Saturday, October 29, 2016

Video Games Help Students In Class

Oregon Trail
Strange Loop Games
What have I learned from video games? Well... like most people in my generation I learned that I was likely to die from dysentery. I also learned how to read, do basic math, and more. When I died in a game, I would just hit start and try again. Each time, getting a little better than the try before. I still remember the first time my Mario saved the Princess.

Now comes the real challenge for us gamers. Proving to the naysayers that games are important to the educational process and beneficial to students of all abilities. When students are playing games they need to use a multitude of skills that help them improve in other areas of learning as well. For example, many games use captions to give instructions instead of audio cues. Students need to read and understand those directions to successfully play the game.

Minecraft Edu
Currently, Minecraft is the most popular "not really educational" game for education. Yes, you read that correctly. Minecraft was not designed with education in mind but it has been teaching students of all ages and levels. Even language learners can benefit from playing games because they don't rely on words. The graphics and animation tell the stories. In Minecraft, students can build worlds, hunt, chop wood, and more. The graphics may look simplistic but that's part of the games charm. Students that are interested in learning advanced skills can use Minecraft to learn coding.

Simple logic puzzles such as 2048 or Sudoku can give you a motivational boost while helping to wake the brain up. Five minutes with one of these simple games can increase overall productivity. If a student is getting stressed about their assignment a quick game break might be all they need to refocus with new energy.

All kidding aside, games and simulations can be a powerful classroom tool. I don't remember who said it or where I heard it but "when kids are having fun, they don't realize they're learning." I try to always keep my classroom fun for the students even when doing the more boring topics.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Just Use Duct Tape

Recently, a friend/colleague on Twitter posted an article titled Why Duct Tape and Cardboard Might Be a Better Option Than a 3D Printer. The article spoke about why fancy 3D printers might not actually be helping our students learn how to create. In the article, the author mentions that too many students rely on pre-designed ideas.
Stuck at Prom - 1st Prize
Noah & Jenna
We have a 3D printer, but only a few students know how to use it for creative purposes. Most students download templates and print things out. There’s not much actual creative thought that goes into it.
So how can we help our students bring back the creativity and logistical thought process for design? Duct tape. Simple yet elegant, duct tape can be used for many things in the classroom and creativity is just the iceberg.

I love reading articles like this that help remove the expensive obstacles of new equipment while still teaching the skills that students will need in future careers. In the case of creativity, students can use duct tape and other odd items for a multitude of projects in the classroom. I would most likely use the duct tape for an engineering challenge. By providing students with a finite amount of supplies, they would need to first plan out their project before just building something. This would require them to first create a final idea and then work backwards to decide how to reach the goal. I could then build in a secondary lesson about how it relates to their education in general. We have a final goal for when students reach the end of high school, and teachers, schools, etc. work backwards to determine how to help students reach that end goal of graduation.
John Spencer
Vintage Learning

For ESL students, this type of challenge can remove the language barrier and allow them to express themselves. It will also help students to see that not everything revolves around language. It's one of the things I love about the courses I teach; they are global and can include anyone. In science when we are learning about scientific names, I explain to the students that by using these standard two word descriptions we can remove the language barrier when communicating with other scientists around the world. In math, we discuss that numbers are the same in any language and only the word problems might be different. Whether you say "two plus two" or "dos mas dos", the answer is always going to be 4.