My Google 20% Story

I have begun reflecting upon the books that I have been reading and this book is a great inspiration to my teaching practices; “The Google Story” by David A. Vise. You can read my reflections about this book here.

The Google Story

I have proven when education embraces some of the lessons learnt by Brin and Page into the life lessons being taught across the world that there is greater success and innovation. Every teacher can start this by simply asking the students about their creative ideas and providing the Google innovation “20% time” to develop and incubate these ideas.

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From Learning to Exploring

With only a week before school returns for 2015, I am beginning to consolidate my ideas into planning for the new school year. As the Digital Technologies Teacher K-7 (plus a year 11/12 course) I am keen to continually innovate and push the boundaries. I have a new leader in the STEM curriculum area, whom I believe will be supportive of innovation, and a very supportive Principal who has given me license to push towards innovation and making a difference in my field, but to always reflect and evaluate upon the implications.

When I plan for the new Australian Curriculum – Digital Technology I know there will be many challenges and a very steep learning curve to navigate. I took the opportunity to begin some coding with some students at the end of last year during the Hour Of Code, which was received well by some students, so I believe they are up for the challenge and change. My big idea for the year is to allow more freedom to the students in what they will explore and learn. I want them to take more responsibility for their learning and the direction of their work. I know some students will run with this and thrive in the new learning format and space that is being provided, and others will need guidance and modelling every step of the way. This is an effect of the education system we traditionally impose on our students.

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Let Them Loose

Gaming in education has long been a passion of mine. I presented this at the EdTechSA conference in July 2013, and since then have thoroughly enjoyed teaching the fundamentals of this to my year 6/7 students. There have been many occasions where I thought to myself why don’t I just let them play the games? I knew there would be light at the end of this tunnel. We have spent the last 10 weeks looking at the elements of a game, analyzing games for educational value and the tools available to make games.

I linked the elements of a game to a narrative story using “Wreck It Ralph” the movie to tell a story within a game. I asked students to plan their ideal game. To think about their favourite games and pick out the best bits and remix them together to create their game story.

Here are some outlines of just a few of the games. You will agree the ideas are fantastic and as we continue the development I will share the final products.

Idea 1 by Mitchell:

Speedy joe is trying to reach the generator that frees only the town from pixelation. The disaster of the game is that if you lose the game major mayhem takes over the world. The only resolution to the game is if speedy joe reaches the generator and saves everyone in the town. Sworn enemies major mayhem and sneaky steve form a relationship and become ultimate allies of evil. The final twist is when you complete the game speedy joe meets a guardian that grants him ever lasting power.

Idea 2 by Madison:

This game is about a hero who gets cursed by an evil wizard.You must go through all the levels and collect the golden Crystal at the end of each level. There is 5 level with 4 chapters, once you have completed the levels and obtained all the crystals you power-

Screen Capture of Sploder game Maker platforms

Screen Capture of Sploder game Maker platforms

up and the curse will be dropped.However at the last level you must defeat the wizard,there will also be different bad guys to fight on the way.

Idea 3 by Josh and Maureen

It is just a normal day and the henchmen come and randomly start attacking the kingdom and people in the village. Tulio has to get out of the kingdom and  try to find the dragon who started all of this with his partner Kevin. On his journey he bumps into the king who pretends to be good but is an evil Cat King from Outer Space name Monty. Monty joins forces with Melvin who is the dragon and Tulio including Kevin must stop them before it’s too late. So the player will have to try to succeed levels to stop Melvin the dragon and Monty the evil cat king.

Idea 4 by Jessica:

What happens is that you have to build a massive hotel and celebrities come to live in your hotel but you have to answer the fact right for them to stay in your hotel.If you get the facts wrong you will get another change in 5 hours time. Once you finish a level you will get 2000 coins to build a new floor. The next level comes when all the celebrities are in your hotel also before you level up you must do a quiz on the celebs fact.When you level up you will move on to a different category like animals.

Idea 5 by Tegan and Kate:

A boy/girl is kidnapped and put onto a large ship. The boy/girl is then pushed rather roughly onto a beach. A guy/girl is stuck in on mystery island and is trying to find food to survive BUT she or he comes across angry monsters and robots. She or he needs to find their way back home before these angry villains steal her food. She/he will need to fight the angry villains to survive.

