Category: games

Kahoot! Engaging New Assessment Tool For the New School Year

As I made the rounds at several educational technology conferences and events this summer, one of the most talked-about technology tools was Kahoot!, a self-described “game based classroom response system.” Kahoot! is a free (unlike other student response systems) online resource that allows teachers to quickly find or create quizzes, surveys, polls, etc. that are colorful, fun, and media-rich. Kahoot! has great potential as a formative assessment or “exit ticket” tool. It has a lot of potential as a fun (where that is still allowed) tool for reviewing concepts in a humorously competitive environment. I liken it to Socrative in a lot of ways, only minus the app and with more bling. The following is a very over-simplified guide to getting started with Kahoot! (By the way, that exclamation point is part of their name, by the way. I know I over-use them, but not this time! Oops.)

Get started by registering at https://getkahoot.com.

Kahoot____Game-based_blended_learning___classroom_response_systemOnce the account has been created, you will be taken to your dashboard. For this quick intro, we’ll create a quiz.

Kahoot__-_Create_new_Kahoot_ Give your quiz a title and click Go

Kahoot__-_Create_new_Kahoot_ 2Type the first question and set the question options (for points or not for points; time limit).

Kahoot__-_New_questionIf desired, an image can now be added to the question. Below the image, enter the answer choices. Select the answer that is correct.

Kahoot__-_New_question 2Now add another question. Click the Add question button at the bottom of the screen. Repeat for as many questions as are needed.

Kahoot__-_New_question 3When all questions have been entered, click Reorder questions.

Kahoot__-_New_question 4Questions may be rearranged by simply clicking and dragging up or down the list.

Kahoot__-_Re-order_questionsClick Next: settings, then select the quiz’s language, privacy settings (public or private), audience, and difficulty level (Beginner; Intermediate; Advanced). Type a short description and enter a few tags, which will help others find your quiz.

Kahoot__-_Re-order_questions 2

 

Kahoot__-_More_info

 

It should be noted that at any time in this process, you can go back and change your questions by clicking the Edit Questions button at the bottom left of the dashboard.

Kahoot__-_More_info 3

Click Next: Cover Image.

Kahoot__-_More_info 4If desired, add an image for the quiz’s title screen here. Optionally, you can embed a YouTube video that will play as students wait for the quiz to begin.

Kahoot__-_Add_cover_imageYour quiz is all set. Now, gather around those students and have them get out whatever internet-connected device they wish to use. Start the quiz by clicking Play Now.

Kahoot__-_All_done 2

On the next screen, there are a few quiz options. It might be a good idea to turn on the “Display game-pin throughout?” option, in case students are late getting logged into the game. A warning: the lobby music option is eerily reminiscent of an elevator, only more grating.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_

Next, students open their devices’ browsers, navigate to http://kahoot.it, and enter the game pin. This is the screen view of a typical smart phone:

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Students next create a player name and click Join Game. They’ll see a confirmation screen, and the teacher’s screen will display the student’s game name.

image

When ready, click Start Now to begin the quiz. The first question displays for a few seconds without showing the answer choices, allowing students time to think before clicking.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 3The answer choices and a timer then display. Students choose the shape/color that corresponds to their answer choices on their devices.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 4When the timer expires or all students have answered, click Next to see the class scores. Students score points for accurate answers and for the speed of their responses.

When all questions have been completed, click the End button to stop the quiz. A result screen will appear announcing the quiz’s winner (It helps to be playing against no competition.).

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 5The Feedback and Results button allows participants to rate the effectiveness of the quiz, including how fun it was, whether or not they learned from it, etc.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 6Finally, click the Final Results button to view all of the quiz’s data. A helpful Download Results button gives teachers a handy spreadsheet with student responses to each question.

Kahoot____Play_this_quiz_now_ 7That’s all there is to it. Well, it’s actually not, but that is enough to get you started. You should also take the time to check out the thousands of quizzes, polls, and discussions created and shared by other users–might be a great time-saver. From your dashboard, just click on the Public link at the top of the screen. You’ll be able to search by topic, intended audience, or activity type.

