Category Archives: Gamification

Tynker

from:  www.tynker.com
from: http://www.tynker.com

If you are interested in integrating some computer programming into your curriculum, you may want to take a look at Tynker.  Earlier this year, I mentioned Tynker in a post about programming for kids, but I hadn’t had the chance to try it.  It looked promising, so I decided to offer it as a free class for students to take online this summer.

You may have read yesterday’s post about Gamestar Mechanic, another site that teaches programming to kids.  Tynker is similar to Gamestar Mechanic in that it offers a free version and a premium version.  However, Tynker’s free version has a lot of features – including the ability to add classes and projects.  It includes a basic curriculum for elementary and middle school that already has lesson plans with projects.  Or, as a teacher, you can create your own.  Another thing that I like about Tynker is that my students were able to use their Google I.D.’s to register, and did not need e-mail addresses.

Tynker is similar to Scratch.  In fact, you can import lessons and projects from Scratch.  I, however, am a beginner.  So, I stuck with Tynker’s package of lessons, and studiously watched the provided videos before I assigned each week’s lesson.  (Tynker allows you to choose “Student View” so you can see what the students will see when they get each lesson.)

It is web-based, but the site states that there will be a mobile version available in the future.

When students complete a project, they can submit it, and you can approve it or send it back.  You can quickly see, by glancing at each lesson in the “Grading” tab, who has submitted and completed each project.  The students can send you messages through Tynker if they have questions or comments.  There is also a Class Showcase area where you can approve exemplary projects to be shared with everyone in the class.  This is all FREE!

There were a couple of glitches in the Tynker lessons.  For example the “Driving Lesson” appeared to already have the code done in it before the students even had a chance to do the project.  At one point, I got locked out of assigning lessons with the note that they were now “Premium”, but Tynker’s excellent Customer Service quickly fixed that.

I spoke to a Tynker rep at ISTE, and he mentioned that they will soon be offering “puzzles” where the students will have to rearrange the code to achieve certain goals.  I look forward to that, and hope it will also be in the free version.

I definitely plan to use Tynker again – probably as a “Level Up” motivator in my Genius Hour.  Now that I am more familiar with it, I might create some of my own projects and lessons to “jazz” things up a bit.

Gamestar Mechanic

Gamestar Mechanic
from: http://gamestarmechanic.com

In some of my posts about Genius Hour, I’ve mentioned Gamestar Mechanic.  “Gamestar Mechanic includes a self-paced learning experience that uses game-based “Quests” to help youth learn how to design games while they build critical 21st century skills.”

Gamestar Mechanic, by far, was one of the most popular projects my 5th graders pursued during Genius Hour last year.  A couple of my students had mentioned an interest in learning how to design video games, so I showed them the site.  When the other kids saw what they were doing, practically everyone clamored to register for it, too.

Even though I am a huge advocate of teaching programming to kids, I know practically nothing about it.  I am slowly teaching myself, but I left it up to the students to figure out Gamestar Mechanic.  Of course, I “vetted” it by researching it thoroughly beforehand to make sure it is appropriate for them.  Several reputable articles and blog recommended it, and I even found this curriculum from the Institute of Play, so I felt comfortable letting them explore.

Of course, it’s very uncomfortable to have your students working on something about which you have very little knowledge – but that is one of the feelings you must swallow and accept when you do Genius Hour.  It’s inevitable you will have students who want to learn about something that doesn’t fall into your area of expertise.  The great thing about this is that you can’t help them very much, and they know it, so they learn to problem solve and collaborate.  It may go “against the grain” for many of us who teach, but admitting we don’t know something can actually be the best thing to happen to our students.

Gamestar Mechanic has a free account available for anyone who would like to register.  There are also Education accounts that give the teacher the ability to track, assign projects, and otherwise customize the student experience.  The Education account does cost (last check, it was $2/student).  It is also available as an Edmodo app.   I have not tried the Education account, but I am considering it for this year.  I am thinking of including it as one of the benefits of “Leveling Up” in my classroom.

By the way, I insisted that anyone who chose to do Gamestar Mechanic during Genius Hour time had to teach the class something new about it when they were ready to present.  Interestingly, we all learned each time there was a presentation, and the students were regularly asking, “How did you do that?”, eager to try it themselves.  And, my greatest fear – that they would end up playing video games for the entire period for the rest of the year – was thankfully never realized!  They quenched their curiosity in one area, and went on to learn other things.

Genius Hour Challenge Cards for Levels 3-5

level5challengecardlogo

Update:  *As of 1/2/14, you can now download all of my current Genius Hour resources in a bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers for $5.  Or, you can still download them separately (for free) by clicking on the links below.

This is a continuation from yesterday’s post regarding Genius Hour Challenge Cards.  I shared the ones I created for Levels 1 and 2 in the previous post.

Here is the explanation I gave yesterday:

My students will be using Level 1 and Level 2 cards to get a challenge each Genius Hour OR they will choose from Level 3 or Level 4, which will be longer challenges designed to be used for an entire Genius Hour project.  They will earn points toward leveling up in my classroom if they satisfactorily complete the challenges – or lose points if they do not.

Because I know that many of you do not have devices for scanning QR codes, I included a set of cards that have the actual directions on them for each Level.  I also included a blank version in MS Word for each level – in case you want to make your own.

