I’m a father of two girls (7 & 10) and like many fathers in developed world in 2015, school holiday time has become “constant screen time” for my kids. Unless I painstakingly structure every minute of their day, given the choice, they pick screen time before considering other activities. They are kids after all and it may have been 1987 and it may have been an Atari ST, but I was just the same.
The 70s gave us screen time, the 80s brought it home, the 90s expanded the choice and the 21st century has now given many young people the power to download further screen time options when they feel like it.
What’s good for kids?
If most parents are allowing it, is it ok to deny your own kids (as a parent or teacher) the access other’s enjoy? What long-term effects will show themselves in 20 years? Will they be positive or negative? You can find news stories and studies to prove any case you’d like to.
So, what do we parents and teachers do with a generation who have increasingly higher expectations for how much screen time is considered normal? I have written before on categorising screen time to give more value to creative pursuits and this has helped family time in my house considerably. But here’s other ideas I’ve had that help in this increasingly challenging debate about what is good or not good for children.
Children generally think of the games first but are also naturally curious and creative and often just need reminders of the more productive activities available. Here are some ideas for how to structure these reminders.
Idea 1: Make rules & reasons clear
Realistically, most families I know would allow a couple of hours in any day for iPadding. Organise apps into folders based on family rules about screen time. As examples: 20 minutes playing games; 40 minutes playing ‘thinking’ games; 1 hour of these creative apps. Using the Control Centre (swipe up from bottom of screen) you can quickly access the timer to ensure the kids get an alarm to say ‘time’s-up’. I also use Emoji characters to help the kids remember why they’re categorised (see pic). It seems sometimes that screen time becomes the issue more than worrying about exactly what’s on the screen. and my kids will move onto more productive activities, if it means more screen time. (Sad, I know)
Idea 2: Make them earn this precious resource
Yes, they will do almost anything for screen time and so use this to your advantage and make them earn it. The parenting advice on this also changes week to week, depending on which book, expert or website you follow but generally, publishing a list of ‘good citizen’ tasks that all earn screen time works well. It puts the onus on the child to carry out good deeds before the earn device time. My daughters have very tidy bedrooms, we have an automatic filling dishwasher and the fire wood was transferred to it’s winter location all because of the desire for the screen. I’ve had no arguments about work around the house if it’s weighed up against iPad time.
Idea 3: Become master of the games you want your kids playing
Here are some games I’ve recently become very good at, so as to spark discussion and competition within the family.
Math: The Land of Venn – Geometric Defense This is a great game where young kids learn and draw geometric shapes as weapons against monsters. It quickly had my 7-year-old daughter using math vocabulary she might never have used at home. Lots of extras to win and spells to purchase with your winnings. Cleverly designed to award more power to the more complicated shapes. Great fun and sparks good conversation.
English : Sentopiary
This was a great distraction that both my daughters enjoyed as it reinforced things they’d studied at school and was interactive enough that even I learnt a few things regarding grammar. As the app states: “Guided by Common Core standards, it is intended to be used both at home and in classrooms and works well in environments where iPads are shared.” This is true as it also sparks conversation between 2 people looking at it.
Languages: Duo Lingo
We’ve made it a family challenge to learn Spanish using this app. My elder daughter has now decided that after Spanish, she’s ‘gonna learn Russian’ :-). Make it a weekly challenge to work through a particular number of lessons. The app is very carefully crafted to make sure you build your knowledge and skills in successfully in written, reading and spoken forms. There is discussion about the teaching of languages dying out in schools but this app and gasified online system could be the saviour for language learning.
Art: Sketchbook Express
This free app gives you advanced tools presented in a straight-forward fashion. Even I could reignite my liking for art with some nice first steps tracing a photo using the layers available (see pic). This immediacy and extra safety (kids don’t like to mess up their pictures) of this layering made it an instant hit with my 10-year-old daughter.
