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Problem solving

How to Teach Critical Thinking

There’s a reason why the brain uses 25% of the calories you eat: Thinking is hard work. Subjects like math and science — the ones only “smart” kids do well in — demand that you find patterns, unravel clues, connect one dot to another, and scaffold knowledge learned in prior lessons. Worse, you’re either right or wrong with no gray areas.

Wait. Where have we heard those characteristics before? In games! Do these descriptions sound familiar (or ask your game-playing students)?

Take the helm of your own country and work together with others to solve international problems!

Manage your city so it’s energy efficient and sustainable. 

Solve a mysterious outbreak in a distant tropical jungle and save the scientists. 

All torn straight from the taglines of popular games. Kids love playing games, leveling up, and finding the keys required to win. They choose the deep concentration and trial-and-error of gameplay over many other activities because figuring out how to win is exciting. So why the disconnect among teachers and parents when applying gameplay to learning?

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Categories: Problem solving, Websites | Tags: | Leave a comment

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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Categories: Economics, Games/Simulations, History, Math, Problem solving, Science, Social media, Websites | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

169 Tech Tip #39: My Computer Won’t Turn Off

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #39: My Computer Won’t Turn Off

Category: Hardware

Sub-category: PC, Problem-solving

Q:  I’m pushing the power button on my laptop (or desktop, but this is more common with laptops), and it won’t turn off. What do I do?

A:  Push the power button and hold it in for a count of ten. It will look something like the inset.

If that doesn’t work (there’s always that one that breaks the rules), hold it for a count of twenty. Still doesn’t work? Pull out the battery.

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169 Tech Tip #102: Doc Saved Over? Try This

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #102–Doc Saved Over? Try This

Category: Google Apps

Sub-category: MS Office, Problem-solving

Q: My students often save a blank document over their document. Is there any way to retrieve the file?

A: Absolutely. If you’re on Google Docs, go to Revisions. Select the version of the document you know was correct and restore it.

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Categories: Problem solving, Tech tips | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Websites for Hour of Code by Grade

hour of codeThis December will again host the Hour of Code, a one-hour introduction to programming designed to demystify the subject and show that anyone can be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Last year, almost 300,000 students (age 4-104) participated from over 180 countries and wrote almost 20 billion lines of code. The 200,000+ teachers involved came away believing that, of all their education tools, coding was the best at teaching children to think. It’s easy to see why when you look at fundamental programming concepts:

  • abstraction and symbolism – variables are common in math, but also in education. Tools, toolbars, icons, images all represent something bigger
  • creativity – think outside the box
  • if-then thinking – actions have consequences
  • debugging – write-edit-rewrite; try, fail, try again. When you make a mistake, don’t give up or call an expert. Look at what happened and fix where it went wrong.
  • logic – go through a problem from A to Z
  • sequencing – know what happens when

If you’re planning to participate in Hour of Code, here are a series of activities — broken down by grade — that will kickstart your effort. They can be done individually or in small groups.

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Categories: Critical thinking, Problem solving | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Hour of Code 101

Coding–that mystical geeky subject that confounds students and teachers alike. Confess, when you think of coding, you see:

coding

 

…when you should see

coding

It feels like:

When it should feel like:

December 4-10, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to coding, programming, and why students should love it. It’s designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator.

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Categories: Critical thinking, Problem solving | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

169 Tech Tip #59: Alt Keys

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #59–Alt Keys Add Symbols

Category: Google Apps

Sub-category: MS Office, Webtools, Keyboarding, Problem-solving

Q: How do I create the copyright symbol (or another symbol) in Google Apps or Word?

A: It’s easier than you think. Hold down the Alt key and press 0169. ©. Use the keypad with the num lock on–don’t use the number row. I could not get this to work until someone pointed out that you must use the keypad. Duh.

Have students try out some others that would be useful for them. For example:

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Categories: Keyboarding, Problem solving, Tech tips | Tags: | 1 Comment

Hour of Code is Coming!

December 4-10, 2017, Computer Science Education will host the Hour Of Code–a one-hour introduction to students on coding, programming, and why they should love it, designed to demystify “code” and show that anyone can learn the basics to be a maker, a creator, and an innovator. Throughout participating websites, you’ll find a variety of self-guided tutorials that say “anybody can do, on a browser, tablet, or smartphone”. You’ll even find unplugged tutorials for classrooms without computers. No experience needed.

Here’s a video to kick things off–you can’t watch this and not get motivated:

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Categories: Critical thinking, Problem solving | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

169 Tech Tip #99: Need Email Accounts for Registration? Try This

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #99–Need Email Accounts for Registration? Try This

Category: Email

Sub-category: Webtools, Problem-solving, Classroom management

Q: A lot of web-based tools require email verification. Many of my students don’t have these at school or home. What do I do?

A: This is a lot easier than you’d think. Gmail ignores anything that comes after a + in a username. JonDoe is the same as JonDoe+thinglink. Use that to your advantage with student accounts. They can use your email address and append their name with the +.  You can even set up a filter to send all those + emails to a separate folder so it doesn’t annoy you.

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Categories: Classroom management, Problem solving, Tech tips, Web Tools | 1 Comment

169 Tech Tip #83: Find Outlook Follow-up Folder

tech tipsIn these 169 tech-centric situations, you get an overview of pedagogy—the tech topics most important to your teaching—as well as practical strategies to address most classroom tech situations, how to scaffold these to learning, and where they provide the subtext to daily tech-infused education.

Today’s tip: #83–Find Outlook Follow-up Folder

Category: Email

Sub-category: Problem-solving

Q: I had to reformat my computer and lost the ‘For Follow Up’ folder in Outlook. How do I bring this back?

A: This isn’t important until it happens to you. To re-create it, choose File>New>Search Folder or use the shortkey Ctrl+Shift+P. Highlight ‘Mail flagged for follow up’ and click OK.

A note:  Search folders are collected at the bottom of the folder list.

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Categories: Problem solving, Tech tips | Tags: | 2 Comments