Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wikipedia Math Mazes - Fun filler activity for math class

When I was a high school math teacher I would often do games and activities on the days before breaks.  One of the more popular ones that I created was a "math book maze" that would take the students through several pages of the textbook and ask them to follow steps that usually involved math operations.

For example, it would say, "Take the last number you see on page 257 and divide it by 6.  Go to that page and do problem 16."

If I made the challenges just right students had a lot of fun racing through the steps hoping to get the correct number at the very end before anyone else.

Recently a high school math teacher asked about some technology activities for a similar "fun day" he was having in his basic algebra class.  I updated my idea of the math book maze and called it a Wikipedia Math Maze.

The idea is the same.  Students do some basic math problems and follow directions while they search through Wikipedia.  It went over very well with the students I tested it with.  Here it is as a Google Document:

Wikipedia Math Maze 1 - March 2013

I quickly realized that Wikipedia is updated frequently and it can throw off my maze!  The day before the activity I found I had to change some of the numbers because new footnotes had been added to one of the entries.  If you base it on a well known topic it would be possible the details could change even during the day you hand it out.  This is not an assignment to copy at the start of the year!

An obvious extension of this assignment (possibly for an advanced class) would be to have the students make their own maze.  While just solving one of the mazes requires accuracy and careful reading, making one is even more challenging because one has to be sure the directions are not ambiguous.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Google Hangout in the classroom - Bring in the experts

Last week I experimented with Google Hangouts in the classroom. I asked two of my game designer friends if the would connect for a short time with me and four students who have been using Stencyl to make computer games in a science class.

James Kyle and Kory Heath (see below for more information on their work) graciously agreed to take time to meet with us.  I sent them a short email explaining what we've been doing in class and we arranged to connect about 20 minutes early just to make sure things were working.

The classroom teacher I'm working with, Andrea Thelen, and I met with James and Kory and quickly prepped on what we'd cover in the 25 minute session.

The students were glad to meet with a couple guys who are livings their dream of making digital games.  James and Kory were quick to point out that its a lot of work with no guarantee of decent pay when one sets out as an independent game designer.

The best tips that came out of the session were:
  • Don't try to work alone. Find other designers you can work with, get feedback from and learn with. 
  • Keep a game design notebook for ideas.  You'll never have time to program them all, but by keeping them in one place you can easily come back to them even years later.  They will develop and combine over time. 
  • Break big ideas and dream designs up into manageable pieces you can start on even now. That can make the hard work of learning a little more fun. 
The meeting definitely encouraged me to try more of this. The students enjoyed it and have asked more than once if we can meet with them again. On the downside,me did have a lot of lag for about 10 minutes of the meeting. I think it can be attributed to the computer lab being in full operation right when we started.  Next time I will try meeting with just one person to see if that makes a difference. 

I want to give a special thanks to my friends James Kyle and Kory Heath.  Please check out their work when you get a chance.

  • I wrote about Kory's work in this post and he was very influential in the work that led to my class creativity presentation games
  • James Kyle is a great friend of mine who helped immensely in my early efforts to get my games to the world.  His unique word game for iPhone is called Word Surgeon

Saturday, March 16, 2013

What's It to Ya? randomizer for classroom presentation games

Much of this site is dedicated to classroom games based on my party game What's It to Ya? (a.k.a. Oh, Really!). You can find all the rules and ways to use the game on the Critical Thinking Games page.

This new installment to my resources is simply a randomizer that draws item cards for any of those activities.  If using this as a classroom presentation game, you'd need a response system (set of clickers) that allows students to do a sort in order question.

Update 8/8/2013:  If you like this activity and want to use the physical party game in class, my friends at Fair Play Games are selling four copies in a classroom bundle for only for $7.99!  That's enough for 32 students to play in multiple groups.  Check this post out for more information.

