This is a link to our Progressive Era PBL Project Wikispace. At the top of the “Home” page you will find links to example PSAs that we showed the students as examples for them to analyze. **There is a very basic “Example PSA Analysis Handout” in a Scribd collection that I have already posted a link to in this blog.
Also there are a list of links for each of the topics to help the students on their way with regards to researching their topic.
Lastly, if you click on the “Top 12 PSAs” tab on the right hand side you can see the Top 12 student-created PSAs. These were voted on by the students. These were the 12 that were sent on to Steve Croley for his review.
Scribd is the world’s largest social reading and publishing site.
This is a link to the collection of Project Related Documents from our first PBL Unit at West Ottawa High School (WOHS). This project was done with 9th grade US History students. See more details in my next few posts of the final products, the demographics and background information, student surveys after the test was over, etc.
I have been neglecting this blog for some time. The last 6 months have been a blur….I got married, got a new job, moved TWICE, bought a house, went on a 13 day trip to Europe (part of which was a presentation to a group of teachers from all over Europe, the US and Israel). Plenty to write about, NO TIME TO DO IT. This is an attempt to get caught up to where I am now, give an update on the new school I am teaching in and the challenges that I am currently tackling and then subsequent posts will be on a few PBL projects that I have been working on including a current project in which my 10th grade World History students are finishing up. As in the past I will post as many of my resources as possible, as well as any data that I have been able to collect from students, staff and adult partners.
As I said previously, I have left Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies in Detroit and am currently the newest Social Studies teacher (teaching 9th grade US History (Industrialization to the Present) and 10th grade World History) at West Ottawa High School in Holland, MI. I am literally about as close to Lake Michigan NOW as I was to the Detroit River when teaching in Detroit. Some of the big differences between the schools:
Free and reduced lunch population is much lower at the new school, although by no means non-existant
There is approximately a 40% Hispanic population at West Ottawa High School (WOHS); with also a good sized Asian and African American population although the largest group is still Caucasian.
There are two high school buildings at this school that make up one high school (the North Building and the South Building) and the student population is MASSIVE, I want to say about 2,500 kids in the entire high school but that is by no means an exact figure
I have an AWESOME department chair and an AMAZING administration for the first time in my career who are very supportive of doing what is best for kids and using classrooms as “laboratories of learning” so to speak and I mean that for both the students and the teachers. My department chair and I have been given the go ahead to pilot a quasi PBL based classroom (not all of the learning is PBL based at this point. Currently we are trying to fit PBL within a common assessment structure (with some flexibility) although this is meant to just be a start and I am confident that we will be given more leeway to explore more in the future.
WOHS is an International Baccalaureate (IB) School, I am not teaching IB currently, but do have some interest in getting involved over the next few years if the opportunity presents itself.
**As a side note, one thing that I am sure I will refer back to is that there is a very surprising amount of misunderstanding surrounding PBL here. Granted, I came from a school where this was supposed to be all that we were doing. However, its not that the teacher’s don’t have a clue what it is, but rather its that they THINK they DO know what it is and just don’t quite have an understanding of it yet. They are more in the “desert project” phase instead of full fledged PBL. My department chair and I will be leading a few sessions at a staff run PD in February that we are calling “PBL: Fact vs. Fiction” or something to that effect to try and clear up some of the discrepancies surrounding staff interpretations of PBL and “reality.”
As I said above hopefully over the next few days I will be posting links to my Scribd account to all of the different documents for the PBL projects I have done in my classes as well as student survey data and general reflections on what I have done. One thing that I am VERY excited about is that I am pretty sure I will be able to start teaching the same classes for a 2nd time for the first time in my career. Which means I will be able to look back at these reflections and use them to make the projects better next year.
Rita Pierson, a teacher for 40 years, once heard a colleague say, “They don’t pay me to like the kids.” Her response: “Kids don’t learn from people they donât like.ââ A rousing call to educators to believe in their students and actually connect with them on a real, human, personal level.
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A great TED Talk by the creator of the Khan Academy, with some references to game-based learning and ways in which they are making the Khan academy more gamified as they develop it more and more. Also an interesting piece at the end with Salman being “interviewed” by Bill Gates.
Here is the rubric that I passed out to my students to reflect on not only their efforts in the gaming unit but also the structure of the gaming unit and areas that I could improve on. Not anything special, but wanted to give context to how I got the feedback that my previous post is based on.
