Learning Anytime Anywhere

It never ceases to amaze me the role that technology plays in education and the acquisition of new skills.  For example, yesterday was a snow day, despite the fact that my daughter didn’t have school and I wasn’t teaching in a typical classroom setting there was tons of learning occurring in my house.

While I was lesson planning in Google Drive, creating new ASSISTments for a PD session, and attending 3DGameLab camp on video game design, my 8 year old was asking for more practice work in Khan Academy and learning about computers on Discovery Kids Puterbugs.  Even today with a sick day for one of my kiddos I’ll still be working from home and as she feels better I am sure there will be Khan and Puterbugs in her future.  Yet, this independent learning and working from home still hasn’t permeated the walls of most educational institutions.  The change process in education seems as though it plugs along at such a slow pace that it is always behind the needs of society.

Maybe it doesn’t need to be a snow day where it counts as a missed day of school.  These days could be educational opportunities for digital learning.  However, with parts of the country still without internet access, the digital divide impedes this as an option in rural communities.  Certainly, this is an option that could be explored more in the future.  Think of the financial savings of this day not being added to the end of the year.  One less day that the school busses need to run.  One less day the lights need to be on in the classroom.  Just because we are not in the physical four walls of a brick and mortar school doesn’t means that learning can’t occur.  Even at the elementary level this is a possibility with the right supports for teacher professional development and technology resources in place.

3D Game Lab – Unity Introduction Quest

A new month and more exciting options for professional development through 3D Game Lab.  This month the focus is surrounding game design for teachers.  After last months hour of code event in my classes I find myself inspired to expand my horizons and learn more.

This first quest assignments was to explore what is out there for tutorials, curriculum, and media relating to using Unity3d in the classroom.

After searching Unity in the classroom, what I discovered was that from what I found it was mostly being used at the college level. I did find one link where the University of New Hampshire is running a STEM project using the platform for grades 9-12 ([url=http://manchester.unh.edu/outreach/stem-discovery-lab/upcoming]). On a wiki site I found several [url=http://gamesined.wikispaces.com/Game+Creation+Tools]tutorial sites[/url] (scroll about halfway down the page) that could provide useful to using Unity3d in the classroom as well. In addition, I found an interesting article about how high school students are using Unity3d to create projects. [url=http://www.3dteachers.com/2010/04/unity-3d-gaming-and-education.html]

I would love to see any information pertaining to younger grades using this platform, however, I didn’t find anything specific for that in my search.

3D GL – Are Games Better Than Real Life?

 

As part of my October Super Camp experience, I am attempting to finish any unfinished Academy quests.  After viewing the following Ted Talk I drawn several thoughts about the implications upon education given the video presentation.  Mostly, viewing the clip brought back thoughts I had during my last grad course with Dr. Chris Haskell.

Are Games Better Than Real Life?

We are instructing students in our classroom for careers that don’t yet exist.  The creativity involved in developing this media can be harnessed and developed in our classrooms.  Games captivate their users with stunning graphics, virtual worlds with unlimited imagination, challenging scaffolded leveled experiences, and continuous feedback.  These factors are what keeps the users working toward the winning condition of a game.  With millions of users invested in games we need to ask ourselves as educators…. how do we get our audience to be just as captive in the classroom.  Today’s students have access to media all around them … how do we harness these skills, excitement, and enthusiasm to create a learning environment where students persevere, feel successful, actively engage, and want to level up in order to meet the winning condition on the classroom.   These concepts are what is behind the gamification movement in education.  Video game platforms allow users to interact with their entertainment.  With this in mind the days of standing in front of a class and lecturing are over.  The masses crave interaction with the content.  As I have attended various conferences during my years as an educator, I have seen the definition of instruction using technology dramatically change.   When someone indicated they were using technology in the classroom ten years ago it meant they were have students type an essay or make a powerpoint.  Those are still considered incorporating technology now however the breadth of tools has expanded exponentially.  Teachers are now using interactive projectors, whiteboard, and tablets.  The days of a teacher showing slide after slide of a PowerPoint while students passively listened are over.  Now students are getting out of their seats and manipulating content using a virtual pen to draw, drop, drag, and answer questions.  Many classrooms across the country are using less paper assessments and going towards digital tools like ASSISTments, Student Response Systems (Clickers), and exam software.  I have even see 3D interactive projectors that come with 3D glasses where you can navigate the cells within the human body.  This is becoming the new face of education.  Games are teaching our students about economics, war, navigation, driving, collaboration, strategy.  Imagine if these games could teach our students about landforms, algebra, number sense, and reading nonfiction text so that we as teachers could create a gaming environment to guide our students through learning the Common Core Standards.  Recently, I was exposed to teachers that were using Second Life as a learning platform for language immersion with native speakers in spaces that resemble the physical environment of Spain, France, and Germany.

