I’ve been toiling over what tools to use this year in my Science classes. I’ve been making regular use of 3D GameLab as my main LMS (Learning Management System), Classblogmeister as our class blog for student blogs, Shivtr as our class discussion forum for online, asynchronous discussions, and Classdojo and Remind for parent communication (along with my HW/Daily Work blog). That is a lot and really keeps me and my kids busy! I don’t mind all the work because if I’ve learned anything after teaching for 24 years is that no ONE thing will work for every child. So having an arsenal of learning tools for my students makes the most sense.
Last year I tried a new tool with one of my quarter-long, exploratory classes, Classcraft. My kids and I loved it so I have been going back and forth trying to decide if I should add it to my list of tools above. I also wanted to add Google Classroom as a resource because I manage our school’s GAFE (Google Apps for Education) account and I use Google tools with my students as well. I read blogs, asked for feedback, read tweets, attended webinars and did everything I could to make the best decision for my students. So far having multiple accounts to keep track of has not been a problem and I’ve been having kids use multiple accounts for years so I feel pretty comfortable having various tools for kids to use in class. Still, I couldn’t decide for sure whether I should add Classcraft and Google Classroom to the mix.
Finally, just last night, I decided against adding those two extra tools. I decided against them NOT because they would be one extra thing for me to do although that was a concern. Frankly, if I had deemed them worthwhile for my students I would have easily spent the extra time using those tools. Here’s why I decided against them:
Classcraft – Last year when I used Classcraft the free version was pretty darn good. Classcraft also offered a freemium version that was fantastic. My students had access to the paid version features at no cost to me! If parents wanted to spend real money at home they could so that made it free! I have to be totally honest, in order to keep it equitable I asked kids to not hit their parents up for real money for something I had asked them to do (and use) in school. Maybe it was for that reason that this year Classcraft did NOT have a freemium version. They have a free version and two paid versions (one for individual teachers and one for teams of teachers). Now let me say up front that I think Classcraft is awesome and well worth the price. Had I not already been deeply into 3D GameLab and paid for it, Classcraft would be my only other choice for gamifying my classes! It’s that good. But since I invested money and tons of my time into 3D GameLab I decided I didn’t need to add Classcraft and frankly, their new free version is not as robust and powerful as last year’s. The paid features are too good to pass up so if I was going to use it I would have to go with the single teacher paid version! So after thinking long and hard and going back and forth I finally decided to go with 3D GameLab ONLY rather than use 3D GameLab AND Classcraft. So it was really nothing against Classcraft (aside from their new free version not being as good as it was). For me and my course, 3D GameLab gives me all the features I need and want. I did notice Classcraft is adding an LMS feature so if you’re just deciding on what to use to gamify your classroom you might want to check that out.
Google Classroom – This one also boiled down to did I really need it. Managing my students’ google docs and drawings and spreadsheets has not been an issue for me because everything students submit goes through, again, 3D GameLab. That LMS does it all for me (except for discussions and blogging, which is why I use the other tools). I really don’t need to use Google Classroom and I can deliver assignments, Google Forms, videos and questions through 3D GameLab just as easily and I can check on each student’s progress as well. I wanted to use it and try it out but I really don’t have to and if it’s going to confuse students and not be used all that often, the best choice for me was not to start using it all.
There! Now that I’ve written about this I can put it to rest and focus my attention on getting ready for my new batch of students! We go back to work next week and school doesn’t start until Sept 8 but I’ve been quite busy getting ready and setting up room. Nowhere near so I’m really glad I still have time!
Happy new school year to everyone who has started or is getting ready to start!
I’ve used 3D GameLab (3DGL) as my Learning Management System (LMS) for the last two years and it has revolutionized my classroom by truly making it a gamified experience. I tried managing student experience points (XP), quests completed, and badges on my own before 3DGL and it was difficult. 3DGL has made the management part of gamification automatic, freeing me up to give students feedback and help them learn!
