Sunday, March 23, 2014

Student ShowCase CUE 2014

The student showcases are always my favorite thing to do whether at CUE or ISTE because it is so wonderful to see students showing off their work to such a large, authentic audience. They come prepared to talk to all age groups, confident, clear on the work they have accomplished and very proud of the same (in a really nice way). This time, as always, I skipped a session to go check out the student showcase. It helped that I was done with my presentations on Thursday and Friday. One of the other highlights at CUE for the student showcase - the majority of those showcasing come from schools which are more than 90% free and reduced lunch. So their achievement is remarkable, given the resources and other obstacles they have to deal with. Following are some highlights from the student showcase.

1. DIgital Storytelling by Fourth Grade at Franklin Elementary School where they used Pages to write their stories, then have them published through the iBooks store. They also had a hard copy in color of their stories, which they were really proud of. The process they followed:
 - Pre-write (thinking maps) on paper
 - Draft on paper
 - Typed drafts onto the iPad using Pages
 - Inserted pictures using the internet and pictures they had captured
 - Drafts with pictures were uploaded to Edmodo to share with their teacher (one could use any LMS or Google Drive)
  - The drafts were then transferred to an iMac where the students revised and edited. The final versions were uploaded to iBooks Author. The books were then published through iBooks on the iPad.

2. A STEAM project by 5th graders from Melinda Heights Elementary: Questions they asked: "How can we tell where air masses are travelling across the country? How can we teach others about weather?"
  - Students tracked weather patterns for a major city using colored pencils and a paper map.
  - Referred to a surface map to describe and predict weather patterns
  - Used a Google docs spreadsheet to record weather for a major US city
  - Calculated the mean, median, mode, and range for the high and low temperatures
  - Chose a weather topic to research
  - Created a game that would teach the topic to others
  - Used the GamePress App on iPads to code the game
  - Added information and characters that were related to the topic.
  S (Weather)
  T (iPads) 
  E (Game Creation)
  A (Game Design)
  M (Statistics)

3. Teens from Val Verde High School created a hard hitting documentary highlighting the dangers of smoking (This idea could be used at any grade level and any topic to create a social impact). 

4. Fifth graders from Walnut Elementary School created websites using Weebly

5. Second graders from the North Ridge Digital club demonstrated their understanding and projects using Scratch. They also learn troubleshooting computers and keyboarding.

6. Fourth graders who are part of a Mouse Squad, program with Scratch, helped the kindergarteners create a stop motion video and a biography video where they interviewed grandparents (passport to California)... Turned out the teacher and I follow each other on Twitter. She should be so proud of her student work. Very impressive. 

7. Minecraft and the Uncommon Core (7th and 8th graders from McPherson Magnet School): It started with the Jamestown settlement and grew into a student inquiry about the 13 colonies. The students called it the Uncommon Core because the project integrates an area of student personal interest (Minecraft) into the required learning context (social studies or science). The project comprised three broad steps:
- Research at least five credible sources supporting the project
- Cite textual evidence from researched information
- Create Digital expressions from the textual evidence to be represented using Minecraft. Click here for the project website.

8. A group of college students, who started a gamification plug-in idea while in high school have a fantastic, free resource. Students will code in features upon request. The plugin source is Wordpress. Click here for the website. Basically, a teacher plugs in their lesson with levels, stages, etc and the plug in gamifies the lesson - hey presto! How cool is that!

Even if one were to implement one idea from the above, it would be fantastico!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Game Testing

One of the coolest aspects of my job is when a new product is to be launched and they would like to have it tested by an authentic audience, in this case the students. I look at it as a win-win situation since the product makers get feedback and the students get to try something new and exciting and they feel really proud about being valued. As long as it isn't a frequent phenomenon, within limits, it is fine.

So yesterday, we had a group of college game design developers come to visit a third grade class thanks to a parent in that class who is associated to the product. The game happens to be a fraction based game (fractions is probably the most daunting concept for students that age and beyond for those who consider themselves to be "not good at Math"), with a Tetris-like appeal (Tetris has been a huge addiction for me the past twenty years at least; there was a time twenty years ago when I all I dreamed about was falling blocks and how I could fit them in and better my score). 

While the students were being called in groups of three or four, the rest got their chance to continue on their coding projects. They also now have the "Make your own Flappy Bird" from which is great. 

At the end of the session, one of the developers asked the students for their feedback. The first few hands went: "It was fun", "It was great". After the first five such responses I intervened to have the students elaborate on their reasoning. The authentic feedback then started: "I like the way they fit into the squares". The first of the candid ones: "Change the music" had all the adults cracking up. "We want to make our own Avatars", "We don't like the guy playing that trumpet" - when asked why the student said "Because the guy is bald". "We want to create our own avatar and have him/her select their instrument". 

To me, that is what this was all about. Having the students think about what makes a good game design or any design, think about how can they enhance it, what effort is involved in making something of that scale and more. All real world situations that students are lucky to have around them. We, as educators, just need to provide them with greater opportunities each day.