Thursday, January 18, 2018

Easter Eggs with Mini-Game Creators



In recent conversations with my gamification PLN, the use of Easter Eggs has come up. As a non-videogame gamer, I was unfamiliar with the term. Doing some digging I came across this Storify of #XPLAP's chat published in @MrMatera's blog. With a little bit more knowledge, and after talking with my personal source of all things gamer (I have a teenage son), I was ready to think about some ways that I could create Easter Eggs within my hyperdocs and project pages.

Hiding the Easter eggs is relatively easy. In a hyperdoc, you can simply type whatever you wish (perhaps a reminder to yourself of the title of what you linked) and hide it by making the font the same color as the background. In a project page, Google Drawing or Google Slide, you can insert a shape and make both the lines and background transparent, of course linking the shape to the website that hosts the Easter Egg.

Once the issue of how to hide Easter Eggs had been resolved, the question became what to hide. Of course, you can hide Youtube or Edpuzzle videos, links to websites, simulations, interactive sites or documents for the students to read and interact with. However, in true gamer fashion, I like to hide mini-games that are specific to the content and/or vocabulary the students are learning. That is where the mini-game creators come in.

Sugarcane  

This site from IXL Learning,  offers the possibility to create 18 game types from one data set. This means that once you have your content, in the form of text and/or images, you can reuse it, getting a new link each time. It has the added benefit of providing the students with points at the end of a game, which I then just add to my students' XP total giving an immediate incentive for playing the mini-game.



LearningApps  

At first glance not as pretty as Sugarcane, but LearningApps gives you more/different mini-game options (20 total, including hangman, cloze, group puzzle and crossword). It also gives you several options to embed your mini-game in other platforms, which for some may be a plus.



ReviewGameZone 

Much like the now defunct Zondle, you are able to create multiple choice review question sets that appear as part of a mini-game. You can link to a specific game or you can give students the link to the question set and have them choose which mini-game to play. Their games do require Flash, so you may want to check that out before creating your Easter Egg with them. Also important to know, the site now runs one ad at the top of the screen, which may be non-negotiable in some settings.



Quizlet 


This site has been around for a long time, so it is easy to find ready-made question sets. On the flip side, they only have a couple of "gamy" options (match and gravity), and some of their functionality is restricted (adding images and voice) requires that you upgrade to a Teacher account (currently $2.92/month)




Now, what does this look like in the end? Below is an "assignment page" that includes three Easter Eggs. Can you find them?

Any thoughts to share about how to create Easter Eggs? Leave a note in the comments.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Google Draw - the neglected sibling




For the last several years I have been using Google products for most of my authoring needs. However, my students and I seldom venture outside of the three products that appear when you click that red NEW button on our drives.

Although I also create Forms and have my students create Sites, we have all mostly turned a blind eye to Draw. In fact, up until a few months ago a search of the thousands of documents that I have in my Drive produced maybe 50 or so Draw documents, and those were mostly simple flowcharts or places to host images that I collected to add to Slides and Docs.

This all started changing after I took the "Making Infographics" course at KQED teach. The course itself walked me through the creation process, thinking like a designer, and provided me with many resources for images, icons, fonts and color palettes. From Pixlr to build graphics, to Pexels - a great source of CC0 high def images, to Piktochart - an easy to use infographic maker, the course gave me the tools to start creating.

Now, you may be thinking what does this have to do with Google Draw? Well, once I started on that creative path, I started exploring what I could bring to the classroom. Piktochart, like Canva and Smore (two other sources for creating visually appealing graphics), have two limitations to their use in the classroom - they require an account on the platform and they do not allow multiple editors, or if they do, it cannot be simultaneous. On both those fronts, Google Draw becomes the winner; yes you do need a Google account to use Draw, but most schools have that in place. Before I continue, I do have to give kudos to Canva for two great "side" resources they have - Font Combinations and Color Pallete that you can then use on Google Draw.

Anyway, once it became clear that I would be "limited" to using Draw for creating infographics, I set about figuring out how my students could make them "pretty". Thankfully, many educators and designers have shared their own tips and tricks freely:


 Clickable Google Draw Image

Once you familiarize yourself with the basics, the possibilities that open up are endless.Using Google Draw my students and I have created posters, mind maps and trading cards like the ones you see below.