Movie making: iMovie
Using siblings, pets or classmates to put together a story introduction using iMovie’s Trailer option is a popular activity that I find with some theme prompting from me always gets my kids outside and ‘acting’. The other day, all I had to say was “what about using our chickens for a trailer?” and they were off!
Both these apps challenge the brain for logical thinking. They present themselves as games but in such a way that the kids have to pause and think rather than just react on instinct like typical gaming.
Kodable is a great introduction into coding that both my daughters will play for the full 30 minutes overtime they’re reminded of its existence.
Thinkrolls 2 looks easy to start with but quickly gets very challenging and is cleverly designed to deliver challenges in quick succession that my kids will choose to play this without reminding.
This means WAR!
Yes, as a parent or teacher you might feel you are in a constant fight and you may win some and loose some battles but if we are careful, I believe we will win the war. With some thought and a positively mindset, this screen time might create a generation of thinking, creative and collaborative people. By setting up structures to help the children self-manage their screen time, I am hoping that I can already see the benefits of what these apps have to offer transferred to ‘real-life’ with two girls who are happy to help, keen to solve problems and create projects of their own design. Make sure you make some time to showcase the results of their more productive device use and it will encourage more.
Good luck everyone !!!
Author: Richard Wells
Teaches grade 6 to 12 – Head of Technology at NZ High School
Top 40 in edublog awards 2013
Top 12 Blogger – The Global Search for Education
Known for Educational Infographics (see Posters above)
Presenter and also a father to 2 beautiful girls. Twitter : @iPadwells
What’s the biggest mistake teachers make when integrating technology into the classroom?
During a recent conversation I had regarding a new tech tool, a colleague told me, “it would probably go wrong and mess his lesson up.” The root of much fear around integrating technology derives from teachers wondering, “what do I do if it goes wrong?” In working with teachers in multiple schools, I have found this is due to a traditional mindset that the teacher must be the master of content and activity in the room. Fear of losing that control and sense of respectability is what still leads many teachers to avoid introducing technology and limiting the scope of what might be achieved with it.
This post is written as part of The Huffington Post’s The Global Search for Education: Our Top 12 Global Teacher Blogs: A series of questions that Cathy Rubin is asking several education bloggers. I’ll be sharing the link to her post that collects all of the responses. I’m excited to be part of this group of edubloggers.
Teachers often prescribe which apps, websites and gadgets are allowed in “their classroom” to ensure nothing goes wrong. Notice here that the priority is on teacher comfort over that of the students. This can lead to learner frustration, scope limitations and restrictions to creativity and many learners not realizing their potential. Creating an environment like this, can foster disconnect between teacher and learner, and for me is the most common mistake I come across when working with schools introducing technologies. Young people live in a world where technology offers them much personal control over when, where, and, how they do things. If school does not reflect this world, it will seem to become ever more irrelevant.
In all my teaching, writing, research and presenting, the central theme in education at the moment is the empowerment of students over their own learning. As this becomes more understood by teachers, it redefines the classroom as a space of shared ownership, relaxing the need for absolute control and freeing them up to work with the students, whilst learning alongside them. Most technology these days has to be designed to be user friendly or it doesn’t survive in the marketplace and young people have become accustomed to quickly mastering gadgets, apps and other technologies. If the classroom is a flexible and collaborative space, my students help each other apply their own choice of technology to the task at hand. The focus is on the learning goals and/or problems, not the technology itself.
Operating a more democratic classroom environment has led to my own use of technology being enhanced by student suggestion. The Iinternet has increased the speed at which young people discover new tools and examples of them being used. Allowing them to experiment with their new discoveries gives them ownership over how they learn and in my experience and observations of others, it increases engagement in the tasks and content in nearly all casesclassroom.
The issue is not about faith in technology but more faith in the students to showcase their own mastery and adoption of a rapidly advancing world. The trick is to harness this potential and use the keenness shown by young people to enrich the learning experience for themselves the students.
