QR Code Roulette

Turn QR codes into a game that can be used with any content!

It’s colorful. It’s magical. It’s MYSTERIOUS. It will mesmerize your students for the whole class period. Eighth graders will swoon, and ninth graders might start out as skeptics (“Why can’t we just do this on a worksheet?”), but fear not! Before long, they will fall prey to the magic as well. And the best part? They are actually LEARNING. So, what is this magical tool, you might ask?

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It’s the magic of a cube. Yep. A cube.

Just insert a QR code on each side, and presto! Like magic, you can turn any activity into an engaging learning quest. Furthermore, QR codes are an easy way to differentiate content, process, and product without making it obvious to your students that you are doing so. If this sounds magical to you, read on for some different ways to incorporate QR cube codes into your teaching!

The QR Cube

Roll the cube and scan the code. It’s as easy as that. You can easily find or make your own cube template to use for this activity. I made mine in Microsoft Word by pasting the cube template and then inserting the QR codes as pictures. However, you could also print out a blank cube template and then print the QR codes separately to paste on to the cube.

You can easily create your own QR codes at a website like http://www.qrstuff.com/. Just copy and paste a link to a website or to a Google Doc, choose your color, and the website will generate a QR code for you, which you can save as a JPEG. I typically provide a separate assignment with questions or space to complete each task provided by the QR codes. This way, you can simply change the questions on the printed hand out if you want to differentiate, instead of having to make different cubes for each group.

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I recently used QR cubes with my eighth grade students to practice identifying paragraph structures such as compare/contrast, problem/solution, and cause/effect. Each QR code took them to a Google Doc with a sample paragraph. They had to identify which type of paragraph structure was being used by identifying signal words and then creating a graphic organizer.

With my ninth grade students, I used QR cube codes to help students practice identifying ode and elegy. Each code was linked to a poem which students had to identify as ode or elegy; then, they answered differentiated questions on each poem and practiced writing their own poems.

Next, I am looking forward to using the QR cubes to introduce The Diary of Anne Frank. Each code will link to a different website with historical background information, such as The United Holocaust Museum and the Anne Frank Museum website. Students will explore each site and complete a web quest to build background knowledge.

The options are endless when it comes to QR code cubes, but here a few more ideas to get you started:

  1. Link codes to student writing samples and have students evaluate them.
  2. Provide pictures or narrative writing prompts to spark your students’ imagination!
  3. Practice vocabulary by linking each code to a vocabulary word. Provide students with a list of definitions or fill in the blank sentences and have them match each word they scan. This could easily work with foreign languages as well!
  4. Help students practice grammar by providing sentences for them to correct with each code.
  5. Practice developing claims and counterclaims by linking each code to an argumentative writing prompt.
  6. Provide links to different websites on the same topic and have students evaluate their credibility.
  7. Link each code to a practice math problem.
  8. Link codes to different steps in a sequence and have students put them in the correct order. This could work with a variety of subjects; for instance, order the plot events in a story, the steps to solve a math problem, or even the steps of the Scientific Method.
  9. Make test prep more fun by linking codes to practice tests or individual prompts. You could even link each code to a different test prep strategy and have students practice using that strategy with the next problem they complete.

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Because they are so versatile, QR cube codes can be tailored to meet the needs of any student. In addition, they add an element of mystery and surprise to any lesson, which everybody loves! If you have other ideas for how to use QR codes in the classroom, send a shout out in the comments. In the meantime, roll the dice and have some fun! I promise you’ll see the magic!

 

12 Ways to Use Pokemon Go in Your Classroom

Gotta catch all these lesson plans for Pokemon Go!

You may have heard of a little game called Pokemon Go (if you haven’t, you may have been living in a Pokeball for the last few weeks 😉 ). In any case, Pokemon Go has taken the world by storm, becoming the biggest mobile game in U.S. history, eclipsing daily Twitter users and earning an estimated $14 million all since its American release on July 6. The game superimposes animated Pokemon characters over your phone’s camera so you can “catch” them as you walk around in the real world. You can also collect items from Pokestops (geographic landmarks), and finally, fight to defend your team–red, blue, or yellow–at “gyms” located all around the world.

