Heroes Among Us Digital Brainstorming Owning our Learning GAMING PODCASTING Digital Storytelling in Classrooms CHECK THE UPDATE! Realtime Behaviour Management in the Classroom Realtime Behaviour Management in the Classroom Augmented Education: Making Reality Real Angry Birds in the Classroom #Post Title
Sunday, October 28, 2012

Stop Motion at its Finest (Guest Teacher Post)

One of the best parts of being a teacher is the collaboration that happens between students, teacher and even schools.  Today I am lucky enough to have a guest teacher (the first of many I hope) publish a post about the use of technology in her classroom.
Tamzin is a teacher of a prep classroom that has 28 students that are 5 and 6 years old.  One of Tamzin's goals for the second half of the year was to assist her students to use technology as a tool that facilitates learning rather than distracting/ detracting from their learning that takes place in her classroom.  So without further ado, this is Tamzin's story.

I teach 28 amazing students.  One of the best things about teaching for me is the collaboration of students’ minds.  I love teaching the younger students because they are capable of almost anything.  They all have this perfect view of the world that is really special to be a part of.  As a teacher I believe technology is amazing and can facilitate rich learning experiences.  However as the year has gone on, my classroom has fallen victim to what I like to call "technology overload."  
I teach at a technology privileged school.  We have a 1:1 laptop program from years 4 to 7 and in my class alone I have the following devices:
  • An interactive whiteboard with dual pens.
  • A WiiA Sound field System.
  • 2 pc computers.
  • 3 iMac computers.
  • 2 MacBook Laptops.
  • 8 iPads.2 digital cameras.
  • 2 video cameras with tripods. 
  • A Tape/CD player.
These devices are great and always fun to play with.  However, my first job is to ensure that I immerse the students in my care in rich learning experiences and if this means that all of this technology sometimes needs to take a back seat then so be it.
This year I took on board the idea of Technology Fridays.  The idea of a collaboration day/time made by children for children really interested me.  Often in my class the best learning comes from the dialogue that happens between students; Technology Fridays seemed like the perfect opportunity to facilitate such dialogue.
After talking with Lachlan he helped me set small goals to improve the effectiveness of the learning that technology facilitates in my classroom.  I decided that having students realise that technology can help them collaborate, learn and share ideas would benefit them past the doors of my classroom.  I talked with my students and their ideas of the use of an iPad really shocked me.  For a 5/6 year of child, an iPad is a fun thing you can play games on.
I spent a great deal of time re-evaluating how iPads were used in my classroom.  Having 8 iPads was a privilege and not only that a way to show students that these devices can facilitate learning and fun at the same time.
Over the coming weeks I worked with my students to brainstorm our favourite iPad apps.  We looked at why we liked them, what characteristics we liked and what we didn't like.  We discussed why some students like some iPad apps and why some didn't.  The students even began to bring in screenshots of the work they were doing on their iPads at home.  Before we knew it, we had a wall in the classroom plastered with evidence of iPads in our life.  The best part? Parents even started asking to come to technology Fridays because of the discussions that were happening about how iPads can help us learn at school.
One of the tasks we were required to complete was a student retell of the creation story.  Before I had a chance, a group of students decided that it would be great if they could use iPads to retell the story.  Another amazing thing about teaching is seeing the fire of learning blazing in your students.  During the next Technology Friday we developed what we call "Stop Motion at its Finest."
The students had the idea that they would create a movie about the creation story.  We brainstormed how we could do this.  Some students wanted to animate their movie, others wanted to act.  Then one day one of the quietest girls in my class stood up and placed her picture on our iPad wall.  It was a screen capture of a stop motion movie her and her dad had made using an app called stop motion studio about her princess teddy bear.  The class fell silent as they looked at her picture.  This girl stood in front of the class and talked about how you take lots of photos using the iPad's camera and put them all together and they play as a movie.  She talked about how you can use anything at all and then you slowly move it.  The class listened in silence and when this girl was done they all turned to me and said "We're doing that!"
I immediately investigated the app and distributed to our class iPads.  I then used the rest of Technology Friday to explore the app.  I found that it is important for the students to be able to play with their technology before redefining their learning goals.  We came together as a class and discussed how to use the app and made a small video of the students in our class.  We came up with rules and cheats and discussed what we liked and didn't like about the app.  In the space of 1 and 1/2 hours we were experts on how to make a stop motion video on the iPad.

