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5 Elements and Still Relevant

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UPDATE: GSM put out a survey about the future!

::Take the survey::
Back in 2008 (seems like yesterday), E-Line Media in partnership with the Institute of Play, rolled out a new site, called Gamestar Mechanic, which was originally developed by Gamelab in partnership with the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab (AADL) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This is a site that aims to teach kids how to design their own games, with the premise that designing games builds:
Systems Thinking,21st Century Skills,Creative Problem Solving,Art and Aesthetics,Writing and Storytelling,and creates a motivation for STEM learning. If you've read my blog for any length of time, you will know that this is a tool that I consider to be indispensable. I was pretty new to teaching Computer Science in 2008. I had only been at it a year, and I was trying desperately to make the leap from programming (we were using Scratch for that back then with no manual or guide whatsoever) to students being …

10 Computer Class Tools you should be using right now!

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Engaging Middle School students is hard, even in the computer lab. In one of my recent posts, I mourned the loss of several great initiatives and tools that are no longer with us. As I looked over my contributions to the CSK8 (Computer Science K-8) community in this blog recently, I noted that a lot of what I was doing / promoting just two years ago, is completely antiquated now. On a positive note, though, it's 2019, and there are a lot of great new things to be excited about. As long as there are technology producers as well as consumers, computer class will remain very relevant, despite the prevalence of thin devices, such as iPads and ChromeBooks.

Let's take a look at 10 things you should be including in your computer class in 2019 and a few honorable mentions for the good of the cause...
Classroom Environment Today, I'd like to begin with Danielson's Domain 2, Classroom Environment, because sometimes the atmosphere we work in can profoundly affect the work itsel…

Gamification, Gamer Personality, and Match Making

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Back in 2010, when the concept of gamification was new to most of us, I remember trying to add game elements to my classroom. I remember being further inspired to do so my amazing TED talks from Dr. Jane Mcgonigal in 2010 and Gabe Zichermann in 2011. I remember discussing it with others in a group lead by Jeff Mummert. At that time, we felt like we were building gamification experiences out of duct tape and baler twine. Occasionally, we would discover a tool we could “splice” on to our classroom, but more often than not, our IT departments would block that tool almost as soon as we began using it.

Today, we are blessed to have myriad gamification tools for education available. Some of my favorites are Classcraft, ARIS, and Edmodo’s Badges, but there are a lot more. All of them scratch a specific gamification itch. Some scratch many. None, in my opinion, cover all bases.
The Premise I’d like to propose that the most successful gamification systems are modelled after MMORPG games or MO…

Classcraft and ARIS

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Recently, I decided to roll out Classcraft in all of my Seventh Grade classes, and I have found it to be surprisingly effective. Not only do students take the health and experience of their characters very seriously, but they also strive to help their teams and classmates in general. One thing that surprised me was how much students crave XP (or experience points).

What I do with Classcraft has no effect on student grades whatsoever. Yet, I can attach points loss / gain consequences to my behavioral and procedural expectations via XP and HP. While these pointsdon't matter in terms of students' grades, they do matter a great deal to students, who are ultimately more concerned with the game than their grade anyway. They get so excited about equipping their avatar with custom stuff, and many of them are becoming XP hungry. There are many students who are serious gamers and are used to being able to "grind" for XP in a game. In the way that I was using Classcraf…

RIP: Apps and initiatives that are no longer with us.

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Okay, I'm going to need you to bear with me while I rant a little bit, whine some, and cry out for help and advice.

Engaging Middle School students is hard, even in the computer lab. Most of the garbage out there that is marketed to teachers, particularly in the technology department, is not only teaching antiquated skills, but is also incredibly "edukitschy". Every once in awhile you find a gleaming diamond in the rough that is awesome and free. This rarely happens for teachers, and when it does, it becomes all the more heart-breaking when it suddenly goes away. Sometimes we only get to greet these things at a distance, and due to our circumstances never get to enter the promised land before the world has moved on. 
Project SparkProject Spark was a game creation / simple programming environment for Microsoft Windows 8.1, 10 and Xbox One, which was the very beautiful child of it's homely parent, Kodu. Kodu is a visual programming tool which builds on ideas begun wi…

Danielson is a Hard Core Gamer: Part 1 - Gamification & Classroom Environment

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Okay, so I don't know Charlotte Danielson, and I cannot seriously make conjecture on her leisure activities, particularly in the realm of video games. With that out of the way, I wanted to explore some of the ways in which the use of simulations, games, gamification and game design relates to and can exemplify the four domains of Danielson's Framework for Teaching and learning.

Today, I'd like to begin with Domain 2, Classroom Environment. In future posts on this topic, I plan to explore the other domains. For those of you who are being evaluated using the Danielson framework and who also happen to be doing gamification (with or without Classcraft), feel free to steal liberally from the language in this post for your professional "evidence folder".
Gamification, Levelling up my Classroom environment with Classcraft
I've been using Classcraft off and on since last year, but I'm just now really starting to get into a groove with this thing.

I have to adm…

MS STEAM starter pack pt. 2: Design

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This is the second in a 3-part (maybe 4) series on setting up a sweet STEAM classroom in your Middle School. If you want to go read part 1, it's here: MS STEAM starter pack pt. 1: Programming
Design & STEM vs. STEAM So, this topic is all about putting the "A" in STEAM. It used to be STEM, and for a brief time it was STE[A]M, but these days it's STEAM, and for good reason. Apple did not experience the massive market success that it is known for by making products that were simply functional. For better or worse, human beings are drawn to beauty. We love stuff that looks good, and I believe that any STEAM program worth its salt will cover the basic fundamentals of design.
This is much more difficult than it sounds. Somehow, whether in advertisements, user interfaces, or simple brand marks, the people who understand design wow us and suck us in with their brilliant use of typography, color, and composition. I think most of us have an inherent sense of what "l…