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‘Resources’ Category

  1. Scratch Resources

    March 11, 2014 by Josh Caldwell

    scratch.mit.edu

    If you’re heading to NCCE this year, I hope to see you there. I’m leading a Scratch workshop Wednesday morning, so whether you’re there with me or not, I’d like to share some great Scratch resources with you.


  2. Cool Teacher Podcast Interview 3 of 3

    May 29, 2013 by Josh Caldwell

    The last of my 3 part interview with Chris Haskell is up at the Cool Teacher Podcast. Check it out.


  3. Why Gaming Part 2: Building Feedback Momentum

    April 25, 2013 by Josh Caldwell

    Newton's Cradle

    In my last post about game based learning I spoke to the power of rules in school and the need to create a rules system that supports and encourages learning and productive failure. Central to this issue is the dissonance between the goals of our rules (to create a safe and effective learning environment) and the student perception of those rules (punitive failure, demotivational grading). I see a similar disconnect of intent and outcome when it comes to feedback in instruction. Again, the goals of feedback are admirable and lofty – I tell my students what they did well and where they fell flat so that they may correct that behavior in the future, or better yet try again at the given assignment and demonstrate improvement, turn that C into a B or an A. Why is it then that students so often ignore my meticulously crafted feedback, or choose to live with the C instead of taking the opportunity to try again for the A? Why would that same student try over and over, often for hours on end, to get 3 stars on every Angry Birds level, when 1 star is all they need to progress? It turns out that the immediacy of the feedback in games makes all the difference. (more…)


  4. Bringing Badges Together in Education

    November 13, 2012 by Josh Caldwell

    Badges

    One of the core elements of my in-progress DIY classroom gamification suite is Badges (or Achievements, depending on your chosen terminology). Lately badges have gained wider acceptance as a tool not only to motivate learners, but also to display and acknowledge specific, validated skills. Instead of simply a letter grade to show some broad measure of success or achievement, badges provide students with a tangible record of their achievements – sort of like an educational resume.

    While several e-learning sites have implemented badges (I just earned one from Codeschool.com for taking their Try Git course), most of those badges get stuck on the issuing site. My students use several such sites to learn various skills, and it does me no good if their badges are scattered across the internet, isolated from each other. If I’m going to use badges as evidence of learning and support for grades in my classes, then I need a them to live in a single comprehensive repository, somewhere that allows students to collect badges from a variety of sources and present them as a cohesive whole. In other words, I need digital sashes on which my students can sew their virtual merit badges. To that end, Mozilla has created the Open Badges Initiative. With support from the MacArthur Foundation, Mozilla is building a central badge backpack, where badges from a variety of issuers can be collected, verified, and displayed. Sites that are registered as badge issuers can then allow users to push any earned badges to their backpack, where it can be displayed along with other badges from other sites.

    The Open Badges Initiative is still in beta, but I’m hopeful that in time sites like EdmodoCode Academy,  and Gamestar Mechanic will get on board. Recognition for informal and outside learning is a core element of my approach to gaming my classes, and the Open Badges Initiative might give me an easy and effective way to award students credit for the work they do inside and outside of school. My next step is figuring out how to get my Drupal Classroom Gaming project (man, I need a better name for that) tied in with Open Badges. My most recent hopeful find is the Open Badge-It sandbox module, but I’ve yet to get it working quite right.

    Badges for Lifelong Learning: An Open Conversation


  5. Dupalized Gamification

    October 29, 2012 by Josh Caldwell

    Dangerous-to-Go-Alone

    I’m now well into the third run of my gamified Computer Tech elective, (have I really never posted about that? Bad blogger!) and I’ve reached the point where I really can’t continue without some a system to automate many of the more time-consuming administrative tasks. By design, my class allows for a wide variety of student choice in regards to both what they want to learn and how they want to demonstrate their learning. In one semester I cover everything from computer hardware to multimedia design to programming and game design, and with such a broad range of topics, we can’t delve terribly deeply as a whole class. In this system there are certain core lessons and assignments that are mandatory for everyone to ensure all students have a basic understanding, but when it comes to the in-depth learning, I want each student to choose what they want to learn within the scope of a given area of study. This requires that I have prepared a wide variety of materials, lessons, and assignments. More importantly, it requires that I have some sane and efficient method of presenting all of that stuff to each individual student as they progress through their chosen path. Oh, and somehow I have to equitably assess all of that variety and make it fit into a standard gradebook.

