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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Twitter Chat About Playing Games and Making Games for Learning

On April 18 I moderated #6thchat. It was an excellent hour of discussion about playing and making games for learning. I wrapped up with a video and question about my Game Design Project Packs.

Here's the Storify archive. I realized afterward I didn't always use #6thchat on my replies, so they won't appear hear. You can see all replies if you expand a tweet that's part of a conversation.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Using Games and Game Design in the Classroom - a Twitter Chat on 4/18

I'm excited to say I'll be the guest moderator of #6thchat on April 18, from 9:00 PM -10:00 PM, EST.

The title of the chat will be Playing Games and Making Games (of all types) for Learning. Where will we go with such a broad topic? To give you an idea, here's some of my background in games and education.

I've loved playing games all my life. For as long as I remember, I've had a passion for learning new ones and for creating my own.

I have created some simple computer games, but board and card games are by far my favorite. My most popular designs have been party games and couple of them have been enjoyed by people all over the world.

As a former high school math teacher and now as an instructional tech coordinator, I shared my interest of all these games with students throughout the 23 years of my career. From digital to traditional, strategy board games to party games to role-playing games, I've explored their potential for learning, both in and out of the classroom.

I've used them as warm-ups, for creativity exercises and for critical thinking activities. I have also helped several teachers lead game design projects based on course content.

I'm convinced of the power of games when it comes to teaching and learning. At the same time, though, I've seen them used ineffectively in the classroom. I know it's possible to make a fun, popular game activity that doesn't result in the learning we need to see.

It's from this cautious optimism that I generated list of questions for the chat. I hope you will join us on 4/18 as we discuss effective ways to use games for learning!

And it won't be the primary focus, but I will talk about my Game Design Project Packs. Check out this post and the quick video below if you want to learn more about this fun activity for deep learning.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Another Fun Middle School Computers Lesson - Making Comics with Google Slides

I've been posting some of the creative projects we used in our middle school Computers class. (See this post on simple podcasts and this one on animation.)

Those of you who regularly follow my work will be very familiar with the basics of this one -- Comics with Google Slides!

When we did this in class, the excitement level went through the roof! Many students in my district have learned this process already, so some took their own pictures instead of using the ones provided in the directions. You can modify those as necessary for your class.

Click here to get a copy of the Google Doc that contains the directions for students. It links to this sample comic.

Those directions take students through the process of creating a comic. It uses some of my resources that you can find on my Comics page.

Also, this video tutorial is referenced in the directions. It shows the basic process.

And in case you missed the header image above, remember you can get my free ebook about making comics like this by joining my monthly newsletter list. Please click here to sign up.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fun Animation Project with Chromebooks

This simple animation project from our middle school Computers class proved to be the most engaging one we've done so far. I'll post all the videos, the directions and some tips below so you can easily adapt it for your class.

We used the Stop Motion Animator app on Chromebooks. (They finally released an update for the app after a bug had made the previous version unusable for several months.)

Students had a ton of fun with this project! They watched my simple tutorial (below) and were making animated videos in no time. A few groups didn't want to stop at the end of class!

You can see in the photo that our students used Lenovo Chromebooks with the reversible camera. It allows them to easily capture images on the table in front of the device. If you have Chromebooks with cameras that only face the user, it's a little more challenging to get pictures of objects on the table and see the screen at the same time. (Here's a blog I came across that shows how one teacher addressed this problem.)

Here are the simple example videos that I created for the project:

And here is the short tutorial that shows how to use the app:

This document contains all the directions and links to the above video files.

And here are a few tips and things to consider:
  • I didn't mention in the video that the spacebar is the shortcut key for capturing a frame and that the Undo button will delete the last frame of the animation.
  • In my tutorial I neglected to emphasize the importance of slight movements of the object from frame to frame. I also didn't state that it looks best if the camera stays in the same place. Consequently, some students made a very choppy series of images. It sort of hinted at action, but I wouldn't call it an animation.
  • We had a little trouble with the app when we tried to load a previously saved video or when we were recording audio. Usually restarting the app or the Chromebook solved it.
  • You'll notice the directions refer to a contest for the best animation. I selected five videos from those submitted and posted them on our school's homepage. Students could vote (using a Google Form) for their favorite. Here's the winning video, created by one student who won a snack and soft drink for his efforts.
I hope your students enjoy this activity as much as ours did! If they create videos you'd like to share, I'd love to see them and show them to our class.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Recording Podcasts with TwistedWave in Middle School

Here's a relatively short project we used in our middle school Computers class this week. It takes students through the planning, recording and editing of a short podcast. We used TwistedWave on Chromebooks.

Here is an example created by a pair of our students. While there's plenty of room for improvement, this was a good first attempt at an audio recording. What I loved most about the project was how students got excited about their podcast topics. You can hear that clearly in that recording.

Here is the assignment document. It includes all the directions and it links to the video below. I created that video several months ago and posted it elsewhere on this blog. It serves as a good tutorial for anyone learning to use Twisted Wave.

A couple notes about the project:
  • In order to use TwistedWave, we required the students under the age of 13 to return signed parent permission forms. Even though they sign in using their school Google accounts, I felt this was important after contacting TwistedWave about their Privacy Policy.
  • After assigning this project, I added a part at the bottom of the directions about the important differences between this simple recording and professional podcasts.