Sunday, May 20, 2018

Side quests - with semi automated XP

If you are new to the idea of side quests, consider visiting Explore Like a Pirate and GamificationEDU.

The past few weeks I have been mulling over the idea of adding more sidequests to my game. Up until now, sidequests have been few and far between for a couple of reasons. The biggest hurdle is that I have felt that it is up to me to develop the side quest, complete with resources for the students, and this simply takes too much time. Another issue is that I honestly have never put in a system for awarding XP for sidequests, so whenever a student has actually completed one that I planned for we are both dissatisfied with the XP assigned. If this was not enough, I hate the idea of prepping all of this only to have one student actually complete the side quest that may have taken me days to craft. Yes, it is a me problem.

However, my gamification #PLN often mentions sidequests as a great way to engage students, and provide in-class time for struggling or less interested students to catch up, while more advanced students happily toil on the sidequests. This got me thinking about how I could shift more of the responsibility of side quests to students by providing a board of activities with some assigned XP for attempting/submitting, but still have the choice to add either XP or items on top of that if the end product warrants it. With that in mind, I turned to Westphal's "Differentiating Instruction with Menus", and the internet, and came up with a menu of 15 ideas that could be used as a sidequest. The menu includes a general side quest rubric and explains that the base XP value of a side quest type decreases the more times it is attempted. My motivation for placing this limitation is simply that I would rather a student attempt different avenues to explore the content and not fall into a routine of recreating the same thing for different concepts. The menu also includes a space for complete student choice for my more adventurous students.

With that hurdle taken care of, the issue of how to collect the work, keep track of who did what, avoid repeats and assign XP needed to be taken care of. I toyed with the idea of writing a Google Sheets script, but that is, at the moment, beyond me. What I came up with is a Google Form whose response sheet would:
  1. Provide a place to submit the work (if the work is a physical product, the students will have to take a picture and submit that. I wanted to avoid the "I created a mobile and left it in your room, but there is no XP!"
  2. Ensure that duplicates of a file are not counted for assigning base XP. (I have middle schoolers who are prone to clicking submit over and over in hopes of rigging the system)
  3. Automatically count the number of times a specific side quest type has been submitted and assign base XP accordingly.
  4. Automatically add up the XP a student receives.

This is the sheet/form I came up with, and you are welcome to make a copy of both. The folder and its contents are shared with anyone can view. To make a copy, click on file/make a copy for each of them, placing them in the same folder. Depending on your district's permissions you may be able to make a copy of the response sheet and have the option to create the form, or you may need to copy both and link them yourself.  For those of you that may need to recreate the form from scratch, I have included comments on each sheet explaining what it does and the formulas that are attached. Brief recap of how this works:
  • FormResponses1: Is where the data from the form is collected, and the query to check for unique URLs is created.
  • Unique: Counts the number of unique URLs and type of product by student e-mail.
  • PivotCount: Creates a pivot table that adds the values for each product type.
  • BasePoints: Uses the data from the pivot table to assign base XP values.
  • BaseXP: Creates a pivot table that adds the base XP earned by each student e-mail
I am sure that there is a more elegant way of doing all of this, and I welcome any feedback or suggestions.  If you would like to know how to automatically add these scores to your leaderboard or grade book, I invite you to take a look at "Assign XP automatically using Vlookup - Google Sheets".

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Flipgrid as a "Turn-in Bin"

Like many of you before me, I've been struck with Flipgrid fever. This simple, yet powerful tool has transformed many of my classroom discussions and activities, providing a space for students to develop their voice. There have been many relatively recent posts about different ways to use Flipgrid in the classroom.

Catch the Flipgrid Fever
17 ways to incorporate #Flipgridfever in your classroom
End of Year Engagement

I would like to add one more...

As an educator reaching the end of the school year, last week students noticed that I had not created our traditional Edmodo turn-in bin for their Scientist Wanted assignment. As I quickly reached my laptop to create it, I also realized that we would probably not have time to do all presentations. Pondering that thought, inspiration struck. What if instead of simply providing me the link, they also had to create a quick video on Flipgrid, which their peers could then watch and comment upon? I shifted focus to create the Grid, which takes all of two minutes, and vaguely remembered that when submitting a video response you can add a link, and that is when everything coalesced.

