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3D Game Lab

3D Game Lab (http://3dgamelab.org.shivtr.com/) is a program that I have been beta testing this summer.  It is a game-based learning program that I am hoping to implement in my class next year. It is put on by Boise State University.  When I first started looking at it, I wasn’t sure what exactly it would be.  The beta opened on August 1 and so far I have completed all of the necessary “quests” in order to open up all of the features.  I am so excited about what this program can do for my students!

Game-based learning is basically learning put into a game setting.  Students are players, assignments are quests, and students earn experience points instead of grade points.  They can also earn rewards, achievements, badges, and ranks.  In one of the last quests of Game Lab, the quest was to watch a video and write our reflections.  The video was on the elements of games that can be used in a classroom in order to motivate and engage students in learning.  I found the video inspiring and I am delighted at the possibilities of what I will be able to do in the classroom.

The main part of the video listed seven ways that games engage people that can be used in an educational setting.
1. Experience bars showing progress – Game Lab does a great job of this.  Every quest has experience points assigned to it and the student (or player) has to gain a certain amount of experience before they can continue.

2. Multiple long and short tasks – You can give multiple quests at one time.  The task of earning the achievements is also a quest in itself that could be one of the longer tasks talked about here.  This section says that some of these tasks can be that the students show up on time to multiple classes, answer ten questions, or collaborate effectively with others.

3. Reward effort – The video said that every little thing should be rewarded in some way.  Credit needs to be given for effort and we shouldn’t punish failure.  I like this idea, but I hope that I can motivate students to complete the work so that the grade in the gradebook isn’t a failure.

4. Rapid, frequent, clear feedback – Students need to be able to link consequences to an action, otherwise they can’t learn. Game Lab does a great job of this because you can (and should) give feedback to every quest that students complete.  If feedback is not given, the students might feel like the work that they did was not read or reviewed properly.

5. An element of uncertainty –  The video states that this is the gold mine of engagement. The players need something that they can’t quite predict.  I haven’t really decided what this will be in my classroom unfortunately.  I have seen some things where there are mystery badges or rewards.  I think this might work for some but I doubt that it would work for everyone.  Maybe I could provide some sort of reward for the end of each group of quests and make it different each time.  Students wouldn’t know what the end reward was going to be each time.  I think that this one needs more thought so if anyone has any advice, it would be appreciated!

6. Windows of enhanced attention –  Some quests will require more thought and others should be more simple. This one is fairly straight forward.

7. Other people –  This is one of the biggest emotional turn ons for students according to the video.  People like to collaborate with others.  They like to feel like they aren’t alone and they like to work toward the same goal.  I plan on accomplishing this by having everyone in the class do Game Lab and not just a few.  I also started a discussion board so that students can post on quests, groups, subjects, the class, school in general, or other subjects.  This part also brought in the idea of an in-game currency that students can earn and then spend on items.  I could award a coin for each completed quest then allow students to purchase soda, snacks, pencils, etc with these rewards.  It would be nice if there were purchasable rewards within Game Lab so that I wouldn’t have to provide rewards in the real world for currency earned in the virtual world.  Maybe there would be another way to do this, I will continue to think about it.

Overall, I really liked this video.  I will save this list of items and use them in order to engage my students in game based learning using Game Lab.  I am really looking forward to using this in my classes!

See ya next time!

The Countdown Ends

Well tomorrow is the start to the new school year.  I find myself both excited and moderately full of dread.

Since this is my second year of teaching, I feel like I have a better grasp on what I’m doing.  I am excited to try all the new things that I have cooked up over the summer. I have had time to think of all of the problems that came up last year and figure out solutions to try and solve them.

Last year for me was a big experiment of trying to find out what worked.  Not all students learn in the same way and not all teachers teach in the same way.  Personally, I can’t stand to lecture.  I tried it for the first 3 weeks of last year and it was a nightmare.  I will never ever have a lecture class ever again!  I do some lessons with the whole class but these are more demonstrations or single lessons – not teaching entire chapters just by standing in front of the PowerPoint screen and talking to the kids.  In the first semester, I tried lecture, worksheets, class projects, class competitions, individuals teaching lessons, individual projects… you name it, I tried it.  So come Christmas, I thought back on first semester and figured out that the kids learned the most and I was the most successful with projects based learning.  I wrote a new project for them over Christmas break and had it ready come third quarter.  The first project worked beautifully! I had finally solved the big experiment!  So, I experimented second semester with perfecting these projects and did even more research over the summer.  This year I feel pumped and ready to make a difference in the way that my students learn and understand material.  I am excited to show them what an exciting and fun world science can be!

