Tech Tools for the Everyday Teacher

Games

Online Game Creation

I am always looking for ways for students to create their own online games using class content.  I believe that this is an interactive, educational part of the internet that hasn’t been as polished as other aspects.  That being said – a beginning website for this is: Classtools.net

  • It’s free
  • Students can use it without logging in
  • Easy to input questions and answers
  • Easy to share game with others to play

 

At Classtools.net students have the ability to input information and create a game based on that information.  They then can save their game and require other students to play their game.  At first when you enter the website it looks like a poorly made website because of the confusing design and color choices.  But if you dig further you will find that it does have some hidden treasures.

The main treasure I have explored thus far is the Arcade Game Generator – which is a link on the right side of the home screen.  If you click on the Arcade Game Generator link you will be sent to a Quiz creation wizard.  You can edit the title and create questions and answers here.  The key on this screen is to put your cursor over Example because then you can see exactly how to format your questions and answers.  You can also determine the type of game you want to play with the information – although I like to leave it free choice.


Virtually yours

There is a website I have been toying around with recently called Secret Builders.  In Secret Builders students explore a virtual world full of historical figures.  Students can meet these figures as well as explore their houses to gain a better understanding about each figure.

Teachers can set up student accounts for free – and watch as students complete achievements in the virtual world.  Teachers can also create quests with rewards for students – serving as an impetus for students to learn about specific historical figures they may be talking about in class.

I am going to have to work with it some more to fully understand its classroom uses – but it already appears to have an educational value.

 


A little Gaming variety?

I took a class on gaming in education today.  That’s right – you heard me, gaming in education.   Don’t get me wrong, this is where modern education is heading, that being said – our educational structure and system won’t keep up with the modern philosophy and innovativd 21st century ideas.

Do you think the class was fun?  Absolutely!  Game-based learning is fun.  What are we seeing when we observe game-based learning?

  • Students work hard to solve problems and complete tasks.
  • Games are low risk because students feel safe to fail.
  • Students are able to share/borrow/discuss strategies they are using to be succesful in the game (collaboration)

Those are just a few reasons for game-based learning – above all else, though, games are engaging.

So here are three free web-based games I discovered today.

1. 3rd World Farmer – This game is great because it teaches students about investments, agriculture, and real-life challenges.  Students try to expand their family, while deciding what crops or livestock they will invest in.  After they have decided this they click the yearly play button, which provides them with an annual budget report displaying their profit or debt.  I found this game very addicting, because it took me multiple tries to figure out the best way to succeed.

2. Grammar Gremlins – This game provides various grade level options.  Students try and defeat the gremlins through inserting correct grammar in sentences.  Grammar can be one of the more difficult subjects to make engaging in school.  This seemed like a simple game to have on a choice list.

3. Energyville – Energyville is a game where students determine what energy sources they will tap into to power a city.  They must take into account the environment, the expenses, and the security.  The game shows the production of energy for the different types, and explains why and how each type of energy should or should not be used.


Playing with animals

I’m not sure it matters what age you are, Switcheroo Zoo is a fun website for you.  My students used it this year to understand animals and their habitats better.  Really, the best part of Switcheroo Zoo is creating animals that are conglomerations of a bunch of different animals.  At the end, after you have put together your creation, the website will tell you what type of habitat is necessary for that creature.  It’s amazing how creative the students get with their creations.  Switcheroo Zoo has movie clips about animals and their habitats, it has lessons that can assist you on an animal unit, and it has it’s creation center.

As an educator I am always looking for websites I can get my kids excited about so they can use them at home.  I’m sick of students going home and playing first-person shooter games, or games with very limited or no educational value.  Icivics was an incredible find – I still have students playing those games at home – but here is another one that many of my students enjoyed going back to.


Exploring Science – A fun way

Are you looking for fun ways to promote science in and out of the classroom?  I have already discussed a number of science related resources through free.ed.gov, but here is one that I could see students playing all day long.  It’s called “Game for Science.”

Game for Science is a virtual world where students can create their own avatars.  As the students begin to explore the world they bump into a variety of challenges and quests.  Each quest requires them to achieve some act of science or answer questions related to science.  For instance, if students visit the lab in main square, they will find a scientist who is trying to solve the lack of toothpaste issue in the world.  Therefore, the scientist encourages you to play with chemical mixtures to create toothpaste.

As students play the game they will collect neurons and talent points – which will allow for them to get more things and do more things with their avatar.

In this virtual world, everything is science related – and, something I love about it, is that it doesn’t just focus on one type of science – students are going to be exposed to all facets of science.  The game provides questions, fact sheets, experiments, quests, and videos to watch about science.

It’s also free.  Give it a shot.  Even if you aren’t using it specifically in the classroom, you could encourage students to use it at home – possibly give students extra credit if they get to a certain point in the game.


Creating a Board Game?

One of my favorite assessments we did this last year in 5th grade was create board games.  We were teaching different systems of the body and how the systems work together.  The students had to come up with a board game that showed the relationship between two systems.  Many of the games were incredible.  Students really used their creativity and came up with clever goals.

So this got me thinking… is there a website that makes it easy to create board games?

Sure enough -there seems to be: Game Crafter.

Why is Game Crafter great?

  • Provides templates for board games and cards (use them! because you want to make sure your pictures are printed correctly)
  • Provides an array of game pieces for you to choose to add to your game (money, dice, tokens, little people, pieces…)
  • Great prices.
  • Excellent information provided to guide you through the steps.

If you use this website make sure to use their templates.  If you need a website to edit pictures for the board game and cards use the website: Gimp.

Gimp is a free, open-sourced photo-editing program.  You will have to download it, but it is completely worth it.  If you want to know more about Gimp look up an earlier post on Gimp.


Rock Paper Scissors anyone?

Do you ever look at a lesson and wonder how you can make the lesson more engaging?  Today I was looking at a lesson on probability.  I began the lesson using a deck of cards as an example – and asking questions like: What is the probability that the card will be red? a heart? a five? a face card?  Some of the students looked at me clueless explaining that they had no idea what cards in a deck looked like.  Fortunately – probability has so many possible manipulatives.  Today I pulled out a new one.

Rock-paper-scissors: You vs. the computer.  There are two modes – novice and veteran.  As you play the computer the computer chooses options based on the player’s patterns.  This site is great because it keeps track of wins, and the students can view what the computer is thinking before it makes it’s move.  My students got into this.  We created a tally chart with player/computer/tie as our three columns.  Each student played the computer 10 times.  We conjectured probability results ahead of time to see if we were correct.  After the students each played – then we added their scores and they had to find the percent for each column.  The activity was so engaging!  Who knew rock-paper-scissors could be so fun – everyone was begging to play again.

24: Everyone loves the game 24.  In this game students are given four numbers and their first objective is to see if they can use those four numbers to get to 24 using any operations and each number only once.  Their second goal is to see if they can come up with new ways to solve for 24.  Although there are card game versions, I prefer this website that allows for you to insert any four numbers and the website will calculate all the different ways that you could solve for 24.  It allows for you to push your students to keep thinking!  The students love this – although – my suggestion would be to start with easier ones before getting hard, because students will give up.


A world of gaming

It has become very clear that this 21st century generation is engulfed in a video gaming world.  No longer is it the ‘geeks’ or ‘nerds’ who sit in front of their computers or game consoles and play video games all day.  Now video games are accessible through cellphone and, essentially, any handheld device.

So what’s the deal with these games?  They can be very engaging.  Some of them have a clear goal that serves as an impetus for the gamer to keep playing (Angry Birds) others are colorful, and still others require the player to problem solve.  All of these games have some sort of value whether its asthetic or goal-oriented, and – all of these games can be placed under the category of Instructionist.

There are – really, two types of games out on the market.  First, the ever so popular Instructionist.  These games allow for players to work within their world to accomplish the goals that they have set up.

On the other hand, there is the Constructionist-type game.  This type of gaming allows for the user to develop their own goals and their own world.  Although this type of gaming is not as prevelant as the first, I believe that if students are presented with this type of gaming and it’s engaging, and they feel like they know how to work the medium that allows for them to create then students will embrace it.  This type of gaming is also much more stimulating for the mind.  Students need to create goals and boundaries for their game in order for the game to operate.

I have been thinking about this Constructionist view for some time.  Something I enjoyed doing in highschool was programming ‘choose your own adventure’ type games on my calculator.  My students love them.  Every year the students get fascinated over the games and can’t believe that I created them.  Our summative assessment this year in our human body unit was for students to create a board game using the human body.  The students loved the project and it was such a different thought process because the game had to function.

There needs to be educational, technological devices that are easy and accessible to students to allow for them to create their own games.


Imagine running your own firm.

Today was one of those days in Social Studies, where you’re just not sure how things are going to turn out.  We have been studying the U.S. government recently in 5th grade – and specifically The Bill of Rights.  The students had been put through various scenarios where they have had to figure out which amendment was being addressed.  This conversation alone was incredible!

One of my teammates discovered this incredible resource.

If you have not visited ICIVICS you are going to want to.  The website offers a number of free, web-based games that engage students and promote critical thinking.

The games include:

  • Do I have a Right? – In this game the students run their own Law Firm.  The students gain points depending on how well they know their rights, and how well they know the amendments that link with the issue their client is having.  Excellent game!
  • Supreme Decision – Students help cast deciding votes on Supreme Court decisions.
  • Executive Command – Students experience the challenges faced by our President.
  • Argument Wars – Students try to argue and win a Supreme Court case.
  • Immigration Nation – Students guide newcomers through the path of becoming a U.S. citizen.

My class had 16 laptops out playing Do I have a Right?  It was the first time I had seen students dashing for their textbooks to assist them on problems they encountered in the game.  My students gave great feedback and felt like they had really learned what amendment connected to what issue.


Math is Back.

Okay – so school is coming to an end, summer is about to come knocking with lemonade in hand, and ‘some’ parents are coming to your classroom asking what they can do with their child to prepare them for the next grade.  In regards to math – I have found a number of excellent websites that may assist these parents.

It is often surprising how engaged students become when they are placed in front of a computer – listening to the same thing they would be listening to in class.  There are a lot of math game websites that I think are overrated.  Some of them are so cluttered – and lacking in skill practice – that I did not see them worth my time blogging about.  You can find many of those websites by just typing: “fun math games” in google.  The ones listed below aren’t necessarily the ones that pop up on top.

1. Khan Academy – (Free) I have mentioned this website in an earlier blog post (refer to The Khan).  It is excellent because it allows for the parent – or you, the teacher, to keep track of students’ skill abilities.  The free web-based, non-profit school has numerous videos to watch on each skill and practice for each skill.  Students will need to pass a skill before they can move on in the Knowledge Map.

2. IXL - (Free) This website has exercises for students to practice the common core standards according to their grade level.  When the students achieve specific amount of points they achieve new awards.  This is helpful because you know that the student is practicing exactly what the nation expects of him/her.

3. School Time Games - (Free) This website reminds me of cool-math-games, but, to me, the games are much more engaging and they work on skills much better.  If your student is into puzzle games or more clever games – then this is the website for your student.

4. Timez Attack – (There is a free demo version – pay to get more levels) Our school is using this website right now.  It is excellent.  Students don’t even realize that they are practicing math while they are playing the game!  The game also presents data to the account manager letting the account manager know the growth of the students.  It is available for addition/subtraction/multiplication/division.  I definitely suggest it for schools.  Students can play it at home if they have an account at school as well!


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