Read the other excellent posts here: Top 12 Bloggers
Design thinking is a powerful tool to really get your students thinking about and tackling a problem or topic at a much deeper level. It is a structured task that focuses on giving considerable time to thinking about and empathising with the people within the situation (Target audience or client), designing and prototyping a possible solution that is immediately challenged in order to improve it. It is used much in business and the design industry but can be used as a general classroom task within any subject area. It also gets students to work quickly without much introduction.
Design thinking promotes creative thinking, team work, and student responsibility for learning.
It is a form of solution-based, or solution-focused thinking; starting with a goal (a better future situation) instead of solving a specific problem. This keeps minds open to multiple solutions.
The core rules behind Design Thinking:
- The Human Rule: All Design Activity Is Ultimately Social in Nature
- The Ambiguity Rule: Design Thinkers Must Preserve Ambiguity
- The Re-design Rule: All Design Is Re-design
- The Tangibility Rule: Making Ideas Tangible Always Facilitates Communication
The infographic / poster above is a guide to a simplified version you can use in your classroom. This version can be carried out in an hour, over a week, or even longer.
This versions splits the task into 5 key stages. It’s good to set fixed time frames for each of these stages and for their sub stages.
1. Goal Setting (Whole Class)
HOW MIGHT WE DESIGN / ACTION WHAT AND FOR WHOM IN ORDER TO CHANGE SOMETHING?
The first stage is to devise an atoll goal to improve something. This is best started with 3 key words: “How might we …” Starting this way can have a powerful effect on successful classroom engagement. “How” is a word that has a bias towards action. It implied the something is to be done. “Might” acts as a safety blanket as it offers the students the freedom to fail. This ensures tham more are likely to give it a go. “We” pushes the collective responsibility and collaborative aspect meaning nobody will be alone. It also removes the classroom hierarchy, bringing the teacher onto the same level as learner alongside the students.
During this goal setting stage it is important to select as a class:
- “WHAT” = An object – E.g. App, Gadget, Speech, Toy, Campaign, Website etc.
- “WHOM” = A Specific Client/target – E.g playground users, garbage droppers etc.
- “CHANGE” = A better world – E.g. Target result, Improved situation,
- How might we design a toy for children to encourage recycling?
- How might we make school furniture for students better suit 21st century learning?
- How might we redefine the museum visit so that it’s student-led and more engaging?
As an extra idea, I have considered it even as a fun theoretical teaching task such as:
- How might an iPad app have helped George Washington win the War of independence in half the time?
There’s nothing to stop posting up a number of big ideas or challenges for teams to pick from but ensure the students have been part of formulating them.
2. Thinking – Individual then Group
Decide on an amount of time that students will individually think around the topic. This personal thinking space is important for letting quiet, reflective and deeper thinking take place to start the process off. This might only be 5 or 10 minutes but means more will come to the table when the group starts discussions.
The individual thoughts are then brought to the group. I recommend groups of 3 or 4 as bigger than this can become less manageable for the students.
a) Facts b) Opinions c) Interactions
This is the crucial stage where considering the people and situation that the solution will be dealing with is broken down into 3 stages to help the students allow for as fuller picture as possible. These 3 stages might take anything from 10 to 30 minutes.
- First the Profile the target as a list of facts. What do they do? What do they have? What are we dealing with physically?
- Second they imagine or research all the typical opinions and feelings that the solution will have to allow for.
- Thirdly they consider all the connections within the situation. Who talks to who? Who shares things with who? Who or what competing with what or who?
By the end of this stage, the students will have done far more genuine thinking about the situation than they might have done if asked to just “research the situation.”
4. Solution Design – “Ideate”
A minimum of 20 minutes is now needed for the group to dream up a solution. The important emphasis here is that no idea should be squashed too quickly. Let the students dream up ideas that may or may not be possible and allow the discussion and challenge evolve. The point of this whole process is for all possibilities to surface and be challenged. Sometimes the craziest idea can lead to successful divergent solutions.
App and gadget design can be applied to most situations and the fact that the students may or may not be able to make the final product should’t matter and allows them to focus on the needs that the product meets.