Stop Motion Studio for iPad
Easy to use, even a 5 year old could do it!

Before we began on our creation story, I immersed the students in a range of print and digital texts.  We explored age appropriate stop motion movies and picked out our favourite parts of each.  Immediately I began to see a definite style among the students.  They were making the learning their own and slowly the technology they were using was becoming invisible and the learning was driving their investigations.
I assisted students to break into groups and we began to storyboard our movies.  The students decided it would be best to work on a part of the movie and put it all together at the end.  Each group talked with each other and the class came up with 4 steps that would help them all complete their movies.

  1. Work in small groups to storyboard their part of the movie.
  2. Discuss what materials they would need to make their objects needed for the stop motion movie.
  3. Work together to create their objects.
  4. Collaborate with other groups to see if any objects could be used in other groups' movies to save time.

Students working together to create their storyboards
The learning was the students, they created it; they owned it!

Students then worked out the roles of their team members to assist them in filming their movie. E.g. director, speaker, the mover and the creator.  When they had created their objects, I allowed then to complete their movies with as little teacher instruction as possible.  I facilitated early discussions and encouraged them to work out their problems amongst their peers.  All in all, students loved the idea of being directors and were capable of solving any problems they were confronted with.  I believe the clear expectations we outlined in Technology Fridays prior to students creating their movies students to focus on their learning rather than the device and app.
Students were always given time to reflect with the entire class.  This allowed for the building of common understandings and the sharing of problems.  Students helped each other rather than running to the teacher for the teacher to solve their problems for them.  They discussed how to solve problems such as bad lighting, shadows on their work and blurry pictures.  Some of my boys even made a stand for the iPad so it would move when filming out of blocks.
Very quickly it became the students’ project, not mine.  They owned their learning and it was purposeful for them.  The focus was on them and not me. After they were finished we glued their posters together and hung them in the classroom.  I have added their work and the final movie below.

The finished student created posters
The students glued all the objects they made together to make posters of the creation story.

Do you believe it is important for students to own their learning?
How do you facilitate learning through technology in your classroom?
Feel free to leave me a comment, I would gladly answer any questions, you can even ask my students questions.  Sharing and collaborative learning is one of the best parts of being an educator and the learning should definitely not stop here.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Heroes Among Us!

Today at school we celebrated BookWeek.  This years theme was champions read.  In class we are investigating everything that is encompassed by the term heroes.  Students have taken a particular interest in superheroes and the heroic motif and how the 'Archetypal Hero' compares to the reality of being a hero in real life.

One of the students' many ideas was their desire to become heroes in their local community.  Students quickly supported the notion of 'help to others.'  My students have decided that they want to show that they can challenge the idea of what a hero is by helping out other children in their local community.

Part of these investigations have lead us to research how the stereotypical superhero encompasses values and behaviours we respect and admire and would like to see in ourselves as we aim to help others. Each group chose a superhero in class that they believed encompassed a value that was integral to helping others.  Our ultimate supergroup is listed below.

NIGHTWING encompasses 'JUSTICE.'
FLASH encompasses 'DRIVE.'
HAWKGIRL  encompasses 'EQUALITY.'
HAWKEYE  encompasses the 'ACCURACY.'

The class combined their thoughts and believe they have come up with the ultimate group of heroes.  They believe the values of the heroes they chose will help them to develop a campaign to help disadvantaged children in our local community.  Students are adamant that their efforts should help children and that all the recognition they need is the change that they will produce and the help they will give to others.

To assist them in 'becoming a hero"  the children wanted to make capes.  Every hero needs a cape right?  The students sprung into action and began brainstorming designs.  They measured each other and compared the data they collected to create the perfect cape pattern.  It was decided that the easiest way to make 32 capes would be to take on a 'one size fits all' approach.