Just click the start button in the randomizer below.  Five cards will be randomly drawn from a set of 118 items that could spark interesting discussion or thought in the classroom.  See this page for a list of free critical thinking classroom activities that would use the cards.

(If the randomizer is not displaying correctly in your browser right click here to download the file.  You might have to open it with Flash Player or another browser.)

Again, you'll want to see the game's page to get all details, but basically you can use the randomizer to select the cards and then use them in any of the many ways outlined on that page.  Usually someone (depending on how you play) will rank the items from most important to least important.  Predictions and discussion can follow.  Briefly, some possible uses are:
  • Have one student or the teacher rank the items and the class tries to predict his or her rankings.
  • Just display five items, have the class rank them and discuss the results.
  • Display random items at the end of class and assign a short writing piece for homework.  Students can express their own opinions and also make predictions on how the class would rank them.
  • If students are playing in groups they could use a laptop to select the five items for their group instead of using cards.

If you're having fun with What's It to Ya? be sure to check it out at Fair Play Games.  My friends there are selling off the last remaining copies for less than $2.50 each! I'm not getting royalties for this game, so this is just my effort to help you and them out.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Middle School Web Design Assignment with Google Apps for Education

We set up Google Apps for Education at the the middle school this year.  I really like the possibilities, though we still have a ton to learn and grow into.  I created this assignment to get students started with a basic website and blog using Google Sites.  Let me know if this is of interest and I can post the other assignments I've given using Google Sites, Forms and Presentations.

Middle School Website Assignment 1

Music creation for the classroom...and for teachers

As I've posted previously, I am always looking for opportunities to create music in the classroom.  Here are a couple videos I quickly put together.  Both are of a song we used to kick off our project based learning PD last week.

The first was created in iMovie on the iPad.

This second version was done with WeVideo.  There are some limitations in WeVideo that I don't like, but overall I'm very impressed with the possibilities for using this in class.  I haven't had the chance yet, but I hope to in the next couple weeks.

The song was recorded in GarageBand on the iPad.  It's a little rough, but I think it's a great example of how easy it is to make some fun music and put a video together.  I hope to have some examples of student work soon.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Favorite Free Apps for Video Slideshows, Tutorials and Frustrating Tech in School

This past week was our district technology professional development.  It's my one big show of the year.  The  topic I was given was project based learning, but I used it as a backdrop to challenge everyone to try something new, creative and passionate in their classrooms.

To provide a concrete example we kicked the session off with Tech's a Maybe, a rewritten version of the popular song.  If I get a chance to finalize it, I'll post a recording here.  

I put together a few tutorials and examples based on iPad apps and other processes I use to create narrated video slideshows.  They're posted on the site I created for the district PD, but here are the links by page:
*A couple notes about pros and cons of these free apps from the tutorial page:
Pixntell is limited to five slides and there are no bells and whistles, but it is a very simple app for making a narrated slideshow.

Videolicious makes a nice looking slideshow that includes pictures, narration and music.  You can even add video clips, though it is not addressed in this tutorial.  

The potential negatives are your video will be limited to one minute and you give up some control on the panning and zooming.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Great new classroom resource - Infuselearning

I'm neck deep in professional development prep this weekend, but I had to take a moment to point out Infuselearning.  I went to a superintendents conference yesterday and Leslie Fisher showed us this great tool for connecting with students.  It's been out at some level for a while, I guess, but it was very new to me.  It's like Socrative, but has some amazing advantages.

It's essentially a classroom response system for any device.  But what caught my attention was the number of question types the teacher can send to the class.  You can even have student submit pictures!

And pre-made quizzes can be read aloud to multiple languages.

Here's their mission:  "We will promote educational change through empowering teachers and bringing students to the center of the learning conversation through simple, easy to use technology."

I like it.

I also love what it could do for the creativity class presentation games and systems I've been working on.  Finally I have some tools I've been waiting for.  I'll have an account and be testing this as soon as I finish the presentation for the district PD day.