Monthly Archives: July 2014

Understanding Gamification

Standard

Gamify1

Image Source: carabinerpr.com

Understanding Gamification:

Before my research into what it means to gamify your classroom, I though that the buzz wordy idea of gamification simply meant to incorporate games into daily instruction. Clearly games were more suited to the elementary classroom, I thought; or perhaps using games is much more relatable in the math or science classroom. How could the high school English teacher gamify his or her classroom? What would this possible look like?

The concept has many more facets to engage students other than the traditional model of “drill-and-kill” that many of us, who grew up at the cusp of technology in the classroom, are familiar with. Gone are the days of MathMunchers or drilling spelling lists on the computer to commit them to memory. Instead, to gamify means to embed different motivators into the classroom to increase student engagement and achievement.

The Basics:

People are driven to complete goals more when they feel that their effort will be rewarded. The best example, which clarified this concept of gamification for me, was the influx of fitness apps that incentivize working out. Apps like Zombies, Run! and SuperBetter provide elaborate plots complete with thematic music to encourage you to work out and achieve your fitness goals. Even the most apathetic or reluctant person might feel more encouraged to work out and achieve his or her personal fitness goals if he or she feels that the activity is more of a game than a chore.

The same theory can be applied to the classroom. Students who do not like school or do not think that they are good at it can be encouraged to become more active participants in their learning if they feel motivated to achieve their goals and win a reward. If students establish a goal for their learning, such as to get so many math problems correct or to avoid procrastination by setting and meeting nightly goals for a writing assignment, and then are able to see validation when they meet their goals via gamification, they will be more likely to keep goal setting and working toward achievement.

gamificationDEF

Image Source: www.webrecruitusa.com

But what does this mean for student motivation?

My second reservation about gamification stems from this very idea, if students are only completing goals or tasks to achieve an award, then what happens when the reward is taken away? According to “Lifehacker: The Psychology of Gamification: Can Apps Keep you Motivated” (2014), when people who want to achieve a goal, gamify this goal and then achieve small rewards along the way, the brain releases dopamine when the pleasure of achieving the goal is experienced. Just like playing slot machines in a casino, when the prize is won, the brain releases dopamine, which makes the experience pleasurable (Klosowiski, 2014). The same principal is applied to gamifying your classroom and really your life; “gamification only works when it motivates you to do something” (Klosowiski, 2014). And the best use of gamification is that which intrinsically motivates us to do something versus that which motivates us extrinsically.

If students are interested in the game they are using to keep going to achieve rewards or to see where the narrative of the game goes in achieving new levels of success, they will be more motivated to continue playing and continue achieving their goals. This is a huge paradigm shift from the traditional ways of motivating students in the classroom; I am thinking of the models of classroom currency or the prize box that students could pick from if they do something well. Gone are the days of students getting stickers to track their positive behaviors or success; gamification can provide a way for students to track their own competencies and challenge themselves to continue achieving goals via the apps or games.

What’s the downside?

Ignorance. Confusion over what it means to gamify in the classroom to increase student achievement is a major drawback. Teachers, admittedly like myself, who think that to gamification means to strap kids to an IPad and provide them with time in class to use a study app to drill concepts and solve problems, do a disservice to the benefits that true gamification can provide to learning, engagement, and motivation.

Gamification is challenging students in a format that they are already comfortable and interested in—achieving rewards and advancing levels of a game—to engage them more in learning. However, the more comfortable teachers are with using this buzzword without the clear understanding of what it means can dilute the success gamification can provide.

Corporate Influence. As with many new initiatives in education, there has been an influx of corporate America trying to infuse themselves into the gamifying business. Schools may be apt to buy these programs wholesale and require teachers to use purchased apps or prescriptive programs to gamify their classroom. This, compounded with misunderstanding of what it means to gamify the classroom as well as the ever push by many in education to be a part of the next big idea of technology in education, might cause for more problems than successes. Teachers need to be informed and districts need to be committed to a clear understanding of gamification before buying into any pre-determined programs.

Superficial Motivations, Cheating, and Bribery. Just as we as kids looked up cheat codes to the Nintendo games we played with our friends or looked for secret short cuts, students themselves might be inclined to take shortcuts or cheat at the game. Students might focus too much on achieving the reward or advancing a level versus the actual learning that they are to be held accountable for. Chloe Della Costa, from iMedia Connection, provides a deeper look at the downsides to gamification that is poorly rolled out in her article “7 Potential Pitfalls of Gamification”.