Last year I also tried using Classcraft for the first time in a nine-week, 6th grade exploratory course. Kids loved it. Classcraft did a few things that 3DGL doesn’t do. First, Classcraft offered kids actual gaming roles such as Warrior and Healer. Those roles more than encourage team gameplay, the roles facilitates teamwork pretty much making it a must. Second, unlike 3DGL students gain hit points (HP) in Classcraft along with XP and even Action Points (AP) to use their spells (yeah, spells that 3DGL doesn’t have). Third, Classcraft has the option of gaining coins to purchase in game pets and better armor.
Both 3DGL and Classcraft are unique enough and offer so many benefits for making a school course fun. Both are examples and ways to gamify a classroom. Both can work together. I recently read on a 3DGL help forum that people out there are using 3DGL and Classcraft together with their students. I considered that last year and asked my students about it and decided against it.
Part of me wanted to do it and the students in the class I tested it on were all for it so the question is why did I decide against it and why do I struggle with wanting to use them both??
Playing Classcraft, although fun and exciting for the kids, did take quite a bit of class time. One of the coolest features of Classcraft is choosing a daily random event. Even if you don’t choose a random event the teacher still needs to go around giving students feedback by dealing damage or making good things happen. For example you have a team that worked on their class project all period and even helped each other so they will get the XP for that project. The XP shows that they successfully completed the project.
If another team socialized and bothered nearby teams they would take damage and lose HP (hit points represent your life, lose them all and you’re dead – not entirely but it comes with negative consequences making “death” undesirable). So whether you choose random events or just provide students feedback in the way of giving XP or causing damage, the student teams have to respond.
Student teams respond by logging on to their accounts. They have to make choices about how to deal with damage by using, or not using, their spells (AP) and special abilities. If they get XP and took no damage they might level up unlocking special privileges in class or getting coins to buy pets or nicer armor. All those things are very attractive and fun for kids, making your course more fun and attractive, but all of those decisions and actions take time to complete. And if you don’t monitor the kids they can spend a lot of time “playing” Classcraft instead of doing classwork. Sure, you could choose when during the class period is going to be designated as Classcraft time, but that’s still time taken away from your course. Even if Classcraft was only done at home you would run into the kids who have no access at home and they would need class time.
So my question is regarding that time. It’s difficult to determine whether that time used “playing” Classcraft will be worth it in the end because more students are engaging with my course or whether students are losing out on learning Science because they are “playing” Classcraft! And on top of Classcraft they have to be logging into their 3DGL accounts to keep track of their assignments and labs! I can’t go back to running my class without 3DGL so that isn’t even an option.
So I just don’t know. Is there anyone out there using both of these? How did work for you?
I’m so torn between really wanting to use both, one for managing student work and the process of gamification (XP, badges, leveling up etc.) and the other for pure gaming enjoyment with actual gaming roles, versus just sticking with 3DGL.
I’ve participated in some great partnerships from the North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership (NCOSP) to the Olympic Math and Science Partnership (OMSP) to the brand new Olympic STEM Pathways Partnership (OSPP). I have learned so much from the partnerships I’ve been involved in which is why I jumped at the opportunity to join this new OSPP, whose purpose is to improve the learning of STEM or STEAM via the NGSS in our schools. By training teacher leaders from different school districts and schools and having us work with our staffs we will enrich the learning of our students!
It was my work with the OMSP where I learned so much about AfL. Through NCOSP I extended my Science learning and practiced teacher leadership skills. And now through the OSPP I have extended my learning of oceanography, specifically ocean acidification, and learned more about working with adults! Here is an article about the launch of the partnership by the University of Washington. And here are some tweets we shared during our first week and half training:
I want to share it again and put it out there in the hopes that it can edited again or added to, to keep it relevant and improve upon it. Here’s a direct link to the document to add to it or make use of it. Please share this post and this document so it can continue to grow and evolve.