     

Using the technique discussed in "Embedding a Google Drawing with Clickable Links", I've also used it to create clickable learning paths (below) and even display the ranking system for my gamified classroom, which you see at the top of this post.


Have you found other ways to use Google Draw? I'd love to hear about them.






Saturday, January 6, 2018

Game Based Learning in a Gamified Environment




In an effort to increase student engagement, gamification and game-based learning have been gaining traction in the education world for the past couple of years. Because of this, there have been some great blog posts that explain the difference between the two:
There have even been some Twitter discussions about the merits of each, almost asking one to choose between the two as if there were mutually exclusive. Much like you Project Based Learning and Maker Ed are not the same thing, but can both occur at the same time in a classroom, you can have a game based delivery in a gamified environment. 

I've talked before about how I've gamified my classroom. If you are interested in how to add game elements to your delivery I invite you to visit my gamification page on this blog, and/or follow the gamification experts - @MatthewFarber, @mrmatera, @mpilakow, and @christibcollins.

If you are looking to find or create games to add to your game based arsenal, you may want to look into:
iCivics - specifically for Social Studies
Legends of Learning - specifically for Science
PhetColorado - math and science simulations
LearningApps and SugarCane - for those of you that are interested in creating your own mini-games

I also invite you to the weekly #xplap (Tuesdays at 7:00 PST) and #games4ed (Thursdays at 5 PST) Twitter chats. Both of these are super fun and informative and will put you in touch with the many other educators that are interested in bringing play into their classrooms.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Grades in the Gamified Classroom

https://twitter.com/mr_isaacs/status/885658805002018816

In a recent #games4ed conversation we were talking about gamified grading, and the two tweets above came up. This resonated with me for several reasons:
1. As I am sure it is true in most cases, at the end of the day (term, school year), I have to submit regular letter grades. 
2. I have been guilty of falling for the above-mentioned pointification, or simple substitution of traditional grading for an XP-like system and leaderboard. While the change did infuse some excitement in my classroom, the students quickly discovered that it was simply "a rose by another name" and rebelled accordingly - Gamification - Don't Fake It

Simply changing the grades to points does not change the student's mindset. At its core, gamified grading can be a visual representation of competency-based grading, which as Matt Townsley reminds us is different than standards-based grading.
"Competency Based Education is a system in which students move from one level of learning to the next based on their understanding of pre-determined competencies without regard to seat time, days, or hours.
In a competency-based system…
  • Students advance to higher-level work and can earn credit at their own pace. (In a building, district, or classroom using a standards-based grading philosophy, this is not necessarily the case. Students are likely required to complete x number of hours of seat time in order to earn credit for the course.)
  • Learning expands beyond the classroom. This may or may not take place in a standards-based grading philosophy. For example, in a competency-based system, a student who learns a lot about woodworking over the summer may earn credit when he or she returns to school the next year. Similarly, students are encouraged to learn outside the classroom so that they can demonstrate competencies at their own, rapid rate.
  • Teachers assess skills or concepts in multiple contexts and multiple ways. (This may or may not be the case in a standards-based grading classroom; however, it is non-negotiable in competency-based education.)"
How does this translate to a gamified environment?

1. Explicit criteria and targets are made available to students ahead of time. The students in a gamified classroom know exactly what it takes to "defeat the boss" (AKA demonstrate mastery). Basically, everything is assessed using rubrics. The rubrics are created using objective measures, provide actionable feedback and are presented in kid-friendly language. 

2. There are multiple opportunities to gain XP (practice the standards). Every piece of work submitted results in XP, even incomplete or half-correct work! Let's think about this from the gamer standpoint. A player going through the third level of Mario falls and must restart the level. The XP he gained does not go away, and he/she will try the level again using what he/she learned from the previous attempt in order to pass the checkpoint and proceed to the next level. This cycle continues throughout the game. This is also true in the gamified classroom. That half-correct work is re-done based on the feedback, resubmitted for a new assessment and opportunity to gain more XP.

3. Some may demonstrate mastery on their first attempt earning a set amount of XP and perhaps a badge that shows the students (and community) that mastery of the standard has been achieved. This does not mean that the "learning is done". The student can then go on a side quest to earn even more XP and continue to level up within that standard. While this is happening other students are re-working/adding to their work and even going through the same side quest that the "masters" are completing, practicing the standard until they have collected enough evidence of mastery and the total amount of XP available for the standard is achieved.