My Suggestion:

Starting out small with one app and one clear objective is most likely the best approach to gamification. I have had tremendous success in my classroom with using ClassDojo, which provides students with a clear report of their classroom behavior. My senior seminar English class has significant focus on project-based learning and provides students with ample class time to work on independent study projects. However, with this emphasis on using class time to work, came an increased desire of my students to use this class time to socialize and to loaf around.

ClassDojo provided a way for me to document my students’ behavior and increase dialogue with students (and parents) about how productive they were being with their class time. It eliminated the lectures from me about the need to use class time effectively because students could each track how I was assessing their productivity. Students were more likely to use class time effectively as they did not want to lose their Dojo Points.

The best part was, that I used this app without really realizing that I was gamifying my classroom!

Advertisements

Flipping for Learning: Intro. to the Flipped Classroom

Standard

Most educators will agree that students need to be more engaged and motivated to learn. The traditional model of schooling just cannot compete with modern world in providing students with opportunities to fully immerse themselves in learning content and developing skills that will authentically translate into their reality post graduation. We must find new ways to re-envision our current methods for teaching and, perhaps most importantly, our current view of what the school day should look like to provide students with the chance to become more involved with their learning to achieve true mastery. The Flipped Classroom approach is one way that teachers are empowering their students to take a more active role in creating unique and personalized learning environments and allowing teachers themselves to spend more class time on application and learning for mastery than on the building of background knowledge and routine. However, this is a somewhat daunting task to revolutionize traditional approaches that many teachers–and students–and parents–might be most comfortable with. To help troubleshoot this transition, I have found the following sites to be most useful:

Edutopia: Five Minute Film Festival, The Basics of Blending Learning: This collection of links and videos compiled by Edutopia, probably one of my favorite online jumping points for great teaching ideas, craft, and applications, has a variety of resources for someone just starting to think and to implement a Blended Learning approach. The videos are interesting and informative, and much of the information could easily be provided for students or parents about what Blended Learning looks like and how you, as the teacher, might be using it in the classroom.

Flipped Classroom Strategy 4: The Muddiest Point: One of the problems that I struggle with the most in flipping the classroom is the issue of formative assessment. How can I truly check for understanding and know if my students are learning without being present? This blog is filled with strategies that Dr. John Solis, from Baylor University, has compiled for troubleshooting problems of instruction that might stem from a Flipped Approach. This strategy in particular is a method “to identify information on what the students find confusing or unclear” about a topic or lesson.

And finally, one editorial from Forbes: “We Need More EdTech, But Less Technology In The Classroom” and one study from USNews Education: “Emerging Technology Has Positive Impact in Classroom” both provide interesting viewpoints on technology and instructional technology to increase the effectiveness of teaching and learning. Interesting reads that can help you, as the individual classroom teacher, come to terms and to a comfortable place with providing more of a focus on technology as a means to engage learners.

FLIPPED CLASSROOM

Image Taken from blog.cue.org, edited with PicFont

For those of you who have flipped your classroom, did you start gradually with one or two assignments? Or did you use the approach more expansively? Have you experienced any push back from students or parents, or maybe even fellow teachers or administrators?

 

BYOD: Opportunity & Accessibility

Standard

Device, Rationale, Outcomes for Success:

To really achieve an authentic learning environment that encourages students to critically think, problem solve, communicate, and collaborate, we as educators must provide them with learning opportunities that go beyond the traditional modes of writing and reading. Moving away from the traditional pencil, paper, Scantron, and essay format to something that allows students to invent, create, develop, and publish is necessary if we hope to instill in our learners skills for growth and success in the 21st Century.

Pursuing BYOD in the classroom would provide a valuable opportunity to engage students in learning that asks them to be creators and curators of the world around them. Because the focus is on technology as a vehicle for learning and not on the device itself, students will be able to understand more readily that the device is secondary to their objectives for using it.

Similar to the success with IPads and Androids in the classroom, BYOD would enable students to develop proper study habits on applications (apps) such as StudyBlue and Quizlet; teachers would be able to manage their classroom delivery and student behaviors more effectively with apps such as ClassDojo and Socrative.

English Language Learners can become more involved in the classroom with specific Applications for ELL that enable them to benefit from their regular education classes while still managing the language they are learning.

Reluctant learners or those students with learning disabilities would have access to apps which make learning more manageable, “’ The technology can compensate for the special-needs kids in a way that traditional media cannot compensate,’ says Elliot M. Soloway, a University of Michigan professor of education as well as of electrical engineering and computer science” (Shah, 2011).