After the material for the capes was bought, the pattern was traced, capes cut out and finally assembled in the classroom.  However, the drive of the students didn't stop there.  We are also exploring the features of narratives and multi modal texts.  Eventually, students will develop and create their own narrative.  Students have challenged each other to create a narrative about a hero.  As the unit of work has been developed by the students, they decided it would be great if their characters also wore a cape.

Students sprung into action and decided that their capes would be double sided.  One side would have the symbols of the superhero they chose to represent their groups in class and the other side would have  a symbol that related to their narrative character.  Better still, the students decided that they would dress up as the characters they have created for book week.

 The Green Lantern Corps chose GREEN LANTERN as their representative.  They believed that "Where there's a WILL, there's a Way!"

 The Blue Shadows chose NIGHTWING as their representative.  They believe that "the only fight is the fight for JUSTICE for all!"

 The Wonder Warriors chose WONDER WOMAN as their representative.  They believe that "everyone deserves EQUALITY!"

The FLASH CADETS chose FLASH as their representative.  The believe that "without DRIVE their is NO DIRECTION."

 The HAWKEYE HUNTERS chose HAWKEYE as their representative.  They believe that "ACCURACY provides clarity."

The HAWKGIRL HEROINES chose HAWKGIRL as their representative.  They believe that "Passion directs planning."

Together the class believe they encompass the values of heroes.  The believe that connect communites bring change.

I'm sure my students will have more to share soon.  They pleaded with me to post their cape photos for the world to see.  What do you think?  What are you opinions on our group representatives.  What hero would you have chosen?
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lino - Brainstorming online together

I am lucky enough to have another group of students volunteer to write another on my blog about the work we are doing in class. So sit back relax and enjoy their post. 


We have well and truly begun our investigations into heroes. We have been working hard on deconstructing the difference between heroes in fantasy and heroes in real life. 

Together we have come up with two categories to label these types of heroes. 

1. The stereotypical superheroes/heroines 
2. Role models. 

We were lucky enough to be introduced to a tool called lino during one of our Technology Friday sessions.  We all fell in love with this tool because of what it allows us to do and how easy it is to use.

As the website says, 

'lino is a cloud-based service that gives you a label canvas on the Internet for freely posting, viewing, and moving labels.' 

To us as a class, it provides us with a way of placing Post-it like notes onto a collaborative board and brainstorming our ideas together. We have posted links to two examples of how we have used this tool in class to facilitate our learning. Feel free to add to the wall and collaborate with us. We would love your input!

As you can see Mr Hull or a student asks a question in the top left and each student/group/visitor responds to the question. The first example was done in class as we discussed in groups our answers and thought to the questions given to us.

This was done before posting online and allowed us to work and interact in person and then discuss the data collected from the information we had posted. The second board was done for 'homework' and we came together the next day to discuss what we had posted and used the data to inform our interactions with others and the answers we came up with.

Lino is free and easy to use.  We expect we will continue using it in the future to help us organise the data we need during our investigations.  Another skill it helps us develop is our knowledge of labelling the work we do.  As you can see from our examples, we label the work with the group we are in and the name we use.  Although this is not very hard, it helps us begin to understand how labelling our work can assist us in developing portfolios for learning.

So please, comment on our baords and answer our questions.  we would love to see your persective.  Remember to be responsible and post appropriate answers.  Any help you can give us is greatly appreciated.



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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Building our classroom.

I have recently returned from Boston, USA where I attended and presented at November Learning's Building Learning Communities 2012 Conference.  This was the most amazing conference I have ever had the privilege of attending.  If you ever have the opportunity to attend this event.  I highly recommend it.

This post has nothing to do about Technology.  My students thought it was time that we showed the other side of what happens in our classroom.  The part that is technology free but integral to our learning.  So, here it goes...

One of the presentations I attended was presented by Alan November.  He talked about the notion of Who own's the learning in the classroom.  Although I am still early on in my teaching career, I believe I have played with this idea a lot. I often talk to the students in my class about this exact question and have been told that it makes the feel just as uneasy as I do.