Below is some of the feedback I received from my students when they were given a reflection activity on their own effort during the gaming unit as well as the structure of the game so that I could improve it for the next time that we did it. (I will post a link to the reflection activity as well so that you can see what the students actually filled out.) I have also included a ranked order list of things that students asked to be changed. I tried to be reflective with regards to some of the comments that students made that I have included below in terms of what I take from those comments and what I plan to address those concerns. I have intentionally focused here on the criticism that the students gave and have not included many things that the students enjoyed simply because at this point I think focusing on the things that the students would like to see fixed is the way to make these gaming units better.
"I had trouble getting everything done with an equal amount of effort"; "I would plan my time differently and put more effort into my work
Not sure if planning things out the first time would be of great benefit because they would have to feel the frustration in order to understand the need for planning. So you do a small game the first time, they feel that frustration and the next time you build in time to talk about planning and what that looks like
"Have the classroom be the game board"
I am not even really sure what the student truly meant here, but the idea of making the game board and the game more a part of the classroom is just one more way to get students to buy in. Also gives students more on an “in your face” reminder of what they are supposed to be doing.
"I would also want you to make the level 2 easier because I didn’t get the hang of it at first but now I still need you to make it easier please."
Here, while it is obvious that they are asking for an easier assignment, I think there is something else embedded within this statement that could easily satisfy this concern but also address the concerns of students that think the game is too easy and are finishing early. I am thinking here of a game like Angry Birds, where in order to pass the level you must simply “kill” all of the pigs, however after you beat the level you get a score and based on that score are either given one, two or three stars. The activities could be structured with a “1 star score” where the student accomplishes the basics of the assignment or the basic learning objectives and then a “2 star score” and so on. Just like in Angry Birds the students would have a game board showing what levels they earned 1 star and 2 star, etc. This then gives students visual motivation to go above and beyond the basics, but allows you to differentiate much easier. You can also require that students complete a certain number of activities at the 3 star level, which of course can also be differentiated based on the student.
"Give topics that we can pick from and then we learn about that topic."
While it would be a little harder to manage this could be accomplished by starting the game after a few introductory activities in which you are giving direct instruction and inserting a bunch of “teasers” as potential topics and then let the students “choose” what they are going to study and go from there. This would be a lot easier to do in a high school setting but could also be done with middle schoolers that have a little bit of experience with the gaming model.
"I would probably want to go on a scavenger hunt. It would be five items to find. They would be incrypted (sic) riddles."
Not really much to say here just a good quote from a kid that shows more possibilities of directions you can go with this teaching style.
"Don’t miss days of school because that’s just putting more work on you than it is."
This is a problem for all teachers, helping students get caught up after a long absence, this student in particular had to have her gull bladder removed. On her feedback form she also included that she would like to see more group work. With a game-based unit there is always the possibility of putting your students together that have missed some time together in a group and have them do the game as a group. They don’t even necessarily have to be in the same class, you can provide them time to work after school or perhaps work out a deal with another teacher to help make this work.
"I would like to see examples of the project"
Here we see the importance of documenting good projects for showing future classes. Having never taught the same subject or grade level for two years straight I have not yet been able to take advantage of something like this but that doesn’t mean that I can’t document examples of good work to show students for them to analyze. Ron Berger’s book An Ethic of Excellence really opened my eyes to this idea, I have blogged about it in the past.
What to change (these are ranked in order of the frequency of the comments from students with #1 being the most frequently requested thing to be changed):
More levels and make them shorter
Work in groups/group or teamwork activities
More explanation of the topics and activities
More options to choose from for the Level 1 and Level 2 activities
Have some opinionated questions
include mini-games and bonus games
Making more like a board game
Incorporation of technology into the end products of the assignments
Incorporation of “pop-culture” or more present issues into the levels or bonus levels”
I’ve used Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel in classes for years, most often as a way to explain the devastating effect of the contact between inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere and the Europeans. I find the argument that the domination of the Natives by Europeans was based on…
A nice article on what it may mean to measure and teach grit. The thing I really agree with is that when you create a vocabulary around character traits, it’s easier for everyone to understand the subtleties of how those traits play out in yours and others’ experiences.
This is a great article and something that helps give me a little bit more focus in terms of my research for my Masters Project.
An interesting read in terms of the issues that may come up with trying to implement game-based learning. Some of these issues I still have, some I have only overcome with a lot of reading and creating and modifying more and more games in my own classroom.
