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!

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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

Summer Update

It really has been quite some time since I have blogged and in all honesty I really feel like I don’t have much more to say about Games in Education that I haven’t already said.   I am still a huge fan of games and still use them when I can.  I just feels like every time I think about posting it seems redundent to me. 

I did use Muzzy Lane’s Making History again this year.  As like every year I have used this game the kids loved it.  They always ask for more.  I now have kids taking my classes at the high school because they know I use games.  This is a double edged sword.  First, it is always nice for kids to desire to take my classes.  But I always want that popularity to really be based upon learning not just gaming.  Second, I really spend very little time during the course of a year in games.  Sometimes kids are a bit let down by that….but with the lack of gaming titles that translate well for educational use I do what I can.

I would also say that my teaching with Making History this year was by far the worst I have ever done.  More due to illness factors than anything else.  I had to leave school during the middle of the day during our game action.  I was at that point with my illness that I had to concentrate in order not to throw up.  After two class periods of that agony I informed the principal that I had to leave.   I didn’t think I could make the day like I felt.  So I got in my car to drive home and I had to stop for gas on the way home because I was running on fumes.  I was fairly certain I was going to puke at the gas station but I made it through.  I jumped back in my car for the 20 minute drive home.  Well, I made it about 3 minutes before I pulled over in a panic and barffed all over the road.  I just stood on my breaks, openend my door and let it go.

Anyway, I missed one and a half days of game play and when I returned to school I tried to salvage what lessons I could from the game play.  I know it was mediocre but it was better than me blowing chunks all over the USSR team as they invaded Latvia!!

I also used The InQuizitor this year as well.  I did post about that experience earlier.  But just to recap my students loved this quiz game.  More than I thought they ever would.  They asked for the InQuizitor more than I was cabable of putting quizzes together.  I would highly reccomend buying either of these two games if your budget has the funds. 

www. muzzylane.com  and www.3mrt.com

Finally, we are in the midst of planning our next student trip to Europe.  We will be traveling from Rome to Munich on Spring Break 2010.  Student travel is one of the most rewarding things I have done as a teacher.  Sure, it can be a tremendous pain but the rewards that come to students is incredible.  We started these trips 11 years ago and I have talked to many former students who traveled with us and they have expressed the positives of the trips to me.   Some students have studied over seas, some have majored in foreign language in college, and some have traveled on their own back to the areas we first visited.  It is a nice thing to see the fruits of our labor!

We are confused!

I have to admit that my blogging energies have been gone for quite sometime.  I still advocate the use of games in the classroom and I still use them.  I just haven’t been blogging about it much this year.  But the thing that has me worked up in recent weeks is our government, our big business, and the “solutions” to the problems that the same people have created.

1.  Blame George Bush, Blame Bill Clinton, Blame Barack Obama, heck Blame their mothers….I don’t care.  But as the leaders of this great country you have to take some of the blame.  It just comes with the job.  Blame Congressmen and Congresswomen, blame Secretaries and Fed Chiefs….blame them all.  They all deserve some.  But why are we trusting the same people who caused the problem try to fix the problem?

2.  AIG Bonus Money:  165 Million Dollars….taxpayer dollars.  Used to save a private business that is failing with executives that need retained.  Why do they need retained….they ran the company into the ground.  If they are the “best” then I belive we are in trouble!

3.  John Stewart vs. Town Fool Cramer:  Roll clip 212….if Stewart didn’t prove that there is a HUGE difference between those who are IN the loop and getting rich and the rest of use who are NOT in the loop and watching our retirement go away then I don’t know what else can be done. 

4.  Let’s put some of this in perspective.  The school corporation that I work for has an annual budget of around 12 million dollars.  That pays everything…and I mean everything.  Salaries, benefits, paper, pencils, transportation etc….  The 165 Million dollars of taxpayer money used to pay huge bonuses to AIG employees is enough money to run an this school corporation for 13 years!  Sure with inflation etc…it may end up being 10 years.  But schools have been cutting teachers, increasing class sizes, dropping elective courses like music and art……all while AIG is stealing taxpayer money to pay bonuses to failed leadership. 

How Pathetic!

It has been a while…

Well, it has been quite some time since I sat and blogged my happenings as a teacher and coach so before the New Year hits I thought I should post an update.  During this school year I have starting teaching AP World History which has been great fun.  I love the challenges that teaching a classroom full of motivated studetns provides.  I also continue to teach my regular world history survey course. 

In my daily activites of teaching there are a couple of activites that have become common.  First is that of blogging.  I have talked before about the value of blogging with students and I continue to be a large supporting of this outlet and tool for self expression and educational reflection.  Blogging has become a steady source of activity in my classroom and I feel it offers incredible benefits.  It also saves a couple of trees here and there.  Second, I continue to be a large supporter of the use of games.  The InQuizitor is a game developed by 3MRT that I have recently started using.  I also continue to be a supported of Making History by Muzzy Lane.  Both games are mainstays in my courses.  Making History has become something that kids expect to play when they enroll in world history.  It no longer is “new” ….it is just what we do.  The expectations are different but students still enjoy the fact that their aging teacher likes a good computer game.  Who can’t enjoy a good round of Civ or Age of Empires?  I also am becoming  firm believe in web based games.  I know Muzzy Lane is working on this aspect and has been for some time.  I do think this avenue has potential.  It will be much easier on the classroom teacher to use games in the class if the game is web based versus installation of games on individual machines/servers and then the tech problems that sometimes come with that.  Textbook companies are getting much better with their use of technology to aid instruction and a lot of what publishers are offering is web based. 