3D GL- Google Apps for EDU Camp – USING GOOGLE FORMS AS A QUIZ

What an excellent idea! Using Google Forms to make a quiz that provides instant feedback to students.  I love that if they select the incorrect answer it takes them to the correct answer.  There is such unlimited potential for this in the classroom.  The only thing I found to be a challenge with this assignment was that I wanted to make the answer choices pictures and was unable to.  As a teacher in an elementary school, we have several students that are struggling readers.  I wanted to try to make the quiz as visual as possible having students select the picture of the state flower rather than the word sequence.  However, I was unable to make this option work.  I intent upon expanding the quiz to add more content to it.  Right now, it is just a brief 3 question assessment practice.  As the computer teacher, I actually am thinking of having students create the quiz from the content they are learning in their social studies class.  They can that do each other’s quizzes to see how they all do.

 
Check out the quiz and give it a try.
Google Forms Quiz

3DGL – Google Apps for EDU Camp Reflection

Despite the fact that I have been using Google Apps for a while now it never ceases to amaze me that there is more to learn.  Last night while on Pinterst I came across a tutorial for Doctopus.  This amazing script makes the circulation of documents for grading purposes super easy.  The user simply sets up a Google Spreadsheet with basic information for the class assignment.  In the fields you enter student name, student email address, and assign groups if it is a collaborative assignment.  If you want to have each student work independently you can do that and even assign a naming convention formula that will rename each individual document for the students in that naming convention.  This eliminates the need for teachers to instruct students to copy the document that has been shared with them then rename it.  As a teacher that has transitioned this school year from teaching middle school to elementary school, I am always looking for ways to simplify the process for the K-5 students I work with.  This tool is going to do the trick.  In fact I have a project I need to send out for next week, I am planning on trying out Doctopus this weekend.

Video

3DGL – Toys that Make Worlds: Will Wright – Quest Reflection

 

After viewing the above Ted Talk I have drawn several conclusions.  Games are a revolutionary in their potential to provide the user with continuous feedback.  When we give students creative license to create their own planet in a digital environment we open up so many possibilities for learning.  In the case of the Spores by Will Wright he not only creates a simulation game but he gives the players amazing customization.  He allows students to create their game characters or sprites in order to create new species.  The players in Spores can see the effects of overpopulation and changes in environment happen over time.  Granted in the game the time span is more rapid than real world scenarios, however, if the player wants their plants to survive over time they will adjust their schema of successful game play to create new meaning from the feedback the game provides.

Individuals that play games are constantly evaluating their environment, data, and player interactions.  Players learn from their mistakes or failures and persevere to work towards winning the game.   They do this despite failures that may occur during game play of creating their own worlds, creatures, and playing with environmental elements.

October Super Camp – Google Apps for EDU

I am at the beginning of another great professional development camp with 3D GameLab.  This time though I am focusing on Google Apps for EDU.  I have chosen to participate in this quest chain during the October super camp to aid in reviewing content I have learned through my own exploration in order to prepare to become Google Certified.  In addition, I hope to learn some new tricks and tips along the way.

 
On day two of camp I am on a roll.  I have created this portfolio to record my progress in learning/reviewing Google Apps for EDU, explored Google Spreadsheets formula and auto fill features, and explored Google Forms.  It never ceases to amaze me how much as an adult I enjoy the magic of unlocking new quests, leveling up, and earning badges, rewards, and achievement.  The process of being on the student end of things in 3D GameLab reaffirms what an amazing tool this learning platform really is.  
 
As for Google Apps, I find that it also is an amazing set of tools.  I love the fact that these applications are completely free for starters.  I have worked in two schools that have adopted Google Apps.  In both locations I find that working in the cloud gives me the flexibility I need to work on things at home and school.  This platform also looks exactly the same on a Mac as a PC given the fact that it is web based.  With that said it doesn’t matter which system you are familiar with it basically functions the same in both operating systems.  Often times in education I have seen a switch in operating systems in a school district make staff very uncomfortable.  However, with Google Apps the features will be located in the same location regardless of which system you are using.  With any application web based or otherwise the key to get others to use it is training.  I am hoping that this quest chain will continue to enhance my own skills so that I can effectively train my colleagues to transition to using Google Apps.

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