Game-Based Learning: Let Our Students Play!

“As educators, we sometimes feel like we’re losing a battle. We try to compete with all of the exciting and new activities and technology our students engage with outside of the classroom. Our content at times can feel boring, stale, and out-dated to our students. Games can change that. They may not be the answer every time, but in many ways they can help educators engage their students in the skills and content they need to succeed in life. As schools become more connected with new technology the question becomes, why aren’t we using games? Games can promote literacy. Games can encourage critical thinking and problem solving. Games can bridge the gap between students with disabilities and the required content of the class. Whether the game is based in technology or not, doesn’t matter. We need to allow our students access to our content in a variety of ways.”

That’s just a taste of what I’ve put together for my next assignment, a VoiceThread on Game-Based Learning. When I started the assignment, I thought I knew pretty much everything about Game-Based Learning. Students play games to learn stuff. Well, it’s not as simple as that. A lot of people have put a lot of thought into the theory and concept of Game-Based Learning. Please check out my VoiceThread for more information and some examples of games you can use in your classroom.

Here’s a link to my Diigo outline for the assignment too! There is a lot more information in my outline; I never could have used it all!

What kind of games do your students play in your classroom?

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Storybird.com: How to create stories on the web!

Have you ever been to Storybird.com? It’s amazing! It’s an online tool that assists in the creation of stories. It’s great for educators, and in the screen-cast and sample assignment below, I outline how someone might use this website in the classroom. I decided that it would be a great idea to use this website for the narrative assignments that I use every year in my classroom. The assignment I focused on in both the screen-cast and the student sample is an assignment called “Time Lapse Narrative.” It is aligned with both HCPSS Reflections: Past to Present unit, and is aligned with Maryland Common Core Standard W3 for 9th and 10 grades. Even though I created the screen-cast for teachers, and would use it in a PD or meeting, I could also show it to my students. I clearly shows them what I see as an educator, so no funny business, and the basics on how to use the website. I hope you enjoy my screen-cast and student sample!!!

My screencast on storybird.com

My completed student sample

Looking to My Future: Librarian Blogs

As I take more and more grad classes, I find myself spending more and more time looking at librarian blogs. I haven’t fully begun to understand the benefits of these blogs, and I don’t think I will fully understand the benefit until I am a library media specialist. I believe that they work kind of like the teach blogs I reviewed earlier in the week. I’ll gather ideas about books, technology, and new ways to connect with my school and my students. However, while teacher blogs are meant to inspire and connect with other teachers, It seems like library blogs try to connect with other librarians, and teachers, AND (sometimes) students. These blogs are so diverse, and sometimes it can make traversing them a bit difficult. Here’s a few that I like:

http://www.teenlibrariantoolbox.com/

I love to read! In the summer months I’m glued to my books, and a lot of times they’re YA, Young Adult, books. Teen Librarian Toolbox is a dangerous site for YA book lovers like me. They review new YA books, and connect many of their posts to books with similar topics. The site was created by Karen Jensen, but is authored by four different library media specialists including Karen Jensen. The site is published through the School Library Journal and they frequently have guest bloggers post to the site. It’s a professional development blog, so their ideas are geared towards other librarians, and they have some pretty cool ideas. (Oh, and they’re not just for librarians that work with high school students, middle school is included too!) Recently Karen Jensen has been on a zombie kick as she awaits the season finale of Walking Dead. Her initial post “Zombie Love: Why Are Zombie Things So Popular? (A guest post by Geri Diorio)” was a catalyst for many more posts about zombies throughout the week. The site is fun and thoughtful, and in no way pretentious, which is why I was initially drawn to the website. But the site has so much more to offer than simply book reviews; they review technology and provide advice for working with teenagers. Karen Jensen’s post, “Tech Review: Online Creation Tools Piktochart and Canva,” is really helpful! I am all about making posters for my classroom, and I know I’ll utilize this tool when I become a librarian too! If you check out any of these three sites, this is the site to look at!

http://www.mightylittlelibrarian.com/

The Mighty Little Librarian is Tiffany Whitehead, a middle school librarian in Louisiana. Just like the last blog, this is a professional development site but she does showcase her students which probably draws a local crowd to her blog. Her blog is fun to look at and her ideas are great! Her blog is mostly reflective, and contains posts discussing the demands, thoughts, tools, and projects that make up her work life. One of her posts from earlier in the year caught my eye, “Twitter Boot Camp.” I just started my own class Twitter page, and the information Mrs. Whitehead provides is a comic and a link to guide educators through the social media website. I wish her blog was easier to comb through, more tags and menus to find posts, but most of what you will stumble upon is great!

