Engaging Students Through Gamification


I recently wrote a reflection about implementing a gamification website into my Spanish 3 course. I recounted that after only 3 days, I thought it was a game changer and something that I was really excited about. This is a more detailed account of how I am using Classcraft in a high school Spanish 3 classroom. (For a student reflection on Classcraft, click here)

Why Gamification?

I was very happy with my standard classroom environment but always thought aspects of gamification would really boost student engagement. Meanwhile, I was dealing with two small teacher dilemmas.

  1. I have students coming to class with uncharged computers when they are supposed to have charged them overnight. I have students turning in late assignments. I have students doing small disruptive things that might not warrant a full 30 minute detention but are just annoying none-the-less.  I like the grades in my class to be an accurate reflection of student learning. If I deduct points for having to charge your computer during class, that de-validates my grading procedures. How can I address these things without impacting the student’s grade?
  2. I wish my students would want to do some extra enrichment in Spanish without having to require it from all students. But how can I encourage students to do extra learning tasks when I’m not going to reward them for it in the gradebook?

All this is in my mind and enters Classcraft.  Classcraft is a classroom gamification platform that I could customize to handle both of my concerns while also engaging students in a game type setting. Classcraft is something that I do in the classroom that is completely 100% separate from my gradebookAll students are included but can choose how involved in the process they want to be.

Main Concept

I imported my student roster into Classcraft. I assigned my students to groups of 4 or 5 and I kind of based those groups on abilities, personalities and perceived interest in “gaming”. In each group, I assigned their game characters. Each student is either a mage, a warrior or a healer. Each character has a different gaming experience. So when I introduced Classcraft to my students and they logged in for the very first time, saw their character avatar, their character statistics and their teammates.

Main_Profile

Each character starts on Level 1. They move to the next level by gaining a certain number of Experience Points (XP–explained below). In my game, students level up by earning 500 XP.

Each character also has Action Points and Health Points, all of which I will describe in the next section.

The gamification aspect of Classcraft has built in collaboration components, encouraging students on a team to help out their teammates.

Statistics

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XP: These points are what drives a student to move up to the next level. If you were to keep score, so to speak, the student with the most XP would be your “winner” (even though Classcraft doesn’t have winners or losers). I am in charge of awarding XP. I have created a few preset reasons as to why I might reward a student for doing something but I can also input any XP value I want for any reason I want. Giving out XP is a way to reward positive classroom behaviors without having to tinker with their actual academic grade.

HP: Health Points are represent a character’s life in the game. I deduct HP anytime I see behaviors that I want to punish or reprimand. I can also take away HP for any reason I want to. Once a student gets down to 0 HP, they have to roll a dice of consequence. This will give them some kind of punishment. I created the punishments and they range from having to do extra assignments to bringing me a treat.

AP: Each character can learn powers and take action if they have enough AP, Action Points. Students kind of use these on their own and then the points regenerate every night so I don’t really have too much to do with AP as the teacher.

GP: My students earn Gold Pieces but that’s entirely on their own and it is purely for cosmetic purposes, like adding to their avatar and having pets. I’m not using GP for anything game related.

Powers

Students need an incentive to earn more XP and be involved in the game. Each character has the ability to learn powers. Most of these powers I have written and crafted to fit what I am comfortable with in my classroom.

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At each level of the game, students get a Power Point which enables them to learn a power. The more XP, the more levels advanced, the more Power Points, the more powers a student is able to learn. Some of the powers are collaborative and help out their teammates. Some of the powers are individual. I tried to create powers that students would want and that I thought were fair in the classroom.  For example, if a student progresses far enough in Classcraft to be able to learn an advanced power such as getting to use notes on a test, then they have done enough good things in my classroom and they deserve to be rewarded.

I will probably have more reflection on power usage as the year goes one. At this stage, no student has really used a power so we’ll see how it all works out.

Random Event

Each class period with start with a Classcraft random event. It’s a “Wheel of Destiny” button that generates some kind of rule or activity for the day’s class. I customize these too and some are strictly game based (earn XP, HP, etc.), some are content based (speak only Spanish all day) and some are just silly (make your teacher sing a song). The variety and randomness of it grabs their attention and gets them ready for class immediately. Plus it’s fun!

