It’s been two days short of a month since I last blogged. Thinking back to an initial post, I have not listened to one of my reflections: blog often because the memory ain’t what it used to be.
But I digress.
The exciting news is that we have started our first gamification/game-based learning unit on the human body. My last post described the layout of the badges, which I’m already rethinking. Yes, I would like students to earn badges for the academic achievements aligned with the curriculum. But I want the them to access more: easter eggs that students have no idea they can achieve, character badges such as showing improvement, showing innovation in publishing and giving effective feedback, and badges based on achievements within the apps/games they are playing. So much possibility! So little time to design them all!
The apps/games we are using are working out well for the most part. In science, we first introduced Tiny Bop’s Human Body which was the perfect app to begin the unit.
Engaged from the first seconds, students explored the interactive organ systems. Best part for our IEP students and ESL students: no text, nothing to read. This evened the playing field for everyone in that all students had the same entry point and all could independently explore the app. And boy, did they ever explore! After 20 minutes the students were begging for more! Even now, two weeks in, this is their favourite science app.
We are using a couple of other anatomy-type apps: Spongelab’s Build A Body app and Anatomy Browser.
We had to chat with the students about these two apps because they include the reproductive systems for men and women. We will eventually explore that system later in the year when we do our health unit on growth and development, but for now, we’re leaving it alone. Now, these aren’t games, but they are engaging and interactive informational resources. They are used right now to evoke questions, curiosity and inquiry for when they do their research project, much more true-to-life than any textbook could be. And we will be introducing the Human Defense app, a Pokemon-like game that teaches about the immune system, soon.
In math, we are focussing on adding and subtracting, with and without decimals. While this is mostly done through pencil and paper practice, we do allow the students time to practice fact fluency so that they can solve equations quickly. We have found several fun ones: Math vs. Zombies is exactly as it sounds; you have to transform the zombie into a person by solving math equations quickly.
Similarly, Sumdog is a game where you have to quickly answer the math equation to gain snowballs to hit down ice towers, akin to Angry Birds. Sumdog is web-based and completely free, and students have been playing at home so they can level up and gain XP (experience points).
3D Math Racing is a great little app that has users in a truck rally where you have to solve math facts quickly to remain in the race. The equations are changeable (1’s all the way to 15s, easy/medium/hard levels) so everyone can participate.
The common thread in all these apps/websites is that speed is a factor. The faster the number problem is solved, the longer you get to stay in the game and the more points you earn. Using these apps, we hope, will improve fact fluency and quick problem solving.
Further, as our year progresses, we will be using Prodigy more frequently.
This is a wonderful, FREE, interactive math game that has participants battling mythical figures by answering math problems correctly. Teachers can align questions with grade level curriculum and the specific expectations of a math unit and they can analyze results of each student when they are finished playing the game. This can inform next instructional steps, and see where specific weaknesses lie. Also, it can be played for free at home as well. The motivation is there for many students to play this game on their own time, so they can earn virtual rewards, level up and gain XP. The single limit to us using Prodigy daily is that it is not yet tablet friendly, as it relies on Adobe Flash technology. In the near future, our hope is that Prodigy will issue a Flash-free website that can be used on our iPads.
If anyone has any other iPad apps or websites that might relate to what we are doing, please let us know. Our next foci are Early Civilizations/First Nations People, and Data Management & Multiplying/Dividing.