I have mentioned in this blog about the pace of change in education….or better the lack of a pace of change.  That issue still plagues us.  Since I started using games in my classroom nearly four years ago, there has been some growth.  However, the growth has not been what I would have expected in our digital world.  What are the causes?  Cost, hardware, software, inexperience?  I don’t really know for certain only time will tell what form games in education will take…..Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

InQuizitor

Right now my classes are starting Ancient Greece in world history.  One thing we have been working on is designing a quiz for the InQuizitor.  Having students write questions is always a difficult task.  I normally find that the questions that kids write are way to simple but we tried anyway.  We now have constructed a 40 question quiz over ancient Greece.  Most questions are ok….I did do some editing but I essentially wanted the quiz to be theirs.  Tomorrow we will play The InQuizitor and our ancient Greece quiz. 

Once we have done that our plan is to share the quiz with our 6th grade world civilization teacher.  She is going to cover ancient Greece in a couple of weeks.  I certainly hope the quiz is good enough for her kids to use and is beneficial to her class.

Textbook Adoption

This is the year for social studies textbook adoption in Indiana.  As Department Chair of the social studies department I get to see all the materials.  I get bombarded with emails, mailings and information.  The exciting part of textbook adoption is the hope that the materials that are available will be more than new textbooks but the textbooks will be better than the previous crop.  Unfortunately it looks like this year that might not be the case.  Now I haven’t seen all the books and materials like the people quoted in the article and I will give my assessment when I have seen them all.  However, social studies books have become too “politically correct” over the last decade to include the stories of history that are essential for the learning of history.  What ever happened to the thought that we teach history to help us learn from our mistakes.  But if we don’t teach the mistakes then how do we learn from our history? 

I had the thought of asking history teachers to share their best stories that enhance the teaching in their classroom.  Then I could compile, organize, and post them for all social studies teachers to use.  Since textbooks aren’t helping us out we should probably just do it on our own.  Any thoughts?

http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20081002/LOCAL/810020479

 

What is going on at Oak Hill….

As always life has been incredibly busy and I have often find less and less time to sit down and blog.  My kids are getting older and active, our football team is 6-0 and playing some very good football, I am still teaching World History, and have added AP World History to my schedule.  As for my use of games in the classroom:  I will continue to use Making History this year.  I am also using the InQuizitor.  Both I have blogged about here.  I also have my AP kids blogging.  So like too many people in America I have a lot going on but it is all beneficial to me and my students.  I had a great moment the other day in my AP class when we were discussing Acient Egypt.  The topic turned to taxing districts that occured at regular intervals along the Nile.  Somewhere in the conversation it hit me that this discussion is not normal for Sophomores.  That the thoughts that the AP kids were having were pushing me to become a better teacher and to gain more knowledge.  That was one of those moments in teaching when I realized that the kid was making me get better….I like that.

Also, I have blogged here about student travel and the benefits of exposing students to the cultures of the world.  I have submitted the necessary paperwork to  our Board of Education for the approval of our next trip overseas. (it will be our 7th trip) I am confident that the approval will be forthcoming and I will take a new batch of kids to see the wonder of Europe.  These expereinces are beyond anything I can do in the classroom and are activites that I can not replicate.

Just wanted to post an update.  When football is over hopefully I can become a bit more regular with my postings.

Kids and Video Games

Here is an interesting story about kids, video games, and socialization. Finally, some mainstream people are seeing the kids that game are not building compounds, digging motes, and disturbed.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,423402,00.html

Start of School

We have finsihed our first week of school at Oak Hill High School. It was much like any other year. New kids, new faces but all in all the first week is awesome. I enjoy meeting the new students and finding ways to start making connections to build a solid relationship. One thing I did with my AP students on the first day was assign a two page essay about their observations of the first day of school. (I see them 6th period). The essay on observations was an idea I got from Tim Russert’s book. He addressed the topic when he had a teacher that assinged a similar type essay and one of the lasting impressions that he took away was that there was no right or wrong in obersvations. And like many things in history and observation…..your point of view and perspective has much to do with how you interpret events. The essay assignment was great and reading the essays over the next couple of days I was very excited as to the level of thought and writing my AP students exhibited. We also took 20 minutes or so to set up some classroom blogs. I am going to have them write many things via a blog versus pen and paper. It saves a few trees, is tremendously convienient for me ( I can read and assess from any hot spot in the world, and kids love it. With the tech savvy student, by the way was each one of my AP students, setting up a blog took them less time than it did for me to explain the blog. The speed of their world is different than mine……it is amazing. It has taken me 5 minutes to type this post….a 16 year old could text it in about 18 seconds.

On to our first full week of school which will hold many adventures. We will be building InQuizitor quizzes this week. We will also be starting our football season. This is my 15th year of teaching and coaching and I really feel I have exited the tunnel that seemed to be closing in on me for a few years…..I was getting bored with teaching the same subject for 15 years……to the same type of kid…..in the same school…..I was approaching middle aged 40 and wondered why I was doing this over and over again. I am not entirely sure I can answer that question but renewal is a wonderful thing and expansion is even better. And I am somewhere between the two.