This is the sort of question you really need to sit with for a while, not because it is hard, but because it deserves quality time put into it.  In my two years of teaching I have seen the inspiring results of students owning their learning.  I have found that it is a lot easier for younger students to take ownership of their learning.  As children progress further though their schooling, they become exactly that "schooled."

I have talked to my class this year about the notion of them "owning their learning."  A long story short, it has taken us 3 terms for them to begin to take hold of their learning and control it, value it and appreciate themselves as capable learners that do 'matter' and have something to contribute to the world.

This term we have decided to investigate "Social Justice in our local community."  The students have shown a massive interest in 'Superheroes.'  With all the film releases of superhero inspired stories, students began to ask 

"Who are the superheroes in our lives?"  As we delved further, we looked at questions that we wouldn't be able to answer with a google search.  My class decided to pose questions that they had to experience to answer rather than using a search engine to answer the question for the,.  Some of these questions i have answered below.

"How can we be a superhero in the lives of others we interact with?"
"What are the characteristics of a hero in 2012"
"How can heroes from our favourite comics/ movies inspire us to be heroes to others?"
"Superpowers aside, who are heroes in our lives?  Who do we call our hero?"
"What would the superheroes we all know and love look like in real life?"
"Is it possible for someone to be a hero once and not twice?

The begin our investigation, the students decided the classroom needed a makeover.  They gave themselves a task of transforming the classroom into their heroic base where they investigate and learn new things to be heroes to others. 

The class broke themselves into groups that they would sit in this term and created banners to represent their groups.  They selected a superhero and used the infamous hero symbol on their banners.  The class how to draw, paint and create the banners.  They played to their strengths and delegated the jobs amongst them.  They finished banners are below.

The next job was 'decorating' the rest of the class.  The students would rather I called their 'decorating.' "Upgrading."As we upgraded the classroom, the students brainstormed amongst each other what we needed.  After long debates, the students wanted a wall of heroes that showed pictures of their favourite comic book role models.  

Perhaps the largest project was creating a mural of "Gotham City." on our back wall.  The back wall of our classroom has a window and the biggest challenge was the fact that we couldn't pain the wall.  We drew up blueprints and managed to paint rolls of paper we stuck together to cover the entire wall (The was one of the most in-depth math sessions we have had.  The engagement of the children and arguments they had over the measurements that had taken of the wall was inspiring.)  We have uploaded our images below.

After the paper had dried, we began to stick it up on the wall.  The students were ecstatic when their measurements matched the wall space.  Once the paper was up we decided to sketch the outline of our city. I have added the progress pictures of the student work below.

The students painted the cityscape and looked at a range of examples of how cities had been drawn in popular comics and movie concept art.  They decided that a 'minimalist look' would have the biggest impact.

After the wall was complete and up.  The students decided that as their investigations progress, the wall should progress as well.    At this point in time the photo below shows you what the wall is looking like.

As their teacher I have seen the step by step process of the mural.  Although it may look a little insignificant, this project has engaged the students in their investigations.  They really feel as though they have constructed their learning environment and short of knocking down walls, they have.

Although it seems small, this is just one way the students have taken control of their learning and in this case their learning environment and owned it.  They wanted to show you their efforts and are looking for feedback.  So their burning question at the moment is: What do you think?  Oh, also can you answer any of our questions?  We would love to hear your points of view!

"How can we be a superhero in the lives of others we interact with?"
"What are the characteristics of a hero in 2012"
"How can heroes from our favourite comics/ movies inspire us to be heroes to others?"
"Superpowers aside, who are heroes in our lives?  Who do we call our hero?"
"What would the superheroes we all know and love look like in real life?"
"Is it possible for someone to be a hero once and not twice?

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Digital Educational Portfolios

As Term 2/ Semester One comes to an end, we have spent a lot of time in class deciding what work samples we will include in our student portfolios.  This process was made a lot easier by a free app for educators called "Three Ring."

Throughout the year we have been using this app to document our work completed in class.  The app is free, easy to use and always accessible; so it makes it easy to digitally document student work at the press of a few buttons.

