Category Archives: Thoughts on COTS Games in Class

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

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.