Category: Games/Simulations

Using VR in Schools

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) are buzzwords that every educator wants to know more about. They are two distinct functions. Kathy Schrock, columnist for Discovery Education explains:

Augmented reality layers computer-generated enhancements on top of an existing reality to make it more meaningful through the ability to interact with it.

Virtual reality is a computer-generated simulation of real life… It immerses users by making them feel they are experiencing the simulated reality firsthand.

The differences are actually pretty simple. Virtual means experiencing a world that doesn’t exist. Augmented means adding something virtual to the physical world.

  1. 900 VR Expeditions — requires the Expeditions app
  2. Class VR
  3. CoSpaces
  4. InMind VR–a sicientific VR game
  5. Jurassic VR–Aptosaurus VR experience to experience a dinosaur up close
  6. NearPod VR
  7. Tour Creator–make a VR tour in Google
  8. Timelooper. This one will take you back to important moments in history from all around the world.
  9. Titans of Space app will take your students to the moon.
  10. Trench Experience VR will take you into the trenches in WWI.
  11. UnimersiveVR–learn with VR
  12. VR tours of museums

Ways to use VR

  • VR field trips
  • for students with Special Needs — The Jackson School in Victoria, Australia has been using the Oculus Rift to help students with special needs and the Silesian University of Technology in Silesia Poland is doing therapeutic exercises with autistic students using virtual reality technology.
  • experience careers first hand
  • time travel to historic events
  • explore the human body
  • feed curiosity

Watch this student exploring xxx with VR:

More on VR

Virtual Reality in the Classroom: It’s Easy to Get Started

The Impact of VR on Student Education

The Impact of VR on Student Education


Jacqui Murray has been teaching K-18 technology for 30 years. She is the editor/author of over a hundred tech ed resources including a K-12 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, K-8 Digital Citizenship curriculum. She is an adjunct professor in tech ed, Master Teacher, webmaster for four blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice, CSTA presentation reviewer, freelance journalist on tech ed topics, contributor to NEA Today, and author of the tech thrillers, To Hunt a Sub and Twenty-four Days. You can find her resources at Structured Learning.

5 Ways Ed-tech Can Enhance Social Studies Lessons

As is my habit, I spend a lot of time exploring new ways to teach old subjects. Lately, I’ve concentrated on social studies. I chatted with my PLN, browsed forums where I knew efriends hung out, and taught a slew of online grad school classes to teachers who always are willing the discuss their newest favorite social studies tech tool. I picked everyone’s brains and came up with a list of five webtools you definitely must look at:

Classcraft

Some call Classcraft a classroom management tool but really, it’s more about injecting excitement in your teaching and touching on the important social-emotional learning that sometimes gets forgotten. Here’s a great quote I heard in a sponsored video:

“It might sound crazy to you and me but the kids love it.” — Sarah Murphy

The more I dug into Classcraft, the more I understood why Sarah Murphy said what she did. It’s pretty simple. Kids have a passion for learning and playing games. You incorporate that into your passion for teaching by gamifying your middle- or high school classroom. When students and teachers work together, toward the same goals, everyone wins.

The free (fee for Premium) Classcraft doesn’t teach standards or curricula for academic subjects. Instead, it focuses on core SEL (social-emotional learning) skills fundamental to the fullness of the education journey. That means it’s easy to apply to your social studies class. It uses tools already popular in your school — Google Classroom or MS Office 365, a browser, and an app (iOS or Android). You set up different tasks and customize rules to fit class needs.  Students work individually or in teams, becoming accountable for their behavior to themselves and their teams. When they achieve goals and/or abide by rules, they earn stuff they want (that you’ve organized beforehand). You can blend Classcraft activities into your existing lesson plans or use those available on the website. Robust analytics (included in the Premium package) allow you to track student behavior over time and compare it with the class average.

Also available: a timer, a class volume meter, and parent features — great basic tools for every class.

ClassroomScreen

ClassroomScreen is probably one of the most robust, versatile, and useful classroom tools to cross education’s “free” landscape in a long time. It will make your social studies lessons run smoother, make them more responsive to needs, and keep students focused on the lesson. When you click on ClassroomScreen.com, it opens a blank screen that is a digital board ready to be displayed on your class smart screen. You personalize it with the most popular tools desired in classroom, all lined up at the bottom of the screen. These include preferred language (you pick from about a hundred languages), customized background, sound level, QR code (for the classroom screen; students scan it in and it displays on any mobile device — isn’t that cool?), a whiteboard, a text tool, a start-stop traffic light, a timer, a clock, a random name picker (for teams), an exit poll, Work Symbols (four options for collaborative student work — work together, ask a neighbor, whisper, and silence), and more.  There’s no download, no login, no registration. Simply click the link and get started.