5. Prototype Critique – Feedback & Improve
This stage simultaneously develops multiple skills whilst also encouraging a more optimistic growth-mindset as teams present and challenge each other. The emphasis here must be on growing ideas and not judgements. One thing I would highlight to students is that designers and problem solvers always seek advice and feedback and so can use and appreciate anything that gets fed back to them.
Even after good thinking and empathising stages, there’s always a number of “what ifs” that any team will not have thought of. This also highlights to all students that there’s always another view and this feedback loop is key to any significant success that will last. Just keep asking why? why? why?
Which apps help with Design Thinking?
Essentially, the apps that help design thinking are those that allow students to collaborate around their ideas and creative output. Here’s a few to help.
Secrative can be used to canvas the class for foreseen problems to be solved and once target problems are chosen, it can then ask students to submit How might we… questions to frame the task around.
Nearpod can also be used to collate the class ideas for problems.
Drawp is another great collaborative system and app for class activities.
Talkboard is an instant and free collaborative drawing board for the group to scribble down ideas on. Might need a stylus to get the best from this.
Prezzi can be used to present a plan.
Design Think Links and Info
NoTosh are a key organisation pushing Design Thinking in education. Great info and resources.
Stanford Uni have produced a whole crash course in Design Thinking!
I am very excited to be collaborating with the great Steve Lai again (@sly111). We decided to celebrate the iPad’s 5th birthday with a quick brainstorm of our key lessons from 5 years of iPad teaching. Education across the world continues to evolve in its understanding of how 1-to-1 student device learning can and will revolutionise the industry. Photo Credit
We started predominantly with our 20th century mindset: “The teacher must be master.” This approach led many educators and schools to hold students back whilst they themselves struggled to master it first or feared the technology altogether. My recent evidence shows that a gradual development of this mindset has taken place and students are more often offered greater freedom to control how their learning might involve and benefit from an iPad.
Teachers are now accepting that the very definite hierarchy that existed in the classroom has been dismantled somewhat and students are now able to access information on demand then create and collaborate in ways that many teachers struggle to keep up with. The secret is to challenge students to prove just how talented they can be, but this requires certain freedoms.
Here are our 9 thoughts:
- Richard: “Never prescribe an app for a task. Let the students surprise you.”
I was introduced to Green screening and stop-frame animation by my own students. Students continuously discover apps and will be keen to apply them to class tasks. In a flexible learning environment the teacher spends less time hunting out apps for students to use and more time devising learning intentions.
Richard: “Green Screening was introduced to me by my students. It revolutionised my classroom!”Check out this slideshow describing how to use Green Screen Movie FX Studio
Check out this post describing DoInk’s Green Screen app
- Steve: “Know the ins and outs of how to troubleshoot potential roadblocks”
If you are the “go-to” iPad person at your school, your students (and some coworkers) will regularly ask you how to do even the simplest tasks. Try to predict potentials roadblocks by practicing on your own before any iPad lesson. Try giving some of your new and exciting lessons with your family and colleagues and see if they have any questions to stump you.Another consideration is to develop a small network of students that will help people in your class or even school with these common roadblocks.Here are examples of student-run tech support teams:
- Steve: “Always continue to learn and its okay to sometimes admit you don’t know how to do something.”
We should strive to be lifelong-learners. That’s why you’re reading this article! While you should be the best at your teachable subject, your students need to realize that we aren’t infallible. When tough questions arise, learn the solution as a class. The learning of that topic, on your part, is professional development in itself. Keep up to date with the latest teaching tools. Attend iPad pro-d’s if available.The views on iPad teaching have evolved over the 5 years and teachers are realising that the traditional view that they must be the master of the classroom content does not have to apply to the use of technology. Consider what you’d like the students to be doing but let them discover the best way iPads might help.