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Additional Quests for XP

Immediately after introducing Classcraft, I had students asking for different opportunities to earn XP. I thought this would be an excellent way to introduce some enrichment Spanish activities—things that were completely separate from our day-to-day curriculum but that would enrich foreign language learning. Basically a way to make my students do things that I normally would just strongly suggest. This idea mushroomed into a few different things.

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Drill Quests: The first thing I introduced was Drill Based Quests that required students to do vocabulary or conjugation drills through two external sites that we use all of the time: Quizlet and Conjuguemos. If students showed proof that they completed these drills, they earned XP.  One of the Quizlet sets I gave them was a list of the 50 most common words in Spanish, which includes small by valuable words that students often forget. That review has been priceless and I can see the difference already with the students that have done those drills.

Project Quests: And they still wanted more Quests! I created a Google Doc with different project based Quests. There are writing, speaking, artistic, statistical and historical quests involving language and culture. All of these projects are beneficial in the foreign language classroom but might not fit into my curriculum. I love being able to encourage my students to do these things without requiring them.

Bounty Board: Then I created a board in my room where I could pin up index cards that have Quests written on them. These are one-time-only first-come-first-served Quests. For example, I have a board in my room that I need taken down and changed and I never get around to doing it. I made it a Quest and I have students clamoring to do it for me.

“Ok, but this is too much work for the teacher”

I’ve shared this evolution with a few people and I hear a variation of this comment a lot. Yes, Classcraft does look like it’s time consuming and overwhelming for the teacher. Looks awesome for the student, but I can understand how teachers looking at this might think Wow, way too much for me to handle. As with the implementation of any new procedure, there is some significant prep work to get it all ready and to make sure the back end is all set-up but after that, it’s just a matter of going with the flow. Each day I start with the daily event, keep track of what it tells me to do and go from there. As class goes on, if I need to deduct HP or award XP I make a note or do it quickly. The Classcraft website really does make it easy to do those things quickly.

The engagement I see and the enrichment possibilities associated with Classcraft have been worth any time sacrifices I’ve made. I’m also excited and happy to be able to punish small, unwanted behaviors in a way that doesn’t tinker with grades. I see a gamiification platform like this as a problem solver and content enrichment opportunity. I’m so pleased with what has happened so far and look forward to finishing the year with Classcraft!

Student Reflection on Classcraft


I had planned to update my blog this week with a more detailed picture of how we are using Classcraft in my classroom.  While I’m still working on that, I wanted to share something that one of my students recently wrote about Classcraft.  I love that it is in his own words and describes our process in a way that is easy to picture and understand.

Classcraft by definition is “a free online, educational role playing game that teachers and students play together in the classroom.” However I do not believe that the definition I just told you quite captures what Classcraft really is.

The thing is, is that Classcraft is so much more than just any one thing to a person or people. Classcraft is a place where a gamer who doesn’t quite fit in can work side by side and cooperate with a varsity Quarterback on the same level and work as a team. Classcraft is a place where a disinterested student who can’t find the motivation to take time and complete his homework or listen in class can finally have a fun way to learn an otherwise “boring” subject. Classcraft is a place where two girls who maybe aren’t in the same “clique” or do not get along can work towards a common coal (and maybe even become friends in the process). Classcraft is a place where you’re not a Jock, or a nerd, or even the mean girl. It is a place where people forget about the status quo and “the norm” and see their classmates as a level 3 healer who bailed them out so they didn’t have to roll the infamous “Cursed Die” or a level 5 warrior that took a big hit to their HP for you because that’s what teammates are for. And yes, even in some cases as a level 12 mage that stays up way too late completing quests. Classcraft is a place that transforms our classroom from a boring room with a whiteboard to a battlefield where we face other teams in competitions, or a foreign land that we are exploring during a quest. Classcraft can make you or take you anything or anywhere, it really just depends on your imagination.