Commonsense Media calls it:

“…the Swiss Army Knife of the classroom…”

I agree. Here’s a video that decodes this already-simple class tool.

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Math Word Problems

Looking for a more interesting way to teach math in these unusual times? Here are a variety of sites that share Math Word Problems–the real-world way to teach what some see as a daunting subject:

  1. Expii Solve–math word problems and puzzles, lots of them
  2. IXL Word Problems–by grade
  3. Math and Logic Problems
  4. Math Pickle–puzzles, games, and mini competitions
  5. Prodigy Math Word Problems–about 120
  6. Thinking Blocks–free (app)
  7. Word problems–type them in, Wolfram/Alpha provides the answer and the how-to. Amazing.
  8. Word Problems from Math Playground
  9. Would You Rather–more like a justification for decisions using math

Click for more online math resources.

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Why Game Based Learning Is the Right Choice for Remote Teaching

I don’t know many kids who aren’t excited to play games. Savvy educators have built lesson plans based on this interest for years. Today, because of the changes in education, the use of games to reinforce learning, to teach, and to engage students in their own education has become one of the most effective tools to bridge the gap between school-based and remote learning. Here’s what a joint study from Legends of Learning and Vanderbilt University found:

“…students who played the games outperformed their peers on standardized tests. Additionally, teachers saw dramatic increases in engagement and performance. “

In fact, 92% of teachers indicated they would like to use curriculum-based games in the future.

What is GBL

What is this magic wand? It’s called Game Based Learning (GBL). It simply means teachers include games in their lesson plans to teach curricular concepts. By using the games kids already love–want to play–GBL has an opportunity to turn students into lifelong learners who enjoy learning.

Good example of GBL: SplashLearn 

A good example of game based learning is the free-to-teachers program called SplashLearn. SplashLearn is an easy-to-use COPA-compliant, Common Core-aligned math curriculum for grades Kindergarten-5th that uses game-based learning to teach mathematical concepts. Students learn specific skills assigned by the teacher (to a group or individual) by playing age-appropriate, intuitive games based on appealing characters and fun interactions. These are welcome alternatives to the rote drill that many of us grew up on.

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Kid-created Games That Teach

gamification of learning

It’s discouraging to all stakeholders that annually, about 1.2 million students fail to graduate from high school. And “Pathways to Prosperity” reports that just 56% of college attendees complete a degree. Fingers point all directions but nothing changes the stark truth: Something causes kids to hate learning so much that they’d rather face their future without the knowledge or skills to do so successfully.

Solutions to this problem abound but one of the most popular with K-16 educators — because it works — is to gamify learning. Wikipedia defines “gamification” as:

“an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning.”

Games remind kids of days when they chose their own seats, worked at their own pace, and responded to their own interests. Through childhood games, they learned social skills, problem-solving, sequencing, and a whole bunch more while they thought they were doing a puzzle, building blocks, or playing dodgeball.

Fast forward to formal schooling. As early as Kindergarten, kids are stuck into classrooms where play is replaced with rote drills, repetition, and growing boredom. It’s taken the experts decades but finally, the value of applying gameplaying characteristics to learning is being recognized as a formidable approach. I’ve written much about the use of games and simulations but today, I want to focus on the student as maker, where they create the game, troubleshoot problems, and refine the end result — exactly the traits valued by coding and programming.

Here are some of my favorite game creation tools for students:

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Engagement through Competition

Ask a Tech Teacher contributor, James Lovelock, has been thinking about the nexus of student engagement, online games, and learning. Here are his thoughts:

games in schoolStudent engagement has long been a point of conversation for educators, the concept that students must have an active interest in order to get the best benefit from instruction is hardly a new thought.  Having said that, the ways in which that engagement is best achieved is a source of dispute, particularly depending on which philosophy on learning is held.  Competition is definitely one of the more disputed forms.

Usually criticism of the idea of competition as a tool is that where some people win, other people must lose and that can serve to disengage them from learning.  This sort of criticism is particular of classrooms where a couple of students may be seen to be dominant in certain areas and every other student conceivably looks at them and thinks inwardly “what is the point?” and proceeds to tap out, achieving the opposite of the intended engagement.  To be fair, when competition is implemented without consideration to purpose or outcome for an entire class, this can happen.

Having said that, competition when used in a considered manner can be a highly effective tool for engagement in learning.  A common example is that of a spelling test where rather than students competing individually they compete in groups, mixing together students who are stronger and weaker in the challenge so that those who would otherwise disengage are able to participate.

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New Ways to Gamify Learning

The first thing most teachers think about when discussing gamified learning is the online math games kids play. Maybe Vocabulary.com and its spelling games come to mind next. But those webtools exemplify where the gamification of education started. Their approach is good but way down the SAMR pyramid to what can be done today, easily, in classrooms.