- Steve: “Be wise in what you share online”
Teachers are hopefully willing to share great creations made by students to other teachers, both within their schools/districts and also to a broader community. Take special care in how you share. Don’t publish full names, and make sure to get full parental consent if you want to post your students’ photos. As a professional, be careful and what you post about your personal lives as well, as it is an open book for all to read.
Read: How Teachers Should Stay Safe Online & Safe Facebook use in schools
- Steve: “Make the cloud an essential tool. Know how to use it efficiently, ie. back up student work”The cloud is a relatively new tool. Learn how to maximize its potential. Cloud storage is becoming more affordable, and free storage options still offer a lot of great sharing features. Discover sharing and collaborative features and learn about the different forms it comes in. Make sure what you upload is secure and safe. Educate your students, as cloud computing is here to stay. The iPads will operate with all main cloud platforms by Apple, Google, Microsoft and Dropbox.Read: Dropbox for Dummies, Why You Shouldn’t Need your USB again.
- Richard: “Understand that while the iPad is an incredible teaching and learning tool, it doesn’t change what works and doesn’t work in effective learning”
iPads don’t always change students’ engagement or desire to learn. True success in the classroom still requires a teacher to create the right atmosphere for deep learning. More success is realised by teachers who create flexible learning spaces and set student-driven challenges that demand deep thinking whilst allowing the iPad to help student collaboration and present this thinking.Read : iPad teaching is NOT about iPads
- Steve: “Don’t teach with an iPad just for the sake of it”
Teachers need to have (or develop) a certain passion for integrating technology (not just iPads) into their everyday teaching. If it’s not really your cup of tea, don’t feel like you have to do it. Find your niche and go forward with it!
- Richard: “Worry less about “Wonder” apps and more about Collaboration and Teamwork”
Why hunt for an app that can do everything, when tasks conducted in teams can demand each team member use the simplest of apps just to fulfil their team role.
- Student A: Camera for photo evidence
- Student B: Notes or Pages for text
- Student C: Simplemind for mind-map
- Student D: Blog setup & management for collating material and publishing
iPads also allow for collaboration between students in different classrooms or even schools. Here’s a “Connected Classroom Challenge” to test students’ ability to run projects whilst working remotely. This is great practice for 21st Century workflow.
- Richard: “iPads are still the most popular, flexible and successful device in education.”Whether it is the USA buying iPads in their millions or reports showing 86% of New Zealand schools have students using iPads, there is still a worldwide understanding that they are the easiest to integrate into classrooms. Educators around the world are often found discussing the benefits of active learning which the iPad continues to allow for in a way that laptops / Chromebooks don’t, keeping students rooted to one spot.Read: Why I still recommend the iPad for schools
Education’s landscape has changed greatly in 5 years and many aspects of teaching and learning that once were concrete are now being questioned. The iPad has played a big part in starting this questioning and challenging of old norms. Students are also challenging the system and their teachers as they take control of their learning. Education is no longer just about information and as the value of knowledge tumbles and access becomes more fair and democratic, the flexible talents of the iPad for creating, learning, collaborating and problem solving continue to shape this new world of connected learning.
Steve’s blog here: TeachingwithiPad.org
I’ve been asked a number of times to help with iPad “unboxing” sessions in schools and it can get messy if you try to do too much. It is temping to download and run through numerous “amazing” apps and quickly showcase all of their abilities in transforming the classroom. But from my experiences, I have learnt that many teachers are unaware of fundamentals that others understand as everyday knowledge, so be careful. Keep it simple and avoid needing the internet as much as possible during the session. I know of a school where they asked everyone to get iMovie, which is 500MB! This not only killed the internet but the rest of the session also! For me, the important fundamentals are iCloud, Photo, (small) App download and messaging. Photo Credit.
I recommend everyone get a new iCloud.com email during the iPad setup screens and use this as their Apple account to ensure they aren’t restricted from using any of the Apple services. Restrictions can crop up later if you use something like a Gmail. The smallest of task can take a while when a number of people attempt it at once. A simple task that more advanced users can help the novices through works much better.