All of this made public to my students on the leaderboard. But what happens at the end of the week, when I am contractually obligated to publish at least one new grade in the grade book? For that, I choose the most recent evidence of learning. This means that what goes in is not the same piece for all, but rather the individual piece of work that illustrates the learning from that particular student for that week. So, for example, the student that demonstrated mastery on week one and decided to sit back and relax on week two may, in fact, receive a failing grade for the week (no evidence of learning), while the student that has not shown mastery could be receiving an A. 

I know that this system is not perfect, and there is a possibility of inflated grades. Have you found a different solution? I would love to hear your thoughts.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Digital Media Literacy with KQED Teach

Bill Ferriter 

I am sure that many of you are familiar with the image above. While I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment, the National Association of Media Literacy Education tells us:
“The purpose of media literacy education is to help individuals of all ages develop the habits of inquiry and skills of expression that they need to be critical thinkers, effective communicators and active citizens in today’s world.”

So, while the learning outcome should not be "create a Prezi" or "produce a video", we do need to provide students with the skills of expression to be effective communicators.

Now I'm sure that we've all been privy to things like

  • presentations with too much text, or unreadable fonts
  • student videos that, while cute, are unintelligible
  • Edmodo or Google classroom posts that should have been edited
  • student-created cartoons, infographics and Google Draw productions that are nothing more than a disorganized copy/paste
I illustrate these to make the point that we do need to help students develop better media literacy skills. We live in a world where most classrooms have access to 1:1 devices (especially if we count student-owned devices). Many of us have dabbled with creating educational products for our students and/or have asked our students to do the same, but how many of us have taken the time to hone those skills before teaching them to the students? I know that I was one of the ones that expected my students to "produce a 5-minute video to explain ____", without ever having gone through the process myself!

That is why I was so glad when last spring I was introduced to KQED Teach. In Randall Depew's words:
"KQED Teach, our new online learning platform, will support educators’ growing media literacy needs by helping them develop the media skills necessary to bring media production to their learning environments."
The beauty of KQED Teach is two-fold. First, it is completely free. Not only are the courses free, all the tools they suggest within each course are also free. Second, the courses are self-paced and short enough to be easily completed in an afternoon or two. As teachers, we are budget and time poor. KQED Teach understands that and responded in kind. 

Let me tell you a little bit about the courses I have taken, and what I've been able to do and teach because of it.

Media Foundations: Allowed me to explore the impact digital media could have in my teaching. Because of this course, I became a more critical consumer of information and started paying attention to bias and copyright. The skills I learned were easily transformed into a lesson titled  "Should I CITE-IT?", which I posted and have available on the KQED Teach platform.

Taking Charge of Social Media: This course opened up my eyes to the world of social media, especially Twitter, as a PD tool, allowing me to add a myriad of innovative educators to PLN, which in turn made me grow so much more than any "traditional" PD.

Designing Presentations: This course should be required by anyone that has ever thought about creating any kind of presentation. We all know about essay-like presentations, but have you ever thought about how fonts, images, and colors interact to tell a story during your presentation? After this course, you will be ready to go well beyond the template that you've seen or used 1000 times to create much more impactful and memorable presentations using any platform. 

Interactive Timelines: At first, this course looks a little scary, especially if you are unfamiliar with Google Sheets. However, following their advice, I was able to create the interactive timeline of my scope and sequence that you see below. How cool is that!

I have not taught the lesson I posted at the end of the course "Technology Timeline", but it is there for anyone that wants it, and can be easily modified to suit other purposes.

Making Interactive Maps: Much like the interactive timelines, I did not know I needed to know this until I created my first map. The course not only gives you the step by step instructions and ideas on how to integrate their use in anyone's practice but also includes how to take these maps further using the layers and data tables that I did not know existed within Google Maps. Because of this course, I was able to have my 5th graders create maps like the one you see below, in response to the lesson I posted within KQED Teach - The Journey of Stuff.