NB. I have requested permission to share these ideas from the students.

Another game from Sploder game maker

Another game from Sploder game maker

As you can see the ideas really did run wild when I set them loose to explore and imaging. Now to the development stage…I am not from any coding or computer science background so it was necessary for me to develop some skills on this. I spent some time playing in Scratch, which I found quite easy to control and thought the students would pick it up easily. When we had some practice using this tool, I was unfortunately mistaken and the students found it quite hard  to ‘program’. So I was challenged to find another tool that would give instant results with little programming.

I put the question out to my professional network an were supported with a number of links including ‘Gamestar Mechanic‘ and ‘Sploder‘. These both fulfilled the request. I had already had Minecraft installed on out computers as this is a huge draw-card for many of these students. Now is th time to see how their creativity and ingenuity can create these games.

Minecraft

Minecraft

I look forward to sharing these and more completed games.

Please support my students in their game making by writing comments of encouragement and feedback  that I can pass on to them.

Rachael

Keeping It Short and Simple.

As the beginning of the final term of the South Australian  school year begins this week I am preparing myself for the inevitible finalizing of the years learning and wrapping up projects for the year.

Over the last few weeks of our break I have again been reflecting on how little I blog. In a attempt to make this valluable form of professional sharing and reflection I am changing tact. After reading a very clear and simple blog post by Tom2Teach Game Based Learning – Angry Birds. In this post Tom successfull conveys the ideas of using the mechanics of Angry Birds to develop simple, curriculum aligned, learning investigations in a variety of Learning areas.

My new paln is to record at the end of the week one way I used technology to provide individualised learning.  To begin with I will be reflecting directly on small events and how curriculum was delivered. I hope to expand this to include information about the tools I am using and how it helps my teaching productivity.


cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo shared by Amanda Westmont

As an ICT teacher I know the experiences won’t be a problem it will be my time managment and support to sit and write the posts. This is where YOU, my readers can help me. I have begun a Twitter hashtag #BlogBud where your simple reminders and encouragement will help to keep me on track and much appreciated. I am sure once I get this into my routine and I get to a point of regular blogging I will provide sound support to all teachers in technology tools an practical examples for use in the classroom.

Thank you in advance for your support.

Rachael.

Games for Education

The title games can include console, the add-ons at the side of our Facebook or Google+ pages, Apps; and if we think really hard we might even remember outdoor games and board-games. I think it is safe to say we all enjoy playing games in one or more of these formats.

Why do we love games?

The love of games comes from the mechanics that draw us in to play them to start with. If we look at any game and it’s features we will always find they have engaging activities, we feel safe and motivated even if we don’t succeed initially, scaffolded levels encourage us to achieve goals. We are rewarded and continually challenged. You may notice that all the highlighted word used to describe games are also those that as educators we try to incorporate and embrace in our classroom. So why don’t we include more games into our curriculum? Don’t get me wrong, I recognise the fact that many junior primary classes include and incorporate games into their daily activity. I am questioning them being used as an in-depth learning or revision tool for students in the upper primary and secondary classes. Why is it that once we hit a certain age all games stop and we have to start “real” learning? I know the number of educational games increased daily. The platforms they can be played on are becoming more portable and accessible. We need to analise what games can teach us and how this can be integrated in to the curriculum. ACMA released a report titled “Media and Communications in Australian Families 2007 On page 33 of this report, the author indicates:

The main benefit of video/computer games identified by parents is their capacity to help children develop hand-eye coordination. Other benefits include learning through education games, development of cognitive and computer skills, and entertainment.

This perception, I believe, is not just isolated to parent’s. The community in general would make the same assumptions, and for teacher to actively and openly promote the fact that they use computer games to teach could be frowned upon. As with any innovative curriculum there is sure to be push-back. This is the opportunity to inform and educate others on the benefits of games beyond those stated in this research.

I have a simple analysis tool to help look at games and analyze their educational value and ways to incorporate them into the classroom curriculum. In this I am particularly focussing on electronic games.

Analyzing games model

Click for a larger image

This give a complete overview of all games and their educational value and application. If you wish to find out more about how I am implementing games into the primary curriculum please feel free to contact me on twitter at @rachbath.