Thursday, June 7, 2007

Second Life Gives Second Wind to Educational Gaming

Ever think that your children are wasting time with those mind numbing video games? Many studies have been conducted showing that gaming is not as detrimental as we once thought.

Second Life is an online environment completely created by it's users. If the player wants a motorcycle, then they model it, program a script for movement and sound, and if it is good enough they can sell it for real money via

Anything you can imagine can be created... Think of the possibilities! Engaging chat rooms with 3d avatars, programming students can script in real time and get immediate feedback from instructors and peers. Students could understand the concepts of business and commerce through actually selling what they have created.

They have an education page check it out and let me know what you think. Watch the videos on the side menu. I was quite impressed. Could this be a possible future of education?

Second Life:Education

Here are some videos from YouTube:

Watch these architecture students design a house based upon actual blue prints while their instructor oversees the design process

Architecture on the Double

added by Keystone1111 on January 25, 2007

Architecture on the Double

A video game that can teach Neurology?

The Virtual Neurological Education Centre (VNEC) has been developed as an experiential learning environment for an Identified community and health care professionals.

An educator gives a walk-through of some of the benefits of Second Life.

VNEC Second Life

Added bylhetherington on May 10, 2007

VNEC Second Life

(Note: The green boxes on the table once clicked will bring up a window that shows symptoms, diagnostic strategy, etc. Notice also communication can be done via video on the flat screen tv, or from their lecture area.)

Education in Second Life: Explore the Possibilities

created by xxArete2xx on May 29, 2007

Education in Second Life: Explore the Possibilities

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Ways to Group Students Quickly and Effectively

In the struggle to reach every student in the classroom it occasionally becomes necessary to divide them into groups, but how? Whether it's for an activity, remediation, or even a quick little game, grouping students quickly and effectively can be tricky. I have been struggling with this concept, because my kids really want to work in groups on a full time basis. However, I'm doubtful of how much actual work will take place if I spend too much time helping one group over the other.

That dilemma has sparked a search for a solution. Like most teachers I need a solution that works in the classroom, not one that just sounds great on paper. Since classrooms are made of different personalities, I've decided to try different ideas to determine which works best in my class.

Here are some grouping strategies that may work for you.
  • Setup an area for groups in your classroom- this works well if your kids don't stay in groups throughout the day, or if the groups change regularly.
  • Pass out one playing card to each student-this way you can separate them by suite, evens, odds, factors of a number (factors of 6), the same number (four 9's), card-runs (2,3,4,5; or 6,7,8 depending on how big you want the group), divisible by, etc. The kids will be less likely to complain about the card they have, because they don't know how you are going to call the groups.
  • "Number Pops"- "Number Pops" works like this: Get a bunch of craft or Popsicle sticks and write numbers on them. These numbers should correlate to the number of groups that you would like and the number of people in each group. Example: If I wanted six groups of four students, then I would have four 1's, four 2's and so on. This may take a while to prepare for the teacher, but once it's done... it's done. Note: If you don't want to set it up ask a few of your "helper" students to do it for you during recess or something. Even better you could write on the can the number of groups. That way you could have cans that separate your class into groups of 4, 5, and 6.
  • Synonyms- on index cards you can write synonyms and have the students find their partners by matching the words together. Note: This concept can be confusing to some students. You may want to go over which of the words match before hand to calm the kids confusion.
  • "Group of the Day"-this strategy should be setup during the first few days of school, while you are still setting up your classroom routines. Have different groups for different days of the week. (Groups of 4, 5, and 6 for Mondays, Tuesdays, etc. That way on Monday if you say groups of four they know who they belong with, and on Tuesday their group of six maybe different) By doing this the students can get accustomed to getting in their groups, and you can develop a routine. Routines are a teacher's best friend!!! The kids will know immediately what is expected of them and who they should pair up with. Make a Bulletin Board sized calendar just for this grouping, this way the kids can reference it throughout the year.
  • Partners, Teams, and Panels- like "group of the day" you may need to establish these at the beginning of the year, but it works well for the different types of activities that you need them to achieve. Once established don't change the people in the groups, because keeping a routine will make the transition very quick. Once created the teacher will just have to say, "I need Partners to do such and such", "I need my Teams to complete...", or "As a Panel discuss....."
    • "Partners"- pair the students up or have them in groups of three. These types of groups work well for study groups, or paired reading.
    • "Teams"- separate your kids into groups of three and four. (NOTE: DON'T PAIR TWO GROUPS OF PARTNERS!!! They will become too friendly or get tired of each other. Plus it's good to have fresh input into the group.) These types of groups work well when there is a "hands-on" activity to be completed.
    • "Panels"- the kids are separated into groups of five or six. These groups are designed to talk. However, the teacher should have something constructive for them to talk about. Since the groups are so large you don't have to walk around as much just a quick visit to make sure they're on task. (Note: These groups are best at discussing written works, hot topics, "what if" scenarios, cause and effect, and problem solving. Make sure to give each student a participation sheet so they can document their feelings, ideas, solutions, etc. This will make each student in the group accountable for their individual work.
  • Birthday Buddies- match the students according to the months that they were born. This may or may not work depending on the dynamic of your classroom. I for example have 5 birthdays that fall in June, while only 1 is in March. So for my classroom, I chose to do "Birthday Buddies" by season. You could also separate them by the beginning, middle, and end of the month.
  • Burger Buddies- have your kids choose the fast food establishment they like the best. Have choices for the number of groups that you would like. Example: Which do you prefer? McDonald's, Burger King, Hardee's, Subway, etc. You may have to even up the groups by asking which beverage they prefer. (Note: I teach in a very small town and they only have one fast food place. So, I took it a step further and asked what is your favorite type of food to get from this place/what would you like on your burger.)
  • Genre Groups- separate your kids by the types of books, movies, music, or subjects that they enjoy. (Note: "Genre Groups" and "Burger Buddies" can be done through an interest survey at the beginning of the year. Since these surveys are done on paper, they will have no clue that you are using the survey as a means to group them. They will probably think that you are just trying to get to know them better.)
  • Color Pencils-have your kids pick colored pencils out of a can. Have four or five of the same color and have as many colors as you need groups.
I hope these ideas help to make grouping your students a little less stressful.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Fodable Fortune Teller Fun!!!

