Enjoy 2.5 min of Spring (even though it may be raining out there)!…
Everybody likes to know that they’ve done good work and what they do is appreciated. I’m not saying we need banners and sky-writers after every wonderful thing we do, but an acknowledgement is appreciated. Today was one of those days for me, and I only worked for the morning!
“You know what, Mrs Schneider? You’re my favourite supply teacher!” (boy, 4th grade)
“It’s Mrs Schneider, What a great day!” (Grade 8 boy, and I’m just going to pretend it wasn’t because he perceived it to mean he could slack off!)
“Mrs Schneider is awesome!” (overheard 2 grade 6 girls in conversation in the hallway)
“You know, the kids really enjoy having you in the classroom!” (A teacher whose room I was recently in for the day)
Knowing the staff and students is definitely a benefit to working in a school on a regular basis. Sometimes as an occasional teacher, we do not have the opportunity to build such a rapport. While it is great to work in many schools to gain experience in many different settings, there are some definite advantages to having a “main” school. These benefits are evident to everyone:
Students get to know me and I get to know them. I am able to greet most of them by name as they exit the bus, or enter the classroom, or as I pass them in the hallways. I tend to know more of them by name than some of the staff, as I teach in across all the grades and subjects.
Teachers and other staff also come to know me, and I them. This means I learn about the teaching styles of many teachers and become familiar with their classroom routines and expectations. Teachers also do not mind leaving less-detailed lesson plans. Sometimes we can connect, previous to an assignment, to go over the day in person. Or, if they were not expecting to be away and know I will be in, they are comforted by the fact that I know the routines and where supplies are and the students’ names, personalities and quirks.
I become familiar with the school’s procedures, rules, routines and expectations. This makes everybody’s lives easier.
Even parents come to know me. Knowing their child’s anxiety is less than when they have to meet a stranger is helpful, in some cases more than others. Who are we kidding, in some cases, it may ease parents’ anxiety more than their childrens’.
When I go to those familiar schools, I believe it is often a more productive and comfortable day for a lot of the people involved in the school.
And, when everyone is happy, we can get on with happily learning.
We can BUMP IT UP – DO BETTER TO BE BETTER!
Happy March Break, Everyone!
I had such high hopes of using this week wisely and productively…. I guess it depends, really, what your definition of either word is. You decide.
On Monday, I awoke to discover a not-so-frigid refrigerator. “What do I do? WHAT DO I DO?! (Seriously, Monday mornings are no time for such discoveries, even if it is March Break!) I made a call to my father-in-law, who just happened to have a back-up kicking around. With disaster averted, my Mom and I were able to get a little “Spring” in our steps with a visit to “Spring Tide” at Gage Park, in Hamilton, ON.
Tuesday involved a walk to the library to collect more books ready on reserve. I MIGHT read 14 books this week! I wrote a Blog and learned some things and stuff by reading other people’s Blogs. And, I tried out a new recipe…
Secret… the Crunch comes from chips! Perfect if you’ve got some stale-ish ones around, and they may already be seasoned. Sea salt and Malt Vinegar works well with fish, as does cheesy ones.
That brings me to Wednesday, when I was going to get serious and do things. I did. I went to Lil’ Monkeys in Burlington with my dear friend and her 2 1/2 year old son. We played and we played and we played! This place is absolutely brilliant! It is an adult-size playground, encouraging adults to play with their children. Wouldn’t it be a great place for a school trip (if we could get past the insurance forms and whatnot)?! There is a scooter section and large-sized, padded building blocks, air hockey and basketball. to name a few things! Then I went home to do laundry and make cupcakes.
Tomorrow, is bill and budget day, oh yay… will the excitement EVER end? I can’t believe that March Break is almost over.
Productive, or not so much? That is the question. – Family… check. Friends… check. Blog(s)… check. Cooking… check. Playing… CHECK! Chores… check (some)
HAPPY GREEN BEER AND SHAMROCK DAY, EVERYBODY!!
Bump It Up – Do Better to Be Better
In Education & Fitness...
Games are FUN, and when the mechanics are appropriate, a high level of ENGAGEMENT is born. Thus, ACHIEVEMENT is sure to follow. So, why wouldn’t we take some of these aspects and incorporate them into education? I’m not talking about our students playing video games all day at school (though in small doses and used appropriately, they can be beneficial).
So many students “tune out” at school, or they just go through the motions; doing the bare minimum to get by until they are released into the real world. The question remains, are we adequately preparing them for their roles when they get there? Probably not, though I can say with certainty that a lot of great teachers are trying – my Twitter PLN is testiment to that!
What are the elements of video games that make players sit in front of a screen, focused for hours on end, and how can we transfer them into the classroom?
Gamification in My Life!
I am totally into the ‘Gamification’ of the stuff that we should do in our lives but aren’t always motivated to do. Let me give an example… In January, I came across an amazing site called, Daily Challenge from YouMe Health (challenge.meyouhealth.com). It is a health-focused social game.
Daily Challenge sends players simple tasks for them to complete on a daily basis, and the game encourages them to share their results with their Facebook cronies, who can provide encouragement and (ideally) participate in the game themselves.
If players do something healthy—such as taking a walk, eating a vegetable-rich salad, or wearing lip balm that provides ample sun protection—they hit a “Done” button and gain points, earn health badges, and progress toward higher levels of the game.
(It’d be easy to cheat in this game since there’s no mechanism to prove that a challenge has been done, but then players would really only be wasting their time and, potentially, misleading their friends.)
I have so far completed 50 challenges, and feel a great sense of accomplishment. Now, I just need a House Cleaning game!
This got me thinking, or reflecting, if you will....
