Tag Archives: fun

Stars are Born!

I believe that we can engage children and have them truly own and demonstrate their learning success by incorporating multimedia learning in the classroom. This belief was reinforced by a few projects that I worked on with a class of Grade One students who I had the pleasure of working with for the past six weeks.

Anytime a child believes he has an audience for his ‘performance’ he will be more engaged and concerned about his production and success. Tell a child that she will be in a movie or on a poster and her eyes will light up. Kids are natural performers. Even the reluctant, shy ones will smile and be excited when they see themselves on the screen or in print.

One of the first activities we did was to create a ‘number hunt’ where the kids had my camera and were in charge of walking around the school to find things that were found in groups of one, two, etc.. After the pictures were taken, I used Sliderocket to put together a presentation that we shared with our class, another class and with the parents and guardians by sending the URL home for them. I was also able to download it and print it so that after it was laminated it became a popular book for the children to read to themselves, reinforcing both counting and number words. Relating to their own environment and relevant objects was important.  You can see our presentation HERE.

On Groundhog Day, we used Wallwisher to record the information that we had learned about groundhogs and the traditions around the day. The kids were thrilled to see their names being recorded on the screen and they again shared the URL with their families at home to re-read and share. We used Wallwisher again when doing a KWL session on nutrition, food,  and reasons that we eat.

We made Photovisi presentations that we printed out to record our 100th day of school activities and our Valentine’s Day fun. The picture stories with their photos were great for retelling events, ordering events and sharing with our school community and children’s homes.

The most fun we had was producing our very short YouTube video showcasing the digraph /sh/. Going through the process of learning about the sound, watching similar project videos by Kathy Cassidy’s students, brainstorming words, preparing our ‘props’, and then the steps of actually producing our video was intriguing, interesting, and motivational. The video was put together using Movie Maker and uploaded to YouTube. The kids felt like superstars! The joy and pride on their faces while watching the finished product was proof that they were invested in it. They truly had tried their very best, knowing that they would have an audience beyond the immediate classmates and teacher. Sharing the product with their parents and guardians was an exciting event!

These kids were amazing writers, actors, directors and producers. They had not had experience with creating these kinds of multimedia presentations and they were eager to be a part of it. Their enthusiasm and pride was evident and they were completely engaged in learning to share what they knew. These projects were fun and engaging and these children were truly ‘stars.’ The knowledge that they could have an audience beyond their classroom was motivating for them. Their desire to show what they knew and teach others was a huge source of pride. They were superstars and I am very proud of them!

This particular school does not have many technological resources. In a Kindergarten to Grade Eight school with approximately 550 students they have 30 laptops for the whole school and one computer per classroom. There are 4 additional computers in the resource center and one interactive whiteboard housed in a Grade 8 classroom. These could be considered limitations but the amazing projects that we were able to create are proof that there are some wonderful tools that allow us to incorporate learning and technology for kids to create with.

The problem that I have seen isn’t a lack of tools but seems to be a lack of teacher engagement with these tools. Is it fear of the new tools or an unawareness of the tools? How do we get more teachers to see the benefits of their use and to take the risk to try them?

I want to dislike them, I do. But I can’t.

Lego toys are always a huge draw for my kids and my 11 year old son’s bedroom often looks like a Lego Factory threw up in there.  We have regular Lego sets, Star Wars stuff, Harry Potter, Ninjago, random other sets and the compatible, yet different, Bionicles.  It’s embarrassing how much Lego we have, actually.

The kids play together very well and often and my 7 year old daughter happily joins her brother in building and playing in the imaginary worlds and stories that are spun together based on the pieces that we have.  There are outer space battles, explorations and adventures in futuristic worlds.

My kids and I visited a Toys R Us store this afternoon for the first time since way  before Christmas and as usual, the Lego section was the first stop for us.  It was there that we were confronted with our first look at the new Lego “Friends” sets that are ‘targeted’ towards girls by their marketing.  There are houses and cafes, inventors’ workshops and veterinarians.   There are tree houses and cars.  The characters are not the typical ‘mini-figs’ but are closer to ‘realistic,’ and currently include 5 girls with different appearances.

I want to dislike them.  I want to rant and rave and rail against the Lego company for marketing strictly to girls, assuming that they need a more gender-specific toy to play with as opposed to regular Lego.  I talk to my daughter about how she can be anything she wants to be and I don’t encourage or discourage her to play with whatever toys she is drawn to.  I don’t refer to ‘boys” toys or ‘girls” toys.  And given the fact that that little girl can wield a lightsaber and hold her own playing Batman Lego on the Wii, she has no preference or aversion for toys that are clearly marketed to boys.

There is a lot discussion on the internet on blogs, message boards and Twitter, much of it from parents who are disgusted and angered that Lego is marketing a ‘stereotypical’ scenario to our girls.  I thought I would share the anger.  Then we saw the pink and purple “Friends” boxes today.

My daughter *freaked* *out* when she saw them and she chose to spend her own money on the outdoor cafe set and the extra character set with a dog house and a puppy.  When we got home and she tore the box open, happily following the instructions to build the sets herself, she was in her glory. The sets contained things she was familiar with and could create stories about.  Her ‘friends’ went for ice cream and owned a cafe.  They looked after their pets and cooked hamburgers together.  And when the Lego Ninjago minifigs showed up with their 11 year old ‘puppeteer,’ they cheerfully ordered milk shakes and then picked up the attached broom and helped out at the shop.