Let me step back a moment to explain the SAMR Model as it applies to the use of technology in education. It is used to discuss the implementation of technology in the classroom by organizing tech-in-education tools into four categories or types of usage:

  • Substitution: Technology is a direct replacement for something, e.g. ebooks in place of print books or online math drills in place of worksheets.
  • Augmentation: Technology not only replaces a traditional tool but adds functionality, e.g. using Google Earth to explore the setting of a story rather than a map
  • Modification: Technology allows for a significant change, e.g. using screencasts to explain a process.
  • Redefinition: Technology allows for the creation of completely new ways of learning that were previously not possible. e.g. using virtual meeting tools (like Google Hangouts) to include housebound students in a class.

The SAMR Model directly relates to the evolution of games in education, from simply substituting online drills for worksheets to creating new ways to learn that students love. The gamification of learning became popular at first because students exhibited great aptitude and tolerance for learning new material when gameplaying, but the reason that popularity lasted is even more simple: Applying the characteristics of gameplaying to learning works! The most well-known example is the viral popularity of Minecraft and the way it has been applied to every academic corner of learning.

Here are some general ideas of how you can gamify learning in your class, on a budget and without extensive retraining:

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Make your LMS a social learning platform

Vivek Singh, education professional and contributor to Ask a Tech Teacher, has some interesting ideas on using your native LMS as a social learning platform.  He has some great thoughts on breakout rooms, discussion forums, virtual reality, and gamifying lessons. I know you’ll enjoy their thoughts:

Earliest forms of learning, dating back to the stone-age, involved storyboarding one’s experiences on rocks. These photo-stories would prove as a valuable resource for generations to come. Education, thus, has its roots in the earliest social interactions. One of the fundamental qualities that ensured our survival is collaboration through knowledge sharing, imitation and behavior modeling.

Little has changed in today’s space-age. We inadvertently learn from our daily social interactions, with most of our informal learning happens through online sources of information. For example, YouTube, social media, news websites, even self-help videos/blogs which are present in every possible genre. This way of learning is attributed to the advent of the internet which has impacted the adoption of online learning software to facilitate formal education. LMSs are now being accepted as one of the ways to learn smartly.  Taking note of the importance of social learning, some LMSs have begun to add features to promote social learning, for those students who are studying online. Learning Management System features that support social interactions amongst students, enhance the learning outcomes for any given online module or course.

What makes your LMS a social learning platform?

Features and activities that enable collaboration among learners could be implemented in the form of chat-boxes, discussion forums, live interactive sessions supporting real-time data sharing capabilities, and many more. Here are some critical features that can essentially leverage an LMS to become social in the true sense.

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summer learning

How to Blend Learning with Play for a Kid-friendly Summer

summer learningWith summer fast approaching all over the Northern Hemisphere, kids are eager for time away from teachers, textbooks, and To-do lists. In Ireland, Italy, Greece, Russia, and other Eurasian nations, summer vacation lasts about three months. In Australia, Britain, The Netherlands, Canada, and Germany, it’s six to eight weeks. American students get roughly ten weeks.

While kids celebrate, teachers and parents worry students will lose their academic edge. It turns out that concern is valid. Statistics say over the summer, kids lose over two months of math skills, two months of reading skills, and one month of overall learning. Efforts to prevent summer learning loss propel often-unpopular year-round school initiatives and all manner of summer school and summer camps that focus on cerebral topics.

Worry no more. The cure is much simpler: Disguise learning as play. Using the websites below, kids will think they’re playing games while actually engaging in the leading [mostly] free games and simulations in the education field.

A note: some must be downloaded and a few purchased, so the link provided might take you to a website that provides access rather than play.

General

Here are two gamified options that can be tweaked to address any topic:

  • Digital Breakouts — Players of all ages use teamwork and critical thinking to solve a series of challenging puzzles that ultimately enable them to achieve a goal. Digital Breakouts are an update to the traditional and popular webquests that have students explore the web as they gather content in a particular field — history, math, literacy, or others. A great collection of free, ready-made digital breakouts can be found over at Tom’s Digital Breakouts. These don’t have to be played online; for a fee, students can play unplugged.
  • Flash cards — apps like the free Brainscape provide topical flash cards kids can memorize in between the rest of summer stuff. You might even provide badges for the lists students finish.

Financial Literacy

Summer is a great time to learn topics that require dedicated periods of time — like a financial literacy program. These are important for high schoolers, but often not required for graduation. That means many students transition to that almost-adult point in their life where they need to understand credit cards, bank accounts, paying bills, and other financial concepts but have no real knowledge of how these work.

Here are a few sites that gamify financial literacy topics and can be completed over the summer:

  • Banzai – online free comprehensive financial literacy program
  • You are here – kids learn to be smart consumers

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