Educational Game Reviews

This week I took a look at two educational games that I could potentially use in my classroom. The first game I looked at was “The Voter Suppression Trail” from the New York Times. Overall, I thought the game was enjoyable and was informative about how the votes of many Americans are being suppressed. While there wasn’t any strategy to the game (the whole point of the game is to show that the system is rigged), it does create a good understanding of the problems facing people of color when trying to vote.

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Two issues I could see with this game are that many of the “jokes” and “sarcastic comments” could be lost on many students. In addition, the game is pretty critical of Republicans and Donald Trump. As a results, educators should be prepared for the controversy that the game could potentially stir up.

 

The second game I played was “Win the White House” from iCivics. Overall, this was an excellent game that does a nice job of showing how a campaign is run and helping students understand how the electoral college works. In addition, it introduces a lot of key political issues that inform voter decisions. For the game, the player starts off by selecting a character, political party, and policy platform. Next, the player must debate other members of their own party to receive the nomination. This requires the player to identify key issues and show that they understand how they may affect people.

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Once the player has won the nomination, they must next fund raise, poll, make appearances and create advertisements that will help them win support across the electoral map.

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The campaign kits and political advertisements add some creativity and humor to the game.

 

One thing I also liked about this game was that you can choose to play at an elementary, middle school or high school level. This is a great feature since I’ve played other iCivics games that are easy too childish for students or contain concepts and vocabulary that is too advanced. Nice to see them differentiating the content!

 

Geeking Out

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Geeking out can sometimes require taking knowledge from old technologies (books) and connecting with people through new technologies (not the plant or coffee though those are great also).

In Douglas and Brown’s book A New Culture of Learning, the idea of “geeking out” is promoted as one of the higher stages of learning. According to Douglas and Brown, “Geeking out provides an experiential, embodied sense of learning within a rich social context of peer interaction, feedback and knowledge construction enabled by a technological infrastructure.” While their definition of geeking out includes a social element that is not necessarily part of how I’ve heard the term used, I can still relate to the intense drive to learn something on my own. In fact, I imagine most people have an area of knowledge or expertise that was developed outside of school through their own process of geeking out.

This makes me wonder two things. First, how do we enable students to geek out in school about meaningful topics? Second, should we focus on more self-directed modes of learning like Douglas and Brown promote or do we need traditional models of school to provide the tools to effectively geek out? Personally, I imagine it is a combination of these two elements. While I definitely think we need to make a better effort to allow students to explore and direct their own learning, I also like the idea of exposing them to ideas they may not initially gravitate towards.

What are your thoughts about geeking out and how it can be integrated into the classroom?

What areas have you geeked out about?

*Areas I’ve geeked out about: History (especially Abraham Lincoln, Alexander Hamilton, and Teddy Roosevelt) and Music

 

 

Weekly Play – John Roberts GIF

For my weekly play I decided to try another attempt at making a GIF. Unlike my first attempt, I decided to try taking a piece of a video and using it to construct my GIF. First, I decided to find a video of John Roberts in order to provide some commentary about his response to Donald Trump this past week. In order to do this, I went on youtube and searched “Justice John Roberts C-SPAN” to find a video that I could use. Next, I simply searched the video for some facial expressions that seemed interesting and could be reinterpreted for what is happening currently in our country (the original video is from June).

Once I had the video, I used imgflip.com to import the video and construct the GIF. Overall, it was surprisingly easy to take the video and trim it to the correct spots. All I had to do was  provide a link to the video and adjust the arrows underneath the video to set the time parameters. Since this was so easy, I could imagine students in elementary-high school being able to do this.

Like my cartoon caption from last week, I could imagine giving students a video clip to provide commentary on or providing an issue that they need to create a GIF about. What other ideas could you see for how this could be used in social studies?

Finding the right balance

Over the past few weeks I have been giving quite a bit of thought into what is the proper way to approach intellectual property on the internet. While copyright rules still exist, there is also a growing culture that seeks to exchange ideas and content freely (in both senses of the word). Complicating this discussion is also the practice of remixes, memes, and edits where the original content is altered or adapted for other purposes. In addition, there is also a debate about when something is an homage versus appropriation. This is especially complicated when worries of issues such digital black face are also entering into the conversation around the sharing of digital content.

All this makes me wonder where the balance should be? While a strength of the internet is the free flow of ideas, it is also important that we remain aware of how these ideas are being used and potentially exploited. Unfortunately, since the only rules that exist are for specifically copyrighted materials, much of this is incredibly subjective. Maybe the world will reach a consensus about what the proper balance should be. Unfortunately, we there doesn’t seem to be a lot of consensus building right now. What are your thoughts?

 

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Reading Across Time

This week I started reading A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change by Douglass Thomas and John Seely Brown. One of the more interesting concepts that they developed was the idea that writing on sites like Wikipedia can provide a better historical record than traditional print media. According to the authors, Wikipedia is able to show in detail how the entry was created and the controversies that have been addressed regarding the information that is being presented. Unlike print media, one is able to see the process and the potential flaws in the work as well as actively participate in its creation. Interestingly, the author’s noted that neither form of information seems to be more factually accurate, however there is much more transparency as to how the knowledge was constructed with Wikipedia.

While this information is not exactly new to most people who have used Wikipedia, I had never thought of looking at past edits as incredibly useful (unless one was looking to add to the post). For entries like Christopher Columbus, it can definitely be a very powerful tool to assess where the scholarship is currently sitting and how, in many cases, our interpretations of people or events may be changing. Likewise, if there has not been very much conversation and editing, this can be very telling as well. Either way, this was a useful way to reexamine the strengths of Wikipedia and sources that are based off of collective knowledge.

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While the final product can seem a blur, we can also slow things down and look at the individual steps that were taken.

Mediated Writing Project

Link to project in Adobe Spark

Here is my finished version of my mediated writing project that I have been working on. For this project, I took portions of a paper that I wrote for BEDUC 502 and added various links, images and videos to augment the piece. One of the more difficult aspects of this project was to take something that had already been written in an academic setting and adapt it to a digital format. Not only did I have to cut out certain portions of the paper that did not seem necessary for this context, but I also had to make sure the project still flowed and made sense. Once I started adding in images, the paragraphs without visual elements seemed to be too wordy. As a result I had to spend a lot of time searching for new images that would break up the writing while still adding something to the piece. This was also difficult since I didn’t have access to a lot of personal photographs (which I would have preferred).

Besides getting the opportunity to break up the writing and include slight side stories, I appreciated that presenting this work in this way allowed me to transition between ideas in different ways. For parts where the writing seemed a little choppy, adding visuals allowed me to create breaks and scene changes in order to segue to new topics. Still, I would be interested to get input from others about whether the added elements ended up breaking up my writing too much and became distracting. One thing that I wish Adobe Spark allowed me to do was to create more sidebars or smaller elements that felt more optional.  Overall though, I think the project turned out pretty well – though I wish I had more time to add dig up a few more photographs and documents.

Dropped Vowels and Spaghetti on the Beach