All posts by whatimeant2say

SpaceTeam

It’s another Fun Friday, and I think you are really going to like today’s resource.

I first found out about SpaceTeam by reading iGamemom. She has a great review of the app (which is free) here.

Before I launch into how we used it in class, I will warn you that this app has a 9+ age rating. So far, my daughter and I have played it numerous times, as have my students. We have not seen anything objectionable about this app. If you do try it, and you see a reason for that rating, please let me know.

SpaceTeam must be played using 2-4 iDevices in the same room. You can use iPod Touches or iPads. Once a player opens the app, it will automatically connect with up to 3 other devices. You must “beam” yourselves up to a spaceship. On your screen will appear a dashboard. This dashboard looks different for every player, and has different components, as well. Instructions will appear on your screen above the dashboard, telling you to do things like, “turn off the novacrit,” or other commands. If you don’t have that component on your screen, you must direct the other member(s) to do this. If everyone is successful in conveying and following instructions, then your team goes on to the next level.

This game is particularly fascinating to observe. The kids start talking gibberish, basically, and only the partner with that component can interpret it. Although, sometimes, the directions are silly, like, “Change the litterbox!” Listening to that being called out in desperation can be quite amusing. Also, they encounter asteroids sometimes, and have to shake their devices to avoid them.

Believe it or not, even though this makes a fun party game, it is also educational. I had my 4th grade group evaluate their experiences after playing, and extend their comments about the game to the more general difficulties people often have with communicating: too many people talking at once, not hearing what you expect to hear (if someone pronounced the words in a different way), how yelling at people does not ensure that you will be understood, etc…

One caution I would give you if you have multiple teams playing at the same time is to start off with groups of four, one at a time. Since four is the max, then you will not have to worry about teams mixing with each other. My 5th graders tried playing in pairs with our old iPods, and their teams kept switching. Once we tried the groups of 4, though, it went great. However, it was quite loud!

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Inference Riddle Game

Inference Riddle Game is a site created by Phil Tulga that has 15 inference riddles.  The user can decide which riddle to work on by typing in a number, and can slowly add clues until he or she guesses the answer, types it in, and checks it.  This would be fun to play with the class when there is a small wait time for something.  When I play games like this with my students, I always ask them to justify their guesses.  They are also discouraged from “wild guesses” by being told they will be out of the game if they guess incorrectly.  Another way to use this site would be as a springboard for students to create their own riddles – perhaps using Powerpoint or another presentation option – that are related to something that is being studied.

 

Pecha Kucha

image credit: http://www.taft.co.nz/gardenfestnz/events/pechakucha.html

According the the above website, “PechaKucha is a presentation format for creative work originally devised in 2003 by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein-Dytham Architecture in Tokyo, Japan. The name derives from a Japanese term for the sound of conversation or chit-chat.”

I first heard about Pecha Kucha from some of my fellow G.T. teachers, and was fascinated by the concept – a presentation of 20 slides with 20 seconds for each slide.  At the time, I was already caught up with end-of-the-school-year projects, and did not have a spare moment to do more research.  This summer, I ran across this great blog post that gives 10 great suggestions for how to create an awesome Pecha Kucha.

I love the idea of giving this option to my students – particularly for their Genius Hour projects.  I also think this is a great way for teachers to introduce a new topic – or even review one.  Or, you can do what the professionals do, have a “Pecha Kucha Night” at which your student present their most inspirational slideshows.  If you can think of any other ideas for Pecha Kucha in the classroom, I would love to see your comments!

Paws in Jobland

One way to engage students in school is to make their learning relevant to them.  And, one way to do this is to let them start thinking about possible careers and how their learning can be useful in those careers.  Paws in Jobland is a great site for younger students to learn about many of the possibilities that await them once they finish school.  A simple animated dog guides them through the different choices (accompanied by text and the choice of sound, great UDL site!)- from a Job Finder to an Alphabetical Search.  The Job Finder asks brief questions about the student’s interests, and then suggests some possible fields for which he or she might be suited.  Within each field is a list of careers, and the student can click on each one to find out more.

I know that a lot of classrooms work on goal-setting, and this would be a fun activity that would expose the kids to many areas that might not have been considered by their young minds yet.  Paws in Jobland may not encompass every single career, but it is a great introduction to the “real world”.

Pirate Ships and M.R.I.’s

Pirate Ship M.R.I. machine by designed by Doug Dietz
image credit:  excerpt from TED talk by David Kelley

In an article by David Kelley for CNN, the founder of IDEO is disdainful of the idea that only some people are born with creativity.  “You Are the Creative Type”details Kelley’s philosophy that creativity is in each and every one of us, and we just need the confidence to allow it to bloom.  He gives the example of Doug Dietz, who designed the above M.R.I. machine for kids.  With an accompanying story about trying to stay still so “the pirates won’t find you”, this machine has helped children to combat the fear elicited by the standard machines.

Kelley’s point is that our creativity can be used so many ways.  My point is, that as teachers, we are responsible for allowing ourselves to be creative – and for giving our students the confidence they need to think creatively, too.

Wonder Project

image taken from Mr. Mundorf’s Wonder Project Wiki

Last week, I featured the topic of Universal Design for Learning.  You can learn more about it here.  One of the proponents of UDL, and a man who practices what he preaches, is named Jon Mundorf.  When he spoke at the UDL Institute at Harvard a couple of weeks ago, he mentioned something he does with his students called “The Wonder Project”.  His “Wonder Project” reminds me a lot of the Genius Hour idea that has been discussed on my blog several times.  Mr. Mundorf allows his students to research something which they have always wondered about (in the areas of science or social studies) several times a year.  On his site, he gives guidelines for the project, resources, and examples.  This is an excellent way to engage students in the learning process by allowing them to find out more about something that is relevant to them.

Book Builder

This post completes my week-long feature of Universal Design for Learning, a project with the mission to maximize learning for all students.  To read the earlier posts, you can click on these:  Universal Design for Learning, Variability Matters, Planning for All Learners, and Learning Wheel.

Sample page from The Tortoise and The Hare created on Book Builder

Another tool that is provided by CAST, the organization that created Universal Design for Learning, is Book Builder.  According to the site, “This wonderful and free online tool allows you to create your own interactive “books” to help young readers learn reading strategies to build comprehension. Enter your own text, images, and hints.”  To use Book Builder, you will need to create a free account.  Once you do this, you can create a book that has accompanying audio, “mentors” who can be clicked on for extra help or suggestions, and areas for students to respond.

CAST is working on a more robust version of this with its UDL Studio.  With this tool, students can highlight text that proves an answer, and then compare it to the teacher’s highlights.  The students can choose whatever modality they want to use for responding to questions built in to the book.  There are many other features that make this a very strong tool in the hands of the right teachers.  UDL Studio is still in Beta, from what I understand, but you can test it out for yourself.

I have started a Pinterest Board of UDL Links, and one of UDL Videos.

Finally, I would like to leave you with one more video.  It is an excerpt from Glee, in which a deaf choir performs “Imagine”, and the other students join in.  It is a very powerful reminder of how amazing all of our students can be when given the opportunity.

(For my entire  week-long series on UDL, check out the following links:  Universal Design for LearningVariability MattersPlanning for All LearnersLearning Wheel, and Book Builder.  You can also click on the Universal Design for Learning category in my right margin or take a look at my Pinterest Boards for UDL for even more resources.)