The dread comes from the end of freedom… I guess I feel like the students do in this sense.  The baby has to return to daycare and I have to return to the daily grind.  Trust me, I would much rather be home as a full time mom.  However, economics and our personal situation simply does not allow this…. Maybe next year!

As I start to get ready for tomorrow I realize that I spent entirely too much money on stuff for my classroom this year.  I swear, I can’t think of any other career where you spend so much money just to do your job or make your space prettier for the other people who use it.  It’s crazy!  I purchased a whole bunch of books for the students to read.  They can’t come to me and say that they have nothing to do!  I have also purchased multiple books for me to use in my own lesson creation and teaching.  These are resources for me to help me do my job better and more effectively so it’s money well spent.  But again, who does that!? I can’t think of any other profession where you have to keep buying new resources each year in order to keep up with the kids!  Maybe a book or resource here and there of course, but not multiple things.  I’m not on a soapbox or anything, I’m just trying to think of other professions that have specific stores full of stuff for the employees of that profession to buy.  There are multiple teacher supply stores.  Oh well, such is life.

Alright time for some 3D Game Lab.  It’s a way to teach students through the new and innovative new world of game-based learning.  Intrigued? I’ll talk about 3D Game Lab next time.  See ya soon!

The beginning

I am a science teacher. I am also a new mom.  Here is where I will share my adventures.

Currently we are one week away from beginning an exciting new school year.  This will be my second year of teaching.  Last year was an adventure, let me tell ya.  This year will be even more exciting!

Right now I am completing an online course called 3D Game Lab.  I found the course at the end of the school year and have anticipated its arrival.  It is only open from August 1-22 so I am trying to find any time that I have to work on it – which is difficult with a ten month old! 3D Game Lab is basically an online course on how to teach through games.  Students (heck, teachers too) love games and this is a way to teach students without making them feel like they are being taught formally.

Within 3D Game Lab, there was a “quest” to reflect on a video and other information.  Here is the video:

I was encouraged to post my reflection on a digital journal or blog.  I previously had neither and now I do!  So, here is my reflection (you’ll probably want to watch the video first so that this makes more sense):

I like what Jim Gee says about games being a form of assessment.  Before I looked at this quest, I was curious about how I would assess the students appropriately using this form of teaching and learning.  I have always been under the impression that something formal – a test, a paper, etc – was needed in order to assess their learning of an entire unit.  Jim shared with us that games in themselves are a form of assessment.  They don’t separate learning from assessing.  Therefore, I could use the games in order to assess the students as they complete the learning.  I really like this because then students won’t complete an entire homework assignment then find out that they have been doing it wrong the whole time.  They can be assessed as they go and will be rewarded as they go.  Constant rewards and feedback is a great way to motivate kids.

 I also like that he said anybody can both teach and learn.  I always try to partner or group my kids so that they can bounce ideas off of one another.  I find that students who work together often create something better than each could on their own.  This also brings in what Jim said about groups are often smarter than the smartest person in the group.  I often use student groups in order to teach the class about certain subjects.  This shows me that everyone can teach.  In addition, I am planning to do a self-paced program next year so this plays into the fact that he says everyone can learn. This philosophy has been very important to me in planning for next year.  I have to make sure that I build in structure so that everyone will be able to keep up in the class and learn enough.

I definitely think that digital tools will change my school.  My district really embraces new things – especially my specific principal.  My principal’s motto is, “Make new mistakes.”  He always wants us to try new things and if we fail, so what.  I really like this because it allows us, as teachers, to do what we think is best for the kids.  It also forces us to assess how that new action is working in our classrooms.  I am looking forward to using 3D Game Lab next year in my chemistry classroom.  Therefore, even if on a small scale, digital tools will make their appearance next year at my school and I really hope and anticipate them to catch on even more.

I know that this is just the beginning, but with the current public view on education, I think others might be interested to see the adventures of a real person who happens to be a teacher, in a real classroom, in a real high school.

See you soon!