Classcraft for me personally has been a huge motivator. Instead of procrastinating and waiting till the night before to due homework and projects I know finish the as soon as I can because not only do I get an XP bonus if I do finish multi-day assignments early but if all my other homework is done I have more time to complete other quests that reward me with XP. I also do more quality work because I get more XP if I do. Also by doing quests such as learning Spanish and Spelling Spanish on quizlet I have learned numerous new useful Spanish words that have been a tremendous help on my more recent Spanish assignments.

Classcraft most importantly is a new and effective way to teach kids in an age that students are constantly plugged into technology with their cell phones laptops and videogames. Times are changing and education needs to change with it. We can’t expect new and different generations to learn the same way kids did 50-100 years ago, and in reality our generation is much different from what it was even 15-20 years ago. Classcraft is a proven educational tool that can teach kids in a new and exciting format. Classcraft doesn’t just improve learning it changes it, and for the better.

Thank you to Creed K. for writing this assessment of Classcraft and allowing me to share it.  He did it for the XP but I appreciate it anyway :)

Introducing Classcraft


We are approaching Spring Break and while it’s normally a time to kick back and relax, I always like to use it to start a new project. This year I was going to investigate Classcraft, a “free online, educational role-playing game that teachers and students play together in the classroom.” By accident, I ended up showing this to the students a week early— and they totally went for it.

Classcraft is an online world where the teacher enrolls students and gives them avatar identities like mages, warriors or healers, each with its own powers.  As the teacher, I can reinforce positive behavior by awarding XP, which students need to accumulate to get to the next level. I can also deduct Health Points for negative behaviors like missing an assignment or using their cell phone in class.  Students are motivated by different rewards in the game and have an incentive to move themselves forward in the game —promoting pro social behavior.

Next week I will do a full recap and explanation of how my Classcraft is setup for my Spanish 3 students. I’m only 3 days into this now and I can definitely say this is a game changer for my classroom. 

Here are a few thoughts after 3 days:

  • Students are also on teams so there is a collaborative element. As one student said today to his teammates “I know that doesn’t directly help you out but if you help your teammates, they end up making you stronger so it’s good for you in the long run to work together”
  • Incentives and motivation to do things like turn assignments in early, help other students and get 100% on a quiz 
  • Role playing game like feel is familiar to students and point totals are great visual representation of progress
  • Students can go as hard as they want (staying up to 2:00 AM in one case already—which is not recommended) or play leisurely or rarely. There are benefits to progressing but nothing that would penalize a student that doesn’t want to “game”
  • Something new, something fun, something to fill their downtime 
  • (Most importantly) I’ve crafted some quests to earn XP that require students to practice or drill their Spanish. That student I had that stayed up until 2:00? He said today “Seriously though those helped me so much. Like I feel like I actually learned so much Spanish by doing those quests”

Mic drop.

Check back next week for a full glimpse of Classcraft in the Spanish 3 world.

Triptico Classroom Resources


A few years ago I downloaded a classroom resource application called Triptico.  It had a great graphics look and some nice and easy tools to use in my classroom.  Recently Triptico launched a web-based application where you can save your activities to the cloud for easy use anywhere.  It’s great!

There are tools in Triptico that any teacher can benefit from—regardless of content area or age group.  All of the resources are dynamic and visually appealing to your students.  So besides being useful, they are fun to look at.

Below are some of my favorite uses of Triptico:

  • Student Groups  I created a class list for each of my classes.  On days when we do group activities, I bring up the Triptico Group Maker resource, load that class list and remove any students that are absent.  Then I tell Triptico how many groups I want and it will randomly generate them for me.  The kids love watching the colors pop up and waiting in anticipation to see who is going to be with them.  And it’s very easy for me to use.
  • Timers  There are a lot of online timers and stopwatches out there.  These timers are dynamic and visual.  I like the hourglass timer because it doesn’t show students the exact amount of time they have left (or that you set the timer for) so instead of being focused and worried about seconds, they can just get a visual snapshot of time remaining.
  • Selected Spinner  I’ve only used this one recently but it has been fun!  I put in a list of questions and answers.  Then when I’m ready to run the activity for a class, I put in the names of the students.  With the click of the button, Triptico will randomly choose a question and then randomly choose a student to answer it.  It’s fun to watch, totally random and the kids were glued to the board.  A great way to do a simple review for any test or quiz.

Check out Triptico for these resources and more!

Educational Value of Kinetic Typography


I previously wrote a post about creating kinetic typography videos.  I love finding Spanish kinetic typography lyric videos because they A) are attractive and visually pleasing to watch and B) include Spanish lyrics and words so that you can match the Spanish audio with a word.  I have used these videos as supplemental content for a few years.

But this year I wanted to “up the ante”.  I wanted my students to have to make a kinetic typography video of their own–using Spanish songs and Spanish lyrics.  It was a hefty creative task that required some time from the students.  I just finished grading the final products and now I can reflect on the educational value of this project.

Focus on Spanish Lyrics

This type of video is a lyric video, which means the students had to spend a great deal of time with the lyrics of the song.  I did not give them a copy of the Spanish lyrics.  I gave them other lyric video examples that they could copy from or I think some of them just Googled for the Spanish lyrics to the songs.  Regardless, this creation required students to spend a great deal of time working with the Spanish words.  Even if they didn’t know what the words meant necessarily, it was valuable to have them spend so much time immersed in the target language.  I heard a few comments throughout the last few weeks that “I have that word in my song” or referencing that they learned different Spanish words that we didn’t learn in class just because they are used a lot in their song.  This was the main benefit of the project for me: a way to force my students to spend more time absorbed in the Spanish language.

Hearing Spanish Words

In addition to just working with the lyrical text, students had to work with the Spanish audio of the song. They repeatedly had to listen to their song, making them more familiar with the way Spanish sounds.  A few students commented that they can’t hear the original English version of the song anymore without hearing the Spanish lyrics in their head.  And some commented that they listened to it so often the Spanish song got stuck in their head and they kept repeating it.  Even if they didn’t know the direct translation of the audio stuck in their head, having Spanish of any kind floating around the brain is a great learning experience.

Matching Audio to Words

The lyrical text should be matched to the audio.  When students made their videos, they had to make sure the Spanish words appeared in sync with the Spanish audio.  This requires students to do a few different mental tasks at once (always of great educational value).  Students had to listen to the Spanish audio, look at the Spanish lyrical text in their presentation and physically get them to appear together.  This process of audio and visual matching is a great learning activity for them.  It isn’t enough just to have the Spanish lyrics or just to listen to the Spanish audio.  Having to take both pieces and work them together in sync really established a unique learning experience.

Content Creation

Aside from Spanish, a project like this is rewarding just because it allows the students to be content creators: authors of their own learning.  I gave them project parameters, specific benchmarks they were to be graded on but they were allowed to choose their own path of completion.  Some students chose to work together in small groups while others worked alone.  Some created their presentation using Powerpoint and others used Prezi or just IMovie. The finished projects I saw reflected the individual students: I did not receive two identical projects. Each project reflects the individual or individuals responsible for it.  My students that were a little more tech saavy used that to their advantage to create something really innovative.  Students that were less techy produced simpler projects that still met all project guidelines.  Allowing students to be content creators gives them the freedom to publish their own path to learning.

As a teacher, I’m satisfied with that the projected learning outcomes associated with this project were met. I’m proud of the creations my students ended up with and hope they are too.

Creating Kinetic Typography Videos


I wanted my students to create something new and interesting this year using lyrics to popular songs in Spanish.  I found a selection of songs in Spanish that include the Spanish lyrics.  But unlike most lyric videos on YouTube, these videos presented the lyrics in a stimulating and very visual way.  These types of videos are known as kinetic typography videos because the text moves and is interesting.

Here are some examples of Kinetic Typography:

I would create activities using the lyrics to these songs and noticed that the more I listened to the songs, the more engrained in my brain the Spanish lyrics became. I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if I could have my students do something that required them to pay attention to these lyrics?”.  So I decided to have them create kinetic typography videos.