Three Ring
An easy to use tool for creating digital Student Portfolios.

The idea of the app is simple, you can take a photo, video, audio or attach a document of student work; tag it so you know what content is included e.g. history and finally and the document is securely saved and organised for you. The interface of the website is simple and it keeps the focus on student work, which is great for when showing parents of allowing students to visually organise their hard work.

We use the class iPad to document work when we feel the need tow  Any documentation that happens on the iPad is automatically uploaded to the three Ring Website. As a teacher I can add notes to student work for reference at a later time or students reflect on their work and refer back to their reflections as they continue to learn throughout the year.

Check out the free app via the link below

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Comic Books now with a little added Aurasma


Our latest project is a cool one.  I am lucky enough to welcome the literary skills of some of my students.  Without giving anything away, they will give you an overview of our latest project and a little first hand insight into the learning that took place in our classroom.  A heads up, each paragraph is written by a different student.

In class we have been learning about Moral Choices and Pathways.  In short, we have been looking at how we encounter moral choices in our life.  At our school we are 'buddies' to the students in prep. (Prep is kindergarten in other countries).  We decided as a class we would create books for our buddies that address a moral choice or dilemma.  To make this assignment even more interesting, we decided we would make comic strips for our buddies; not just any old book.

We started this project in the last week of February.  If your classroom is anything like ours, time seemed to get away from us, but finally our masterpieces are complete! In class we identified moral choices, moral dilemmas and investigated real life examples of these, including examples that we (age 10-11) have experienced in our short lives.  Once we had done this we broke in groups of 2-3 and started to work on a framework for our comic strips.

We chose our characters and our events.  We had already had talks about the type of characters we would need to use to make sure our audience (our prep buddies) relate to our comics.  Some of us created our own characters by using everyday items.  (MR. Stop was created from looking at a STOP sign) and some of us used characters that are well known to us like the Red Angry Bird or Little Miss Sunshine.

After we had our characters all sorted, we worked on planning the main events in our comics.  We made sure that our characters worked with the events we had chosen.  We talked with the other groups and made sure that our comics weren't too similar to each other and began to storyboard our comic.

After our storyboards were complete we began to colour and finalise each frame.  we used an app on the iPad called ComicBook!  We created our comics by taking photos of the frames we had completed.  We then input the text for our comics.  To be honest, this was sometimes hard.  We had to work hard to make sure the text fit into each frame but at the same time it had to make sense to our audiences and allow our stories to flow.  As I said, we used the class iPad but if we had an iPod touch/iPad of our own, we were allowed to bring them in to assist us with our comics.

It was the first time I had ever been part of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) event anywhere. It was fun to see the whole class working together with different devices to achieve our goal of making awesome comics.  We learnt lots of skills and because we were able to use our own device we can do it again.  Usually we're not allowed our own devices at school, this was different, it was fun.  It was personal too which was cool and then when my parents asked what we were doing I was able to show them.  I secretly think mum and dad enjoyed making a comic more than I did.

After some trial and error, we all managed to add our text and make our stories flow well.  We published our comics as a jpeg file and printed them A3 size to share with our buddies. Mr hull always tell us that reflection is a major part of learning.  We decided it would be cool to record videos of our reflections and use the app AURASMA to embed/overlay our reflections onto our comic strips.  

Making Auras on the Aurasma app was awesome.  We learnt how to use our devices to record our videos and then import them to the Aurasma app.  We learnt all about appropriate lighting, sound, camera angles etc.  Even though our videos aren't Hollywood quality, we think they're great and a lot of time went into the 60 seconds of fame we recorded.  It took us a long time, but it was great to work as a whole class, helping each other make sure we got our videos recorded.

We learnt how to publish our Auras and then created QR Codes so anyone could see our reflections on our Comic Books.  We put these next to the tiles of our comics and with a QR Code reader it sorts out all the background stuff.  It downloads Aurasma if it isn't on your device and then readies the Aura for you to watch.  It's simple really.