http://www.thedaringlibrarian.com/

So the Twitter comic from the last review originally came from this website. Gwyneth Jones, The Daring Librarian, is a technology advocate and a leader in instructional technology. Her blog is a haven for those looking to integrate technology into their classroom. Her most recent post, “Say Yes! To a School Instagram!” showcases her commitment to connecting teachers with technology. She has posts about Twitter, Facebook, even blogging! A lot of educator and librarian blogs simply say “hey this is a good idea! Try it!” Mrs. Jones goes the extra mile listing tips for using the program, providing information on how to be an active member of the technology’s community, and giving specific step-by-step instructions. The blog is easy to navigate and visually pleasing; you won’t be bored on this site. If you haven’t visited this website, you’re missing out.

Educator Blogs: What I Browse In My Spare Time…

I spend a ridiculous amount of time on Pinterest. Most of the time, my idea of relaxing at home is me sitting in bed on my laptop, with 20 tabs open, pinning anything and everything that looks cool. I’ve got a pretty extensive “Foodie” board with recipes I haven’t tried and a great “DIY” board for crafts I’ll never make. But if I’m going to be honest, most of my time is pinning ideas for my classroom. That’s how I stumbled across these amazing educator blogs!

http://www.thenerdyteacher.com/

The award winning blog Thenerdyteacher.com started when Nicholas Provenzano decide to introduce and share new ways to incorporate technology into the classroom. Mr. Provenzano switches between positing about educational technology and ideas for secondary education English classrooms. His ideas aren’t just meant for teachers of literature and grammar; many of his posts can be applied to any content area.  His more recent posts consist of video reflections from his YouTube channel. His willingness to experiment with new technology, like “The Epic Evernote Experience,” allows readers to experiment with him. One of my favorite posts, an old one but one I could use in my classroom, is about “visualizing themes in literature.”

Thereadinessisall.com

David Theriault, a high school English Lit teacher with over 18 years if experience, is one of the best high school English blogs out there. I LOVE this blog. He shares worksheets, activities, grading ideas, his thoughts, and his frustrations. I plan to use his “BRAWL” idea, his attempt to add excitement and motivation to Socratic Seminars, next year with my freshman. Mr. Theriault not only provides his readers with cool ideas, but he also gives up the tools to achieve his ideas. Another great post, I like it because it connects to what I’m doing here, is his list of blogs that educator should be reading. I haven’t checked them all out, but I’m working on it. My only criticism about this site is that there are some gaps in his posts. He hasn’t posted since January this year, which makes me a little nervous that he’s stopped blogging. I’ll cross my fingers and hope he posts again soon!

http://mrswhite1103.blogspot.com/

On occasion I find myself checking out middle school Language Arts blogs, and this is one I find myself checking out often. Jen White teaches 7th and 8th grade Language Arts and uses her blog to share her ideas with the internet. There’s everything from grammar to classroom organization ideas on this site. She occasionally posts on something that doesn’t really fall within the realms of education, but those posts are far and few between. I’ve used some of her ideas from her blog post “Before the School Year Begins…” The post contains some excellent ideas for incorporating writing into daily instruction. My one complaint is that she’s not very consistent. There’s a lot of topics that she covers, but a lot of times there’s only post about each topic.

Blogs have become an important component inside and outside of the classroom. Most educator blogs focus on the planning aspect of teaching. Bloggers provide ideas for their readers, and the discussion begins. A good educator blog provides examples, photos, samples, and thoughts from the author’s classroom. A great blog promotes and allows a healthy discussion to occur in the comment section. According to Doctors Fernette and Brock Eide, one of the key parts of blogging is that “Bloggers have solitary time to plan their posts, but they can also receive rapid feedback on their ideas. The responses may open up entirely new avenues of thought as posts circulate and garner comments.” Educators grow and thrive when they take the time to reflect on their teaching practices and collaborate with colleges. A blog can take collaboration and reflection to a whole new level. A blog can facilitate collaboration between educators who will probably never get the chance to meet face-to-face. I think as educators look to the internet more and more, we will see an increase in blogs. People want to share their ideas and their stories, and blogging is a great way to do that!

Eide, Fernette, and Brock Eide. “Brain of the Blogger.” Web log post. Eide Neurolearning Blog. Blogger, 02 Mar. 2005. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.