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.

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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!

Kahoot!


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.

Nearpod: Mobile Learning + Interactive Presentation App


For classrooms that have 1:1 access with IPads, Nearpod would be one of those tools I would say absolutely had to be used in classroom instruction.  Mandatory use in instruction.  It combines presentation and lecture, quizzes, polling and formative assessment, video and hands on demonstrating.  There are two sides to Nearpod: the teacher side and the student side. From the teacher side, one can create interactive lessons by creating a presentation in Nearpod that is like a PowerPoint on steroids. There are six different types of features a teacher can add into a presentation.  The presentation can have multiple features, all one feature or a mixture of whatever the author wants.

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A few observations about the features:

  • If a teacher already has PowerPoints created and wants to incorporate those slides into a Nearpod presentation, it would be complete possible!  Just go to PowerPoint and save the PPT as images (this is an option in the File Menu).  Now each one of your slides is an image file that can be uploaded to Nearpod.  I think the whole “Save as Images” option is key in using Nearpod with materials you’ve already created.
  • The quizzes and Q&A make great formative assessment.  It’s a little bit tricky to do an open ended question or a question with multiple answers, but it is do-able.
  • “Draw it” is pretty awesome.  I tested it out in a math presentation at halfway through the presentation, the teacher included a “Draw it” slide where the students had to work through the problem.  The teacher sees all responses on his/her IPad.

The teacher creates an interactive, instructional presentation or lesson on the web.  When it’s time for the lesson, the teacher uses and IPad and logs in to the Nearpod app as a teacher.  The students type in a code assigned to that presentation and are immediately taken to the lesson.  It’s a teacher-paced presentation, so students are only able to see the part of the presentation the teacher wants.  When the teacher is ready to move on to the next screen of the presentation, the teacher swipes the screen and all student screens will go to the next feature.  It’s a great instructional app that allows the teacher to move through content while allowing students the opportunity to get involved and participate, all while collecting data on understanding.

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Nearpod is one of those progression instructional tools.  Content used to be delivered through lecture.  Then overhead.  Then PowerPoint presentations.  Now the presentation includes interactive elements and is right there in each student’s hands.  It’s best used in situations where there is 1 IPad for every 1 student involved (either a 1:1 environment or a small group setting).  I think that in the future of IPads in Education, Nearpod will be the instructional tool that all others are measured by.

Fun in Timbuktu


Timbuktu is a fun app for elementary students.  Think of it as a daily magazine for children, including reading stories that are graphically attractive and interactive.

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The content changes everyday.  Some features are premium and would cost something.  Timbuktu is 100% geared to be an interactive magazine for children so the features are all kid friendly and exciting.  There is a regular feature called “Ask Auntie Rita”, where children write “Dear Abby” type questions and get advice from kind Aunt Rita.  It’s interesting, relevant reading and hits on topics like getting along with an older brother, what to do about bullies, and how to get better grades in schools.  The reading features in Timbuktu are awesome.  The day I played with the app, there was a horror story to read.  But, instead of just reading it like a normal, students have to use their finger as a flashlight to read the story.  It’s reading and it’s interactive.  It’s fun!

You can also go back and access older content in Timbuktu.  They recently had a three part feature on Romeo and Juliet.  Students had to read about the story (in nice kid-language) and also got to interact with the story.  I put a mask on Romeo so he could go to the Capulet ball.  I helped Romeo find Juliet’s balcony.  It’s reading and it’s interactive.  It’s fun!

Timbuktu also has some activities and interactive features with pictures and videos.  They are all kid relevant and are created with education in mind.  Each activity is designed to pique the imaginations and creativity of young minds.  It’s interactive.  And it’s fun!

I really enjoyed my little tour through Timbuktu and think it would be a great addition to the Daily 5, center work or free time with the IPads.

 

 

IPad Integration: Apps with Multiple Classroom Options


Sometimes you find an app that will work great as either a small stand-alone activity or a game-changing classroom revolution – – all depending on how much you want to customize it and use it.  If you want to use the App as a filler activity, it could be.  If you wanted to make the App an individualized choice activity that students use to practice a concept, it could be.  If you wanted to use the App for specific students in enrichment and intervention activities, it could do that for you too.  If you wanted an App to totally revolutionize the way you gather data and build practice activities, it could do that.  The great things about these types of apps is that: 1) each student has a personal log-in so that each students experience on the app is personal, saved, customized and abled to be accessed again and again, 2) the teacher can include as much customization as he or she is comfortable with.

Edmodo  Free (App Store)

I’m a big fan of Edmodo as a classroom management portal.  It’s an easy way to send students links, files, notes, assignments and quizzes, and safely allows them to collaborate, write and share.  Students can log in and out of their individual Edmodo profile so that each individual user can access their individual Edmodo account.