At first glance, Pokemon Go does not seem like the type of game you would use in a classroom. In fact, it seems more like the type of game you would ask students to put away as they try to play it under their desk during your lesson. However, many of our students are kinesthetic learners, longing to get out of their seats and do something; many of our students are competitive or achievement-driven. Many of our students are already playing this game, so why not use it?

Below are twelve ideas for how to use Pokemon Go in your classroom, or as a supplement to your curriculum. Below each lesson you will notice a list of learning styles and personality types. While the activities are intended to be engaging for all students, they may appeal more to certain types of learners than others. Traits highlighted in pink represent the types of students who would most benefit from that particular activity. To learn more about any of the learning styles or personality traits listed, go to my about page here.

12 Ways to Use Pokemon Go in Your Classroom

  1. Have students play the game and complete activities as they find Pokemon. Start by making your own copy of this document with a list of Pokemon (seen below).
    GottaCatchEmAll
    Click here to access this document and make a copy for yourself!
    As students catch each Pokemon on the list, they will scan a QR code which will take them to an assignment or activity you create for that character. You will need to create your own QR codes to link to each of your activities (instructions for creating QR codes are included in the download). In addition, I have included common and rare Pokemon as well as evolved forms of some Pokemon. This way, you can vary the difficulty or include enrichment activities based on how hard the Pokemon is to find. You could easily turn this into a class or group contest by Awarding points for speed and/or accuracy. Here are some ideas to get you started:

English: Create a short grammar activity for each Pokemon; assign a vocab word (or list of words) to each Pokemon and have students use the word(s) in a sentence about that particular Pokemon; provide a creative writing prompt for each Pokemon

Math: Create a word problem for each Pokemon on the list

Science: Provide a research prompt based on the type of animal each Pokemon represents (e.g. students would research crabs for the Krabby Pokemon)

History: Provide a significant historical date, person, or political or economic concept for students to learn about or research for each Pokemon.

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

2. Have your students read and compare these two contrasting articles on how Pokemon Go is affecting the economy: “Pokemon Go is everything that is wrong with late capitalism” and “Pokemon Go is actually helping small businesses.” If you teach economics, you could discuss or further research the economic theories behind the main points in each article. If you teach English, you could have students evaluate and write an argument or host a debate supporting which article is the most valid. This activity would support Common Core State Standard 8.9 for reading informational text, which requires students to “Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact or interpretation.”

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

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Example of a Pokestop in Pokemon Go
3. If you teach English or History, have students select and research the significance of a Pokestop or gym in the game, and have them write or present about why they think the writers at Niantic chose that location for the game. As an enrichment activity, you could have students write or present on a location that they think should be added to the game.

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

4. One of the most fascinating aspects of Pokemon Go is that it inspires people to explore the world around them, and even meet new people in the process. Using an app like Marvel, have your students design an app imitating Pokemon Go, where users have to walk around to collect something or interact with people. This could be a great way to promote social justice in your classroom. For example, students could research needs in their community to illuminate through their game (e.g. their Pokestops could show where all of the animal shelters in the community are, and users could collect lost or stray animals to bring to the shelters). You could also use this idea to have students demonstrate their knowledge of a concept. For instance, students could show the origin of myths from around the world and have users “catch” legendary characters or symbols from each myth; they could show that they understand a particular time period by including Pokestops at locations where historical events occurred; they could even show that they understand weather patterns by including Pokestops at places where certain weather patterns occur.

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

5. Pokemon isn’t for everyone, but the concept behind the game is still worth exploring. Have your students play Ingress  instead, the previous game made by the creators of Pokemon Go (free for iOS and Android). In fact, the location of the Pokestops in Pokemon Go are based directly on the location of what are called “portals” in Ingress. Portals emit exotic matter (XM), a form of energy thought to come from an extraterrestrial life form, known as the “Shapers,” who are trying to take over the world. As a player, you serve as an agent for one of two factions “battling to control the destiny of humankind”: the Resistance or the Enlightened. The Resistance do not trust the Shapers and fight to protect humanity by stopping the emission and use of exotic matter, while the Enlightened seek to understand the Shapers and embrace the use of exotic matter to bring technological advances to our society. As an agent, you work to control portals for your faction, much like how you battle at gyms in Pokemon Go. You can learn more about Ingress by checking out their website here or watching the video below on how to get started.

This game would pair well with a unit on dystopian literature or a discussion on the advantages and disadvantages of technology. You could also discuss what it means to “advance” society: should we embrace change or trust in what we know to be safe?