Making Infographics: My favorite course so far. This course taught me some design basics that are transferable to many other platforms, creating websites for example. But that was not all, it also helped me hone my skills as a creator of digital content, allowing me to take it to the next level in things like the blog post about student-designed board games, and the image I created for the Stop the Fake News Cycle lesson I shared in response to the KQED Teach course on Finding and Evaluating Information:



Communicating with Photography and Video Storytelling Essentials both highlight the power of your smartphone camera. Beyond the composition of your subjects to issues regarding lighting, sound, and editing (including how to conduct interviews), these two offer very specific fixes and ideas that can help you learn and then teach the basics to your students. I invite you to look at the lessons I posted for these two, which include student examples -Source to Mouth documentary and Layered Selfies.

These are only a few of the courses that KQED Teach has to offer, and they are consistently adding new courses. I encourage you to sign up and start learning today.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

More than a "Design your Own Board Game" Project

Link to Unit Plan

In a recent conversation, the subject of student-created games came up. As many before me, I've had students create games for a variety of reasons - to review the content, to demonstrate knowledge, etc.  However, often the products are nothing more than trivia games, where students go around the board they created answering questions. At best students craft a nice-looking "skin" for games like Trivial Pursuit or Beat the Parents, and at worst there are only boxes and questions in a quickly hand-drawn path. There is little challenge or replayability - as @MatthewFarber has been known to say, "chocolate covered broccoli".

This got me asking, "Where is the disconnect?"If all of my students have played games before, can quickly make decisions about whether a game is fun or not, and know that there will be a game tournament at the end, why is it that they rely so heavily on these types of games? Now, I know that one part of the answer is simply that they equate questions/answers with review. However, in my search for answers, it also became clear that they look at this type of assignment from the point of view of the consumer, not as designers of an experience.

At this point, I would like to clarify that I have never taken a course in game design myself, but with a willingness to learn, I embarked on my own quest to help my students become better at designing games. The assignment I am sharing with you is the end result of this experience.

Research

In this assignment, the research is not where students go over notes or textbooks looking for questions and answers, but rather where students learn about creating games. We start by investigating different board games and discuss what makes a game "good". This is also where I explicitly teach the parts of a game, including the need for goals, challenges, storylines and clear rules which will then make their end product interesting and replayable.

Prototype

One of the key parts of game development, which is often overlooked in "create a game" assignments. From carefully selecting a theme to presenting and playing a paper prototype with a focus group (consisting of other students), the goal is for the students to develop a well thought out game idea before committing to a final product. This is where students often realize that their game is really a non-game, just a pretty board with questions. Providing this opportunity to prototype, play-test and most importantly act on the feedback is a good way for students to develop critical thinking skills.

Final Design 

If the previous two sections were done successfully and allowed enough time for students to digest the information and feedback, this section is relatively easy to implement. The "hard thinking" is done and it is just a matter of crafting the product and making it look pretty. Skills to be practiced in this section include of course fine-motor skills (which even my middle-schoolers need to practice), and digital media creation (icons, game pieces, digital art and transforming hand-drawn art into digital formats). Although some of my most artistic students like to create their art by hand, I require them to digitize it ("If you wanted to create 50+ copies of your game your art would have to be easily reproducible").

Advertisement

Often some teams of students are ready to move on to our tournament day while other teams are still crafting or even prototyping, so I added the advertising section. This has not only the benefit of providing us with a time buffer, but also continues the "think like a designer" mindset, with the goal not only of creating a better game, but also to be able to market it adequately.

ISTE Standards (for students)

The beauty of this project is that it also allows your students to practice several of the ISTE standards for students. For example:
4a -Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
4c- Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
6a - Students choose the appropriate platforms and tools for meeting the desired objectives of their creation or communication.
6b -Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.

Below you will find a small version of the board I created for students to access the complete assignment. If you would like the version that I share with my students click here. Almost all of the icons and text are clickable, opening the needed information and items students need to document their progress. On the student assignment page, you will also find a Teacher Corner button, which opens to a unit plan that may help you in implementing this with students.

Feel free to share with others who may find this useful.


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Embedding a Google Drawing with Clickable Links


I'll start this post by stating the obvious, the easiest way to create a drawing with clickable links/tags is to use Thinglink. This site has been my go-to for any type of image tagging and while I love all their possibilities, including adding custom icons and tagging 360 images, I recently had the issue of wanting to both create the image and the tags at the same time.

A little backstory. 

The culmination of my Interdependence of Organisms unit has my students creating blog posts for different organisms in the Amazonian rainforest where they write about how each organism has a specific role to fulfill in its environment. In class, we then use those posts to create a Google drawing of the food web with links to their work. Everything works great as long as you stay within Google Drawing. It is not until I tried to embed that tagged image the students created anywhere that I realized that those tags the students painstakingly created do not work!