This is the conclusion of our Star Trek part live action role play, part choose-your-own-adventure story:
The QR code is clickable. I had planned to share this conclusion right after spring break but I had hoped to share it before spring break. Instead the QR codes were put up in my room now, at the end of the school year! Best laid plans, right?
I have a whole part two with an entirely new Starfleet mission and no time to start it! Quite epic too but we’re so busy with our final environmental project and testing that there’s no time for students to even read the above conclusion much less start a new story. Oh well. We’ll see what I can do next year.
Not real war, this post has the next chapters of our ongoing missions aboard the class Starship Equinox.
After the mid-season finale, last post in this series, we were left with the mystery of destruction of the Tholian ship, the Aen’q Tholis. Unlike the Bombay and the Endeavour and the Equinox, the Aen’q Tholis was not destroyed by the mysterious planetary defense weapon. Here’s the next chapter:
That brings us close to the end of this story! Stay tuned…
I published this post a little over a year ago. I wanted to re-publish it because of the lessons learned when I wrote it, especially the posts I linked to. It all started in 2011 when I wrote this.Last year [the 2012-13 school year] our middle school staff agreed to stop choosing Student’s of the Month and to stop giving out monthly awards for behaviors which we want our students to engage. My advisory students conducted a survey and we found out that a majority of students reported feeling left out and not appreciated by our monthly awards assemblies. The assemblies were okay for students who play the game of school well but even they were often embarrassed for being chosen for an award or a certificate because it singled them out. This is what happens when a few are given accolades for things that are imposed on them. Academic awards are not something everyone would even want to compete for yet they are automatically competing. And if you think those who don’t get chosen for an award aren’t forced to compete then why are they made to feel that they “could have” gotten an award or could get it still? We either tell them all to go for the awards or we imply that they should. Even if school is not something they are good at!
We replaced our monthly awards assemblies with assemblies that were put together by students for students! What a concept! Students could highlight their talents in fun and engaging ways without handing out a single certificate or singling out anyone who didn’t want to be included.
This school year there were some changes, including having a new principal. For whatever reason our monthly assemblies didn’t happen. That coupled with the loss of monthly awards and student of the month awards the year before has caused some students undue stress. I heard from a couple of families of high achieving kids that some of our students are so upset at having no ways to be acknowledged for their hard work and wonderful achievements that they are starting to feel, “why bother?” One of the reasons we chose to abolish awarding kids certificates for getting good grades is to avoid having our children feel they shouldn’t bother doing well if they are not getting rewarded for it. Even the parents I spoke to agreed on that point. But is there a difference between getting rewarded for doing well and being acknowledged for doing well?
I think so. We live in a world where anything and everything we do can be shared easily through social media. Kids are sharing all the time, 24/7 (even during school), when they win a game, get good grades, complete wonderful pieces of art, play great music, etc. We as a species crave acknowledgement for doing well and for doing great things. That seems different than being rewarded for doing well. So how does a school acknowledge their students without rewarding some and punishing others?
I think having our students put together assemblies where they choose how to highlight the great things they are doing is a great way. And I think it was working well last year so we should bring it back somehow. I also heard that our ASB brought up this same topic at their ASB executive meetings. Our ASB advisor understands why we chose to abolish rewarding students for doing the right thing so she asked the ASB to come up with some ideas for acknowledging students. She wondered what they wanted and what follows is what she found out.
[I’m paraphrasing here.] Our ASB students thought that if each teacher chose a student to highlight—and it could be for any reason— and we keep a list of students chosen, then more students could be recognized. We would do this monthly and then take a picture and post the teacher’s short write up about the students in the showcase outside the office. That works out to about 15 students per month—x9 months is 135 students, and we have about 240ish. So that would get half of them—so if we added a PE teacher and a Choir teacher then we get about 30 more. This list includes all advisory teachers too. [End paraphrase.]