I also added a Level 5, which has some super difficult challenges.

Please feel free to visit the Genius Hour Resources page if you are interested in more information or downloadable materials.

Challenge Card Answers (PDF, Levels 1-5)

Level Three QR Code Cards (PDF)

Level Three Text Cards (PDF)

Level Three Blank Cards (MS Word)

Level 4 QR Code Cards (PDF)

Level Four Text Cards (PDF)

Level Four Blank Cards (MS Word)

Level Five QR Code Cards (PDF)

Level Five Text Cards (PDF)

Level Five Blank Cards (MS Word)

Genius Hour Challenge Cards for Levels 1 and 2

level1challengecardlogo

Update:  *As of 1/2/14, you can now download all of my current Genius Hour resources in a bundle on Teachers Pay Teachers for $5.  Or, you can still download them separately (for free) by clicking on the links below.

As I mentioned last week, I have been toying with the idea of having the students choose Challenge Cards during Genius Hour in order to throw some unpredictable problem solving in their paths.  I listed some of my ideas for challenges, and got a couple of new ones from Nancy (thanks, Nancy!) on the Padlet wall (which is still open to your suggestions).  I worked last night on creating some printable challenge cards for Levels 1 and 2.  I hope to present you with Levels 3 and 4 tomorrow.

For those of you interested in creating your own, I used Flaming Text to create the Harry Potter-ish text on the cards.  In the interest of time, I went with simple QR codes from QR Code Generator.  I had already created a Weebly site for my Genius Hour resources, so I created a page for each card’s directions, and hid the pages in the navigation menu.

My students will be using Level 1 and Level 2 cards to get a challenge each Genius Hour OR they will choose from Level 3 or Level 4, which will be longer challenges designed to be used for an entire Genius Hour project.  They will earn points toward leveling up in my classroom if they satisfactorily complete the challenges – or lose points if they do not.

Because I know that many of you do not have devices for scanning QR codes, I included a set of cards that have the actual directions on them for each Level.  I also included a blank version in MS Word for each level – in case you want to make your own.

UPDATE:  Challenge Cards for Levels 3-5 have been posted here.  Also, you can view all Genius Hour Resources here.

Level One QR Code Cards (PDF)

Level One Text Cards (PDF)

Level One Blank Cards (MS Word)

Level Two QR Code Cards (PDF)

Level Two Text Cards (PDF)

Level Two Blank Cards (MS Word)

Genius Hour Challenges

challenges

Since I have decided to gamify Genius Hour, I thought that it would spice things up to give the students surprise challenges.  I haven’t designed the cards, yet, because I am hoping that some of you can give me more ideas.  Please go to this link  to add some ideas to my Padlet wall, tweet me @terrieichholz, or add your suggestions in the comments for this post.

The idea is that students will choose cards knowing their level of difficulty, but not the challenge.  Level 1 and Level 2 cards will be challenges that could be accomplished during the hour.  Levels 3, 4, and 5 are challenges that can be accomplished during the length of one Genius Hour project.  Students who choose Level 1 and Level 2 cards must choose one each Genius Hour.  Higher level challenges can be done at the students’ discretion.

This is what I have so far:

Level 1:

work with someone new for this hour

use no computer/mobile technology during this hour

no speaking during this hour

use a non-dominant hand for the entire hour

Level 2:

use 2 completely different resources than you have been using so far

use this hour to write a blog post about your project

go to Wonderopolis, and find a way to make the Wonder of the Day connect to your project

Level 3:

interview at least one person for your project

include a timeline with at least four major events in your project

Level 4:

include a game in which the audience can participate in your final presentation

include a self-created video of at least one minute long in your final presentation

create a poster advertising your presentation

Level 5:

switch projects with someone else (my daughter thought this was a particularly cool idea!)

Gamifying Genius Hour

This is going to be one of those think-out-loud kind of posts.  If you’ve been following this blog, then you know that I am a big advocate for Genius Hour, and that I have been playing with the idea of gamifying my classroom.  Actually, I made an attempt at both of these last year with my gifted 5th graders.  The Genius Hour was pretty successful.  However, the gamifying got bogged down.  I had a whole system of levels that the students could work through, badges they could earn (that they designed), and new privileges they would gain at each level.  My method of tracking everything fell apart, though, when I could not get the reports I needed from Class Dojo, the site I was using to record the progress of the students.  Class Dojo now has those reports, so I am considering giving it another try.

I want to focus on gamifying Genius Hour, in particular.  I am working on: levels with increasing challenges and privileges, ways to “level up”, “Easter Eggs” (hidden messages they can discover), and ways to encourage collaboration and problem solving.  Just to clarify, I am not necessarily using video games in the classroom – just the attributes of video games that can increase engagement.

This year, I plan to start Genius Hour with 3rd and 4th, as well as with my 5th graders.  (I meet with each grade level once a week.)

Knowing that I have a tendency to needlessly complicate things, I thought I would put this post out there to see if anyone has used the gamification concept with Genius Hour, and to hear any suggestions you may have.  I have found many online sources, such as the infographic below, to support gamification, and several education blogs with descriptions of its use, but I have not found any, yet, that combine it with Genius Hour.  I’d be happy to receive your tweets/suggestions regarding this topic @terrieichholz or in the comments below.

Gamification Infographic

Created by Knewton and Column Five Media