Do you remember those paper fortuneteller things that girls used to make when they were younger? You know the ones with the colors and the numbers written on them, and when your friend opened a certain flap it meant that she was destined to marry so and so, and have a mansion, and a "bazillion babies". Yeah, something like that. Anyway a thought occurred to me when I confiscated one of these instruments of gossip from a student in my class last year. What if I could take this thing that is already appealing to kids and use it to teach them something?
I know just like a teacher to zap the fun out of everything, but here goes.
I had my students write a question on each of the outside flaps. Once the question was answered, then the person holding the fortune spelled out the letters of the answer, while moving the fortune teller open and shut. (This can also be done with the words from the answer, if they are longer than one or two word phrases.) Once the answer is spelled out then the student can choose from the vocabulary words that are written on the inside of the fortune teller. They have to correctly define the word that they choose, or they do not get a point. The students can then open the fortune to see if the guesser had it right.

If the little animated gif that I made is hard to follow, then here are the step by step instructions:

These directions look complicated, but it is quite easy to make (just difficult to describe!).

  • Start with a square piece of paper. (Use a standard sheet of paper. Take a bottom corner and diagonal fold it across to the opposite side of the page. Cut off the 2.5 inch strip at the top of the page to create an 8.5 x 8.5 sheet of paper)
  • Fold the paper along the diagonal and crease. Then open it back up. Fold along the opposite diagonal and crease. Open it back up. Fold the paper in half along a straight edge and crease. Open it back up. Turn the paper 1/4 (90 degrees) and fold in half again, and crease. Open it back up. You should have a flat piece of paper with the creases forming a star in the center of the page.
  • Take one corner and fold it in to the center of star. Repeat with each corner. When you are done, you will have a six inch square, with four open flaps on the top.
  • Flip the piece of paper over. Take one corner and fold it in to the center of star. Repeat with each corner. Your square will now be about four inches on each side, with four flaps.
  • Flip the paper over so that the top side has square flaps. Fold the paper in half along a straight edge and crease. Open it back up. Turn the paper 1/4 (90 degrees) and fold in half again, and crease. Open it back up.
  • Put your thumb and index finger on your right hand under the two square flaps on the right hand side. Put your thumb and index finger on your left hand under the two square flaps on the left hand side. As you pinch your finger tips together, the fortune teller will take shape.
  • At this point you can write questions, definitions, characters, vocabulary, math problems, science terms, etc. on the flaps and answers under the flip up pieces.
  • To work the fortune teller, put your fingers back in the flaps. Pinch your thumb and index fingers together, then gently pull apart to open the center. Then bring the four fingers back together. Pinch together the two index fingers and the two thumbs. Gently pull apart to open the center.

This will work with any size square sheet of paper. These instructions use an 8.5 inch square so that other measurements can be used as guidelines in the instructions.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Getting your kids off the couch

As a kid I found myself sitting in front of the television, eating TV dinners. I wasn't really motivated to get up and do anything. I mean, since I had every source of entertainment in the living room, what was the big appeal of going outside? As a result, I became a little fatty. Also, as an adult I find that I have to motivate myself to stay in shape and exercise. What are some steps that we as parents can take to make sure that our kids enjoy fitness, eating right, and going out every now and then to catch a breath of fresh air?