I looked into the process and it can be quite advanced when you want the final product to be like the videos posted above. Most of the software used to create great kinetic typography 1) costs money and 2) requires training time that I couldn’t afford to do in the classroom.  But could a decent kinetic typography be created on a public school budget (aka: free)?

I figured out a way to do this by creating a lyrics presentation using a presentation tool as simple as PowerPoint.  You can animate or make the lyrics “appear” and move.  If you go through the presentation and play it while playing your song, you can sync up the movements so they match the lyrics.  By using a screenrecording program on your computer (like Quicktime), you can record your presentation.  You have just filmed a kinetic typography video!

I’ve listed the directions and process of building a kinetic typography video below.  Check back next week to see my reflections on this project as my students turn in their final products.


Below are the steps and directions that I gave to my students:

There are stages and steps necessary in creating a Kinetic Typography Video.

  1. Download the audio (Find a song to use)
  2. Take the lyrics to the song and create a visual presentation
  3. Film of your presentation (Screencast)
  4. Create a video using your presentation film and the song audio

Continue reading

Death to PowerPoint (or PowerPointed to Death)


PowerPoint has been one of the greatest educational presentation tools since the lightbulb overhead machine.  I want to start by saying that:  PowerPoint is great.  It’s a slick, beautiful way to deliver instruction to classrooms.  It beats a laundry list of notes or outlines any day.  And it’s a great assessment tool as well.  Having students use PowerPoints to demonstrate their understanding of a concept can be much more concise that reading a standard paragraph report.  Plus there are themes, designs, transitions and bells and whistles to keep even the apathetic viewer interested.

PowerPoint is great.

But it can be overdone.

Just as with any classroom instructional practice, students and teachers can fall into a rut and fall victim to overexposure and overuse.  I’ve heard one of the downfalls of 1:1 classroom environments is that students end up attending PowerPoint University–constantly exposed to PowerPoint instruction and PowerPoint assessments.

So for a recent classroom project, I banned PowerPoint.  The students have to create a visual informational presentation of some kind, but they are not allowed to use PowerPoint.  I created the project standards for them and it is up to them to figure out how they are going to execute it and with which tool.

To help the process, I started investigating some alternatives to PowerPoint and gave them the following page of bookmarks.  These tools range from fancy animated presentation tools to simple Google Presentations (to which the students said is the same thing as a PowerPoint.  To which I said, but it isn’t A POWERPOINT).

Alternatives to PowerPoint

I’m interested to see what they come up with.  And even better, I’m interested to not see a PowerPoint.

Kahoot!

Question and answer choices displayed on teacher computer/projected to class

Recently a tech colleague passed along a great free online resource to use for formative assessment and classroom activities.  I’ve done little quiz games or review games in the past using online resources like Socrative, but this one has a new twist.  The website is called Kahoot.

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Kahoot reminded my students a lot of the quiz games played in restaurants like Buffalo Wild Wings.  A question is displayed on the front board and each student selects an answer to that question from their personal device.  (I’ve had students use computers, IPads, Kindles or phones for this activity).  If you get the question correct, you get points.  If you answer faster, you get more points.  After each question, the student sees their ranking on a leaderboard.  It’s a lot of fun and provides great motivation for the students.

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Teachers can create “Kahoots” from getkahoot.com.  It gives you the option of creating quizzes, discussions or surveys.  Right now I’m only using the quizzes.  The teacher creates multiple choice quizzes and has the option of adding in pictures and video in the questions too.  After a Kahoot is made, you are ready to share it with the students.

The students just go to kahoot.it.  From there they will type in a pin code that is assigned to the Kahoot the teacher is running.  The quiz is teacher paced, meaning that the questions only appear when the teacher is ready.  Once ready, the teacher shows the students the question on the board.  After 5 seconds, answer choices also appear on the board.  Each answer choice is color coded.  On the student’s individual device, they see the color coded choices but no words—they have to look up at the board for the question and the answer choices.  They select the color associated with the choice they think is correct.  Once all students have answered, they find out how many points they earned (if any) and what their ranking is in the leaderboard.  At the end of playing a Kahoot, the teacher can download the results, which gives you question by question analysis of how students did and you can easily see questions that were the most problematic.

