Sunday, December 19, 2021

Digital Escape Room Puzzle Ideas

 I have been a fan of digital escape rooms in the classroom for a couple of years now. I like creating them and consider them a useful tool for review at the end of a unit. They also work very well for me as emergency subplans - students will be engaged and doing something worthwhile and I do not have to worry about setting things up, making copies or really anything else, other than assigning them in Google classroom.

All of this being said, I'm always on the hunt for puzzle ideas. For starters in order to keep it fresh, I do like to be able to challenge them with puzzles that they have not seen before. While they are always different because of content, there are only so many times that you can present a maze, clock or 4 x 4 grid.:


On the other, some of my students have figured out that if a code is only four letters and those letters repeat in a "clue item" they can pretty much spend their time guessing. In order to eliminate that, I do like to use substitution cyphers which do present a bit more of a challenge:


But again, these end up being overused in many escape rooms. If you are looking for some ways to create that your students may have not seen and/or that present a bit more of a challenge, I suggest:

Rebus Generator - This site generates a combination of emojis and letters for you that you can just screenshot and paste into a slide show. You just type your phrase and done. The one below, for example, says "Escape rooms are cool.":

On the same site as the Rebus above, there is also a maze creator that allows you to type a phrase and create a maze with it. That can be used to pose a question or give a clue to students.

Vigenere Squares - I got this spreadsheet template from lockpaperscissors. I love it because it is a spreadsheet template so modifications are easy and are always in my drive.

Online encoders: For encoding in a variety of ways, like morse code, I like because I do not have to worry about creating an account or bother with adds. 

Learningapps: While this site is intended to create minigames, I often use it in my escape rooms since you can create an activity within it, and use what they call "Feedback" to provide an encoded message. For example, in this very simple camouflage or mimicry sort, the kids receive a message "encoded" with Cryptii in Morse Code.

Another example is this crossword whose answers reveal a scrambled word that should then be unscrambled and used as a code.

What other ideas do you have for your digital escape rooms? I'd love to hear about them :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Get to know your students with a Cellfie

The 2021-2022 school year is about to start. As I started to think about what I could have students do to introduce themselves and came across an idea posted by Ms. McCurdy on a Facebook group I belong to. She posed the question:

That immediately brought to mind the plant and animal cell diagrams I drew a while back. After a bit of trial and error to make things fit and teasing out what each organelle could represent I came up with this activity where students can add text and use the paint bucket to color in the organelles.

Click here to get your own copy (this is a TPT link)

Feel free to share with your colleagues.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Periodic Table Pixel Art - A Digital Activity

A couple of years ago I created a periodic table pixel art activity inspired by a card sort activity published by the ACS. This morning Ms. Widrig shared a really cool mystery picture activity within the Facebook Group Digital INBs and Binders, an amazing group of educators that have come together to share ideas, lessons, and activities in preparation for the digital re-opening of schools in 2020. Mashing what I had with her example, I transformed 5 of my original sets of  30+ clues into a digital activity.

In the interest of sharing forward, here is a link to a force copy of the complete set for you to download/use/adapt for use in your own classrooms. The complete activity is self-checking (including capitalization), making it a good activity for assessment or review.

Digital Periodic Table Pixel Art File

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Cross Cutting Concepts Graphic Organizers for Digital Notebooks

For a while now I've been working with the NGSS's cross-cutting concepts, inviting my students to take ownership of them. As part of this process, I have often used graphic organizers to help my students process and make connections between big ideas. This year, as we move completely away from paper, and into the world of digital notebooks, I knew that I would need to transform all of the organizers and prompts I've collected over the years into digital versions so my students could add to them into their digital notebooks. I am finally done, and as always I am sharing them with any teacher that needs them.

In order to create your own copy of the slide deck where the organizers are found, click here.

It is important to mention that the organizers have no instructions other than textholders stating "type here".

These slides are intended not as a stand-alone digital notebook, but rather as masters that can be added to your existing notebooks. If you are unsure about how to add them to your own teacher digital notebook, you may wish to watch this video.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Digital Interactive Notebooks

Over the last month, and with the uncertainty of how we will re-open, I decided to make a move to digital notebooks using Google slides. Taking inspiration from Matt Miller's Google Slides Interactive Notebooks, as well as the thousands of teachers that came before me and graciously published templates (SlidesMania comes to mind) and YouTube videos, I came up with about 20 that I plan to use. As you know, I am all about sharing so I am publishing them all here for you to peruse and make copies if you wish.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Interactive Padlet Activity for Google Meets/Zoom

Like many of you, I've been trying to figure out how to make my Google Meets interactive and fun. We've done digital breakouts, Kahoot, Quizziz, Legends of Learning, scavenger hunts, and the like, but most of these have still lacked the conversation piece that I crave. Half the time it feels like I'm sitting in front of a one-way conversation, and while there are some conversations in the chat, I am mostly holding a soliloquy while students are working through those activities.

This week I am going to try something a little different, and am excited about the possibilities. Taking inspiration from NASA's Image of the day and the Change My Mind meme that keeps popping up in several of my Social Media feeds, I created the column Padlet where I placed three images and ask the students to respond to each without naming the content of the image. The way I envision this is that students will be able to do a reverse image search, find out what the picture is showing and open up an article/webpage with some information that they can read and share as a comment.  The "Change My Mind" column is an addition that I envision working much the same way, where students can do a quick search on the topic (or use their background knowledge) and write a sentence or two backed up with facts/graphs to support their claim.

If you are interested in doing something like this, good places to search for those images to share with students include:

Earth Observatory Image of the Day
NASA's Image of the day
What's going on in this Picture - New Your Times
Electron Microscope Photography - Twisted Sifter and Getty Images
Smithsonian Magazine Photo of the Day

Let me know what you think. What other interactive activities are you doing during your GoogleMeets/Zoom calls?

Friday, April 24, 2020

Reporting "completion" grades - use IF statements

Much like other districts around the U.S., mine has opted to forgo grades and simply report work as completed/not completed during this time of emergency remote learning. While I agree with this practice for now, it dawned on me that I would be looking at papers or digital submissions twice as many times as before since. Not only do I need to read and provide feedback to students (oftentimes grading it still), I also need to contemplate whether a submission counts as completed or not. I am not averse to doing the former, but the idea of then manually"transforming" that into complete/not complete in order to report it in my LMS, especially when students are all working at different paces, is a real pain. Trying to ease that pain I started thinking of all those skills I've gained from my gamified leaderboards and came up with a relatively easy workflow that for all intents and purposes semi-automates the process.

It all starts with reporting all feedback grading uniformly. I am using Google classroom as my feedback grade book for students, whether manually grading there or importing into it the feedback grading from GoFormative, EdPuzzle, etc., the trick is to make everything worth the same number of points. Once you are ready to report the C/NC grades you will need to download the complete grade book you want to transform as a CSV. In Google classroom, this means going into any of your assignments and clicking on the cog you see on the top right.

Once you have your grade spreadsheet, it is simply a matter of adding an IF statement that references the cell you'd like to change into C/NC. The formula is

=IF(E6>6,"C", IF(E6<=6, "NC"))

Where E6 is the cell that has the grade, and 6 is the points threshold that I decided on as the lower limit of "completeness". C and NC can be whatever you want it to report out.

Once you have that formula in place, it is simply a matter of dragging it down and across to copy it. Both Google sheets or Excell will automatically change the cell references.

Once that is done, your spreadsheet is ready to be uploaded to whichever LMS you are using. While you will have to do it again any time you update your grades, it will at least save you some time and keystrokes.

Have you found any other shortcuts to deal with this new normal? I'd love to hear about them.