Thursday, September 8, 2016

Part 2: Gaming, Gamification and Education: What if I'm not a Gamer? How do I keep up?

*Note:  This is part 2 of a series on why I think educators need to pay attention to Gaming and Gamification.  There are resources provided to help!

Let's face it, most active classroom teachers, administrators, and parents are busy!  After our school day ends, we are cooks, cleaners, chauffers, coaches, puppeteers, and volunteers,  (ok, so I snuck that puppeteer one in to make sure you were still with me.)

Our children are growing up in a video game rich environment.  From Angry Birds to Pokemon Go to World of Warcraft, most of our students are exposed to some sort of gaming environment.  So most educators and parents should be aware of these games for two important reasons:

1.  Relevant Content:  Many video games have amazing content that could correspond to school based topics and curriculum.   Many video games have historic themes and narratives that could be harnessed for a history class or literature class.  Most of us have watched Hollywood movies in our classrooms that can help with the content we are trying to get across.  Video games have this potential too.
2.  Harmful Content:  Parents and educators certainly should be aware that many games have violent and sexual themes and content.  The Gaming industry has a ratings system called the ESRB.  This is very similar to the movie ratings system.  Many parents may not be aware of this system and unwittingly purchase games that are not age appropriate for their children.  Stores that sell video games are required to not sell to minor's based on the content ratings.  From what I have seen, retailers have been following these guidelines.  I think parents often purchase games based on what their children ask for and don't do the due diligence to look at the ratings.  Please don't misunderstand, I'm not trying to come down on parents too harshly.  We live in an entertainment saturated world and preventing our children from accessing inappropriate content is incredibly challenging.   However, with a little more vigilance and some tough love parenting, (namely saying no to R-Rated movies and gaming content).

With that said, I have some assistance for you.  There are some awesome websites out there that will give you content analysis and maturity level analysis, so you can do some quick and easy research before you empty your wallet for a game your child has asked for.  Also for the teachers looking for writing prompts or content specific conversations that they can engage their students on, some of these resources will help give you some guidance about content.  

My top 3 Resources from this list?
1.  Common Sense Education- Ratings and Content Review  Awesome Site!!!
2.  Pixelkin- Game Reviews for Families.  Can filter by age level!
3.  Wikipedia- Yes Wikipedia.  I know many look down upon Wikipedia for various reasons. But Wikipedia has content reviews of many of the popular game programs.  Its valuable because it will give you the historical background as a teacher or parent so you can make sure that the game based content is accurate and appropriate.  Here is an example:  Assassins Creed
I hope these resources will give you some guidance and peace of mind when you go to purchase or talk to students about their gaming experiences. 

The key takeaway:  Be Not Afraid!  Be Informed!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Gaming and Gamification in Education Part 1- Resources for Teachers

I have spent the last few years of my career, really digging into and exploring how gamification principles that are employed mostly by video games, can be successfully integrated into K-12 Education.  As I have found valuable resources I have collected them on a Symbaloo Mix.  I have Linked the Mix HERE.  I will take some time over the next few posts to talk about how I organized my resources.

The first grouping of my resources are resources for teachers that can be used right now!  If you are looking to start using badges in your classroom, keep in mind Badges aren't just stickers.  They need to have meaning behind them.  Whenever I talk about badging and education I ask teachers to think about how the Boy and Girl Scouts use badges.  Each badge, button, or ribbon that is earned in these groups has important criterion behind them.   Your students should know the criteria going that will be used to earn the badge.  It is very motivating to earn a badge that you have earned by accomplishing something.   The badge itself then represents a level of accomplishment.  Much like your teacher certification or Diploma.  They are meaningful, because there was real achievement behind these goals.  Displaying your diploma on a wall or displaying a badge on your dashboard is a measure of accomplishment and not a way of bragging.  This should be understood clearly about badging.  Early in my teaching career, I used to give out homework stickers thinking they were motivating.  I didn't really establish a strong criterion for earning the sticker so the motivation level really wasn't compelling for students long term.
For teachers wanting to start with badging, I can recommend Credly and Classbadges for creating a badging Dashboard or Suitcase for your students.  They are both pretty easy to create and award badges for your students.  To create a quick and easy badge as an image, I highly recommend using Website.  Very quick and easy to create and download your own personal badges.  For some places to create a more high powered gaming interface for levels and badges I would definitely check out ClassCraft and 3D Gamelab.  These have Freemium versions that are very workable.  If you're not familiar with gaming protocol, don't be afraid to give these a try.  Your students will help you!
Last, but not least, I want to talk about a couple of ready to go gaming packages that are fun, AND highly engaging for students.  Kerbal, a paid for program, is an amazing SpaceShip creator gaming system that will amaze parents and teachers with the level of physics knowledge children will get tangentially.  (More on Tangential Learning later) The other program which is free, is the Mission US Game.  This is perfect for teaching US History for grades 4-8.  There are various missions that engage students through problem solving, historical music, and primary source documents.   The document list and resources for educators is one of the best I have come across.  Please tell your elementary/ middle social studies teachers about this game.  I can't recommend it enough.
I hope you will enjoy my resources and take some time to explore them.  Of course I would love to learn some more about resources for gaming that educators can use so I can add them to my list.