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

6. Show students this picture imagining a Pokemon’s life inside a Pokeball.

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Begin this lesson with a writing prompt like the following: Write about the life of a Pokemon in the wild. Then write about the life of a Pokemon after it has been caught. Did you portray one life as being better than the other? If so, which one?
Once you have sparked your students’ interest, have them read about the morality of keeping animals in captivity, and host a debate on the subject. If you prefer, you could focus more on reading and analyzing the articles by having students “Determine [the] author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.6) or “Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is valid and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; identify false statements and fallacious reasoning” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.9-10.8). Below are a few articles you could use for this activity:

Article 1: “10 Reasons to Skip Your Next Zoo Visit” 

This article by One Green Planet, a nonprofit environmental protection organization, lists reasons why zoos are bad, making it easy to follow and good for comparing arguments on both sides of the coin.

Article 2: “Why Zoos are Good”

This article, published by a blogger for The Guardian, does a good job of addressing common arguments against zoos. It is however, fairly lengthy, and does contain some high-level vocabulary, so it would be best-suited for strong readers. To aid in comprehension, I would suggest reading Article 1 first, then having students identify counterarguments to the “10 Reasons to Skip Your Next Zoo Visit” in this article on “Why Zoos are Good.” The structure of this article, in contrast with the first article, would also make it a great text for “Analyz[ing] and evaluat[ing] the effectiveness of the structure an author uses in his or her exposition or argument, including whether the structure makes points clear, convincing, and engaging” (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.11-12.5).

Article 3: “Are Zoos a Good Thing?”

Hosted on the LearnEnglish Teens section of the British Council’s website, this article provides a concise overview of both sides of the issue at a lower reading level than the previous two websites. It also includes true/false reading comprehension questions as well as a fill-in-the-blank vocabulary quiz and practice worksheets/activities for additional practice.

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

250px-Blue_EN_boxart7. Research the evolution of the Pokemon franchise. Then compare different mediums of the game, including any or all of the following: the GameBoy games, the collectible card game, the television show, the manga series, and of course, the newest sensation, Pokemon Go. If possible, allow students to experience these mediums first hand (it is likely that students may own one or more of these Pokemon products to bring in). Then you could have students “Compare and contrast a written story, drama, or poem to its audio, filmed, staged, or multimedia version, analyzing the effects of techniques unique to each medium (e.g., lighting, sound, color, or camera focus and angles in a film) (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.7.7) or “Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums (e.g., print or digital text, video, multimedia) to present a particular topic or idea” ( CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.7). You could assess this lesson by having students write a review of one or more versions of the game, evaluating which they think is best or worst.

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

8. Have students read the article “Playing a science-based video game? It might be all wrong” and then identify what is scientifically accurate or inaccurate about Pokemon Go. Students could then work to create an accurate version of the game using an app like Marvel to make their ideas come to life. You could also use this article to spark a debate over the use of video games in learning as a whole–can a game be helpful or educational if it doesn’t portray an accurate version of the topic?

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

9. Have students choose a Pokemon and write a story about it. In lieu of a traditional written story, you could also allow students to write a manga, since the original Pokemon stories were also written in this form.

Pokemon Manga

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

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Create a Pokemon, including type, evolution, powers, strengths, and weaknesses.
10. Have students create a Pokemon based on a character from a novel, a historical figure, or even a scientific element or mathematical principal. Their Pokemon should include type, how the character or person would evolve, what powers it would have, and which type of Pokemon it would be strong or weak against and why. Once they create their Pokemon, you could even have them “battle” for a gym by having them debate each other over why their Pokemon would beat the other.

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

11. Since its recent release, Pokemon Go has had some very positive and some not so positive effects on its users. Have students read about these effects in the articles below, and discuss if the game is ultimately a positive or a negative for society. For enrichment, you could have students create a P.S.A. about how to stay safe and be healthy playing the game, using video making software like iMovie (iOS only) or Do Ink (an app that lets you create green screen videos). They could also create a visual presentation using a website like Adobe Spark, Canva, Prezi, or PowToon.

Articles on Impact of Pokemon Go

“‘Pokémon Go’ Catches High Praise from Health Experts”

“Pokémon Go is turning strangers into the best of friends”

“How Pokemon Go is helping people with social anxiety and depression” **This is a great article, but it does contain one quote with an asterisked obscenity, just to be aware!

