Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Beat the Teacher - Back to School Edition

On many occasions during the game-based learning and gamification Tweeter chats I participate in, we've talked about game skins (#games4ed, #XPLAP). For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the term, a game skin is a cosmetic change to a game that does not change the basic gameplay. Much like what I shared when I talked about my FLUXX Mod project, or what @MrPowley shared in his Skin in the Game post the idea is not to create a new game from scratch, but simply to change the topic of the game adapting it to specific situations.

As I was going through my collection of board games thinking about what I could do to start the 2018/2019 school year I happened upon the Spin Master game called "Beat the Parents". As I remembered, the gameplay was pretty easy, but being a full-on trivia game it did not make my family's game-night rotation too often. However, after dusting it off, I figured that it would be perfect to mod as a Back to School game, giving my class the opportunity to review expectations, policies, procedures, and locations of classroom items, while allowing me to get to know my student's trivia and preferences.

Thus, I started by creating the board (click to open the file), which I plan to project to the class, using post-its as tokens (mover pieces) so that the whole class can play at once.
Normally, I would have created and laminated the necessary cards, but I decided against it for this skin since I want the students to come up with their individual "getting to know you" trivia questions. The plan is to provide each student in my 5 periods with a couple of index cards where they can write questions like "What is my (the student's) preferred nickname?", "How many siblings do I have?" or "What is my preferred sport/book/content area?", really anything that would be traditionally asked in a student interest survey. On the other hand, I prepared a file with the teacher questions that are specific to my class (sharing to give you ideas in case you also want to try this out).

Since I was not going to create physical cards, I then had to figure out a way to create digital wild-cards. These became the numbers 1-20 at the top and bottom of the board you see above, and the plan is that when we land on a wild card, I will roll a 20 sided dice and click on the corresponding card. The wild cards linked on the board are simply links to individual slides in this slide deck.

I tried to make the wildcards somewhat generic, but if you find that they are too specific or you are interested in creating your own set, just remember that you can obtain the links to individual slides in any slide deck as explained here.

The gameplay itself is exactly as the original (Beat the Parents instructions), except that there will always be only one question per turn (in the original there are up to three). The game is so easy to play that once you have the board, you can have students create questions for a topic at any point during the school year for an impromptu review and quick game of Beat the Teacher.

While I am certain that the students will beat me when I present this as part of my getting to know you activities, before knowing the new students very well or at all, I think they will get a kick out of beating the teacher, and who knows, maybe I'll surprise them.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Internet search like a pro - a lesson

Google Search Engine by Simon Steinberger

Back when I first got a notebook cart (yes, that tells you how long ago it was), I used to explicitly teach my students how to perform Google searches. It was one of the very first lessons I taught at the start of each year, and it always came complete with a cheat sheet that my students religiously pasted to the back of their notebooks. I do not remember when I stopped teaching it, but I do know it was not a conscious decision. It could have been that it simply was forgotten as I was putting things on my beginning of year calendar, or maybe it was the year when the school went 1:1 and IT was in charge of introducing the use of chromebooks to all classes. The reason really does not matter, what does matter is that I moved on, perhaps under the assumption that since my students are digital natives and they live in a world where they are used to finding YouTube videos to DIY everything, the lesson had become irrelevant.

However, I was recently watching a group of students stumble and get frustrated as they performed a simple Google search for a Genius Hour project. When I approached them and said, "Just exclude the terms you don't need", they looked at me as if I was speaking in tongues and it dawned on me that not only had I not taught them to be effective searchers, nobody had! My students had all been intuitively finding shortcuts and relying on each other to learn them, which although very cool in demonstrating some problem solving and collaboration skills, was probably not as effective as it could be.

With that in mind, I did a deep dive of my drive to find those old resources and updated some to include them in the activity shared below. The plan is for students to make a copy of the presentation (assign it through Google classroom), and have them work through it practicing the skills so that in the end they will have a handy reference that they can then use to remind themselves if all the different "how-tos" when needed.

I know that there are many effective search tips that are not included, but I think it's a good place to start. 

What do you think, are there some other lessons that you may have forgotten to teach and that are just waiting to be re-discovered? I invite you to share them in the comment section.