So as a school we have students who are craving acknowledgement for all the wonderful things they are doing, not just academic/school. We have some ideas for how we can do something about that. I’m wondering if we can satisfy their need for acknowledgement with student-run assemblies and teachers choosing students to highlight each month. I’m wondering if that’s how can we help our students not feel, “why bother,” if they are not rewarded for doing well in school? It’s our fault they feel that way because we’ve trained them since elementary that if you do well in school you can be chosen to get an award or be chosen for the coveted, “Student of the Month,” recognition. Will it ever be enough? What if we hold out a bit longer, will they feel pride without being recognized by their teachers?
Then I read this blog by Grant Wiggins, Engagement and Personalization: Feedback part 2. I especially focused on these parts:
Here are the three key questions from the Gallup survey, on a strongly agree-strongly disagree scale:
- My teachers make me feel my schoolwork is important.
- At this school, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
- In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good schoolwork.
It’s no wonder that students enjoy sports, performing arts, robotics, and other such offerings as much as they do since they get to play to strengths, help the greater good, and routinely receive some positive feedback.
As Gallup summarizes in its findings:
Students’ engagement at school may be influenced by innumerable factors largely outside a school’s control. However, there are fundamental strategies schools can focus on to dramatically raise the likelihood that students will be emotionally engaged in the classroom on any given day.
Those strategies include providing students with opportunities to discover and develop their talents, and with teachers who inspire a sense of optimism about what they can achieve with those talents.
So now I’m wondering if there’s a way we can give our students feedback instead of acknowledgement? Is there a difference? Sports, performing arts, and other such offerings allow students to play to their strengths and coaching provides them constant feedback. How do we incorporate that into school? Yeah, we often have students taking classes they wouldn’t choose to take because they don’t play to their strengths. Adults make kids take classes we feel will provide them with skills they will need to succeed in life.
So we have students doing well in school and students doing well in other areas with many of them craving some sort of positive feedback or acknowledgement. Our job as educators is to provide that without rewards and punishment. Oh boy.
One of my blog posts sparked a comment where the question of teacher motivation came up. Specifically if tying standardized test scores to teacher evaluation can be motivating to teachers. What follows is the comment along with the questions and my response:
I think as educators we have opportunities to redefine ourselves. This is especially true for those of us who were taught or trained in very traditional methods. It was then very easy for us to teach our students using the very same traditional methods that were used on us. It’s even worse if those traditional methods worked for us because then we would have little reason to try something different. At least if the traditional methods didn’t work on us we would probably be seeking different ways to educate our students in case it wouldn’t work on them.
The more we read and expose ourselves to social media and learn from a Professional Learning Network (PLN) though the more we see that this generation of kids require educating that is different, creative, innovative. Some call it 21st century learning. That can be very different than the traditional forms of teaching.
Even though I’ve been thinking of redefining myself it’s actually not professionally. I feel that I embrace change professionally as I’m constantly trying new methods of engaging all my students to learn. I feel that I try to adapt to my students’ needs while still providing them chances to use skills they will most likely need in their futures. No, I’m being forced to redefine myself in a personal matter. It did make me think of what it feels like when we are asked or forced to redefine ourselves.
About three years ago I began to redefine myself by becoming more active. I lost about 45 lbs, which was incredible. A cool thing happened whereby I became a runner. It was a gradual thing. I started out by not even being able to run a full lap around a track. Slowly I built up to running a 5K and eventually I even ran a half marathon in 2hours and 3minutes! I was running around five miles every time I went out for a run and it felt good and normal! Along the way to seeing myself as a runner I was set back by injuries. It started with my calves. They weren’t used to running and I kept having to heal from muscle tears or what I’ve seen called calf heart attacks. I also have plantar fascitis but I had gotten that under control by wearing Birkenstock sandals (yeah, that cured it when nothing else, not even custom orthotics, would). I also twisted both my ankles running on trails so I seemed to hurt everything from the knees down. Luckily, my knees only got sore when running and not injured so they didn’t set me back at all. Still, through all the injuries I managed to heal and get back to running every time rather quickly. I always worried that if I stopped running for too long I’d lose interest or something.