Introducing teachers to the idea that free web-based messaging is available using the iCloud accounts is something I think is important. It can greatly reduce the pressure on the school email and people quickly get used to it and many often prefer the format of messaging over email. Group messages can be started between 3 or more, which can help department discussion too. Get your school leaders messaging as a group and they will love iPads forever :-)
Here’s my list of do’s and don’ts:
- pair-up the less confident with a more confident buddy.
- For your first session task, only attempt to use pre-installed or free apps that don’t rely on the internet connection after they’re installed (reduces problems by 80%)
- Make sure people get the best from the iPad by setting up an iCloud.com email account using the iPad setup screens (easiest way to setup the account) Advice: use the same email name as your normal (most used) email name, e.g. johnDoe86@gmail.com = JohnDoe86@iCloud.com
- Other than the iCloud account, don’t spend too much time with other account setup. It’s more engaging to get on with some fun first.
- Make sure they have at least taken a photo, downloaded an app and sent an iMessage. (iCloud based iMessages can reduce the strain on the email system and only use wifi)
- Make your first tasks are fun and use a small number of apps
- In most cases, don’t let the technician run it. In my experience too many technicians focus on technical issues like server connections and file transfers. This can kill the fun and initial desire to use iPads.
- Have instructions in writing (with screenshots if possible). Relying on verbal instructions to any audience gets very messy very quickly.
The main aim is to have a task that everyone can enjoy, regardless of the ability level. Photo Booth and Pic Collage are both simple but fun apps that all can enjoy and this is why I included them in my resource below.
I thought I’d put together a quick resource that you might use if issuing a number iPads to teachers in your school. Hope you find it useful and good luck! This JPG links to a PDF version.
Has your child got an iPad from Santa? I may be an iPad teacher calling myself @iPadWells and running this blog on iPad use but I’m also a father of 2 daughters with all the normal excitement and fear that comes with that. One of my daughters soon reaches the magical double-figure age of 10 and there is talk of her maybe (insert usual “if she’s a good girl” rhetoric that usually gets ignored) having an iPad for her birthday.
The thought of her sitting alone in her bedroom with access to all that the internet has to offer scares me just as much as I’m sure will the day she steps into the first boyfriend’s car. But I’m calm. If there’s one person who can keep her safe on an iPad, it’s gotta be me or I may as well stop blogging. Photo credit.
Where to begin?
This topic is another reason I continue to recommend the iPad for young people, schools and families. The iPad has so many settings built-in to it’s iOS (Operating System) to keep children safe from both adult content and health issues like RSI and hearing loss. Google too has many filtering settings that can be applied to an account. These days, independence starts online before it might do in real life and online Apple and Google accounts seems scary but is necessary if a parent is to maintain a level of control. As a parent I can use the legal requirements that an online account creator needs to be 13 as a way to explain why both the iCloud/App Store account and the Google Account’s passwords must be only known by the parents.
Children still need to be able to explore the world online and also discover apps that might be of use. I think free-reign on purchasing from the App Store before 13 has gone wrong for many, especially if the child isn’t earning the money themselves. Saying that, I would want my child to be able to explore the store for potential tools and games and justify to me why they are worthy or productive. Given what we teach to 13 year-olds in New Zealand about sex education and the like, plus what will be discussed in the school playground, I decided that 13 would be the age I would start to relax restrictions on content but until then I’d like to know things were filtered a little. Photo credit.
Filtering & Restrictions
Make sure when you turn on iPad Restrictions (see help sheet below) you at least turn off restrictions on Safari, Camera & Airdrop. Kids need: the web to learn 21st century citizenship; the camera to make films, trailers and photograph events in their life and Airdrop is useful for transferring files (like photos) between devices. Once the iPad’s website filtering is applied, websites can be unlocked with a passcode and even listed as permanently ok. I will simply tell my child she can see me to unlock a site.
Music can be filtered for explicit content and under General – Music settings, the max volume can be limited which is great for anyone but especially young people who are proving around the world to be suffering from noise-induced hearing loss due to regular earphone wearing.