I find that recently the video gaming industry has taken a wonderful turn in the fight against childhood obesity. All too many times parents, and teachers blame the video game for excessive violence, and facilitating sloth in our nations youth. However, the industry has released several titles that I think educators and parents alike can appreciate.

The recent release of the Nintendo Wii is a major step in the right direction. This gaming system actually wants kids, adults, and seniors to forget their lazy ways by simply having them break free of the bindings of the couch monster. I have purchased one of these machines over the holidays, and found myself enjoying bouncing around my living room, in order to return a serve while playing tennis on Wii Sports. I've actually felt my heart rate increase while playing Raymond Rabbid Rabbits. Could this be the way of the future?

This movement craze did not begin with the Wii. Before the Wii was released, there was a game that swept through malls everywhere, challenging the likes of unfit gamers. I was too embarrassed to play the game in public, but found myself mesmerized by the rate at which the arrows flew across the screen! However, I was more amazed at the players ability to keep up!
That game was Dance Dance Revolution (DDR)! It showed me that our kids have the energy, they just have no structured means of letting it out! We actually keep our kids indoors, because who knows what kind of crazy people are out there. Then we fill them full of hyperactivity medication, because they are driving everyone in the house crazy. Why not give them a way to burn off that energy, and a hundred calories a minute by playing a video game they enjoy? I purchased this game for the PS2, and in no time my wife and I were bouncing across the living room trying desperately to catch our breathe as we clumsily stomped the arrows on the dance pad. At first it takes a little getting used to, but after a while we began having competitions with our friends. Can you imagine having twenty kids in a classroom playing DDR on a projector? What fun would that be! The extra pads would not even have to be plugged in! Actually all that you would need is some masking tape arrows pointing up, down, left, and right; and the kids could try to keep up!

Though even before DDR, Nintendo released the "Power Pad" for the Nintendo Entertainment System. This pad encouraged people to run, jump in place, and even do aerobics, as the player watched their little pixilated character mimic their movements. It was really revolutionary for its time, just like the Nintendo Wii is trying something different for our nation's youth. It may or may not last, I can't say... I'm just glad they tried.
Other games that get kids moving: Guitar Hero, Eye Toy, and Karaoke Revolution

Other less expensive ways of getting your kids off the couch:
  • Plan an outdoor activity as a family- (If your kids see that you enjoy getting out of the house then they may just follow your lead.)
  • Enroll them in a sport, or extracurricular activity- (Dancing, karate, soccer, track, all of these build the mind along with the body.)
  • Take them for a hometown tour- (I know that your kids have seen all of the local sites during school field trips, but they will actually get more out of a personal tour with their parents. Think about it. They will be able to ask you questions, go where they want to go, and discover things that the school trip may have passed over because of time restraints.)
  • Have a monthly family picnic- (The kids will get some fresh air, eat a healthy meal, and while they are playing on the swing set; you and your spouse can have a relaxing afternoon.)
  • Conduct a fitness challenge- (There is nothing wrong with a little friendly competition. Challenge your kids to do more jumping jacks than you, to jump rope longer, to make the "behind-the-back-one-legged-no-looking" jump shot. They will strive to make you proud. Side note: When they do beat you, be a gracious loser. This will leave it open for you to challenge them again next week....)
I hope this post gave you a few ideas about how to not only motivate your children and students to get off the couch, but also show how we as parents can positively effect our kid's lives.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Longitude & Latitude Rap

How many times have you tried to teach the difference between latitude and longitude, only to leave your students with a look of utter confusion? I have something that may work. I can't guarantee that will work for every classroom. Some of your kids may just look at you like your crazy, but they'll appreciate the fact that you obviously trying to reach them.
I created a little freestyle rap, and my kids created the dance to go along. ( I know! I know! I'm a nerd... thus the web sites... The key is not to try to be cool, just be yourself. Your kids will understand. At least it will brighten their day.)
Here goes:

"Longitude/Latitude Rap"

To find your spot on the globe
Some coordinates you have to know

To get these numbers that you see
There's a little dance so listen to me

Slide your feet side to side
On the latitude line we ride

Move yourself up and down
The longitude line is what we found

To find your spot on the globe
Some coordinates you have to know

To get these numbers that you see
There's a little dance so listen to me

Slide your feet side to side
On the latitude line we ride

Move yourself up and down
The longitude line is what we found

To find your spot on the globe
Some coordinates you have to know
Longitude and Latitude there you go

(Have your kids stand up as they mimic you. They'll start to laugh, but eventually they'll realize that it's better than taking notes.)

If your kids think the rap is dumb, then you can challenge them to create a better one.
Please let me know if they come up with one that you like better. I'll be happy to post it for others, and of course class and teacher will get credit.