Finally, we were given ask assessment sheet by Mr Hull.  We also had to complete a written reflection.  After we had done this, we put them on the assessment sheet as well as a picture of our comic.  We suggested that we add the QR Code for our Aura so that when the Assessment task goes into our portfolio, no matter where we go or whoever is looking through the folio, they will be able to simply point their device at the assessment task and WHAM! there's our reflection. 

Below you can see our completed comic strips.  We ask that you view and share our creations with respect and we hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them.  Two of the Comic strips have QR Codes next to them, if you scan them you will be able to view the reflections for that comic.

Mr Bird Learns to Share
A Comic about sharing.

King Pig the Big Bully
A Comic about learning to say sorry.

Mr Stop says sorry
A Comic about learning to apologise.

The Two Brothers
A Comic about sharing and saying sorry.

Mr Pig's Big Choice
A Comic about saying sorry for poorly chosen actions.

Mr Storm's bad day
A Comic about speaking to please and not to tease.

Grumpy Unicorn's Grumpy Day
A Comic about treating people how you would like to be treated.

Blobby and Stick
A Comic about friendship and apologies.

The Case of the Stolen Eggs
A Comic about apologising for wrong doings.

Mr Grumpy and the New Kite
A Comic about stealing and returning.

The Seaside Name Calling
A Comic about teasing and forgiveness.

Super Orange and the Red Cape
A Comic about knowing when to apologise

Little miss Sunshine's New Toy
A Comic about jealousy and forgiveness.

Mr Yellow's New Balloon
A Comic about saying sorry when you have hurt another.
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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

ClassDojo: A School Approach

I have just started my second year of teaching at a small but very energetic school in South Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  I was lucky enough to complete my graduate internship here in 2010 and this year will be my second year as a full time qualified teacher.  Last year I taught Prep, which is similar to kindergarten and in 2012 I will teach a multi-age class grade 5/6.

Throughout my years at university I was always interested in behaviour management strategies and their impact on students inside and outside of the classroom environment.  A big focus for me as a teacher is assisting students in developing understandings of how their behaviour impacts on others.  Last year I decided to work with my students on understanding and owning their own behaviour.  I have the belief that every behaviour a student displays has a function.  You can’t change behaviour, but you can assist students in developing skills to manage their own.

Like many teachers, ClassDojo has assisted me in providing students with a personalised behaviour management system that provides students with real time feedback on their decisions. In 2011 I implemented ClassDojo half way through the year and saw immediate changes in my students. (Read my story here http://bit.ly/w5QQwZ). 

This year I have the privilege of being the ICLT Coordinator for my school.   I have worked with the staff at my school to implement ClassDojo right throughout the school.  We discussed as a staff how the program can assist the behaviour management systems we already use in our classroom and have worked hard to tailor the program to suit each individual classroom.  So far the feedback has been very positive. 

Here are some of the steps we took when implementing ClassDojo across the school and in my own classroom.

1. Add the students into the system and negotiate their Avatars.                                                            
This was a great way to talk to students about what they wanted with their Avatars.  We found younger students loved when their own headshots popped up onto the screen when they got a point.  This was very personal to them and assists them to build ownership of their behaviours.  The older kids seemed to like the monsters.  In some classes they even drew their own Avatars, scanned them into the computer and the teacher uploaded their creations to ClassDojo.  Very personalised.

2. Negotiate the Positive and Negative Behaviours.                                                                                      
From the get go we believed as a staff it was important to negotiate what the positive and negative points were in each classroom.  We found that what was important in one classroom wasn’t as important in another.  We also found that students have a different perception of behaviours and how we word them.  When we all sat down and discussed with students what they wanted as positive and negative behaviours in their classroom. We found that they were very engaged in the process of building their ClassDojo system.  Children owning their own behaviour is a very powerful process to see.

Our Building Behaviours
Negotiating Behaviours is integral if you want students to own their behaviour.

3. We started with Positive points only.                                                                                                                              
During the first week we introduced and built the systems in each classroom with our students.  As teachers we decided that we would ease students into the process of real time feedback of their behaviour.  We started awarding positive rewards only.  Once students were comfortable with the systems place and function in the classroom we talked with students and began to award negative points as well as positive points.  We found this process assisted students in beginning to manage their behaviour.  This can be a tough process for children to grasp, but ClassDojo assists us daily with assisting students in developing the skills to do this.

4. Reflection and Review are the keys to success.                                                                                           
We are now in week four of Term 1.  Most teachers have continually talked with their students and reviewed the positive and negative behaviours.  Some have added more and some have taken some away.  We believe the key to promoting student ownership of their behaviours is involving them in adapting the system to suit the needs of their classrooms.

5. Have fun and reward students for their hard work.                                                                                   
A lot of teachers including myself have negotiated with students rewards for their hard work.  We believe that for students it is a massive task to own their own behaviour as well as completing every other task we throw at them throughout the school day.  We have negotiated with them a “cash in” system.  In my class we cash in points for time on the Xbox Kinect on a Friday afternoon.  In Prep they cash in points for free time in the school playground.

Even though our school year has just begun, ClassDojo is a major part of our schools classrooms.  Daily you can hear the sounds of positive points ringing through the hallways.  Our biggest success is assisting students in developing the skills to own their behaviours.  Watching it happen is a powerful experience, one that I’m very proud to be a part of.
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Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gaming and Learning 'Kinect' in the Classroom

Well the 2012 school year is in full swing.  This year I'm teaching grade 5/6; a multi-age classroom full of 31 unique students.   We have just completed week 2 of Term 1. A highlight of our 2 weeks together would be the implementation of our new XBOX 360 Kinect.

Using the Kinect in the classroom has enabled me to begin to harness the culture of my students and embed it in the educational concepts I wish to teach them.  Upon reflection, I have noticed that concepts of game design can promote a positive classroom environment and inform my practices as a facilitator of student learning.

For example, when reflecting with my students of our use of the Kinect in our classroom, we brainstormed the following positive aspects when using the technology:
  • When playing on the Kinect we have the ability to fail, pick ourselves up again and work together to succeed.
  • We can all play the game our way.  Just because we're different doesn't mean we can't achieve the same goal.
  • We can try new tactics when we play games, we can experiment with outcomes and try again if our efforts end in disaster.
  • We can experience each others thinking.  "What I might do to achieve a goal may be totally different but just as valid as the person next to me.  We're all different, that's what makes it fun."
I believe that:
  • Gaming approaches to education present an excellent opportunity to engage students in activities both familiar and unfamiliar.
  • Using gaming technologies such as the XBOX Kinect system assist children in establishing links between existing interests, skills and personal knowledge.
  • Gaming builds a connection between the educational contexts of the home and school environments, promoting the immersion of children in relevant, real life experiences. 
  • Gaming creates avenues for collaboration between students regardless of their gaming ability.
As a teacher I have watched and noted how the use of the Kinect has helped strengthen and even connect bonds between students in and outside of the classroom.  Because the Kinect can be multi-player, it provides students with scenarios where they may be playing with a student who they do not normally interact with. Regardless of their former interactions, in every instance students will team up with a partner and exert themselves to achieve the high score.

2 weeks in and we negotiate when and why the Kinect is booted up and engaged with in the classroom.  So Far we have played Kinect adventures and Dance Central 2.  Both games give students a clear understanding of what is needed of them to complete levels and objectives with minimal instruction time.  The games allow for failure and prompt students with helpful tips even simplifying the expectations of the player if things are a little difficult.

Using the Kinect in the classroom
Students work together to achieve a common goal.

To me I have noticed 3 things that students appreciate when playing video games that I can use to inform my teaching practice:

  1. Give students clear, explicit and unchanging expectations when I set them a task.
  2. Give students the freedom to achieve a goal/task with an approach that is comfortable for them.
  3. Provide help/simplify the task if students find it too difficult but don't change the expectation/goal set in step 1.

I look forward to continuing to use the Kinect in our classroom. Stay tuned for some student posts about how we incorporate these 2 games into our weekly classroom schedule.  If you use the Kinect in your classroom or any other video game software I would love to hear how you use it and what impact it has had on your students and their learning.  Leave a comment below and share the learning!
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Play some Tetris!

Or try some Pacman!