means to engage children.
PBS Kids is great for primary (PreK-3) with a wide range of shows that cover an array of topics. Sid the Science Kid (one of my four year-old nephew’s favorites) has videos about a variety of topics from weather to friction.  He models what it means to be curious about our world, question everything, and discover our own answers.  Wild Kratts has entertaining informational videos and cartoons about habitats, ecosystems, plants, and animals.  Between the Lions are short music videos about letters and sounds. 
Teachers Domain has clipped Cyber Chase (PBS cartoon) that can be used to support math concepts. Most of he videos are around three minutes and are focused on one mathematical concept.  For instance, one of the clips poses the problem of neighbors arguing over property and the Cyber Squad has to figure out the area.  Another has the Cyber Squad using fractions to solve a sibling squabble.  And yet another helps explain base-ten concepts.  Teachers Domain also has documentary/informational clips that support a wide range of topics and concepts.  One of my favorite ones to use is the flash video that shows seeds sprouting in different degrees of light.  This video really helps children understand how plant need light and will grow in the direction of it.  Best of all, you can narrow your search based upon criteria you enter!
BrainPOP Jr. is perfect for primary intermediate grades. Their format of including a notebook on the side of the film is brilliant in modeling non fiction structures.  Not to mention how entertaining the kids find Annie and Moby!  Recently, my students choose two ecosystem videos to watch. They noted the elements of each ecosystem, decided which they would prefer to live in and justified their decision.  They have also used the videos to gather additional information about holidays and math concepts.  While there is a subscription cost for BrainPOP Jr., there is an iPod/iPad app that provides you with the free video of the week.  If something big happens in the world, like the tsunami and quake in Japan, they are quick to make the related video available. 
Another way to use video and television is through QR Codes.  My district subscribes to A to Z Reading and there are times when I use the printable books.  I find brief videos online that act as a sidebar for the content/topic and create a QR Code for them.  After printing them out on sticker paper, I place them into the books.  The children enjoy scanning the codes to gather more information about what they are reading.  Even better, they like having the choice of whether or not to scan the code.  This is a great way to enrich the content as well as support reading comprehension (building schema).
I also use film and television to teach critical think, writing, and introduce new concepts.  For example, I’ve used a scene from Wall-E to introduce the concept of culture.  We watched all of those humans being catered on, wheeled around from place to place as their waste expanded, and being told what to wear and eat (just realized this would be great to use with the book The Giver, too!).  I have used a FEMA commercial to talk about character stereotypes; talk about angry kids!  I have two commercials, Embrace Life and Travelers, ready to go for point of view and/or graphic novel script language.  Just this morning I used the first 5 minutes of Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl to introduce the idea of a splash page in writing graphic novels.  It really helped the kids understand how to introduce the mood, characters, and setting in their graphic novel. 
Sometimes we think that we have to use an entire movie or television show.  Or that we have to always go to YouTube to find what we are looking for.  But, sometimes all we have to do is dig through our video or DVD collection like I did last night to pull out Pirates (okay, I didn’t have to dig that deep).  Or sometimes it’s just knowing the full capability of our cable subscription.  I can access any of the movies that are on the channels that I subscribe to from any computer (plus did you know about HBO 2 go on the iPad?).  That’s how we have been watching Oceans and accessed Wall-E.  The best part is they are engaged!  They are looking at something they are quite familiar, and sometimes numb to, in a whole new way!

Was I Just Cyberbullied?

Being someone who loudly advocates for social media in the classroom realizes there may be instances of non-cyber-citizenship.  Being someone who uses social media (a bit addictively) I am conscientious of what I put out there.  Have there been times I wanted to make a snarky remark on Twitter or Facebook?  Sure.  But I didn’t.  And there have been times I have felt strongly about someone’s actions and wanted to reply, but didn’t.  It’s just not nice, and I don’t want to be a part of possibly hurting someone else’s feelings, no matter my opinion.  Even though I am quite aware that not everyone lives their cyber-life in that same fashion, I just didn’t think something like that would happen to me.  

I was sitting on my couch the other evening working online and watching a movie.  I heard my phone chirp an alert that I had been texted.  I was waiting to hear from one of my friends and thought that it was her.  But, much to my surprise it wasn’t.  It happened to be an old acquaintance whom I had not spoken to since October-ish.  Our acquaintanceship did not end on the most positive terms the last time we spoke, so I was a bit surprised to hear from her.  And then I read the text.  It was on the sarcastic side and had a gloating tone.  It sounded as if she had been waiting these past months to say something like this to me. 

Was I cyberbullied?  Yes.  The intent was there.  My feelings certainly were not hurt, but the intention of the text was absolutely meant to insult me, my intelligence, and my years of expertise.  Even if intent was absent, what if my feelings were hurt?  Social-emotional damage would have been done, and that is cyber-bullying. 
One of the most difficult things can be to think before we act.  Being someone who has struggled with this my entire life, I know just how difficult it is.  But, we have to do it.  We have to be cognizant of how we treat others, off and on-line.  (As I am writing this, the national news just so happens to be showing people shouting unkind comments at a public figure.)  We have to because we have to protect children.  If we live our lives the way we want them to live theirs, they will be protected.

Not a Rite

Bullying is NOT a rite of passage.  So many adults say, “I went through it as a kid, and I turned out fine.” when their child is a victim or perpetrator of bullying.  Comments such as these are comparable to saying that bullying is a birth right.  Which it is not.  Being the oldest of five and oldest grandchild of seven (on each side) I have been around plenty of infants.  Not one of them ever said, “I can not wait to be bullied,” or “I can not wait to be a bully.”  Never. 

Let’s change how we handle unkind comments.  Let’s make it a point to speak to our students and children, often, about how to treat other people.  Let’s show them what it looks like and sounds like to treat others with kindness.  Let’s expect that everyone, not just children, speak kindly to each other.  With respect.  Because it is our right to be treated with respect.  It is our right to feel safe and free in our homes, schools, neighborhoods, and world.  Always.

Be Cognizant

You can think a lot of things about a lot of people, but you need to think twice when putting it online. Writing mean-spirited remarks is counter-productive. Remember that how we live our lives is how our children live theirs. Be cognizant of your digital and social footprint.
I was compelled to post this before President Obama’s White House Facebook Town Hall Meeting.  Before he was introduced and appeared Facebook users were encouraged to post questions that the President could answer during the forum.  There were many thought provoking and sincere questions posed for the President.  Then…there were other posts.
Its probably one thing when you hear about people posting really mean things online, but when you see it occurring in real time it is shocking.  The f word was used towards the President.  Republicans were being attacked.  Democrats were being attacked.  And some of the comments were worded in such a way that you could feel hatred and ill will dripping from them.  Many people were using this particular forum as a sounding board, stating their unsolicited opinions about our president and American politics.
I know that this was not a unique experience because I see a few adults participate in this type of behavior on Twitter.  A thirteen-year-old girl is receiving death threats on the YouTube video she posted.  Not to mention all of the celebrities whose physical appearance is attacked in the media when they gain weight or make other poor choices, like Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen.  It may sound extreme, and appear that I am suggesting we feel sorry for all of these people.  But it is not.  Whenever we speak or type unkind words about another human being, regardless of their role, rank, or status we are engaging in mean-spirited behavior.
We were outraged when the young man attending Rutgers committed suicide.  We were outraged when Phoebe Prince committed suicide.  We were outraged when the young boy was hung on a fence.  If we want children to stop engaging in this type of negative behavior than we adults, those who are responsible for guiding young people in our world, need to cease engaging in similar behavior.

I Wonder…

… just how will e-readers change reading?  Will it change the definition of books?  How will story-telling evolve? 
There once was a time where stories were communicated pictorially.  Our ancestors would share their stories on walls.  Etching out pictures on stone.  Thankfully they did so, giving us a clearer picture of their lives.  And yet, when I think about my four-year-old nephew.  He too began writing in this way.  Grasping a crayon, marker, or paintbrush in his left hand and sketching his thoughts on paper.  
Then there was the time when most stories were shared orally.   Many tribes have a tradition of telling their histories in this manner.  Native Americans, Africans, Aborigines, and more.  There was even a time in American history where people were entertained with stories on the radio.  More similar to today’s TV series, but, really no different than the books that Stephen Coontz writes with recurring characters, or the Sookie Stackhouse series Charlaine Harris writes.
 Until recently most stories were printed on paper.  While there are still instances of picture stories (digital storytelling, wordless picture books, graphica) and oral storytelling (family stories, podcasts, books on CD) the printing press provided new options.  Although the printing press has been around for hundreds of years, it is because of the creation of transportation and automation that has allowed printed stories to immediately go global. 
And now we have e-readers.  Bringing books, magazines, and newspapers instantly to readers.  Bringing stories in various formats: written, oral, and visual text.  Download a children’s book on a NOOK Color and you have the option of having it read to you.  Some of the books even bring the books to life, very much like Tumblebooks or iPod/iPad books.  I heard somewhere (but have yet to see it) that some magazines  available on the NOOK Color will actually give you a video demonstration!  
While I sit here, writing, I wonder.  What does this mean for reading and writing?  Our world is changing at an incredible rate.  And with it, you would think so would our way to write and read books.  One of the things that I tout about technology is its capability to reach all modalities of learning.  Are you a visual learner?  Tech can show you.  Are you an audio learner?  Tech can speak to you.  Are you a kinesthetic learner?  Tech can have you do.  So what does this have to do with books?
Plenty.  When I stop and think about how some educator books are written, some have a style where they try to engage the reader in the process.  Stopping them and requiring them to do something related to what they just read.  Alan November does this in his book Empowering Students With Technology.  He writes a bit and then provides something for the reader to actually DO, thus empowering his reader.  Other authors have done this as well.  When I stop and think about writing that occurs online, many authors do just that…meet the various needs of learners.  Think about news you read online.  Often there is an accompanying video.  How about blogs?  They often include pictures, videos, and/or audio along with text.  One of my (and my students’) favorite online magazines, Youngzine, does this as well.  They often have pictures and video embedded into their articles.  And they have an option to comment on the article, inspiring young readers to do, react, right there to the article. 
And then imagine, what would this mean for how we create and interact with books?  Can you imagine reading a book and then being able to choose (I’m also a big believer in choice) to watch a video to see exactly what the author is talking about?  E-readers already provide the option for readers to take notes while they are reading and whether they want to share them on Facebook or Twitter.  But can you imagine reading an educational text that has a chart embedded in it and then being able to manipulate it right there while reading it?  No more photocopying or creating new templates on your computer.  How about instantly shooting off a message to the author, bringing a whole new meaning to question the author?  Imagine having built in supports to choose from to support your own reading comprehension.  How empowering this would be for a struggling reader, being able to interact with text in this manner?