    Currently I set up a separate Edmodo small group for each different quest choice and then manually assign students to their chosen quest. This creates the first bottleneck for the students, as they need me to assign them to a group before they can get work done. After students are in a quest group, there’s a further bottleneck as I sequentially provide assignments. I’ve attempted preloading all of the assignments for a given quest, but that creates confusion as the students try and figure out what order to do them in, and whether they must complete all assignments in a quest path. Simply put, this system is a kludge at best, and it’s preventing me from providing the kind of open learning experience I want. Beyond the issues with my choose-your-own-adventure style of learning, I’ve found it impossible to use badges and achievements consistently and meaningfully when they must be given manually. Here’s what I need a classroom gamification system to do for me:

    • Pre-load many assignments/quests for students to choose from
    • Sort XP into different categories (either for gradebook weighting, or by skills/standards)
    • Ensure mastery of basic topics before allowing progression onto advanced topics
    • Automate progression through quests wherever possible
    • Allow for teacher intervention before progress can be made
    • Automate XP, badges, and achievements wherever possible
    • Allow for teacher assignment or revocation of XP, badges, and achievements
    • Hide or reveal quest paths at will
    • Organize students by class
    • Highly customizable reports (essential for grading)

    Having looked in to the few existing educational gamification systems out there, the only one I’ve found that meets most of my requirements is 3D Game Lab. While 3D Game Lab looks great, it’s not yet openly available, and even if I got in on the beta, I would be limited to 60 students. I need something that I can use with all of my students, and I need it yesterday! Enter Drupal.

    Drupal is essentially a website building engine, a Content Management System. While it’s not specifically designed for education, it is built to be almost infinitely extensible, which has led to a plethora of educational modules. Between the existing modules available, and my experience building custom Drupal sites for clients, I figure that this has got to be the way to go. I’m currently in the building and testing phase, using several modules to achieve my goals:

    • Course module for individual quest paths. By creating my quests as mini courses, I should be able to manage student progress through their quests, allowing for both automated and teacher-initiated progression, as necessary. Signups can be either closely managed with codes, or left open.
    • Organic Groups module for classes. This should allow me to create an manage class groups easily. I could also use Organic Groups for smaller quests or individual projects, when a Course might be overkill.
    • User Points and its related modules for XP. Highly configurable and automatable, with User Points I can hopefully finally set up an XP system that works without excessive teacher involvement. User Points XP will correlate to student grade, and will be used to Level Up, unlocking new challenges, badges, and achievements.
    • Certify or Certificate modules for major Achievements. One of these will provide students with Achievement certificates upon major quest completion. I like the progress tracking element of Certify, but I’m struggling to get pdftk set up on my shared server.
    • Badges module for… badges.
    • Rules module for automation.
    • Views module for grading reports (among other views-tastic uses). To be honest, I haven’t really fleshed this one out too much. I think it will take a bit of use to figure out just what I need out of reporting, but I’m sure between Views and ” Panels, I can get it done.

    I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but I hope that I’ll come out with something that will both ease my administrative burden while allowing for an even greater amount of student choice and independence within my classes. I’m eager to see where this takes me, and if any of you out there are interested (either on the education or the Drupal side) please contact me. I’d love for this work to make an impact beyond my own little classroom.


  6. 50 Videos for Teachers Interested in Gamification

    September 20, 2012 by Josh Caldwell

    The 50 best videos for teachers interested in gamification (via edudemic.com).


  7. Literacy Skills Through Text-Based Adventures

    May 2, 2012 by Josh Caldwell

    Choose Your Own Adventure

    Recently I introduced a group of my technology students to the text-based adventure Lost Pig, both as a way of broadening their reading horizons and as a gauge of interest in the genre. I posted about the experience on this site, but there’s a deeper level of learning going on that I feel merits its own post.

    When I first introduced my students to Lost Pig, I knew that they would find the experience challenging simply because it was an unfamiliar way to interact with text. As I expected, the majority of my students really struggled; they weren’t used to a game forcing them to do so much problem solving without any visual cues to help them. Right from the beginning players are preventing from going in any direction, and the player must notice that there is a noise coming from one of the bushes and then listen to that noise to progress. After a couple of minutes of confusion, the stronger readers figured it out an moved on. Gradually more and more students figured it out, until finally the stragglers moved on with a little bit of prompting. That’s when I made my first realization about IF.

    Interactive Fiction FORCES students to use reading comprehension strategies – you can’t just gloss over text that you don’t understand and move on; you are physically incapable of progressing until you comprehend essential elements of the text.

    This realization put my students’ frustration into a new context. The frustration they experienced trying to figure out the game is similar to the frustration they feel when reading a challenging text, only amplified. Students have to confront their comprehension issues on the spot, instead of waiting until a test or essay to realize that they didn’t fully understand what they read.

    Interactive Fiction provides immediate feedback about your reading strategies. At its best, IF is responsive and adaptive – trying to do the “wrong” thing will often result in a hint or additional information to help the reader self-correct. Misconceptions and misunderstandings can be dealt with in real time and with humor.

    Not only did the interactive nature of the game bring into focus the reading comprehension process for my students, it also actively helped them to engage and adapt. Imagine what we could do with an IF game purposefully written to model reading comprehension, a game that could articulate to the player how to make sense of the text. Students would then be more fully aware of when they are and are not successfully reading and comprehending the text, and they would be rewarded for demonstrating comprehension.

    Interactive Fiction provides meaningful rewards for comprehension. Students feel a sense of accomplishment from solving puzzles and besting challenges.

    I don’t mean to suggest by this that students shouldn’t seek intrinsic reward from reading, but rather that the gamely nature of IF engages in the reader a stronger sense of achievement. When the reader/player is actively taking part in the story, they can also take ownership over the accomplishments of their character. It’s one thing to read along as Harry and the gang work their way through the various enchantments protecting the Philosopher’s Stone, but another entirely to actually solve those puzzles on your own. While this can be the most frustrating aspect of IF for low readers, it is also the thing that is most likely to keep them striving. Well written IF provides gradually increasing challenges, allowing readers to build their confidence and invest in the story. The best written IF is fully adaptive, providing readers of multiple levels to be challenged and successful.

    Interactive Fiction allows for students of all levels to be challenged. IF can be written such that there are multiple clues, deeper plot elements to explore, point systems, or other opportunities for readers to challenge themselves.

    Where a traditional book can only provide one story, one experience, IF can adapt the story to meet the level of the reader. Skilled readers can be challenged to read deeply into veiled references that might lead them into a different storyline entirely. IF games can engage different levels of readers with point systems, Easter eggs, alternate endings, or even inside jokes that let a reader know they caught something that most wouldn’t.

    The potential for IF in the classroom is really limitless, and I’ve only just scratched the surface. If you’re interested in learning more, I would highly suggest Jeremiah McCall’s site Gaming the Past, where he uses IF to explore historical events. I also have an IF game (my first) that I wrote as a hardware/software/networking unit assessment for my beginning Computer Tech class that you can check out (feedback and constructive criticism encouraged).


  8. Engaging GTA Kids with Zork Graphics

    April 6, 2012 by Josh Caldwell

    Zork

    Ever since I first encountered the Inform7 interactive fiction engine at GLS7 last year, it’s been lurking in the back of my mind, looking for a way into the classroom. The idea of introducing my students to the text-based adventures that I loved as a kid excited me, but actually working it into my curriculum had to take a back seat to my revamped grading system, an entirely new computer technology course, and too many other focus-stealing priorities to list. I was about to give up on the idea until next year when Read Across America rolled in bringing both inspiration and opportunity.

    My school has a fantastic community of readers, and as a staff we have dedicated Read Across America (March 2) to reading across all subjects. Every year I eagerly anticipate the day when students, dressed in their comfy cozies, carry around stacks of their favorite books. Teachers from every content area model a love of reading. Some classes allow students to read entirely independently, while others focus on content-specific reading, or readers theatre, or other literacy focused activities. All noble pursuits, but I needed something a bit different for my tech kiddos. Given that this was the first year for my computer tech class, I wanted something that the students would remember, something that would help them with their screen reading skills, but also something that would introduce them to kind of reading they likely hadn’t experienced. The time for Interactive Fiction had come! I was ecstatic, dreaming of a maze of twisty little passages all alike, but I just wasn’t sure if my students, the generation of realistic 3D graphics and visually astounding video games, would engage with a purely text-based game.

    They did.

    In fact, they LOVED it.

    After a brief introduction to the genre and a basic list of key actions (N/S/E/W, Examine, Take, Ask, etc) I let the kids dive into Lost Pig, a short yet challenging IF game written in Inform. What followed was a period full of frustration and excitement, successes and failures, groans of agony and screams of elation.

    I couldn’t believe how absolutely enamored my students were – eyes glued to their screens as they navigated dungeons, encountered trolls, and solved puzzles. As the challenges got harder, students scurried about the lab trying to bounce ideas off each other. They were playing a game, but it was a game without 3D graphics, or rumblepacks, or really anything beyond elaborately complex textual descriptions. They were defeating their enemies not with hyperrealistic weaponry, but with words and creativity. At the heart of it they were reading, writing, and thinking. And they were loving it.

    In fact, they loved it so much that they begged me to teach them to program IF.

    I haven’t gotten to the teaching portion yet, though I am pouring over the resources at Gaming the Past in preparation. I have, however, programmed my own game in Inform to get acquainted with the language. Not just a game, but an assessment tool as well, a quest that forces my students to apply their knowledge of computer hardware and networking to successfully escape in tact. It definitely needs some work and revision (comments/criticisms encouraged), but I hope you’ll try your hand at my first text-based game/assessment – Escaping the Gnome’s Cave.


  9. Is Gamification Really a Bad Word?

    June 17, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    Badges

    The first day of GLS7 brought with it plenty of spirited debate and intense arguments, as you are likely to have with any diverse group of passionate professionals, but none so hotly contested as the validity of gamification as an educational tool. Commonly associated with social media marketing, gamification seeks to engage consumers by incorporating game mechanics (most commonly achievements or badges) into otherwise boring or unexciting activities, such as filling out surveys – in essence, it’s the Madison Ave version of hiding your dog’s pill in a block of cheese. This arguably crass, commercial interpretation of gamification has tarnished the concept of using game mechanics in education for feedback or recognition. As a telling tone-setter in his Wednesday keynote speech, Eric Zimmerman characterized educational gamification as the beginning of an “unholy alliance” between marketers and learning researchers; certainly a reasonable call to be careful and cautious about with whom and for what reasons we share student information, but is that really reason enough to eschew gamification outright. Is gamefication so tied up in commercialism that we can’t have a successful discussion about it in education without adopting new terminology? (more…)


  10. Text Based Adventures in the Classroom

    June 16, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    Terminal

     

    You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
    There is a small mailbox here.

    This simple, succinct introduction opens the door to the rich immersive environment of 1980′s Zork, the most iconic example of the text-based adventure game genre. No graphics, no sound effects, just the richness of language to draw gamers into the experience. Though text-based games largely went by the wayside with the advent advanced graphical environments, it’s hard to ignore such games as examples of the beauty and power of language in an interactive narrative. Would that my Junior High English students possessed such descriptive prowess. (more…)