Mobile Labs, New Methodology, and Games

I don’t visit my own blog very much anymore.  Seems like I don’t really  have much new to add to the conversation about games in the classroom.  I still love them and think their role will continue to increase.  Just for any loyal followers of my escapades over the past several years I thought I would give an update as to my activities.

My school now has a mobile laptop lab that has found it’s “permanent” home in my classroom.  This has been a great addition.  No signing up weeks in advance for a computer lab, no sharing the computer lab with other classes or individual students needing to finish a last minute project.  Laptops in my room, with my students….

The first use of the mobile lab was to play Making History last Spring with my AP World History students.  We played the game after my students had taken their AP test from the College Board and they needed a change in routine.  As every year I have played this game in the classroom….the kids loved it.  Of course we always go to war very quickly…..thus the war also ends quicker with a devastated Europe.  Not a heck of a lot different than real history except the timeline speeds up considerably.

Secondly, the mobile lab allowed me to teach my sociology class this semester in a very environmentally friendly way.  We were a paperless classroom.  Tests, assignments, PowerPoints, etc… all produced on the laptops and emailed directly to my school email account.  This was a nice first run through of going paperless and I will continue to do this with my second semester class as well.   Also, while teaching sociology, in the midst of classroom discussion of topics including teen driving statistics, alcohol and drug use, and crime and deviance (to name a few) the laptops provide instant ability to find hard statistics from reliable sources to help kids make their anecdotal evidence cold hard facts.  Or sometimes they found their arguments were not supported by statistics.  This new way of working the room was interesting.  Sometimes discussion took interesting turns but all in all it was a very positive experience for all.

And finally, teaching the tech generation is sometimes very interesting.  Simple tasks like attaching a file to an email is not something that all Seniors know how to do.  And to be quite honest the spider web of information in cyberspace is sometimes overwhelming for them.  Separating the wheat from the chaff seems to be easy for most but if your world centers on facebook and twitter then the entirety of the world wide web is intimidating to some.  I found that the tech generation is not always as prepared for the use of technology as one might expect.  New machines, new ways of teaching the same material, and games in my room…..all of it still boils down to students wanting to learn and teachers wanting to teach.  When the two meet in the middle great things can happen.

Have a Merry Christmas!

Almost forgot my password

It has been quite some time since I have even logged on to my blog.  That does not mean I have not been active in the world of technology and education.  Most recently I have been using a game I learned about while visiting West Lafayette last summer.  Do I Have a Right? This game puts players in the role of managing partner at a law firm.  All cases that come through the elevator for consultation are based on the idea of do I have a right….according to the U. S. Constitution.  After playing this game for two class periods this week, it has become somewhat of a viral game at Oak Hill High School.  Boys, Girls, Gifted, and not….all are playing this game.  Kids not even in my Government class have heard and have started playing.  In the next week or so I will be giving my 27 Amendment Test and we will see if some knowledge has transferred from game play to memory.

http://www.icivics.org/games/do-i-have-right

Christmas Break

Greetings

The first semester is in the books and unfortunately games have been few and far between.  But here are some of the activities I have been up to in the classroom.

AP World History:  I have been trying to teach sophomores to think.  Yes I know that this challenge is one that society has been struggling with for years…..hence the definition of sophomoric…..but I do try.  AP has been a lot of fun for me to teach.  I do enjoy a room that is full of students who want to succeed.  The abscence of the lethargic student during one period of the day is refreshing.  We have been trying to write essays and practice the styles of essays that the AP Exam asks students to write.  I am pushing them out of their comfort zone….some love it…..some don’t….but I hope all will see the benefits come Spring testing time!

World History: My regular WH classes have been going well.  Two years ago when we started AP history one thing I failed to realize is that when the motivated are removed and put into one class during the day….the remaining classes have a tendency to become less motivated…if that makes sense.  I have not blogged this year with either AP or regular world history.  This mainly comes from the lack of adequate technology….or should I say working order technology.  I have mentioned before that we recently “upgraded” but the bugs have been many and difficult to deal with….so in all honesty I have just avoided the computer lab as much as possible.  We shall see what next semester brings.

Sociology:  This class was interesting.  I had The Breakfast Club in my room…..from #1 in his class to infinity in his class.  It was a challenge!!  However, that class is over at break and we are now heading for a new class.

Trouble in Paradise

Greetings…

It has been quite some time since I have blogged about the use of games in education.  It is hard to believe the amount of time that has passed since I first met the people from Muzzy Lane in Washington D.C. at NCSS years ago.  Since then I have done many things promoting the  use of games in education.  But the winds of change have come to Oak Hill High School.  We have recently completed an upgrade in our technology which included a change in servers and systems.  I often describe myself and tech friendly but not tech literate.  I have never been interested in the nuts and bolts of technology….just what can I do with it.

We now have some nice equipment at Oak Hill.  However, it is not compatible with my ancient version of Making History.  I have always used the oldest version.  It is the one that was more targeted for education.  The newer versions of the game are much more “gamer” friendly but not so much for the classroom.  So my continued use of MH The Calm and Storm is now in serious doubt.  Other changes this year…..I have not had a class blog to this point.  This may be more of a timing issue than anything.  When our school year started our computer labs were down.  No access at all.  So I didn’t set blogs up with students.  And now that the year is rolling and I have defaulted back to pen and paper for writing it is hard to stop the wheels of education.

I am teaching sociology again for the first time in a couple of years.  However, I have yet to play The Sims.  Again, when I was playing before I used a laptop and a portable projector.  I now have a projector mounted in my room that runs through a splitter for my desktop, sat tv and dvd player.  I now have some issue trying to hook up my laptop to the projector and my desktop is as old as father time.  So the logistics of The Sims have not come together.

Anyway….I could go on but I have really not been using games this year.  I do miss it.  I will return to it.  I will have to change with the new system.  Now that football is over for the season I will have some additional time to work out the details of some of these things.

Time Engineers Social Community

Just wanted to get this information out to fellow teachers.  Time Engineers is a game I have played with my students in the past.  I have blogged about my experiences with it.  Anyway, the makers have started a community for users which I signed up for a week or so ago.  I got a message via the community that teachers can get a license for 0-25 seats.  You might want to check it out.

Cluster Maps and Sociology

Always a little sad yet somewhat exciting to see my cluster map get archived and start fresh!

It is also now official.  I will be teaching Sociology again this year.  It has been a couple of years so it will be fun to get back into social norms, birth order etc…  The only drawback of this new plan is my AP World History course has grown to 29 students.  Which is great!  However, I would love to see those 29 split up into two sections but that is just not going to happen.  Budget restraints don’t give us the ability at this point to divide the class up.  It really is too bad.  I think 29 in an AP class is a mistake….but something I will just have to deal with.

Exciting News

I wanted to post a link and inform all those interested in games in education that Purdue University (just an hour or so away from Oak Hill) has opened the Purdue Center for Serious Games and Virtual Learning Environment.  The Center is headed by Dr. Bill Watson.  I met bill at The Ackerman Colloquium a couple years ago.  Dr. Watson then spent several days in my classroom while we were playing Making History.  It is exciting to see what Purdue, Dr. Watson, and Dr. VanFossen (Ackerman Center) are doing with games and virtual learning.

http://seriousgames.education.purdue.edu/People/index.html