I showed students the "main grid" and showed them the prompt:
Introduce the scientist you researched (use his/her full name) and tell us about him/her. Share the information that you think would encourage us to know more. 
When you submit your video, add the link to the poster you created. You are able to do this on the screen where you add your name and the title of your video (name of your scientist).

AFTER you have completed your own video, come back, watch at least one video from your peers and respond to the information about the scientist presented.

With the addition of that final line in the prompt, not only did I get their work and presentation, but also created a space for peer-interaction on the content. This was an EOY activity, but I am now thinking that in future iterations of this, I could change the presentation to a reflection or provide a more specific prompt or frames for the peer commenting.

I would love to know how you use Flipgrid, and if you try it as a turn-in bin, would love to know how it went. Perhaps you may even be tempted to look at some of my students' work and comment on it :)

#EdTech and the 4Cs

I started my career as an educator 10 years ago. At the time, the buzzwords regarding preparing students for college and career was "21-century skills". In fact, I received Trilling and Fadel's "21st Century Skills" as a graduation present from my mentor teacher, and it was the text under which we anchored the AdVENTURE program. Of late, the 21-century skills framework has been distilled into what we now call the "Four Cs" (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity), and while all of them can be taught and practiced using Google Drive Tools, there are many other free tools that can also be used effectively by both teachers and students as we progress in our educational journey.

These are my favorite:

📝 Collaboration: Tools that help us work together

Scrible: My students use this chrome extension to curate, annotate, tag and share articles. The extension also reminds you when you are on a webpage you previously annotated and prompts you to load previous annotations.

Padlet: A digital canvas that allows users to add all sorts of items as they work together on a project.
I know. There is an uproar among educators because of their new pricing/limits on the number of free Padlets. However, once a Padlet is no longer active, you can export the content to make room for more.

Trello: A project management tool that helps keep teams organized as they work. I create board templates for students. They make a copy of the board, add collaborators and move things around/upload documents, etc. as they get done.

💬 Communication: Tools that help us share what we've done

Blogger: Although part of the Google Apps suite, I still mention it since it is not part of Drive and it is a powerful tool to elevate student's voice. My students write a post at least once a week sharing their learning with the world at large.

Flipgrid: Easily and quickly create topics for students to discuss ideas. These quick videos provide insight into student thinking. I also use it for mini classroom presentations that students can then watch over and over.

Seesaw: Allows students to capture, organize and share their learning. Extremely popular with my elementary colleagues as a way to share classroom activities with parents.

Jilster: A really cool tool that allows you to create online magazines. The best part is that it is collaborative. I create a magazine, assign pages to student editors who can then work collaboratively on their assigned pages.

🎨 Creativity: Tools that help us develop products to explore the content 

WeVideo: Online video editing software. We video has a shallow learning curve and gets students creating in minutes. 

Canva: Easily and quickly create visually stunning flyers, posters, collages, infographics and more. They also have a complete selection of tutorials that help students (and teachers) explore how different design elements work together (or not) to tell a story.

Tinkercad: This easy to use 3D modeling software allows my students to bring their ideas to life in a way that 2D drawing cannot, even if it remains as a virtual product for lack of a 3D printer. 

MakeBeliefsComix: What my students and I like about this site is how easy it is to start creating and the fact that the comic can be printed or e-mailed. Its major con is that it is a "one sitting" deal. However, other comic creator sites come at a price making this site my go-to for quick student developed comics.

💡 Critical Thinking: Tools that help us go beyond the content.

Coggle: Collaborative mind mapping Chrome extension that integrates with Google Drive. My students use it to brainstorm ideas and develop maps to show how the content they are learning integrates with previously understood ideas.

KQED Learn: Students work in a semi-gated environment (all students must be attached to a teacher but can communicate with each other), responding to prompts and investigations. Absolutely awesome to help students extend their thinking as they curate resources and craft responses. This is only available to students in the U.S.

I'm sure that I missed some of your favorites. I invite you to add them in the comments.