“Teen Playing Pokémon Go Walks Onto Highway And Gets Hit By A Car”

“Robbers target Pokémon Go players in Maryland and beyond”

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

12. Create your own version of Pokemon Go using the free app Aurasma (iOS and Android). If you are worried about the liability of having students go out on their own time to play Pokemon Go for an assignment, this could be a great alternative. Aurasma allows you to create “Auras” by taking a photo and superimposing an animation over that photo, so that when a student takes a picture of that object, the animation will pop up on their screen, much like Pokemon pop up on your camera in Pokemon go. This works best when you take a picture of something still, like a painting, sculpture, or logo that won’t be moved or changed. Using Aurasma, you could create your own version of Pokestops around your school and have students find them by completing activities to receive clues, like a scavenger hunt. You could also have students create Aura’s to produce their own version of Pokemon Go.

Types of students benefitted: Ability (low ability, high ability, struggling readers), Myers Briggs (EN, ES, IN, IS, thinking, feeling, judging, perceiving), Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences (visual-spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, linguistic, logical-mathematical), VAK learning styles (visual, auditory, kinesthetic)

So there you have it! Happy hunting, and if you haven’t started yet, download the app and start catching ’em all! I promise you and your students won’t be disappointed.

Group Discussions with NowComment

Unleash the power of introverts and host vivid discussions using NowComment, a free and easy-to-use online discussion tool with a wealth of features!

It’s no secret that one of the best ways to learn is by discussing something, and it’s certainly important that all students learn how to speak with others. However, it’s also important to remember that not all students are speakers, and that not all discussions need to be verbal.

In her book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain suggests that introverts are dramatically undervalued in an education system aimed at developing extroverts. Kristen Adler, assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Antioch College writes in a blog post titled “Balancing Introversion and Extroversion in the Classroom” that threaded discussions are “extraordinarily beneficial for introverts, and otherwise quiet students–as well as for extroverts.” They allow introverts, who characteristically think (long and hard) before they speak, to articulate their thoughts without having to jump head first into a conversation without a life vest; they also require extroverts to piece together their thoughts before saying the first thing that comes to their mind.

NowComment is an awesome and free online tool to host threaded discussions of texts, pictures, and even videos so that introverts and extroverts alike can share their ideas and learn to communicate effectively. **Yes, there are many other tools available for collaborating and discussing texts online (hello, Google!), but NowComment is particularly useful for moderating and organizing online discussions.

Getting Started

When you first go to NowComment, you will need to create an account using Google or Facebook, or by creating your own login. Once you log in, you can upload documents, including Microsoft Word or Excel, PDFs, images, html texts and images, and even videos (from your computer or a website like YouTube). You can also type your own text if you prefer. Finally, there are public documents where you can search for ready-made assignments. If you make your documents public, they will also become part of the public library.

Features

Once you have created an assignment, there are a wealth of options for moderating your discussion,  which you can see in the screenshot below.

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If you didn’t read through that screenshot (yes, I’m calling you out 😉 ), here are a few noteworthy features:

  • You can set a due date (with optional email reminder).
  • You can set a minimum number of comments that a student must post, and it will keep track (you can also set a maximum).
  • You can keep students from seeing each other’s comments until a designated time. This is great for seeing what students are able to think of on their own, before they have had a chance to read what other students have to say. This is also good for introverts, who may be dissuaded from posting their comment if they see that someone else has already shared their idea.
  • You can allow students to suggest revisions to a document. This, of course, lends itself well to editing and revising student work. Furthermore, when students suggest a revision, it requires them to fill in a field explaining why they made a particular change.
  • You can highlight text and specify which colors designate what. With each document you assign, students can publicly or privately highlight text. Anything highlighted publicly is visible to all students, and you can click on it to see a heat map showing how many students highlighted that word or section as well as what colors they highlighted it. The default highlighting colors are yellow for “important,” red for “unclear,” green for “agree,” brown for “disagree,” and blue for “like.” You can change these when you create the assignment. Students can change their private highlighting colors, which only they, along with the document administrator (you) can see.
NowComment Highlights
Public and private customizable highlighting options

Sharing Assignments

After you set your options, you can create groups to share your assignment with by importing your class roster(s). Watch this video by Heidi Weber, a 2015 PBS Learning Digital Innovator, to learn how (it’s only three minutes long, and it’s very helpful)! You can create as many groups as you like, so you can assign texts to one student, one group, one class, or all of your classes! However, take note that if you assign one document to multiple groups, all comments will show up on that document. If you want the document to only have one classes’ comments, you will need to make copies of your document to assign to individual groups. This can be done by clicking on “My Library” at the top of the page, then clicking the “More” drop-down menu next to the assignment you wish to copy. Then click “copy” and you will be able to select how many copies you would like to make.

Hosting Discussions

When your students open your assignment, they will see a screen that looks like this:

NowComment Discussion Screen.png

The default screen is in two panels, with the assignment on the left, and the commenting panel on the right. Students can make comments on individual sentences or multiple paragraphs by simply hovering over the text they wish to comment on. They can make comments on pictures or videos in the same way. When they click on a sentence or paragraph, they can immediately see any other comments made on that section. At this point, they have the option to reply to a previous comment on that section, or start a new thread if their comment is unrelated to the existing discussion.

When students post a comment, they must include a brief (255 character maximum) summary of their comment. The summary serves as a tagline, or almost like an email subject line for the student’s comment (nice opportunity to teach how to write an objective summary). Aside from the summary, the student’s full comment can be as long as they wish.

At the top of the comment panel, you can toggle whether you see full comments or just summaries. You can also sort comments by name, date, or tag. If you are grading students’ participation, this feature is a life-saver; you don’t have to dig through tons of comments to find one student’s posts.

Student and Class Blogs

If you end up using NowComment frequently, you may consider hosting a class blog, or having students create individual blogs to share and reflect on their work. Blogs are easy to set up on NowComment (there is literally a button that says “Create Class Blog” when you are in your group’s page, and  button that says “Create a Personal Blog” when you are in your main login screen). After setting up your blog, you can upload excerpts from public documents or assignments as blog posts. Simple, but effective.

Ideas for Use

Obviously, NowComment is great for any discussion-related activity, but here are some general ideas for use:

  1. Assign a close-reading passage and have students highlight and comment on diction, tone, mood, symbolism, plot structures, characterization, or other literary devices.
  2. Have students upload their writing and practice revising and editing each other’s work.
  3. Post a painting or photograph and have students complete a collaborative OPTIC analysis.
  4. Post a scene from a film or documentary and have students discuss it.
  5. Have students read and discuss a news article about a current event.
  6. Host a debate.
  7. Assign word problems and have students collaborate to solve them.
  8. Have students comment on each other’s blog posts.
  9. Assign small groups a different text or task to work with, then have each group share out.
  10. Host a seminar.

And there you have it! Now you can comment with NowComment…and no comments from the peanut gallery! Just kidding. If you have comments, please let me know!

A Graphic of Info on Infographics

Ever seen an awesome infographic and wondered how to make one yourself? Watch my short tutorial to learn how you and your students can create stunning (and free) infographics using Hubspot, Canva, and Adobe Spark Post for a fun way to differentiate process and product!

An infographic is a visual way to represent often complex subjects using few words and lots of flair. They are a great way to differentiate process and product, especially for logical-mathematical learners and visual-spatial learners. In addition, because infographics represent information in a holistic way, they require students to analyze and synthesize information in order to decide how best to convey their topic. Watch the video below to learn about ideas for use and watch live demos of 3 FREE tools for creating awesome infographics!

Finally, here are the links to the 3 free tools demoed in the tutorial!

  1. Hubspot: In order to download your free 15 templates, you must create an account. The website asks for some funky information, like how many employees work for your company and what CRM you use, so just fill it in to the best of your ability (and guesstimate for the rest).
  2. Canva: Easy and free to register, create, and share infographics. Plenty of free images, templates, and more; you can also purchase individual templates and images for $1 each (no need for a subscription).
  3. Adobe Spark Post: Create simple, but powerful images in minutes (for free)!

Enjoy, and happy infographic-making!

Games for One, Games for All!

English! Math! Science! History! Looking for a game to play in your classroom? Here is a list of resources with games for all different subjects!