All students, regardless of their ability level or socioeconomic background, would benefit from the endorsement to use their own device in the classroom and would feel more comfortable with their use of technology for learning since they already know how to use their device. Students will engage with more problem-solving if teachers provide them with opportunities to use different apps or programs that are compatible with different devices; the idea that there is not a one-sized-fits-all approach to learning will be reinforced as students’ opportunity for growth and digital literacy is reconfirmed through the use of BYOD. The goal of any strong instructional technology program is not to make students reliant on a device, but to encourage them to focus on the goals of the assignment or learning opportunity and to try on different devices to best meet these goals.

Implementation Plan & Possible Problems:

Of course with any new initiative, care must be taken to ensure that students, parents, teachers, and educational stakeholders understand the goals of the initiative and the plan for implementation.

Demographics: This plan is for Hershey High School in suburban Hershey, PA. Currently there are 1,200 students enrolled in grades 9-12. Our socioeconomic status is relatively middle to upper middle class. The large majority of students have access to the internet as well as a wide variety of devices, not limited to laptops, Macbooks, IPads, Androids, IPhones, and other devices. Our community is one that supports increased access to resources and a clear focus on educational technology. Parental involvement is frequent and unforced. For these reasons, BYOD would be best suited to our high school and would enable students and families to use the technology with which they are already accustomed and most likely to use out of or after their time in school.

For parents & students:

Information will be mailed home several weeks before school starts outlining the district’s rationale for moving to BYOD focused on the learning outcomes of this decision as well as the financial responsibility to the community. Suggestions will be generated by the school’s IT specialists and a list of suggested resources for each grade level will be provided. Parents will be informed of the best devices out their for learning and will be able to secure one of these specific devices prior to school starting. For families that cannot afford to purchase their own device, each school will have a cache of devices available for use via the library. Students may check out the device to use for their class projects and return them when they are done, free of charge. More specific guidelines for BYOD will be provided in these mailings by the district administration team.

Additionally, during the opening week of school, an information session will be provided for families and hosted by district administration and our IT specialists to ensure that devices are compatible with the district network and are suitable for learning.

For teachers:

During the before school in-service, information will be provided for teachers about the expectations for BYOD in the classroom and how to establish effective classroom management for students when they are not using their device. Ideas such as having students place the device face down on their desk when not in use or allowing them to charge devices during free periods will be discussed. The IT specialists will provide background into the types of devices that teachers may come in contact with and troubleshoot any preliminary problems that teachers are anticipating. The initiative will be revisited during each month’s faculty meeting to solve any problems that may have developed.

Since teachers will most likely be familiar with the types of devices that students are brining in, few professional development opportunities will be required. However, as the initiative rolls out, teachers will have the opportunity to request specific training sessions on specific devices or with specific apps.

Problems:

As with any new technology initiative there will be some growing pains, however, by making all members of the learning community aware of this initiative and the support in place to ensure a fluid transition to BYOD hopefully these problems will be alleviated.

Problems anticipated are that not all students have access to these devices, students may lose their devices or have their devices stolen, or students may all bring a different device, causing issues for collaboration or pace of learning. Access to devices for learning will be supported through the library and instructional technology specialists and teacher leaders will be made available to support these needs in the classroom.

For more information about incorporating BYOD in the classroom, please review the following:

BYOD for Learning Blog

Edutopia: 20 Awesome BYOD Apps for Learning

Mindshift: How BYOD Programs can Fuel Inquiry Learning

Has your district moved to a BYOD approach to technology? What suggestions do you have for guidelines for a successful BYOD implementation or how to make the transition to a BYOD approach more seamless and effective?

Abbreviated Acceptable Use Policy

Standard

Acceptable Use of Technology and Digital Resources

eloverview_600

Image Accessed from AssistingTeachers.org

As adapted from Hershey High School’s Acceptable Use Policy.

Derry Township School District understands that using the Internet and accessing technology are essential parts of learning today. In order to provide the most consistent and secure access to the Internet and our districts’ computer network, these guidelines are put in place to adhere to our curriculum as well as meet the varied needs, learning styles, and abilities of all students.

ADMINISTRATION:

  • will make every effort to ensure resources are used properly by students, this includes  monitoring online activities of all users and maintaining a secure usage log of all internet usage and electronic communication.
  • have a responsibility to determine if any district technology resources are being used for unlawful or prohibited actions AND impose consistent consequences if inappropriate use is found.
  • will use technology protection measures such as filters to block Internet access to minors and adults for sites that are obscene or inappropriate.

