Category Archives: Uncategorized

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!

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.

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.

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!

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

 

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

Becoming a better Teacher

I spent the last 10 days becoming a better teacher.  The outcome of what I just did was not my original intention.  The last 10 days my wife and I spent in Italy.  Our goal was simply to have a good time and to visit the sites in and around Rome and Sorrento.  Rome, The Eternal City, is absolutely amazing and as a teacher of World History I can not imagine another individual place on this earth that has more impact on World History than the city of Rome.  We did all the major and most of the minor tourist sites over a 5 day period.  But while there I kept visualizing how I could use all this information in my classes.  From the ancient Roman sites to the amazing art of Michelangelo, Raphael etc… of the Renaissance and some more modern points of interest from Mussolini and WWII.  All of this was fantastic.  It was wonderful and it will make me a better teacher.  But just as interesting I met several teachers from Canada while in Rome.  We shared many good conversations over a pizza and a cold drink, which we normally needed in the hot Roman sun.  But it was eye opening to disucss how Canada educates its children and how the US educates ours.  The discussions that we had have had an impact on me and will continue to do so and I think the Canadian educators feel the same.  We had great talks about Socialism and Capitalism.  We had talks about how, why, and under what circumstances are students allowed to fail.  We discussed testing and learning and many other topics.  But as always it was enlightening to sit and talk with other educators.  Anyway, after leaving the city of Rome we did head to Sorrento for a couple of days.  We spent a day on the island of Capri, which is breath-taking.  The beauty is difficult to express in words.  After our time in Sorrento we headed back to Rome for our flight back to the USA.  It is always good to be home but the Eternal City will call me back.  When, I don’t know for sure but it will.