I was starting to really see myself as a runner. I actually loved it and even craved it. Sometimes I’d run for a bunch of days straight but even managed to go out for a run a few days week on weeks where I couldn’t run everyday. I even went out for runs in the winter whether is was rainy or snowy or cold. This was totally new for me and it was quite a welcome change in my life. Since I had kept the weight I lost off and I was running regularly I was able to increase the number of calories I was consuming. Things were going pretty darn well.
Things were going so well that I began to add speed work to my training. When I ran my first 5K race I was running about a 9 3/4 minute per mile pace. I was working on getting down to just under an 8 minute per mile pace and I wanted to beat that. I really enjoyed running races. It was fun and exciting to be around so many other runners. Last year at this time I ran a race that was right in my backyard, the Rhody Run. It’s a seven and half mile race in the town right next to where I live, about a 20 minute drive from my home. That is really nice considering that I’ve driven almost three hours to get to a race.
I was doing my running and working on increasing my speed when my calves started aching. This had happened since my first bout, when I went to a physical therapist for six months working on healing and rehabilitating both my calves, but always worked itself out after that long rehabilitation. I thought I had cured that or at least gotten it under control. My calves weren’t perfect, they still ached sometimes during or after a run. I had gotten used to sore calves working themselves out so I continued running. Yeah, if I only knew then what I know now. Recently, the soreness wasn’t going away and it was beginning to feel more sharp than dull. I was getting to the point where I was having to slow my pace to keep the calves from hurting too much. I still thought I was fine and that I could recover. I mean, I was doing everything right. I was stretching real well before every run. I was also massaging and using a roller on my calves before each run. Then after the run I’d stretch again. Maybe I was doing everything right but my calves weren’t recovering.
A month ago a knot I was working on in my right calf hurt so bad that I took a week off to let it heal. I tried running on it again. Started off great then the sharp pain. I took another week off. Stupid me I tried running on it again. That was the last straw for my right calf, the achilles tendon running up behind my calf muscles hurt so bad I had to slow way down (no, I didn’t stop running, and yes, I know that was dumb – I’m stubborn, what can I say?). In my defense that tendon hadn’t hurt before, just the knot in the muscle that was in front of that tendon. The tendon hurt for four days after that short run (I only ran three miles) and I had enough evidence to finally admit to myself that I – was – out – for – the – count.
I didn’t come to that realization easily or quickly. Two weeks after that four day tendon pain of no running and my calf feels fine again. It’s all I can do to keep myself from testing it out by going for a little run. I don’t want to accept that it’s not fully healed yet! Here’s why. Today is this year’s Rhody Run. I signed up for today’s run shortly after our winter break. Yeah, I signed up early because I like to plan these things way ahead of time and I was really hoping to beat my time of one hour and 11 minutes from last year. Even after my calf tendon was hurting when I walked on it, I was still hoping, praying, wondering if I would be ready by today. Talking to friends about it didn’t help because they could see what I refused to see, that I was out for the count. Yeah, last time I did this I was in physical therapy for six months. I didn’t want to accept that because in my mind I was doing the math. That means I would not only miss today’s run but I would have to do NO running for all of May, June, July and maybe even August. Then I could start walking adding minutes of jogging for several weeks in September before I could run 5K maybe by October. Do you know what that means in WA state? I would miss out on running during the best time of year here. Not only do we have the longest days ever (it’s still light out here at 9pm so I could go out for a run at 8pm and still get home before dark!!) but it’s the warmest and, this year, the driest. It’s what we look forward to all fall – winter – and – spring. Fall and spring here is usually very wet, this year we’ve had the driest spring since I’ve lived here and I’ve lived here almost 20 years. I’m really hoping it doesn’t take six months to heal this time but there’s that nagging feeling that if I don’t heal it completely then I’ll be redefining myself again next year when my calves go out again! And if not next year, soon thereafter. It’s always going to be on the back of my mind.