Over the next few months I will be working to complete two projects which will overlap quite a bit. I will begin using this blog as a sounding board/journal of my progress and work towards the completion of these two projects. I am currently in an Education Research class, which is my last true class that I have to complete for my Masters Program at GVSU. As part of this class I must create an annotated bibliography and a problem statement and rationale. These can both be used as precursors to my Masters Project which I will start in May. My intention is to take the teaching fellowship that starts in March and use the product that I create through the teaching fellowship at The Henry Ford as my Masters Project. This blog will serve partially as a place to record my thoughts on the different articles and research that I will be exploring over the next few months. Some of these articles have already been posted and I will continue to post more as I go. It would be awesome to be able to be done with both projects by the middle of May when the teaching fellowship wraps up.
This is a great article that I will be using as part of an annotated bibliography that I am starting for a grad school class as well as preparing for The Henry Ford Teaching Fellowship. This article shows a number of interesting things, including:
How badges can make a better long-term view of education with the focus being on mastery as opposed to the hard core focus on quantifiable outcomes such as test scores
Pointing out that you can have different LEVELS of badges is an interesting concept that I have never considered before and think is a great idea
Badges don’t have to be tied to specific subjects and can therefore be applied to more specific concrete skills which would encourage cross-curricular work by both the teachers and the students
You provide smaller goals that seem more manageable for students and you can then use these smaller goals to put together larger goals and given students stepping stones to work towards these larger goals
This is a great intro article if you are not familiar with Ron Berger’s work. I read his book An Ethic of Excellence last year at the suggestion of one of my Curriculum Directors and it has changed the way that I teach. Read the article and then go find the book, its a quick read and very powerful.
A site found on Mr. Jim Mummert’s blog (Make Play Teach) that explains how to play WikiWars. I was not familiar with this before I saw it on his blog. I could see two possible uses: 1.) By playing the game you almost have to learn how Wikipedia works, which helps with the “work harder not smarter” concept that I am a big fan of and what we should be teaching students first and foremost. 2.) It could be a great tool, as Jim points out in his blog, to help students make connections between two concept that might otherwise seem disconnected or at the very least the concepts have proven difficult to connect for both you and the students.
Part of the reason that I have not posted in quite some time is that I have moved from teaching 8th grade to teaching 7th grade this year. Those of you who have taught middle school know that one year can make a huge difference in terms of the maturity level and ability level of the students that you are working with. Also for that matter no two groups of students are alike and you have to make that assessment for yourself as soon as possible at the beginning to the year. The group I had last year in 8th grade was probably the best group of students that our young school has ever had, while the group I have now requires much more attention in terms of behavioral modifications and school culture building as well as skill building. As a result I have been hesitant to implement a game-based unit with this group and have often wondered if I had hit the threshold of being too young or too immature to handle the responsibility required, at least for the type of game-based units that I had created in the past. Also I was working on a different project with an organization called Centropa that has taken quite a bit of time. (I posted about this project a few days ago, please check it out I am rally proud of what my students have accomplished as well as the potential for where this could go in the future!) This post will focus on my decision to implement a gaming unit with my current students and how I went about introducing the game, and what my thought process was in terms of what I was going to include and what I was not going to include. Lastly, as this gaming unit finished up yesterday I will give my reflection in my next post of how it went and where I will go from here.
So as I alluded to, I had just completed a long unit on the Holocaust within the context of a Design Thinking project on bullying. The students spend all quarter learning about things related to bullying in their classes and then next week they will participate in a Design Thinking project on bullying. So in my class students studied the Holocaust and then the current unit that I gamified is on the Qin Dynasty in Ancient China. I ended up spending a lot more time on the Holocaust unit than originally intended and end up with only a week and a half after the holiday break to cover the Qin Dynasty and figured it made a good opportunity to give the gaming unit a try because if it crashed and burned it would only be a week and a half lost. I will post the documents I used for this unit that I gave to the students on my Scribd account and then post the link in the next post.
The basics of the game were that there were three levels. The first level asked the students to complete a short lecture guide and a short intro reading with questions. The choices came in Level 2 where the students got to pick from three assignments, they only had to complete two of them. The Level 3 was the Boss Battle. This was a very low res game, didn’t require any computer or technology access and was based mostly on readings and different activities I asked the students to do with the information in the readings. Again, I will post these in my next post. My goal here was simple, to introduce the students to the gaming idea and to see how well they worked within that context while the materials that they were working with were familiar to them. In the future, I will make the games more complex with this group and make the activities more intricate based on my students abilities. For many of my students with IEPs I allowed them to focus on only one Level 2 activity and then move on to their Boss Battle which seemed to work pretty well. There were also students that I extended the deadline over a long weekend with the hopes that they would put more effort into the project, turn in a better quality project as opposed to rushing to get it done.