Ideas for Edmodo Implementation in general:

  • Post a discussion prompt and have students respond to a question or share thoughts for everyone to see
  • Create an assignment in which students submit a private only-seen-by-the-teacher response
  • Post a class brainstorming session to generate writing ideas
  • Create formative assessments in the quiz module
  • “Exit Ticket” or “Elevator Speech” where students explain what they learned following a lesson or day
  • Post videos, notes or information for students that need extra review or were absent
  • Put links, documents or information there for students to easily access

Another great plus with Edmodo is its Apps (so, essentially, there are Apps within the App).  There are a lot of great ones – – some that you have to pay for and some free ones.  One really great literacy app is No Red Ink.  (Click here for a review on No Red Ink)  (There is also a internet site for No Red Ink that anyone can use through Safari).

ScootPad  Free (App Store)

I came across this App last week when a friend of mine was talking about how the students in her school can’t wait to use the IPads to review Math and Literacy games in order to earn coins and that their school earned more coins in the last two weeks than any other school in Iowa using the App.  Many parts of this looked intriguing, so I setup a teacher account on ScootPad posing as a 5th grade teacher.

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ScootPad has a teacher set-up page on the Internet at www.scootpad.com.  That is where I set-up my account, created a class and added my list of students.  I control the student usernames and passwords and can adjust and change them if needed.  I picked by grade level (5th grade) and then chose my standards.  ScootPad works with the Common Core and I chose to select all the Common Core standards for 5th grade.  These standards are now added to my class.

Option #1:  That’s the bare minimum of what is needed to work with ScootPad (setup a class, create student accounts, share account info with students).  At this point, your students can go to the ScootPad app on the IPad, log-in with their personal information and access grade level appropriate Math and Literacy practice activities.  These practice activities are randomly generated using the Common Core standards and over time also keep in mind the progress of the student, adjusting to their level of comprehension and understanding.  The students earn coins for each correct answer and bonus coins for 100% completion.  From what I can see, students can do as many practice activities as they want, whenever they want.

Option #2:  Teachers can log-in and monitor progress and student achievement.  Teachers can also assign practice activities to be completed.  These homework assignments can be assigned for every student or assigned to only those students in need of enrichment and intervention.  I like the results tracking feature in ScootPad because it breaks everything down by the standard.  The teacher can see the level of proficiency of their students in each standard area.  It’s a great tool for identification and intervention.

Option #3: The students have an individualized piggy bank that they store the coins that they earn for completing their activities.  Teachers (and parents!) can set-up classroom rewards that students can “purchase” with their coins.  You can also customized these and make them available for only a few students (for example, if you had a reward available only for those struggling students).  It’s a nice option and ScootPad is something parents can access also so that they can build rewards for their own students.

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Khan Academy  Internet

If you want your students to practice math problems by concept, there isn’t much of a comparison with Khan Academy.  It’s an internet based application that can be used through Safari on your IPad.  Students can practice the problems, get hints if they get stuck and watch tutorials and explanations if they need to.  If students created an account on Khan Academy and attach a teacher as a “coach”, the coach can see progress and get data.  But the activities still work well as review and practice activities even if they don’t log-in to an individual account.  But since that option is there, I include it here.

 

Choose Your Own Adventure in Google Forms


Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions
Google Forms: Branching Multiple Choice Questions

Remember Choose Your Own Adventure Books or Games?  A new feature in Google Forms now lets users branch multiple choice responses so that each response leads you to a different page.  There are many potential applications for this in the classroom, but branching allows someone to craft a Choose Your Own Adventure story.

When drafting a Google Form, the creator can write part of a story in the “Page Description” box.  Underneath that text block, the reader can be given selection of choices.  Each of these selections give the reader the option to choose what will happen next in the story.  By checking the option “Go to page based on answer”, the creator can decide where each possible answer leads.

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Because the Google Form makes the creation of a Choose Your Own Adventure Story very methodical, its necessary to plan out all of your options and where they might lead.  I attempted to try this by creating a CYOA activity associated with a movie that we watch in class called ‘El Norte’.  I thought that this activity might be a good thing to do before we watch the film.  Anyway, as I started to mind-map my story and all the possible options, it easily got out of hand and complicated.  These webs can get quite complex if you want them to.  I would suggest that beginners limit themselves to only a few layers of options.  My CYOA story required 25 pages in a Google Form and I tried to be conservative in the last few layers.

There are a lot of concluding activities that could accompany this type of activity: a discussion, written essays, going through it until you get a desirable outcome, etc.  I think the educational impact of this could be great:  making the student think about choices and consequences and what actions lead to different situations.  I saw a lot of this application in Social Studies but think that it could be stretched to any discipline.

One thing that excites me about the ease of the Google Doc format is the fact that students could be writers of their own CYOA story.  What a great activity!  Make students draft out a series of choices and possible outcomes and put together an activity they can share with classmates.  They could examine the choices made by Romeo & Juliet, or John Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis, or a scientist working through a hypothesis.  Just as in a Choose Your Own Adventure story – – the possibilities are endless!