In the past, I've always solved the problem using Thinglink.

But as I mentioned before, this has the "problem" of having to create the image first and then add the tags. In class, this does not always work for a variety of reasons. The most important being that the image is completely static. You cannot change anything on the actual image so the students cannot add any more arrows (or organisms) as they discover other relationships when they discuss their work. Since this is a collaborative end product, the permanence of the image does not work for my purposes.

The workaround

It is a little convoluted, and it requires a little risk-taking simply because of the unfamiliarity you may have with some of the steps, but bear with me. In the end, you will have created the code with working links that can be embedded on any site or platform.

1. Open up a Google drawing. Add your background and items, and tag to your heart's content. In case you do not know how to do this, Karen Ferguson's video does a great job of explaining this.

2. Once you and your students are "done", or even before if you wish, publish your drawing to the web (File>Publish to the web). It does not matter when you do this since any changes you make after the fact will be updated automatically, which is exactly what my students needed. Do not worry about the size or the code at all. You just need it to be "on the web".

3. Go to Google sites, and create a simple blank site. You can name this whatever you like, and edit the homepage to insert your google drawing.

4. Unclick "include border around Google drawing" and "include title". At this point, you will choose your height and width. I recommend setting both to the size of your actual drawing.

5. Save the Google site. This creates a version of the site, with your Google drawing that includes those pesky clickable links you were aiming for.

6. Once you have saved, right-click anywhere on the image and select inspect

7. For those of us not familiar with working with HTML or the developer tools, this is where it gets scary. But don't fret it is simply a matter of finding the code and copy/pasting it in three quick steps:

  1. On the tab that appears, select Elements. Find the code where you see <div id="sites-chrome-everything-scrollbar">, and click on it to expand it.
  2. Scroll down until you find  <div class = "sites-embed-border-off sites - embed"... style=width 800 (or other number) px;" and right click on that.
  3. Select edit as HTML (third option). A box within the space appears, filled with the code you are looking for! Select everything within that box, and copy it.


It should look something like this:
<div class="sites-embed-border-off sites-embed" style="width:600px;"><div class="sites-embed-object-title" style="display:none;">Interdependence Rainforest Blogs</div><div class="sites-embed-content sites-embed-type-sketchy"><iframe src="https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1ELpo7S7a0htZsqckkHkEtaI3KMXORFPStvVZGnVzt_o/preview?authuser=0&amp;h=400&amp;hl=en&amp;w=600" width="600" height="400" title="Interdependence Rainforest Blogs" frameborder="0" id="811835776" allowfullscreen="true" mozallowfullscreen="true" webkitallowfullscreen="true"></iframe></div><div class="sites-embed-footer"><div class="sites-embed-footer-icon sites-sketchy-icon">&nbsp;</div><a href="https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1ELpo7S7a0htZsqckkHkEtaI3KMXORFPStvVZGnVzt_o/edit?authuser=0" target="_blank">Open <i>Interdependence Rainforest Blogs</i></a></div></div>
8. Now you can go ahead and paste that full code anywhere that allows you to edit HTML embeds (Blogger, Wix, Weebly, Wordpress, Emaze to name a few) creating your tagged and clickable Google drawing. 

And not only that, any changes you make to the original image immediately populate anywhere you have embedded your image so your students can modify the drawing, adding and deleting elements and tags without any worry about going through the process again!

Additional benefits

Using this method for creating interactive images also has some other "unforeseen" benefits.
  • The students can be in total control of the creation process. Any CC0 image is fair game to be used as a background or for tagging purposes. Once you teach your students to crop things in shapes, they can create all sorts of icons without worrying about size limitations.
  • Recently my district blocked Thinglink for student use. I can share my tagged images with them, but they cannot create accounts themselves and use it to create their own. 
  • Thinglink is not set up to be collaborative, so even if my students went outside of our servers and created personal accounts, they cannot work on one image together. This often defeats my purposes for creating interactive images.
  • It is totally free. You only need access to Google the Google tools mentioned. Most districts nowadays have given students access to the Google suite, so anything they create using them will not need any paid upgrade of any kind.


I hope this is useful to you and your students, and please drop me a line in the comments section if you find an easier way to do this.