I found myself thinking about the school experience as a game one night, instead of sleeping. Here is my vision… I call it, “School as a Role-Play Game” and the role is student (a role our youth already play, but now, they are more engaged). Projects and tests could be quests, and lessons and activities could be the mini-challenges along the way to allow students multiple chances to succeed, thereby keeping them engaged and motivated. The harder goals will strengthen students’ perseverance. Collaboration and cooperation would be key for some of the quests. Along the way, the ‘player’ has the opportunity to train and strengthen different skill sets such as critical thinking, literacy strategies, specific curriculum subjects, problem solving, creativity, etc. There would be mini-games, as well, which are a chance to earn achievement badges or points. These would be the various sports teams, clubs, and intra-murals. Teachers would be like the wise sage character whom students go to for guidance; they also give out the quests; and the rewards/feedback. They could also interact with Experts out in the world from their physical school. Ideally, students would form cross-level, multiple strength groups to aid them in reaching the goals, like in Farmville and other such social games, benefiting both the beginners and the experts.
Sounds quite similar to some of the things we already do, doesn’t it? It’s just kind of tying the bits together, and thinking of it and presenting it to the students as a game. A variation could be, “Super Teacher”…
Quest to Learn is a New York City public school, a school that uses “game-like learning” as a way to empower and engage students from all walks of life. Quest to Learn (Q2L) is specific in its focus on connecting rigorous student learning to the demands of the 21st century, supporting young people in their learning across digital networks, peer communities, content, careers, and media.
From the Site’s Overview…
Mission critical at Quest is a translation of the underlying form of games into a powerful pedagogical model for its 6-12th graders. Games work as rule-based learning systems, creating worlds in which players actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others. As is the case with many of the games played by young people today, Quest is designed to enable students to “take on” the identities and behaviors of explorers, mathematicians, historians, writers, and evolutionary biologists as they work through a dynamic, challenge-based curriculum with content-rich questing to learn at its core.
It’s important to note that Quest is not a school whose curriculum is made up of the play of commercial videogames, but rather a school that uses the underlying design principles of games to create highly immersive, game-like learning experiences. Games and other forms of digital media serve another useful purpose at Quest: they serve to model the complexity and promise of “systems.” Understanding and accounting for this complexity is a fundamental literacy of the 21st century.
The brainchild of Quest To Learn is a professional game designer named Katie Salen. Salen, like many people interested in education, has spent a lot of time thinking about whether there is a way to make learning feel simultaneously more relevant to students and more connected to the world beyond school. And the answer, as she sees it, lies in games.
She believes that going to school can and should be more like playing a game, which is to say it could be made more participatory, more immersive and also, well, fun. Nearly every aspect of life at Quest to Learn is thus designed to be gamelike, even when it doesn’t involve using a computer. Students don’t receive grades but rather achieve levels of expertise, denoted on their report cards as “pre-novice,” “novice,” “apprentice,” “senior” and “master.” They are enlisted to do things like defeat villains and lend a hand to struggling aliens, mostly by working in groups to overcome multifaceted challenges, all created by a collection of behind-the-scenes game designers. The principles are similar to those used in problem-based learning, a more established educational method in which students collaborate to tackle broad, open-ended problems, with a teacher providing guidance though not necessarily a lot of instruction. But at Quest to Learn, the problems have been expertly aerated with fantasy.
Once it has been worked over by game designers, a lesson doesn’t look like a lesson anymore. It is now a quest. And while students at the school are put through the usual rigors of studying pre-algebra, basic physics, ancient civilizations and writing, they do it inside interdisciplinary classes with names like Codeworlds — a hybrid of math and English class — where the quests blend skills from different subject areas. Students have been called upon to balance the budget and brainstorm business ideas for an imaginary community called Creepytown, for example, and to design architectural blueprints for a village of bumbling little creatures called the Troggles. There are elements of the school’s curriculum that look familiar — nightly independent reading assignments, weekly reading-comprehension packets and plenty of work with pencils and paper — and others that don’t. Quest to Learn students record podcasts, film and edit videos, play video games, blog avidly and occasionally receive video messages from aliens.
They also spend significant time building their own games.
Here is a magazine article from the NY Times:
How very fascinating! I want to work at that school! Ideally, we could just open up more of these schools, but, realistically, it is not going to happen. So, what parts of this can we use in our schools?
Look at the offices of present times and into the future! No body is over 30! What will the rest of us do?!
Look at our students’ future jobs… Do schools prepare our students for that? It certainly doesn’t look like any office I’ve ever worked in!
… that I would ever be taking photos and videos on a digital camera, importing the files onto my computer, then uploading them to Animoto.com, mixing them with a sound file, creating a video, transferring it to YouTube.com, adding a link to it on my WordPress Blog, sharing it on Facebook.com, watching it later on my iTouch… and, guess what? It was almost easier to do than typing out all these steps!!! Our students are doing this every day, without all of this thought… AMAZING!
A quick walk to the bridge turns into a near epic adventure! – created at http://animoto.com.
Microsoft AutoCollage2008 is available to Educators, for FREE, to help make your classroom a Web20 one.
Or, here, listed with other FREE tools…
Definitely makes great photo album covers! And, imagine… you go on a class trip… what better way to organize all the photos into one spot to display in your classroom and/or in your class blog or school newsletter, or…..
Remember, the key here, is Auto Collage, meaning you don’t pick where each picture goes, but the results are quick, easy and impressive. (Hey, you don’t have to tell everyone what program you used, and they’ll think you are a genius!)
For example, here is a Collage of a Kindergarten trip to a local farm, Dyment’s, from last October. (To respect privacy, I have selected photos with either no children, or that you cannot recognize specific children.)…
Imagine the themes you can gather together…
And, you can alter the size and orientation…
I hope this helps you to:
Bump It Up – Do Better to Be Better!
Nicola Schneider, Occasional Teacher, 13 years