We loved using Kahoot and now I’m just under pressure to create more Kahoots for us to do in class!

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The Paperless Classroom Experiment


My school has been 1:1 with laptops for 2 years now.  Eventually the tech coordinator and I believed that going 1:1 would gradually lead to a decrease in printing, photocopying and general paper use but it hasn’t really worked out that way.  Two weeks ago I was preparing my lesson for the next day and began printing some copies of example assignments I wanted to show my students.  The thought just popped into my head and I hit Command+P and printed without even thinking about.  Like a reflex.

So I challenged myself for one week to use no paper in the classroom.  I continued lesson planning like normal, but I had to find ways for myself and my students to work without the use of paper.  I just wrapped this up on Friday, so here are my main reflections on how it all went:

To each their own

Each of my students are different.  There are some students that thrive in a digital environment with hyperlinks and online filing cabinets.  Other students find that harder to navigate and understand.  I tried to, for the most part, give my students digital copies of everything the day before class in case they wanted to print them out on their own.  Is that cheating in a paperless classroom?  Maybe, but I felt like I had to give the students that option.  Almost no students chose to print anything out though.

Sometimes there is no substitute

Sometimes paper is just the best option.  This week I introduced new vocabulary to my Spanish 2 students.  They normally get a paper vocab sheet with the words.  They use that sheet as a reference when we do different activities and I’ve seen them use it for an easy way to study during lunch or before the quiz.  This week they just got a digital copy of the sheet.  I think it definitely impacted the way they studied and learned their vocabulary.  I wasn’t very pleased with assessments results associated with the vocabulary this week.  The students definitely seemed weaker without holding that solid reference sheet.  If I ever did decide to make the move to a 100% paperless classroom, this would be my biggest concern and condition to consider.

Just do it

Kind of like a diet or a lenten resolution, there were some times throughout the week where I just thought I could cheat or cut a corner here and there.  I could have the students write down those answers and turn them into me on paper real quick.  I could just make a classroom copy of this or that.  But this was a challenge/game for me, so I just did it.  And for the most part, everything was just fine.  I think the biggest obstacle in creating a paperless or paper-lessened environment is the decision to plan it that way.  It requires a decision from the teacher to go that route.  It becomes like a discipline behavior.

Worth it?

Sounds like a lot of work or willpower for the teacher.  So is it worth it?  There are certainly benefits to a paper-lessened environment.  I never took home anything to grade — every piece of assessment data I had was on my computer in one form or another.  Easily organized and accessed.  I used digital assessments (on Canvas LMS) vs. regular paper quizzes and that allowed the students to get immediate feedback.  They knew their score before I did.  Which makes sense since it is their score.  Physically less photocopying and printing makes my tech guy happier with the budget, so there are monetary concerns if you look at this large scale.  I also found that doing things this way made it easier to get things to students that were absent.  Normally I have a little table in the corner with handouts, and when I student is absent, they come and ask for a handout that they missed and we search through the piles until we find what they need.  Everything was online for everyone all week, so there was no lag in the distribution of materials.

Future Implications

I can’t go full on paperless.  At least not until the students get more accustomed to that lifestyle.  I only have them for about 50 minutes of their academic day.  When they leave me, they have to go into classrooms where paper exists, so it isn’t helpful to them to put them through that shock just for the heck of it.  But I am going to try and be paper conscious and create a paper-lessened classroom, with less photocopying and printing.  And I’m going to promote this with other teachers to try and create that environment everywhere.  Once the students learn to learn without paper consistently, we can talk about a truly paperless classroom

A funny thing happened on the way to the paperless classroom

I’m going to add this anecdote as a post-script to this paperless classroom blog.  It’s an interesting little thing that happened with my Spanish 3 class of mainly junior students.   Using Doctopus (a truly lifesaving Google Script), each student had a personal online Google Doc where they needed to take notes over Argentina.  I introduced the notes in class but students were supposed to read and take notes on their own outside of class and come back in two days ready to discuss and talk about the information.  As they got settled in to their document and to the online notes, one student asked why they just couldn’t work on this all together.  They had previous experience using Google Docs and Presentations to collaborate with each other and take group notes, and they wanted to know why they couldn’t just do that.  I explained that for future activities that we were going to do, I wanted each student to have their own individual copy of the notes.  I said that I would be checking their personal note sheet to see how they did—but if they wanted to find a way to work together they could.  Then I kind of stepped back.

