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Posted by on in Game-Based Learning

GameBasedLearning

Gamification has changed how I teach.  It's a game-changer so to speak. There are many ways to bring gamification to your classroom.  Deciding to start small is often a good choice but don't be afraid to throw yourself into a game whole heartedly.

After presenting to a group of teachers recently, the overwhelming feeling involved a sense of reluctancy.  "I'm not a gamer.  There's no way I can bring games to my classroom." Being a professional gamer is not a prerequisite to bringing gamification to your classroom. I had played a few video games in my time.  I'm not sure however, that my high score on Galaga in the late 80s would be helpful in this situation. Regardless, the idea is to create a meaningful learning experience for your students.  Classroom learning need not always be text book/worksheet driven.  Personally, if my room never sees a worksheet again it will be too soon. Gamification allows for creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and most importantly, if done right, powerful situations that will allow the students to acquire the content and have it stick with them.

When my journey began a few things needed to change about my classroom.  I needed to give some of the control over to the students, and why not?  This is their education.  They needed to be in the driver seat, making choices and interacting with the game.  Once I let this go, my students became fully engaged. An engaged classroom is messy and loud.  It is full of collaboration and discovery.  It is a powerful environment to experience.  The clock moves swiftly and the days pass quickly.

How to begin?  Start small with a well known game.  I started with a garden sized Jenga game. Be forewarned, it is quite large and makes quite a sound when it comes crashing down.  The sound the kids will make however, is much louder.  Taking time to color the end of the pieces makes the game much more versatile.  We were working on a unit review.  Using a set of twenty multiple choice questions the students pulled pieces.  The color on the end of the piece was matched with a set of questions.  The students then decided which question they wanted to complete.  If we completed the entire question set without the tower tumbling, the entire class received extra credit on the unit test. The reaction of the students was nothing short of amazing.  Their level of engagement was incredible.  It was all I needed to start adding more.

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Posted by on in Game-Based Learning

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In the late 1980s, I remember playing the original Mario Brothers for hours on end, trying desperately to save the princess. I ducked, dodged, and jumped to complete levels of increasing difficulty, all while learning something new with each new life.

Failure—or in this case dying from an annoying, little cloud-like creature throwing spikey things at me—carried no consequences. I could try as often as I wanted to, with the resolve to figure out the timing of each projectile thrown at me. In a very real sense, I eventually learned how to be successful on my own terms and at my own pace. I learned from failure.

Don’t get me wrong. Mario Brothers may be fun to play, but it has no direct educational value. Today, I’m thrilled with videogames that not only motivate and excite, but also teach. More still, I admire how game-based learning champions self-directed learning, with students progressing at their own pace. As one example, DragonBox teaches basic algebraic operations in the same way that one learns to play Mario Brothers. Here too, players gain experience and face greater challenges as they advance through the levels.

Few understand the benefits and potentials of game-based learning as well as Prof. Jordan Shapiro, a leading authority on the subject, who has written extensively about education technology for Forbes magazine.

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Posted by on in Game-Based Learning

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As my first grade students left for their holiday break, I told one of the children to have a wonderful vacation. He sadly looked at me and said, "I'm not going on vacation. I am just staying home." I explained to him that by vacation I meant not coming to school. His reaction made me think about how many students never get to travel and experience the joy of visiting popular vacation destinations. It seemed, however, that a solution to that problem was sitting in my classroom waiting to be unwrapped!

I had an Xbox 360 Kinect system in my classroom. We were using Kinect games for learning and I had recently been given a copy of Kinect Disneyland Adventure. I took it home for my grandchildren to play while visiting for Christmas, and it turned out to be an authentic trip to the Magic Kingdom. Players enter Main Street USA, collect autographs from Disney characters in an autograph book, and use a map to select the lands to visit in the park. Pirates of the Caribbean, It's A Small World, and all of the other favorite rides from the actual park are part of the game. It is as close as you can come to an actual visit without traveling there.

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Using the game as a basis, I planned a unit for my students to "go on vacation" while learning and using a variety of standards based language arts, math, and geography skills! Working collaboratively in small groups, representing families, the students used the internet to research and develop a plan for taking a trip to Disneyland. In an authentic planning experience, the students learned to read informational text, evaluate information, and make informed decisions. They learned map skills, using online travel maps and maps of the park. Math and personal financial literacy skills grew as the kids learned to use calculators, to work with large numbers, and realized that vacations require long term goal setting and saving. There were plenty of opportunities to practice writing skills as well, as they created travel brochures, journals, and postcards for the trip. 

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Posted by on in Game-Based Learning

 LessonPlan

Most, if not all, of the material I use in my classes is decided upon after the first three or four lessons. It's very important to me to know my students' tastes and interests, so I can provide them with an easy-going and uplifting learning process. I want my lessons to be meaningful, powerful and fun and I want them to be remembered!
I try to incorporate a variety of materials in every course, from music and poetry to newspapers and social media, but I've discovered one thing can guarantee success: games. Regardless of age and level, all my students have shown a great interest in gaming as a way to learn. Being mad about games myself has been very helpful, as I have a wide selection to suit all tastes. Have a look at some of my favourites on List.ly.

SluethsThe first ever game homework I assigned was back in 2008, while teaching a group of five 13 year-old girls at level CEFR B1. We were about half way through our coursebook when they asked me if we could ''skip'' the unit coming up, or at least the reading and speaking sections, as they were about computer games. ''That's not for us'', they informed me. My immediate - but suppressed - reaction was to talk that idea out of them. I think I mumbled ''why?'', sotto voce, which thankfully went unnoticed. Instead of going into a fiery lecture defending pc games, I decided to agree to skip that unit, under one condition: they would try out a computer game. I let them moan and protest, as the idea had already taken shape in my head: it was time for the sleuth to come forward.
I still remember the two weeks that followed that lesson; we dedicated them to Nancy Drew and her adventures and they were the greatest lessons we'd ever had as a group. It wasn't so much that those girls were now hooked on what they used to call a ''boys' thing'', or that they actually learned through a game. That is a fact in my mind.
What I loved about this the most was that they learned to think twice before they dismiss an idea and I got to see first hand the results of an alternative approach to teaching.

These days, Nancy Drew still finds her way through my lessons in lots of different ways, depending on interests, needs and time available. I use HerInteractive games throughout my courses and have a set of three main activities for each ( listed from most to least time-consuming):

1. Finish a chapter ( set of five or six tasks) in the game and present your mindmap (how you solved it) in class
Goals: Revise vocabulary & functions / practise communication & presentation skills / explore & use digital tools 
2. Finish a task in the game, explain why it was/wasn't easy and try to predict what will happen next
Goals: Revise vocabulary & functions / practise speaking-giving explanations / storytelling - making predictions
3. Finish an online mini-game. Can you remember at which part of the original game it's found and what happened after that?
Goals: Practise timed activities / memory training / using Past tenses

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Posted by on in Game-Based Learning

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Most people are surprised to find out that I am a huge video-game nerd. I wow them with my extensive knowledge and collection of video games and I am proud to say that I am a gamer and that I still play games today. I plan on having my kids play video games, and I incorporate games into my classroom as much as possible. Why? I’ll tell you. 

Why you should let your kids play video games

1. Problem Solving:

First and foremost, video games help to teach problem solving. Anyone who has played through a Legend of Zelda temple knows that without problem solving, you would never reach the end of the game. Games are specifically designed for you to think of how to become better, how to solve the puzzle, or how to beat the boss. Games wouldn’t be as fun if you didn’t have to think about what you are doing.

Check Out: Echochrome, Monument Valley, and Portal

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