My Choose Your Own Adventure Activity: El Norte

Random Name Generator


Over the weekend I came across this website that I thought I would pass along.  It’s called a Random Name Generator, (http://www.superteachertools.com/instantclassroom/random-name-generator.php) but it actually does a lot more. Teachers can create an account, put in their class lists, and use the website to:

Screen Shot 2012-09-03 at 8.12.12 PM 1) Randomly call on a student:  This is like having popsicle sticks or some other random method of calling on students, only techy.  And it works great with a SmartBoard.

2) Create random groups:  The site takes your class lists and randomly groups them together.  You tell it the number you would like to have per group.

3) Seating Chart: Let’s face it, JMC (our current SMS) is pretty ugly.  I have seats in pods now, and JMC just doesn’t work for me like that.  It isn’t the greatest, but it does let me move the desks around the way I want.  You can print them – – and even add photos so that you could print a photo seating chart for a sub.  Simple and not flashy, but do-able.

The Hunger Games Review Game


I resist most cultural phenomena on principle, but when a sixteen year old boy talks to you about how amazing a book series is, you have to take notice.  I only recently embraced “The Hunger Games” (as in I read the first book last week).  Coincidentally, I came across a review game activity based on “The Hunger Games” in my Edmodo World Languages community last week.  With a little tweaking, I knew it could be a major hit in the classroom.

The Set-Up

  • Arrange 12 desks in a circle/semi-circle.  If you have more than 12 students, place extra desks in tight clusters so that there are 12 little clusters of desks in a circle.
  • Prepare Questions:  I planned on playing five rounds during the game with 12 questions per round.  You could do random questions and pull them out of a hat too.
  • Fill 12 cups with beans.  I used jellybeans and put 5 jellybeans in each cup.  Label the cups with numbers #1-12.
  • Prepare the Cornucopia (see later)

The Beginning

  • Separate the students into the 12 separate districts (12 separate groups).  I always choose the grouping.  If numbers allow me to do so, I put my advanced students alone and match up my lower ability students so they may work with each other.
  • Give each district their cup of beans, stressing that they should not eat their beans.  The objective of the game is to acquire the most beans anyway, so they shouldn’t want to eat their chances of winning.
  • Begin with District 1 and ask the first review question.  If the student answers incorrectly, just move on to the next District.  If the student answers correctly, they may go and 1/2 of another District’s beans.  Continue by asking the next District a question.
  • After District 12 has answered their first question, the Capitol (the teacher) makes an announcement by drawing one of the Capitol cards.

Capitol Cards

I was preparing 5 rounds of the game and therefore I prepared 4 Capitol cards: one card to be read at the conclusion of Rounds 1, 2, 3 and 4. Here is what I used:

  • Redistribution of Districts: The Capitol has decided to change the resources of each district as a reminder that the Capitol is in control.  All cups rotate one District to the right.
  • Quarter Quell:  The time has come for districts to face each other in battle.  During the next round, each District must challenge another District before the question is asked.  Whichever of the two districts answers that question correctly gets to take 1/2 the losing District’s beans. In case of a tie, the win goes to the lowest numbered District.
  • Cornucopia: All Districts are in need of something to make their success in this game easier.  These items are in bags in the Cornucopia.  At the signal of the Capitol, team members may go and retrieve one bag from the Cornucopia.  Bags may not be opened until the Capitol permits.  These items may be used for the entirety of the game unless otherwise noted.
  • Silver Parachute: Sponsors have agreed to give aid to one struggling team.  Give extra beans to the team with the lowest number of beans.  In case of a tie, the tie goes to the highest numbered District.

I filled 12 bags with a variety of things for the bags in the Cornucopia.  I had some bags filled with a few jellybeans, bags with vocabulary or notes and some filled with empty paper.  I also had an “Auto-Win” card, where students could play it and automatically get a question correct.  There was a “Blockade” card too, where a team could block others from taking their beans for an entire round.

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The Victor

After playing all five rounds of the game, the student with the most jellybeans was declared the victor.  I gave out extra credit to the winner.

The Fallen Tributes

I wondered about how to deal with “killing” other districts or being eliminated from the game.  In one class, we played that if a student was down to one bean, you couldn’t take that one bean.  That kept players in the game.  My second class was much more inspired by the notion of eliminating their competitors, forming alliances, etc.  It made for a more interesting game.  But, since it was a review game, eliminated players still had to answer questions, but they couldn’t take nor receive jellybeans.  They couldn’t win but they were still forced to play.

I thought it went pretty well.  It took awhile to count out half of the jellybeans when we got towards the end of the game but I can’t figure a way around that.  It was a nice review activity and I would probably do it again in the future.  It took some prep time but it was exciting and the students really enjoyed it.