First they tried to share their personal note taking sheets with each other, but I had blocked that option.  So then a student created a new document and invited the class to all be collaborators.  They worked together to take notes on that document.  Then they went through those group notes and copied them into their personal note taking sheets.  I watched them work through that and thought how transformative that was.  It was completely something that didn’t and couldn’t exist with only paper and no technology.  And it turned out great.  The notes they took were very good and the students were ready for the tasks we had in class later that week.  Certainly they did it because “it was easier” but I choose to focus on the fact that they wanted to collaborate and figured out a way to make it work.

SnapChatting Assignments


SnapChatI’m surrounded by students with smartphones.  Not every student, but it seems like the majority.  It’s a handheld, personal device that they have with them at almost all times.  I’m constantly looking for ways to combine our classroom objectives with the personal lives of my students.  I believe that when learning is made personally meaningful to the life of the learner, it’s truly transformative.

The was the main philosophy behind bringing SnapChat into my classroom assignment portfolio.  SnapChat is an application where users take photos using their handheld devices.  They can add text, annotate or draw on the picture and send that picture to another user.  The uniqueness about SnapChat is that the picture can only be viewed by the recipient for 10 seconds and then it ceases to exist.  Short shelf life, easy concept.

When introducing a new section of Spanish vocabulary, I often have my students do some type of immersion project: something that requires them to spend some time getting to know their vocabulary better.  I always include options in these types of projects.  Some students prefer to do more artsy things with their vocabulary words, some prefer typing or online gaming drills, others prefer writing projects, etc.  Giving options is important in letting the student create a unique learning experience for themselves.

One project option that I usually put out there is a photo labeling type of assignment.  Find words from our vocabulary list in the real world, take a picture (or find a picture on the internet), label that picture and assemble all your pictures in a slideshow for me.  My students usually made these on VoiceThread or by putting the pictures together in an IMovie.  I see the picture + they have the word labeled correctly = project completed.  They have met the objective to recognize and identify the vocabulary.

Giving the option to SnapChat this project seemed like a perfect fit.  The application (which the majority of the students were already using and familiar with) is the perfect way to capture a photo and label it.  In a matter of seconds, students can SnapChat their photos with Spanish vocabulary captions and “turn them in” by sending them to me.  Easy. Instant. Real life.

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I was extremely pleased with the results.  As with any project, I went back to reflect on weak spots or any potential problems for the future.

  • SnapChat is essentially social media and I think you have to be careful mixing with students in the social media world.  That’s why for this SnapChat assignment I created a neutral Spanish SnapChat account (espanoldhs) to make it “official”.  I feel like this established that you are sharing your photos with “Spanish Class”, not “Emily Huff”.  By not connecting the SnapChat to myself personally, I feel like it keeps a wall between me and the students.
  • Once it was established and understood by the students that this was an “official” school related SnapChat account, we discussed posting ethics.  Particularly that if anything inappropriate was shared, it would result in school consequences. (Equivalent of standing in front of the class and doing something inappropriate)
  • One potentially negative effect of SnapChatting the assignments is the short life span of the photos.  Ten seconds is enough time for me to view and assess the objectives (did the student label and identify a Spanish vocabulary word?).  The work can’t be saved and shared but I think I’m ok with that.  The purpose of these assignments is just to make sure my students have some time with our vocabulary.  I don’t really need for the project to exist after the objective has been met.  And I’ve seen enough students throw projects away immediately to know that isn’t a main concern for them either.
  • I don’t require this from students.  It is one way to complete one of the options they have for an assignment.  I don’t give special consideration for students that choose this option vs. any other option.  I grade the objectives only, not the method of delivery.