I don’t hate them. I can’t rant and rail against Lego.  If they were creating “Housewives of the 50’s” minifigs, I’d be freaking out, but for now, I see the happiness that my daughter has shown playing with her new toys and I know that I will continue to raise her in a way that lets her know that I am confident that she can make her own decisions and that people and companies won’t tell her what she will like to play with.  I don’t see people railing and ranting against Lego for marketing the Harry Potter and Star Wars and Ninjago sets towards boys.  And make no mistake, they do.  What’s the difference between this marketing and marketing fighting, battle-type toys to boys?  Perpetuating a stereotype of a different kind, no?

www.wonderville.ca: A fun place to visit!

The use of computer games in education is not a new concept.  A popular game back in 1992 was Oregon Trail, as shown as it was used on the Apple II computer:

And the Oregon Trail game is still around, even available for the iPhone, 2011:

After our presentation by Sylvia Martinez about the benefits of gaming in education and the attributes of a good, relevant learning game, our assignment was to check out the website Wonderville, try some of the games and critique them for their use in an educational setting.

Wonderville is a website developed by the Science Alberta Foundation and includes more than 30 games that teach and reinforce a variety of science concepts.  In addition to the online games, there is also a section for activities such as handouts and puzzles that can be used to supplement the topics.

Now, just to be clear:  My name is Trina Crawford and I am a terrible gamer.

I went onto the site to try some of the games but as soon as my kids (The Boss, 11.5 and The Pink Dictator, 7)  figured out that I was on the site, they were over my shoulder, giving me advice and asking, “When do WEEEEEEEEEEE get to play??!!”  So I decided to let the kids help me with my homework.  We started out doing the activities together and talking about what we were doing and why we were making the decisions that we were, but then I decided to just let them go at it and I observed their play and asked questions as they went along.  What follows are the games that we tried on the Wonderville site, observations about the kids playing and my thoughts about the games:

Top Cow:  We started playing this game together.  The object is to create either ice cream, yogurt, or cheese by moving along a conveyor belt, starting with milk and making the necessary additions to create the item you have chosen.  You have the option to add things such as live bacteria, heat or cold, flavour and stirring or pressing.  Or you can choose to skip one of those entirely if you think it will help make the product.  You are given hints as you go along, but there is still enough room that you could make mistakes and if you do, your product comes out as a pile of ‘goo’ instead.  Using common sense, information given and trial and error, you are given several attempts to ‘fix’ your process in order to come out with the item you have chosen.  This game was a hit with the kids and they learned about the addition of live bacteria to certain items and how to activate those to have a successful process.

Fission Impossible: A game based in a reactor where you are a neutron searching for Uranium 235 to create nuclear fission.  You must avoid Uranium 238 and stay within a certain area or the game will be over.  My son played this game and enjoyed maneuvering the neutron around, but after the game was played a few times and a few levels conquered, I asked him what he was doing or what he had learned but he couldn’t tell me.  He just said it was fun.  It is a good game for hand-eye coordination, but seemed to be lacking in the information/concept  area.

Airborne Experiment:  My daughter played this game.  It involved mixing bird bodies and wings and throwing them like a paper airplane to try to determine which ones would glide the best.  It was quite obvious to my daughter which sizes went with which one, but after a successful throw, there was interesting information given about the bird that was created and how, specifically, that bird flew. The information was given before moving onto the next combination.  It was a pretty quick game that resulted in a giggle-fest when the kids started with “What happens if we put the Finch wings on the Pelican body?” and watching the birds crash.

Water Treatment:  Something is wrong with the town’s water supply and the kids have to work together to make sure the water treatment plant is working correctly.  Kids learn the process and complete each step with guidance to get the amounts of additive perfect (ie: chlorine and alum)  and to ensure that the physical plant is built properly (ie: correct number of baffles).  This was a simplified model of a water treatment plant but provided much learning along the way.  We all worked together on this one and the kids enjoyed getting the water plant working and getting the message that they had saved Wonderville’s water supply!

Robot Factory:  You are charged with building a robot to complete a certain chore of your choosing (ie: vacuum the floor) and must include the correct arms and mobility items (ie: wheels, tracks) to make it work.  My daughter did this task but sadly it froze up and crashed and we never did find out how successful our robot was!

Save the World: This game taught energy generation and conservation and had the children make choices to learn the best source for energy generation for various places around the globe.  There was a considerable amount of collaboration with the kids for this one because it seemed to be very much a trial and error game and I heard more than once, “I don’t know why it’s doing that. . . maybe we should try this. . . ”  There were good descriptors of the sources of energy but the kids didn’t ever really figure out how to be successful in the game.  Good information, potential for collaboration,  but it lost their attention and the ‘fun’ factor.

So, after playing several of the games with the kids I have to say that Wonderville is an educational game site that delivers!  The kids were enthusiastic, the games were fun for them and they are already asking when they can play again.  They were exposed to several new science concepts and information and learned from the games that they played.  I would definitely recommend this site for classroom use!