And if missing the Rhody Run and possibly missing a whole summer of great weather and long days isn’t bad enough season 4 of Zombies, Run is out. Zombies, Run is what got me running. I re-ran all of season 3 waiting for season 4 to come out. And just as season 4 comes out I – can’t – run.
So yeah, it has been hard for me to have to redefine myself as a non-runner when I finally defined myself as a runner. After running the half marathon I’ve been dreaming of running a marathon and maybe even an ultra marathon trail run. Push that back. Today is the hardest because I’m not running the Rhody. I have to wait a whole year to try and beat last year’s time. I hate that. If I want to stay in shape I have to find other things to do that won’t hurt my calves. At least I have no excuse to ignore my upper body and my core now. It isn’t easy. I have to keep my mind on the new prize, a healthy life. If I want to be a runner into my old age then I can’t push my body too hard now. Healing needs to happen and sometimes that takes time. More time than we want to wait.
So when we expect teachers to change the way they teach, maybe it isn’t always so easy. As I’ve written here before, sometimes we teachers start to identify things we do as who we are. Redefining ourselves is sometimes necessary because sometimes the change is forced. Although that isn’t easy it at least forces us to change if we listen.
This morning instead of having a half day of school Chimacum teachers unanimously voted to ask our district to cancel school so that we could participate in our state’s school walkouts urging our legislature to fulfill their paramount duty to fully fund education. My last post explains why we chose to walk out and protest today. So far 31 schools have had one-day walkouts and there are more planning walkouts making 57 WA state schools staging one-day walkouts as of today to let our legislature know that they need to comply with our state’s Supreme Court and fully fund education!
Teachers chose today, Friday, May 15, because it seemed a day that would least impact our community. First, it was supposed to be a half day today. Second, there are many events happening with our local festival that many families attend that many of our kids are already focused on the carnival, the parades, and all the fun they’ll be having this weekend. Yes, our school year has had one day added so we’re going until Monday, June 15, instead of Friday, June 12. Monday will be a half day so we’re giving up a half day now to make it up later. And even though it affects our district and our community there was no good day, much less a better day, to do this and today seemed the least disruptive. We do have a very supportive community and very supportive families and a wonderful school board, which makes it easier to stage a protest for our children. It is, after all, for our children that we are doing this. And besides we are the McCleary Court Case school district. It was that case, first won at a superior court, then won at the Washington State Supreme Court, that fueled these protests.
We started with by showing our support and wishes for our students, for our future, to have a fully funded public education. We had teachers, both classified and certificated staff, parents, and students holding signs and waving at passersby.
Then we had a rally where our state union vice president, our local union president and some teachers spoke.
Then we walked to a four way stop for more waving and poster showing.
Why did a major news station, along with our local newspapers, the Peninsula Daily News and the Port Townsend Leader, show up to a small country school walkout? It’s because we are the McCleary Court Case school district. The woman in the above photo, Stephanie McCleary, our district’s executive secretary and personnel director, was the lead plaintiff in the court case! There’s Elisa Hahn talking to Stephanie McCleary! Being the school of the lead plaintiff in what has turned out to be an unprecedented turn of events for public education and getting the funding our kids need puts us in the position of being in the public eye. Personally I’m glad we stepped up and joined the efforts to send a strong, united message to our state’s legislature.
I selfishly took this opportunity to get a selfie with Elisa Hahn! How cool is this?
We took turns handwriting letters to our legislators helping them understand what we are asking for to ensure that our kids have a fully funded public education: voter approved (two times in a row!!) lower class sizes I-1351, a reduction in testing for our students so the focus of their education is NOT how to take a test, and pay that will attract and retain high quality teachers including health care support in line with other state employees.
We then walked a few miles with our red for ed shirts and signs.
We ended our day of action with some COLA floats.
Here’s the King 5 News coverage of our walkout: