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Posts Tagged ‘ed tech’

  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. 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


  3. 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).


  4. 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.


  5. Gamify Your Class Website

    May 9, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    Atari Games

    Given my love of gaming and my interest in the motivational value of video games, I’m surprised (baffled, really) that I’ve only recently heard of gamification. It’s not that the concept is unfamiliar to me, far from it, but this new (to me) terminology has opened the door to a whole world of people attempting to gamify education. Empowered by my new $5 word, I went on a marathon search bender to find out how people are gamifying their classrooms.

    (more…)


  6. Socrative – My Initial Reactions (and frustrations)

    April 18, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    After running across the slick web-based feedback tool Socractive, I knew I had to give it a test run with my Freshmen. While Socrative is clearly designed small screen mobile devices (smart phone, iPod, etc), our district unfortunately doesn’t allow students to use their personal electronic devices on the network, so I couldn’t take advantage of all of the tiny web browsers floating around in my students’ pockets and backpacks. Instead, I took the kids to the computer lab to be my guinea pigs – since Socrative is a web app, it should work on any device with a modern web browser.

    I was excited right from the start – Socrative was crazy easy to get going with, both for myself and my students. No setup, or student usernames, or navigating around to find the assignment, just a simple interface and a single “room number” to get in. I decided to go with a Short Answer question, which seemed to work a treat, right up until a student asked if he could resubmit his answer.

    That’s when cracks started to appear in the veneer.

    There was no apparent way to allow students to resubmit a question, so I figured I would just start a second question for the student to use. That turned out to be a Bad Idea; as soon as I opened up a new question, the old one disappeared in a puff of bits, and with it, the student responses.

    Whoops.

    Fortunately, my students are used to the guinea pig treatment and willingly, if not without  frustration, tackled the question a second time. As the responses floated in, I noticed that students who had already submitted their feedback were stuck with a “Waiting for teacher to start an activity…” screen, and I couldn’t find any way to queue up a second activity for those who were waiting to move on (I certainly wasn’t going to go poking around and risk loosing all of my responses again). But the real pain came after the students had left. You see, I had intended to actually use the responses I’d gathered, but apparently responses to real-time questions aren’t saved in Socrative, so when your browser crashes because of your obsessive need to leave a hundred tabs open “just in case,” all those wonderful student responses just dissolve into the ether. Ugh.

    My experience may sound bleak, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet; there’s a good bit of potential there. For a class with more readily available technology access (particularly a 1:1 class) the ease of quick feedback offered by Socrative’s real-time data collection would be a godsend compared to standalone feedback devices. For those of us who have to schedule our lab time a week or more out, it’s more a question of how best to adapt. Given that I intended to keep my feedback for later evaluation, and that I wanted students to move through a set of questions at their own pace, I probably should have set up a quiz instead of using the on-demand questions (note to the folks @ Socrative, it would still be nice if the responses to on-demand activities were saved somewhere). I’d love to hear from teachers using Socrative with a class set of iPods or iPads – that’s where I see its real potential as a “clicker” killer.


  7. My Edmodo Wish List

    April 13, 2011 by Josh Caldwell

    As I sit in the lab, watching my students engaging in a discussion on Edmodo, I’m struck by how quickly one site has become the hub around which my classes spin (see my previous post about how Edmodo has changed my classroom). I’m constantly thinking of new ways to make old assignments more vibrant, social, and collaborative. Edmodo is great, but it could be better. Here are a few modifications that would take Edmodo to the next level:

    Gradebook - Here’s a great example of the balance of simplicity. The Edmodo gradebook doesn’t try to do too much – no weighting or custom scales – but it’s almost too simple to be really useful, so here’s what I’d like to see:

    • Student IDs – The gradebook has an export feature, but my desktop gradebook uses the student ID as an import key, so export/import doesn’t work for me (and most others, I imagine).
    • Custom rubrics – I use a 4 point rubric for writing assignments, so it would be nice if my students just saw MS (Meets Standard) instead of a score.
    • Maybe the best solution would be to leave the built-in gradebook as-is, but allow users to replace it with a full featured gradebook. Integration with other services is something Edmodo does really well, so why not save yourself the hassle and outsource your gradebook (might I suggest LearnBoost).

    Calendar - It’s a nice idea, and I love that it automatically adds my assignments, but here’s what I need to really make it useful:

    • Make it public – My school has a web page where all teachers keep a calendar of their assignment due dates, so it would be great if I could embed a public version of my Edmodo calendar right there, at least as a start.
    • Enable CalDAV – Even better, just let me synch the Edmodo calendar with my other calendars! I’ve got calendars in Zimbra, Google, iCal and Edmodo; so far, the only one that doesn’t play nicely with the rest is Edmodo.
    • Alternatively, scrap the built-in calendar all together and let me choose an external calendar service (Google) to embed and update.

    Other Bits - All of the other little ideas floating around in my head:

    • Facebook-style “like” button – While I encourage thoughtful and constructive commentary on posts, there are some times when a solid thumbs up says it all. My students have suggested a “gold star” button, which I think is brilliant!
    • Sticky posts – When the wall gets busy, the important posts get pushed down into the abyss. A simple “sticky” check box would allow me to keep assignments or important posts visible until they are no longer pertinent.
    • A “Posts from the instructor” button – There’s no easy, built-in way for students to only view posts from their teacher(s). I’ve gotten around this using tags, but the system breaks down quickly when I forget to tag a post (which I do fairly often).
    • SSO – Make Edmodo a true one-stop-shop. I already embed Glogs, Animotos and Quizlets, how much better would life be if logging into Edmodo also logged you into all of those sites you use with Edmodo?

    If you’ve got features you’d like to see (of if you think my ideas are just plain batty), leave a comment.


  8. Ed Tech makes a difference

    January 19, 2010 by David

    Do you like cool videos? Made by Canadian teachers? About how educational technology integration makes a difference?

    Of course you do. Maybe you can make your own!