Why Google and Apple Filter?
The iPad will filter the sites from loading but not the Google search results. You need to separately log the child in to Google and turn on search filtering for the account so all searches show appropriate results only. This filter can then be locked with a passcode. (See help sheet)
Below is my quick click-by-click guide on getting started with filtering for safe iPadding:
(This is version 1.1 – no black arrows on step 4)
Once your child is using the iPad you might want to have a discussion about screen time and how it might be limited. Here’s a previous post and poster about the discussion/agreement I had with my kids: iPad Screen Time
A three minute video highlighting a journey from 20th to 21st Century learning. Video transcript below.
An incorrect start…
At the beginning of 2014, we started a new computer programming module with all our Year 8 students. This was part of their technology curriculum and offered them 2 hours a week to look at coding and how applications were made. My colleague and I went though a relatively standard planning period for this and as experts in code, we broke the subject and potential problems down into sections and prepared resources and videos for the students to access.The students were using iPads and an coding app called Hopscotch.
During the first term, we noticed that although the work was self-paced, the diversity in both ability and interest for coding was causing problems for real understanding and engagement. Students were attempting to learn the separate coding elements by running through our tasks as individuals, asking a friend if they got stuck but the classroom had only small numbers of students showing a genuine love for learning this knowledge. At the end of Term 1 we reviewed the course and i highlighted that the students’ level of communication was very shallow, limited to short moments where one would help another over a small coding hurdle.
A new beginning…
The start of the second term meant a rotation in the timetable and a new group of students for our programme. I proposed that to gain more engagement from a wider pool of the students we focus not on coding elements, i.e. the content, but develop the programme so that collaboration and engagement become the primary goal. If we focus on team-based activity, there will be more sharing of knowledge, collective responsibility and knowledge creation. We were also in luck, Hopscotch added built in tutorials and most importantly an online sharing and feedback community for students to upload their products to. A shared learning journey would make it more enjoyable for all and the Hopscotch online community will allow the teams to share their products and offer feedback and advice to others.
A change in leadership…
So the course transformed from a teacher led, heavily structured acquisition of knowledge and skills into a more inclusive and active programme that all could be enjoyed by all. The teams of students set about developing a computer game without teacher-led instruction. The focus was shifted away from the content and more towards the experience of collaboratively learning. We even got a mention by Hopscotch when I published evidence of a the new level of engagement. Another development that arose from this new more open approach was that I would often learn from the students and the traditional teacher-student hierarchical relationships started to change.
As covered in the ITL research on 21st century learning design, we were now focused on skills such as collaboration, learning with ICT, self-regulation, and knowledge construction, whilst also being more successful in students developing coding and problem solving skills.
This post is a quick assignment for the Mindlab.
I’ve outlined in a previous post, my findings that quite obviously, the moment that any individual learner is ready to listen, read, watch or even learn will vary. To expect any class to turn up at a scheduled hour and fully engage in the same learning activity is literally treating them like products on a factory line and not the humans they enjoy being. Photo Credit.
I have 2 daughters, both brought up by the same parents who approach everything in life very differently. Why would we expect 30 young people form different life situations to behave and have the same needs for an hour?
When I regularly divide my classes into groups, I often notice that a number of the groups have a member who seems distant or unengaged and I wonder how I can energise these kids to engage with the group or task during the short time that I’ve got them? (I teach in a high school still restricted by segregated, hourly subject lessons) Most of my class activities involve an element of problem solving. Examples might be, How are we going to reduce cyber-bullying in the school? What do the students need in a school app? Or even, How can I start my music career in New Zealand? It is the problem-solving part of the brain I want to activate in my students who are not in that frame of mind when I need it.
The other day, I noticed one of my daughters playing a puzzle type game on my iPad. It was obviously challenging and often frustrating but she kept at it regardless. The game was direct problem solving and my girl was deeply engaged. It was then I had an idea. If any learner who found themselves disengaged from a school task had permission to select from a list of problem-solving, “brain igniting” games, it might mean they return to the task more energised to tackle it or suggest other solutions.
