Classroom Gaming!

How many times have we teachers had to “police” our students and take cell phones or iPods?  Why not harness that technology to engage learners instead?  Let that sink in for a moment.

I’m the weird teacher who assigns online homework using a variety of sites.  We use SenorWooly, Socrative, Zooburst, ClassDojo and Prezi.  I recently discovered ClassCraft, and it has been a fun week.  ClassCraft is designed to be used quickly in class.  The teacher can assign points for correct answers or deduct points for misbehavior.  There’s a section for adding questions, and students claim points for answering.  The graphics are awesome, by the way.

This is my daughter's warrior character.

This is my daughter’s warrior character.

The first step, of course, is to sign up.  I saw an option to change the game to Spanish instead of English, but there are other language options.  I noticed there is an app for iPhones and iPads, so students can even play on the go.  I divided students into teams and gave them an identity: mage, healer or warrior.  Players start with a predetermined number of points based on the role they play.  They can change the clothes of the avatar, and some can even get a pet.  When students earn 1000 points, they can level up and unlock rewards.  Rewards are preset, but the teacher can also customize things to fit the class.  A few preset rewards include the power of “invisibility” (two minutes out of class, maybe a bathroom break or a trip to the locker), using notes on a test (!) or a “free” question concerning the correctness of an answer on a test.

When my (homeschooled teen) daughter saw what I was doing, she demanded to have an avatar to play, too.  I made her account like I did the other ones.  Instead of having students sign up individually, I created user names and passwords that we could all remember easily.  Trust me—it simplifies life!

Once I introduced the activity to my Spanish 2 students, they were eager to play.  I gave them a day of two to learn how it would work.  I directed them to the assignment section, and they were on task!  I was generous with points for good behavior.  A few students completed all the assignments quickly, we discussed errors (so they won’t be repeated in future work), and we all had a good time.  Several students even asked me to post more assignments!  Has that ever happened in your class?  My reaction was to add work before they changed their minds!

Since students are grouped into teams, if one student misbehaves and loses points, a healer can decide to help lessen the damage.  If the team members think the teammate deserves the penalty, the offending student takes the damage.  One student told another, “The teacher did warn you to stop it, so take the damage!”

There is an option to challenge individuals or teams.  The teacher can spin the wheel of fortune and a random person or team shows up.  I picked fairly easy questions to encourage participation.  I also used my large screen projector to show students exactly what was happening.

I was invited to join a team as a healer, so I created my own avatar.  It was fun to change the clothes and learn my powers!  Don’t tell the kids, but learning really is fun!

My avatar was fun to customize.

My avatar was fun to customize.


Simply Amazing

I attended several sessions at the ACTFL conference, and I learned quite a bit. The most stressful part was practicing Friday night for the presentation Carolina had put together. Basically all I had to do was explain my own assignments while they were on the screen. I didn’t really feel that prepared, though. My biggest fear was that I would somehow embarrass Carolina after all her hard work. (I was also feeling a bit guilty about snoring so much the night before and disturbing her beauty sleep.)

We ran through the presentation (quickly) at the hotel, but we still needed to add a bit more, so we decided we’d go in early the next morning to have one last practice session before 10. Alas, it was not to be. We hustled (due to a light rain) to the convention center, found our room…and discovered there were a few people already waiting for the session to begin! Practice was not possible at that point, so we just gave each other a look and hoped for the best. We paced and chatted until almost 10. Nick, another of Carolina’s tech class students, was there to support us. It was awesome to see a friendly face in the front row. He was also sweet enough to take some pictures for us. (Thank you, Nick!)

Carolina was ready to present.

Carolina was ready to present.

In spite of talking to a full house (Carolina stopped counting at 60.), my nervousness disappeared once the Prezi started and I had to explain my work. Once I got into it, I was fine. I looked around the room and saw smiling faces; some people were even taking pictures of the screen as Carolina and I clicked through the Prezi! It was amazing. (Just to give you an idea, there were about 6000 teachers there. One lady commented that she counted 65 sessions offered in one time slot, so there were plenty of places for people to go.)

My nerves were under control.

My nerves were under control.

When we were done, Nick spoke for a couple of minutes about what he learned in the Spanish Web 2.0 class with Carolina. He went from teaching Spanish to being an ESU technology person! Carolina concluded the session, and her business cards disappeared like candy at Halloween. I didn’t think I would need any, but what I had with me went fast as well. It was so nice to be able to chat with the attendees. One fellow named Martin said he came to the conference specifically for our session! The title was Analysis of “Cajas de carton” and “Senderos fronterizos” Using Web 2.0. Martin had been teaching those books for the last five years.

Carolina thought it all went quite well, and I agree. She even suggested that I submit a proposal of my own for next year’s conference. I’m not sure I’m ready for that, but I’m thinking about it.