There are two hot buzzwords surrounding gaming and education: gamification and game-based learning (GBL). Gamification involves adding game-like elements to a non gaming environment (like incorporating game mechanics, badges, awards, or achievements into your normal class activities), while game-based learning involves using games to reach learning outcomes. Both can be great ways to achieve better outcomes for all students, regardless of ability, personality, or learning style. Not convinced? Check out my infographic  on video games and learning, or read this article on gamification versus game-based learning by Steven Isaacs. The list below focuses on resources for game-based learning in all subject areas.

1. Gamindex: This website offers in-depth reviews of video games in all subject areas. Developed by Mallory Kessen, an English teacher and avid gamer (whom I happen to have the fortune of working with 🙂 ), Gamindex is easily the sleekest and most intuitive resource on this list–just click on your subject area and BAM! You will find a list of expert-reviewed games to use in your class. Reviews include everything from age level to game difficulty to educational and overall ratings, and even ideas for how to use the game in your classroom.

Sneak Peek: Fine Arts, English Language Arts

Review: Toren

“More and more indie games are being developed with a focus on telling a good story and experimenting with new styles of gameplay.  Toren is one of those games. Created by Brazilian developer Swordtales, Toren places players in the role of Moonchild, a young warrior who has lost her memories and forgotten her past inside a massive tower. Players lead Moonchild through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood as she climbs the tower and the Tree of Life on her journey to defeat the dragon atop it. Toren is a short myth that the player learns about and explores along with Moonchild as she grows up and recovers her memories.”

2. Steam Community–Extra Credits EDU: This site includes a list of games for all subjects, including descriptions of themes/ideas, difficulty, and time to play. Better yet, it is hosted by Steam, an online entertainment platform with over 3,500 games of all varieties. This means that once you create a free account, you can simply click to purchase or play any of the games on the list. You will also have access to the Steam Community, a social media platform where you can join groups like Extra Credits EDU to follow games you are interested in and to learn about new games.

Sneak Peek: History

Review: Darkest Hour: A Hearts of Iron Game

“[Darkest Hour] features a mixture of short and in-depth campaigns set across the darkest chapters of the 20th century. Play from the outbreak of the Great War up until the onset of the Cold War.”

“History. 3-4 hours. Difficult. Control an existing nation state during the first and second world wars. Play with student input in class to discuss WWII”

3. Games for Change: With a mission of “Catalyzing social impact through digital games,” Games for Change inspires a unique approach to game-based learning. They offer a wide array of games which can be filtered by age as well as subject, including (but not limited to): civics, conflict, economics, education, environment, family, fitness, gender, health, and human rights.

Sneak Peek: Science

Review: Bioharmonious

Bioharmonious makes the player responsible for the fate of two interconnected planets.  The Manufactured Planet, a place of clockwork machinery and choking smog, is on the verge of collapse, and its sister planet, the lush and diverse Natural Planet, will die along with it unless something is done.  Through a process of “bioharmony,” scientists from the Manufactured Planet are able to integrate the flora and fauna of the Natural Planet into their machines to improve the environment of their home world.”

4. “30 Ways to Use Minecraft in the Classroom”: This isn’t a website, but rather, a blog post about, well…30 ways to use Minecraft in the classroom. Minecraft is a popular block-building game (think Legos for your computer), and can be played online or on a mobile device. This post includes unique ideas for using Minecraft in all different subject areas. Believe it or not, you can use Minecraft to teach everything from sustainability to ancient history to probability, storytelling, or even foreign language! Check it out!

Sneek Peek: Math

17. Teach volume with Minecraft

“In this lesson from MakersFactory, students learn about volume using Minecraft blocks, measuring dimensions and calculating the volume of increasingly more complicated shapes. Students travel through a “museum” of progressively more difficult geometric shapes, and are asked to calculate their volume. After completing the museum, students measure a Minecraft recreation of the Parthenon of ancient Greece, and calculate its volume. To download the map and associated lesson plans, click here: http://services.minecraftedu.com/worlds/node/133 – See more at: http://teachwithict.weebly.com/minecraft-lesson-ideas.html#sthash.UqthF69T.dpuf”

Hopefully this gives you some ideas to get started! Of course, this list is nowhere near exhaustive, so if you have other resources for games to use in the classroom, let me know!

Step Up Your (Video) Game!

Be a part of the fun! Comment with your favorite game (and what subject area you could use it for, if possible). I’ll compile your input for a future post!