Kahoot__-_Featured

I think you’ll like the usability of Kahoot! and the level of engagement you’ll see in your students. If you have any thoughts, ideas, or questions, please share them in the comments below. Best wishes for an incredibly successful school year!

Summer Tech Camp Report and Reflections

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Creating video game controllers using MakeyMakey.

Last week wrapped up 3 weeks of summer technology camps. These are the first for our district, and summer tech camps are something I’ve wanted to do for years. We offered students who are entering 2nd through 8th grades the choice between 2 robotics-focused camps or a week focusing on programming and innovation. Each week of camp ran from Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. until noon. Camps were offered free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis. Approximately 80 students attended. Each camp had 3-5 adult counselors and 1-4 high school student CITs (<–callback for anyone who is a fellow Meatballs fan).

Campers build their first robot.

Campers build their first robot.

For the first attempt, each camp went off as smoothly as I could have hoped, primarily due to my phenomenal camp staff. Students were eager and engaged, and discipline issues were few and far between (Amazing how engagement solves so many of those issues, isn’t it?). Each day started with a quick debrief, then counselors either gave a mini-lesson or simply helped facilitate as students got to work. Robotics camp students initially completed a task involving creating a zip line with Legos. They next built their first, basic Mindstorms NXT robots. By the 2nd day, students were using their robots to complete tasks such as navigating a predetermined path on a Twister game mat. Local firefighters specializing in hazardous substance removal visited students to discuss how robots might be used to assist in their work, setting the stage for campers’ final project. Campers created and programmed robots to navigate a mock city (created by our CITs) and carry out specific tasks, such as obtaining simulated radiation measurements or moving hazardous cargo to a safe area.

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SISD Robotics Camp

The final week of camp focused on programming, digital media, and inventing using MakeyMakey and a variety of household items. Students started this week by creating digital movies based upon the book Zoom by Istvan Banyai. They next created short stop motion videos using a free software tool called JellyCam, which I highly recommend. Next, campers explored MakeyMakey and invented their own video game controllers by pairing the devices with a variety of items, from limes and bananas to wires and nails to Play-Do. Finally, students learned the basics of Scratch and created their own video games. An example game by one of our campers is seen below.

I wanted to share a few lessons and observations from this experience, in hopes that they might be beneficial to others planning similar events in the future. I’ve also included a few student and parent comments shared in camp evaluations. I’ve attached both the student survey and parent survey we used.

  • Plan far enough in advance to ensure a smooth, simple registration process. We faced time constraints that made this process very cumbersome. Next year, we’ll be using some form of online registration to streamline things. I’m really intrigued by the Active Networks Camp Manager, which is feature-rich and FREE for organizations whose camps are free.

    photo7

    Campers created robots to complete challenges, such as detecting/removing hazardous cargo.

  • There should be a balance between structured activity and creative, explorative play. As an example, I thought that the initial robotics activities were great, but I was never satisfied with the hazardous waste project. I think I’d make that much more open-ended in the future. As one camper stated, “Make challenges more broad, less specific tasks–more thinking.
  • photo3I’m not sure about the age appropriateness of robotics activities for the youngest attendees. I felt as if many of the tasks eluded some of them, and we ended up separating older/younger campers and assigning slightly different tasks. However, one older camper requested that they “be a little more interactive with the younger kids,” and a younger camper asserted, “Little kids can do what the big kids are doing.” Even so, I’m leaning toward creating a very different, separate robotics experience for kids in 1st through 3rd grades next year.
  • I would really like to involve community members as volunteer camp counselors next year, particularly if they have relevant experience with technology (but not excluding those who do not).
  • We needed to create separate Scratch accounts for each student. My thinking was to use a single, camp login, which would put every project conveniently on the same page. Unfortunately, this resulted in chaos due to campers being constantly, unexpectedly logged off. Lesson learned.
  • Efforts should be made to contact families and remind them of camps when registration occurred weeks prior. The further from the registration date a camp was, the lower the percentage of attendance.