To carry out an initial trial, I projected a problem-solving game on my board and invited individuals to have a single turn to complete the puzzle/level. After 2 minutes, pairs were coming up to have a shared turn. This turned into small groups and after 10 minutes had 8 people competing to make suggestions for the next move. What I noticed was that these 8 were not a normal grouping within the class but had selected themselves to share an experience. This had an immediate effect on the dynamics in the class. I have found that after this exercise, new pairings started appearing in the class and it definitely made it easier for me to suggest new groupings without any backlash.
Class gaming rules
- Time Limit: A set amount of game play per hour or per week might be allowed but there would be freedom to select when that time was used.
- The games would be form the endorsed “Brain-igniting” list.
- All games would be Problem-solving
- Gaming progress (levels) could be reported to class to encourage collaboration between students that might not otherwise connect.
- New Game teams are organised around individual’s favourite games
- Ads: “The Games have too many Adverts!” Airplane mode (in the control centre) will remove most, if not all the ads that pop up.
- 2. Student suggestions – Students should be free to make suggestions for adding to the approved list. I think keeping it to about 10 will encourage more discussion in the class about solving certain levels. With too many games, the classes attention can become fragmented. Suggesting games for the list will give them ownership over their problem solving world.
- Students are allowed to connect over a game to discuss strategies to beat levels. This builds strong relationships which spill over into class tasks.
Brain igniting Games
So I set about searching and inquiring after entertaining puzzle games I could issue as an endorsed game list. These are just suggestions but will give you a starting point.
- VERY BAD CUBE
This game builds in complexity from the most basic of starts. Join all the cubes of the same colour. Sounds easy but had my classes connecting into larger and larger groups trying desperately to beat a level.
T his game is challenging and demands a little math. Same number blocks collide and merge into a single doubled number block. Trick is to not fill the board. Even my senior students play this by choice.
Learn another language in a personalised, fun and accessible way. With an account, each student is automatically tracked and reminded to return to their 10 minutes a day if they forget. I’m learning Spanish along with the rest of my family!
- 2 DOTS
This game does not have a single solution for each level. This means it is less likely to bring students together but does quickly get an individual’s brain working. This too nicely grows in complexity and is good for the quieter students to work on alone.
This is good for younger students but fun for all. A constant rolling screen of quick problems to solve before the character can continue on. My7 year-old daughter played this game for much more than 10 minutes!
- MOVE THE TURTLE
This challenges with simple puzzles whilst teaching the fundamentals of programming. There are programming iPad apps but most allow kids to play games already made and Move the Turtle is the game itself and so is on my list.
- POP WORDS
This is a great twist on the game Boggle. It has a individual time-pressure game where you try to find words on the grid before your timer runs out. It also has a great puzzle mode where the letter tiles disappear when used to see how many tiles you can score with just one grid. This is great for building literacy skills and again naturally draws students together to find new words.
This is a bit different. At first you think it’s just a very simple memory game where you only have to remember which neon lights lit up for 5 seconds on a grid to complete a circuit. It seems quite tricky so you find yourself developing your own strategies for remembering which lit up. I even started remembering shape names to jog my memory. This really gets the brain working hard.
Sometimes we consider the term team-building as only something employers organise. I’ve found this to be powerful in my classes, especially with boys, who are often less social and likely to work well in new teams. You may have heard of Google 20% time, well this is an endorsed form of team-building / brain ignition time. Give it a try!
EXTRA LINK: Games are good for you
This is just a quick nod to my EdTechTeacher friend Beth Holland, who has written another excellent post updating ideas around what teachers might do in the first 5 hours, days and weeks with iPads in their class. The original post can be found here on Edutopia.org.
Beth and the EdtechTeacher team are an excellent source of ideas and inspiration. Beth asked me to update my infographic for the post and so here it is: