Week 8 – Video Games

How might video games enhance my students’ learning?

Video games have been a topic that has brought heated debate amongst colleagues both young and old. They bid the question of whether they belong in the educational setting or not. Many believe they are the reason for the decline in student proficiency. Yet, there are others who believe that there are many educational uses for video games in the classroom. Video games as I see them can be a medium, if used correctly, could enhance student learning and understanding.

Since bringing in a gaming platform and allowing kindergarten students to play during the school day might be frowned upon by parents and colleagues, I felt it more appropriate to rely on the computer for the task of testing the educational uses for video gaming. The three games I found for my students to test were found on the same site: www.knowledgeadventure.com. This great site allows teachers to select the grade level, subject, or age. The games found and tried with my class were math line, the new one, and math man.

The first game mentioned above, math line, is an addition game where students try to destroy balls by making combinations of numbers that add up to ten. I was nervous at first to try the game with my students since not all of my students have a firm grasp on adding objects up to ten. As a matter of fact, I was worried it would become a game where they shot the balls without having any understanding of why they “disappeared” when they would hit a certain ball. But to my surprise and delight, the game seemed to strengthen their addition skills rather than weaken them.

The second game tried was called the New One. In this game students have to differentiate between which shape was not in the previous shown screen. As they continue to select the shape that was different from the previous screen they level up and it becomes increasingly difficult. Once again, there were doubts about the level of ability to play this game of memory with my students. And once again, they did great!

The last game I tried was geared for my higher level thinkers in math. This game was called Math Man and is essentially Pac Man with a twist. The Pac Man – like figure has to eat a question ball and then answer it by eating the ghost that correctly answers the question. The questions are both addition as well as subtraction questions and is for higher level thinking in these areas. This game was tried with a few higher leveled thinkers in my classroom who seemed to be moving at a faster pace with addition than their peers. The hardest part to the game was how fast paced it was and the use of the direction arrows to move the Pac Man – like figure to and fro. It was a very challenging game for these students that frustrated them from time to time, but it was what they needed and though they were frustrated they rose to the challenge and wanted to play more after they had finished.

Now, playing the games above and having a blast with them solely for that purpose would have made the games great already as they were. But as I stated before, there needed to be a purpose to the games played. I needed them to be used to enhance student learning and understanding. As we tried them out I had to be sure if they were to be used to meet educational needs that they be tied to our state standards. The following standards were addressed by the games:

Alaska Content Standards

Technology

A)     A student should be able to operate technology-based tools.

–        A student who meets the content standard should:

  • Use technological tools for learning, communications, and productivity

 

C)     A student should be able to use technology to explore ideas, solve problems, and derive meaning.

–        A student who meets the content standard should:

  • Solve problems both individually and with others
  • Create new knowledge by evaluating, combining, or extending information using multiple technologies

 

Alaska Mathematic Standards K-2

Operations and Algebraic Thinking K.O.A

–        Understand addition as putting together and adding to, and understand subtraction as taking apart and taking from.

 

K.OA.1. Represent addition and subtraction with objects, fingers, mental images, drawings, sounds (e.g., claps) acting out situations, verbal explanations, expressions, or equations.

 

K.OA.2. Add or subtract whole numbers to 10 (e.g., by using objects or drawings to solve word problems).

 

 

Student Engagement

The next part of the gaming experiment that was of particular importance to keep note of was student engagement. Overall I would say that there was high student engagement in the games that were played. If interest was lost during the process of the games played it was due to confusion over how to play the game. This told me that the games selected were at a level that was above that of the student trying to play. With a limited time block during the day for my students to play these math games (only played during developmental centers at the end of the day), there wasn’t too much fuss about the games themselves. The fuss was more over the time allowed to play the games and turn taking, as I am sure many of you may be familiar with if you’ve ever had any experiences with students in the primary grades and younger.

As far as mastery of the skills went with the games, not all students demonstrated it by the end of the week. But my worries weren’t huge since we have only begun working on addition of objects to ten. It is something that we will continue throughout the following weeks and perhaps month, as necessary. The great thing about the games that were selected is that they can be used to enhance the addition that we are working on to build upon student skills.

Finally, I lacked in the area of reaching out to my PLN. I have felt as if I’ve lacked in this area for the past few weeks with spring break coming and going. I found myself in a daze still when it was over and am currently recovering and planning to reach out more in the following weeks. There is work to be done, discussions to be had, ideas to be shared, and feedback to be given. I look forward to the learning that will take place in the following weeks as we explore more great ideas for the classroom.

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Week 7 Post – New Tool Learned

What tool did you learn this week to assist you in differentiating the learning process for students?

This week we had the task of learning about a tool that could assist in differentiating the learning process for students. My first initial thought was to learn more about the document camera as a tool to differentiate. I thought “Why not? I have it readily available in my classroom for use already!” But then I thought to myself “Challenge yourself, think outside of what is available, and dive into something new.” And so, I did.

The tool I decided to learn this week was Voicethread. Throughout this course I have heard of the wonders of Voicethread and of its various uses. It could even be used at the kindergarten level! Therefore I figured why not delve into it more to see in which ways I could use it for my kinder students. To begin this learning process I first had to learn what Voicethread was.  It all began with a Google search, which then led me directly to the Voicethread site. According to the site, Voicethread is a cloud application in which users can create media, comment on it in a variety of formats, and share with whomever they please. Sounded simple enough, or so I thought. There was and is much more to it than merely creating a file, uploading it, commenting on it, and sharing it.

Integrating a tool such as Voicethread into a classroom, let alone a kindergarten classroom, is a process.  In order for students to understand what is being asked things have to be introduced step by step with repeated instructions along the way. Though I have not introduced Voicethread into my classroom just yet, I have begun the process. The process begins by first introducing students to how to properly use a computer. Many of my students do not have computers at home and thus have limited, if any access to them. During the past few weeks I have slowly begun to integrate more computer use into choice time to teach my students how to properly use the two computers we currently have in our classroom. They needed to be shown how to handle the mouse as well as navigate with it, the keyboard if and when they were to use it, how to open and close a program, and how to be good sports about sharing the use of the computer. Fussing about computer time was one of the biggest problem areas in the first week of introduction to the computers.

The next step that I am currently in the process of introducing is the internet. Many have had experiences with it but do not know much more about it than it is where they get to play games. So far the discussion has revolved around a definition of what the internet is. From here I plan to introduce the various uses for the internet. Though they may be a bit young to understand every piece of this it is more about exposure than a thorough understanding.

Finally, I will begin the Voicethread introduction. I plan on doing so by creating a few presentations using Voicethread and demonstrating its uses through these demonstrations. One such demonstration will include directions for an art activity we will be doing next week and another will be a picture collage that reflects upon our learning from past weeks. I will discuss with them how I created a file, loaded it onto the internet into the Voicethread application, and created the slideshow presentation for them. This demonstration will be revisited after spring break as I demonstrate for them a project I plan to do alongside them as they create a Voicethread to share with their peers that focuses on our fairy tale theme.  The plan is to have them create a fairy tale of their own with a beginning, middle and end that they can produce on paper, upload to Voicethread when finished, narrate their story, and present to the class. It will be a timely project that will be done in small groups during our choice time. If all goes as planned I hope to upload some of the videos to share with others. I am both excited and nervous about how it will all go. Only time will tell.

So, as the famous saying goes, stay tuned for the hardships, joys, and celebrations of integration of Voicthread into my kindergarten classroom. There is much to be learned, much to be excited about, and much to be hopeful for! Hopefully by the end I am still standing and have hair left on my head!