Parent comments:

  • “He was challenged and learned more about what computers can do.”
  • “He learned how to make anything control a computer and he’s happy with learning some programming.”
  • “I have been wanting to get my son started on tech knowledge, but I didn’t know where to start. This is a good launching point.”
  • “…make it a full week or 2 weeks at least”
  • “My child came home every day very excited about what she learned daily at camp. It’s great to hear that this camp sparked such an interest with her. Thanks!”

Overall, I was very pleased, and the many requests from parents for another opportunity next summer were very gratifying, as were the requests to incorporate more, similar experiences into the curriculum. Ultimately, I think this gave our students some valuable experiences, and we’ll hopefully see the fruits of the seeds we planted down the line.

Reflections on Emerging Technologies Course

I am wrapping up a doctoral course on emerging technologies this week. I have to admit, this has been the most enjoyable course I’ve taken to date. The subject matter was right down my alley, and there was much more interaction in this course than in previous classes (I’m working on an online degree.). I wanted to take the time to share a few things that were particularly significant to me as I plan for next year.

Games in education

While I have read many wonderful pieces on the blogs of such educators as David Warlick on the subject, gaming is not something I have devoted much thought or energy to. The research makes it clear that games are an effective and engaging way to promote higher level cognitive skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity. They also reinforce many academic skills, and they do so in a setting which kids actually enjoy. I will be looking for ways to bring games and simulations more attention in our district next year.

Moodle

Learning content management systems, like Moodle, are the present and immediate future of our profession. They make learning objects easily accessible by teachers and students, they facilitate collaboration and communication, they integrate Web 2.0 tools wonderfully, and they draw upon the collective knowledge and experiences of educators. The limited exploration I have done with Moodle this quarter has convinced me that it is well within the capabilities of our teachers and the time is now to get the implementation rolling in BISD.

Synchronous collaboration tools

This includes such presentation resources as Elluminate, WebEx, and Dimdim, but it also includes simpler tools, such as Skype and chat rooms. I received very positive feedback from participants in my first Dimdim professional development session, and I will be offering many more next year, perhaps even outside of the district. The convenience and extensive feature set simply make these tools essential for professional learning, and they go far beyond some of the existing online tools used in our district, which are asynchronous in nature. They also have many classroom applications. Elluminate will be available next year, and it will be exciting to see how we utilize the tool, particularly if we can find effective ways to incorporate it into our expanding number of online courses. It just might be an effective method of decreasing attrition and creating a greater sense of community among our online students.

Cell phones/personal electronic devices

Our district’s cell phone policy is now much more open, meaning it will be essential to explore and articulate best practices for utilizing the ever-increasing capabilities of the devices in the coming year. There will be an adjustment period for teachers, without a doubt. However, I truly foresee the wireless Internet capabilities, text messaging, and video/photographic capabilities being put to some creative and powerful applications.

Can Gaming Skills Be Transferred to the “Real World?”

In a recent blog post, David Warlick discusses his experience presenting a discussion of the value of gaming in education to a group of parents and educators. He related some resistance on the part of some attendees, particularly one woman, who challenged his assertation “that the video game generation is moregame controller sociable and better collaborators than the previous generation.” The woman asserted that, in fact, the opposite was true, and that today’s students had difficulty interacting and adjusting to life in the work force. Warlick responded basically that there were many factors that “make our children”, not simply their participation in online games, and that most of us struggled initially as we entered the workforce. He also added “that to see and leaverge these skills we have to alter our expectations and even aspects of the work environment and schedule and even the nature of our assignments.” In other words, as I understand him, employers (and, I would assume, educators) need to examine the environment that we create and the type of work we expect our young people to complete and adjust them to better take advantage of the skills that they are developing while playing these games (particularly the online, social-type games).

This is an interesting idea, as it calls into question the very nature of many of the standards by which the success of our students is measured, both in the classroom and beyond. It also would require a radical re-thinking of the work environment and the nature of social interaction and collaboration. Certainly, avid participants in the online video game culture do engage in many tasks that have either overt or implicit value in the working world. They solve problems, formulate hypotheses, apply subject-specific skills, communicate, and collaborate. However, the nature of these actions is certainly significantly different in many ways than the forms that they would take in a traditional classroom or workplace.

Two competing questions come to mind, then, one putting the impetus for change on the student/employee, the second, posed by David, on the employer/teacher. First, how do we take students from the virtual application of these skills to the physical, real-world environment? Research is beginning to bear out the idea that they truly are developing valuable skills, but will they have value if they cannot transfer them? Secondly, what can future employers (or schools) do to make their work environments places which leverage the types of tools that take advantage of young employees’ (or students’) affinity for and skills with these games? For instance, are social networks or simulations perhaps more effective tools for job training than traditional, in-person training sessions with this generation?

I suspect the most productive answer lies somewhere in the middle. I do agree with the premise that David makes that systemic change in the workplace should be considered. But I also think that there needs to be a transitional focus, and students need to be able to adapt the virtual experiences and interactions they have used to build their skills to the application of those abilities into marketable and useable traits in the workforce. Adaptability and the ability to respond to changing environments and situations are actually key qualities of the successful gamer, so this should be feasible. I don’t know the solution, but I do recognize the value of online gaming and the diverse skillsets that research has demonstrated can be gained/enhanced. We would be remiss, as educators, not to put some serious effort and thought into considering just how best to take advantage of this fact.

I would add that, piggy-backing off of David’s post, I went back and re-read the ISTE NETS for Teachers, and I found several ideas that could be easily applied in the workplace. Simply substitute “employers” for “teachers” and “employees” for “students”. A few examples…

1.  Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
Teachers Employers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student employee learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments. Teachers Employers:
a. promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness
b. engage students employees in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources
c. promote student employee reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes
d. model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students employees,colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments
2.  Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Teachers Employers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS•S. Teachers Employers:
a. design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student employee learning and creativity
b. develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students employees to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational occupational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress
c. customize and personalize learning activities to address studentsemployees‘ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources

3D Online Learning Environments

Evolution of the Technology

For those of us old enough to remember the early days of video games, the past 3 decades or so have been a mind-blowing evolution. I remember vividly the first Pong console I was able to use, and the fun I had playing a game that was nothing more than a few lines and a moving “ball”, which was unusually square. PongThe industry took a massive leap forward when Atari unveiled the 2600, and color, variety of game plots, and the joystick were added to the mix. I can recall dashing through Kmart as the doors opened (with my mother’s blessing), trying to get to the electronics department to lay my hands on one of the prized consoles, which was on sale for the unbelievable $100 (I also remember a grown woman snatching the first one I had out of my hands. The mayhem predates the Wii mania.). Fast-forward through the glory days of the video arcade, systems such as the Mattell Intellivision, ColecoVision, and the amazing Nintendo NES. Today, games are played on powerful systems, such as the Sony PS/3, Ninteno Wii, or X-Box 360, whose internal memory, processing power, and graphics capabilities are exponentially greater than even our old computers posessed (Truthfully, our phones are more powerful.)

Today’s games are colorful, with rich, 3-dimensional graphics, spectacular settings, complex characters, and intriguing plots. Participants interact with characters and other players to solve problems, plan strategies, and defeat adversaries. While the levels of violence are certainly a cause for concern in some instances, the degree of cognitive (and even physical, in the case of the Wii) complexity place demands upon players that we never dreamed about as we sent that pixelated ball bouncing back at our opponent.

Little surprise, then, that students both enjoy playing educational video games while simultaneouly being bored by their lack of sophistication. A student who is immersed in a realistic, massively multi-player online role-playing game (MMORPG) is likely to be less than impressed by the 2-dimension quality and simplistic plotlines of most of the educational games that exist. While some improvements are slowly arising in this domain, most are either still too simplistic or are priced beyond what is practical in today’s economic climate.

Characteristics of 3D Learning Enviroments

However, it is possible for the educator to find some very intriguing and powerful tools that have real, educational value, make effective use of technological advancements, and are reflective enough of the qualities of popular games as to make them appealing to students. Tasks are challenging and open-ended, with opportunities for exploration and multiple solutions. Alessi and Trollip categorize such games as “open-ended learning environments.” (Alessi, 2001, p.320) Many of these are reflective of the qualities of learning valued by constructivist educators, such as problem-solving, reflection, collaboration, testing and revision, etc. (Alessi, p.320) Students are afforded opportunities to create highly personalized characters, interact via the Web with other participants, and use cross-curricular skills to address meaningful problems and issues. Karl Kapp (2009) identifies several advantages to the use of such learning environments:

  • Learners can “explore places he or she could not visit in the physical world.” From the microscopic world of cellular structure to the vastness of outer space, students can virtually go where physically impossible.
  • Learning in these environments can increasingly replicate real-world situations, events, tasks, and objects that might be unaccessible otherwise.
  • Learning in 3D environments involves a greater breadth of cognitive processes, such as visual, auditory, tactile, emotional, etc., resulting in improved learning and retention over simply reading a text or listening to a lecture.
  • 3D learning environments allow multiple users to share the experience simultaneously, interacting, communicating, collaborating, and reflecting together, improving learning.

Quest Atlantis

Examples

As stated, the variety of such quality, 3D learning environments is limited at this point. However, there are some exciting tools already available. Quest Atlantis is an example. Developed by the University of Indiana, Quest Atlantis immerses participants in a fascinating, colorful, virtual world, with the setting being the mythical culture of Atlantis. Participants are tasked with solving problems that are all focused on saving the dying civilization, and incorporate skills applicable in the sciences, social studies, language arts, math, and more. Specific tasks can be selected by teachers or by students. The game allows interaction with other participants from countries around the globe, offering opportunities for developing cultural awareness, as well.

River CityAnother example is The River City Project, created by the National Science Foundation, the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History, Arizona State University, and Harvard University. In The River City Project, participants find themselves in a fictional, historical town of River City. They discover that the town has serious health problems, and they are tasked with trying to find solutions to the town’s problems using modern scientific knowledge and practices. Students conduct research, collect data, and formulate and test hypotheses as they work to help the city. As with Quest Atlantis, the graphics are spectacular, tasks are meaningful and relevant to real-world situations, and the student must interact with a range of characters and other users. There are also numerous historical photographs and opportunities to learn about early researchers in the field.

A much more open-ended example of a 3D learning environment is Teen Second Life. While many educators have become familiar with its adult parent, less attention has been paid to the possibilities of this tool, Teen Second Lifefocused on adolescents. Teen Second Life is very similar to Second Life, and users can create imaginative personal avatars, build virtual environments, tools, works of arts, clothing, etc., and interact with users from around the globe. Unlike Second Life, however, participation is both monitored and restricted to teens (and approved adults), with the goal of preventing much of the inappropriate content and interactions that occur in the adult version. As opposed to Quest Atlantis and The River City Project, there is no pre-determined goal for Teen Second Life. This opens up the possibilities for a wide range of applications. Already, students are using TSL for creative applications, such as graphic design, virtual architecture, and fashion design, for creating spaces to meet with other students to study and work on projects, for social activism, and more. Teachers are using TSL to present workshops, interact with students outside the school day, provide guidance on student projects, etc.

3D virtual worlds are exciting for multiple reasons. First of all, they are engaging, far beyond the levels of most educational gaming software. Secondly, they go beyond the basics of curriculum to the development of meaningful 21st century skills that our students will need for future success in school and in life. Additionally, the open nature of tools such as Teen Second Life affords application in a variety of ways across the currilum. Finally, they are exciting because we are just seeing the tip of the proverbial iceberg with regard to their development, and the power and applications possible is constantly improving. For these reasons, they deserve greater attention by educators. If interested in learning more, Thinkquest offers a good overview, as does the Horizon Project.

References:

Alessi, S.M., & Trollip, S.R. (2001). Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Development. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Live Blogging from Birdville ISD: David Warlick (Part I)

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