STUDENTS:

  • must be aware that what they do on the district’s computers or network is subject to inspection. All emails and files can be read and accessed by DTSD. Treat all Internet activity as though someone else might eventually witness it.
  • must respect and protect the rights and privacy of ALL users of district technology resources and the Internet.
  • must not share account information (specifically passwords) and computers with anyone or log onto a computer as anyone other than themselves.
  • must not cyberbully or post anything to the Internet that could harm another person or his/her reputation. Technology shall not be used in any manner that causes another person stress or harm.
  • must not use district resources for anything that is against state and federal laws.

TEACHERS:

  • will ensure quality instruction using a variety of technology resources to suit the needs of diverse learners.
  • will monitor technology use in their classrooms to ensure appropriate behaviors.
  • will apply consistent and effective consequences for inappropriate use of district technological resources, including the Internet.
  • will not tolerate ANY cyberbullying or bullying either their classrooms or via technology. Teachers will report any perceived bullying to the administration.
  • will themselves adhere to the appropriate use policy for technology and model appropriate Internet and technology etiquette.

CONSEQUENCES:

Failure to abide by this policy will result in disciplinary action and assuming responsibility for damages caused by actions that do not abide by this policy. Severe infractions will result in contacting the police or other authorities.

Ultimately the goal of the school is to maintain a safe, secure, and productive environment for all students and faculty. Adhering to these policies are the first step in making sure all are successful and safe online!

keep-safe-online-and-think-before-you-click

Image Accessed from KeepCalm-OMatic

While compiling this shortened version of my District’s AUP, I was surprised by how little cyberbullying is identified as being unacceptable and how unclear the consequences are for it. Since I unfortunately see cyberbyllying as a problem that is increasing in today’s society, I found this great resource for online safety and pathways to digital citizenship: CommonsenseMedia’s Cyberbullying Toolkit.

For other teachers, do you think your district does enough to prevent or in the least to deter use of the Internet as a means to bully? Do you have any tips to make AUPs more accessible and meaningful to students?

 

Online Aggregation Tools I <3

Standard

mashable.com

Picture taken from Mashable.com June 19, 2013

For the sake of not being redundant or digitally and metaphorically beating a dead horse, I will refer to my previous post singing the praises of Feedly as an online aggregation tool.

Using Feedly, I am able to customize the news that is collected and easily filter through information that is not necessarily relevant or pertinent to my work as a teacher. Prior to exploring Feedly, I primarily used GoogleReader to explore blogs that I was interested in professionally and personally. Anything from fashion, to cooking, to fitness, to more school-relates issues such as multiculturalism, social justice, or standardized tests were the basis for the often unmanageable amount of information that was caught in my feed. The irony is not lost on me that the very tool that I was using to collect and organize information is the one that often collected and organized a little too well resulting in an overwhelming amount of information to sift through.

It is important to remember the simple fact when collecting and aggregating information using something like Feedly, that you are able to read as much or as little information as possible. When I first started using Feedly, I would feel guilty marking items as read en masse if I didn’t get the chance to read them. I felt like I was cheating on an assigned reading for some non-existent class I was enrolled in, or that I was going to miss out on something vital to my development as a professional. Hopefully, you are not as emotional or sentimental about your online aggregation as I, but if you are, it is important to retain the personal aspect to your feed. This is information that is collected for you. You can read it all or dismiss it all with just the click of a button.

For more information on Feedly, check out these two links:

Why I Love Feedly: The Best RSS Reader.  Both provide good, solid background and food-for-thought bits about how and really why to use Feedly.

While I would love to use Feedly for more professional or public reasons than just for my personal readership, I do not know how Feedly would translate to publishing my feed to others. While it is great at collecting information, I am unfamiliar how will it would work for allowing others to access this information in a manageable format, something necessary for curating and publishing a digital magazine. For this, I think I would like to troubleshoot Scoop.It, a site that boasts that “You are the Content You Publish”. My preliminary playing-around-with ScoopIt seems to be similar to Feedly in organizing information, but then allows the opportunity to share this information with others via social media or through a “Google Splash Page”. I am not sure what that is, but it sounds like something I would be interested in! Here is a quick (really quick) animation of how ScoopIt works:

I think that I would be able to use this to add a balance of well known teachers or educational gurus that I follow on my Feedly such as Grant WigginsEric Sheninger, Vicky Davis (The Cool Cat Teacher), as well as news articles from the Huffington Post, Education Week, or professional organizations like the ASCD. Having a balance between individuals and organizations, professional bloggers and teachers who share their ideas on the side, for me, is critical to getting a well-rounded look at teaching today.

Perhaps this is the most valuable thing about connecting digitally to other teachers, in that teaching no longer needs to be something done in isolation or something that you have to work through on your own. Reaching out to and understanding others’ experiences and how they connect to your own is probably the best benefit to aggregating information.