**NEW CONCEPT FOR MY GAMES: I have told the students that I am going to consider a 90/100 to be beating the game. I have never identified what “beating the game” meant other than saying completing the game board according to the rules. This general concept of beating the game led to what I have referred to in the past as students simply completing the work but the QUALITY of work was not as good as it could have been. Also their Boss Battle was due on Thursday and I told them that if I didn’t speak with them separately and given them an extension, due to absence or I just felt as though they needed it, then they would automatically lose 10 points if they turned it in Friday. What this does is still give these students a chance to beat the game as long as they turn in a project where they lose NO points. However it also rewards the students that turned in the assignment on time by giving them a little bit of leeway to still be able to beat the game even if they miss a few points. I then told students that they could also turn in the Boss Battle next Tuesday (we don’t have school Monday due to MLK Holiday) and they would lose 25 points, which means they can’t beat the game but still receive a grade on their project.
I am going to be grading the Boss Battles over the weekend but overall from what I have seen so far I am pretty happy with the quality of work. One challenge that I know I am going to face is that I am going to have to be faithful to the rubric I have created and be truthful with the students otherwise I will end up with a large number of students that have “beat” the game which will diminish its value to the students who really did deserve to “beat” the game. This is not to say that I have a quota of “wins” that I am going to be shooting for, I just want to make sure that I am honest with my students and am not giving out “wins” to students that don’t deserve them. I will post again after I have graded the Boss Battles and give my impressions of this work and how it went explaining to the students that were very close to beating the game but didn’t quite get there what they have to do to “win” next time. Knowing my students I think it will actually motivate them quite a bit and they will ask to have another gaming unit almost right away.
Admittedly, it has been a long time since my last post and the next few posts which will seem like rapid fire will be used to bring everyone up to speed on where I am in terms of the development of this curriculum.
Since my last post, Jon Cassie and I have presented at the Michigan Association of Public Charter School Academies (MAPSA) Conference at Cobo Hall in Detroit, MI. This was a very different audience from our last conference as the audience at Cushing Academy and the Educating for Sustainable Happiness Conference this summer was very much from a private school lens and many teachers at this conference were educating students that were well off financially and whose goals ended with getting into Ivy League schools. The MAPSA Conference audience was very much from a public charter school lens, many of which were in urban areas, many of which were teaching students that were not as well of financially, and many of which whose students had more immediate goals of graduating high school. This is not to say that these students will not go on to college and some of which may go on to the Ivy League, however there is just a different focus in many urban public charter schools. Part of our goal as urban educators, in my opinion, is to bring those two different outlooks closer together and inspire our students to dream of the Ivy League and I believe gamification is one of the tools that we can use to bring these two lenses closer together. OK, now coming back from the digression! I think it is safe to say that with the MAPSA Conference we moved from Jon’s world at Cushing Academy to my world at MAPSA. We had a packed house (between 75-100 people) and we both felt the presentation went great! We fielded a number of questions about implementation in classrooms that do NOT have as much technology access IN THE HOMES as exists in Jon’s school and I think we were able to give strategies that address most people’s concerns. We even had some teachers that were already doing similar things in their own classroom that they were able to talk to afterward which was exciting. I also had a number of teachers from my own school attend my presentation, thanks everyone, and have had about five of them approach me in the hallways and let me know that they are attempting to include in their own classrooms. My goal is to try and start doing more observations or at least “check ins” with these classrooms to see if there is any way I can assist them.” We also have to give a shout out to MAPSA for “teeing one up for us” so to speak in that in their welcome packet for the conference there was a small “passport” that was to be used in the exhibition hall where the teachers were asked to go to certain vendors and get their passport stamped and when it was complete they brought it to a central location and it went into a drawing for an iPad and other prizes. I brought it up to Jon before the presentation and we were able to use it a concrete example of how simple game layers can be to add into any environment which I thought went particularly well.
A side note from this presentation is that following our presentation I was approached by a woman who worked for The Henry Ford Museum Group who said she would like to follow up with me after the conference. When I spoke with her later that week she encouraged me to apply for the teaching fellowship program at The Henry Ford to help them develop educational resources that teachers can use when bringing their students to the different locations that the The Henry Ford has. I recently submitted my application and am due to hear back February 15th on whether or not I will be accepted. They seem pretty excited to work with me and even mentioned a few times that they have been looking for someone to help them move into this area, however I have quite a bit less teaching experience than what they require and from what I have seen when looking at the biographies of those that are alumni of the program, so we shall see. If I am accepted my goal would be to use this blog as a journal of sorts in terms of the process that I go through to create the resources which, in turn, may give educators another glimpse into the thought process of “gamifying” that may be more helpful in terms of “gamifying” their own classroom.