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Process: 9 Studying Tools for All Learners

Are students always asking you how to study for the test? This post shares some new and creative ways to help every student ace the test.

All students learn differently. Here are 9 apps and online platforms to help different learners study their materials. For more information on the types of learners mentioned in this post, go to the About Page.

  1. Quizlet: Featuring iOS, Android, and online platforms, Quizlet is a free application that lets you create study sets with terms, definitions, and even pictures. Once you have created a study set, you can review in a variety of ways, including flashcards, definitions, spelling, practice tests, and games. With the flashcards and definitions you can enable audio playback. You can also adjust the difficulty for several of the activities. This is a great study tool for virtually all students, including auditory, visual, kinethetic, low ability, struggling readers, Introverted Sensing, and linguistic learners.
  2. MindMeister: MindMeister is a mindmapping app available for iOS and Android. It also has an online platform. A mindmap is basically a graphic organizer/chart that helps you map out ideas or learning topics. With the online platform, you can create three free mindmaps, but the phone app is free, and lets you create unlimited mindmaps. MindMeister even allows you to collaborate and share mindmaps, which would certainly benefit extraverted and interpersonal learners. This app would also be particularly helpful for visual spatial, logical mathematical, visual, kinesthetic, and Introverted Sensing (IS) learners. You can see some of the features here:
  3.  Popplet: This app is very similar to MindMeister, but simpler. You can still share your Popplets by email or by downloading them to your phone or computer, but Popplet does not have the collaboration features that MindMeister does. While MindMeister isn’t difficult to use, Popplet is much more intuitive, so this would be a great tool for students who aren’t so tech savvy, or just want a tool that is quick and simple. There is no Android app, but you can download the iOS lite version free or full version for $4.99; Popplet also has an online platform which allows you to create ten Popplets for free. Like MindMeister, this app would benefit visual spatial, logical mathematical, visual, kinesthetic, and Sensing (ES and IS) learners.
  4. AutoRap by Smule: AutoRap is a free app for iOS and Android that allows you to create rap tracks by recording your voice. Auditory or musical students could use AutoRap to create raps for any topic they need to study. You can read my earlier post on other ways to incorporate AutoRap into your lessons here.IMG_1269
  5. Adobe Spark Video: This is a free iOS app that allows you to create beautiful slideshows with text, images, and audio (voice recording and background music) in in a matter of minutes. To start, you can choose an organizational template–promote an idea, a hero’s journey, show and tell, personal growth, teach a lesson, an invitation–or start from scratch. You can even export your slideshow as a video to share. Auditory learners benefit from hearing their own voice played back to them, and musical learners tend to retain information better if they study with background music. Visual learners can incorporate pictures to associate with terms they need to learn, and Intuitive (EN and IN) students will love the opportunity to be creative. As natural leaders, Extraverted Intuitives (EN) in particular would love the “teach a lesson” template, which they could use to study for virtually any topic. 
  6. Spotify: Students ask all the time if they can listen to music while they work. Spotify is one of many free music streaming services, but I particularly like it because you can search by genre or by specific songs. Instrumental music can help many students focus, but musical students in particular learn best with background music. You can listen to Spotify online, or download it for free on iOS or Android, although the free version does have adds.
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    Voice Recorder (iOS)
  7.  Voice Recorder (iOS) & Audio Recorder (Android): There are many voice recording apps out there, but I chose these two because they are free and easy to use. Auditory learners could record themselves reciting terms and definitions, or spelling out vocabulary words to study from.
  8. Whiteboard (iOS) & A Web Whiteboard (online): Both of these are essentially free-form drawing canvases. Whiteboard (iOS) has some cool templates you can use as backdrops, or you can upload a photo to draw over. When you save your whiteboard in the phone app, it automatically stores it in your phone’s photos. With A Web Whiteboard (online), you can download your whiteboard to your computer or share via Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit. Visual spatial and kinesthetic students would especially appreciate these apps!
  9. Post-its Plus: Kinesthetic, Extraverted Sensing (ES), and Perceiving students will love this free iOS app which allows you to take pictures of multiple Post-its at once, organize and rearrange them in the app, and even add new Post-its later. You can also share and collaborate with other users. This means that hands-on students get to work with real, physical manipulatives, and Perceiving students can explore new ideas in a way that lets them easily organize later. Watch this one-minute video to see this app in action!