Friday, October 29, 2010

Board Games teach logic, right?

Today I had the privilege of fore knowledge of a planned network outage so I brought in some board games and cards that had been used in an outreach 10 years ago to keep students occupied. My 7th and 8th graders were mystified by Kerplunk, a game that came before their 1999 birth years lol! It got me thinking that it's possible to teach logical thinking "unplugged" using certain board games that promote logical thinking:
Kerplunk: modern version of Pick Up Sticks where marbles fall through a column, winner has fewest number of marbles in receptacle
Mancala: strategy game that requires counting, and quickly or your opponents confuse you
Ludo, Parcheesi or Sorry: game of chance and strategy as you try to get all your pieces "home" while keeping your opponents from reaching "home" first
The thing is these games may be old fashioned to us because we are of the "7 channel"-"do homework every night"-"play board games or play outside" because "there was nothing else to do" generation. These games are not familiar to our students because they are about 100 generations away from ours, their teachers. So for your next fundng cycle, be sure to invest in a few board games to take your logic-teaching lessons offline and to a whole new level.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Professional Development Goal: becoming Google Certified

It seems that Google is going international now with Google Teacher Academy, and relying on the corps of teachers in the U.S. built up in the last few years. However, if you really want access to the materials and resources, they can be [partially] obtained from this site. As a non-GCT, it can be viewed, and it's not the official site of Google Certified Teachers (GCTs), which is closed to the public.

Access to another professional network of Google Workshop for Educators participants (GWEN) can be gained by paying a fee to attend a workshop at a CUE conference or paying a fee to have the session delivered at your school, instead of attending a free Google workshop, but as I mentioned, they seem to be branching out from Mountain View.

more iPod Touch love: Classroom tools

The iRevolution continues! Did you know that the Calculator app becomes a scientific calculator by horizontally orienting the iTouch? Yet another device replaced by the iPod Touch! So far this year I am replacing with my iTouch:
  • Taking attendance wirelessly via PowerSchool website
  • Using Clock app as a timer instead of purchasing a separate timer
  • Posting to my Blogger blogs via PenMyBlog app
  • Add assignments to my class site via Google Sites (though there's a weird glitch with certain fields where I edit via HTML instead of WYSIWYG...guess I should report that to Google)
  • Research anything for assignments (need to share my bookmarks to access on other computers, though Google Bookmarks will solve that)
  • Checking e-mail instead of having multiple windows open on my class netbook (you know the kinds of things that embarrassingly show up on e-mail!)
  • Make phone calls with Rebtel, Skype and Google Voice (but I was taught to use my classroom phone so less of this :) 
Things I would be able to do with the latest iTouch:
  • Take pics of our whiteboard discussions and instantly post on class pages (camera added) 

Accessories that would [almost] render a laptop/desktop obsolete:
  • 16 pin projector (they have that)
  • Speakers (they have that)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Google Revolution 2.0

Preparing the next phase of lessons to aid students' research reports and investigating Google Tools for Educators...something called Google Notebook, which has been phased out (rightly so, it's very similar to Google Docs) but is a cool metaphor for notebooks students take notes in. That page refers you to Google Bookmarks, which is similar to social bookmarking but is part of the beloved Google suite of apps. This will take group projects and online research to a whole new level and will hopefully not be blocked by filters.

Google also sponsored a series of workshops for computing teachers in Summer 2010 called CS4HS-Computer Science for High School (though it can be used for Middle School also); take a look at the agenda and links for the various workshops and stay tuned for 1 coming near you...I didn't attend my local session, but that's another story...

Lastly I want to highlight TeacherTube though not a Google app: my district cleverly redirects all social networking requests to TeacherTube, prompting one student to ask if Facebook was blocked. Funny as all get out, but effective. However as teachers we should be using the resource, so get out your digital still or video camera and start taping your classes!

Creating Video Games as an introduction to Computer Science

Much ado in the educational sphere about making programming sexy by introducing youth to creating computer games. My opinion: there are people and there are programmers and a student may be enticed by being able to create a game, but the true computer programmer will be onto a programming language faster than you can say, "Call of Duty 3"!

I remember in a cognitive science class we were asked to classify games, that is define them based on our knowledge of the parts that make up a game. This is much more difficult than it seems but is a great way to start discussing all types of games, and ensures that students consider games other than point-and-shoot. Wikipedia offers an inkling of the enlightened discussions and definitions we held in that class!
  • Creating sprites (avatars):
  • Step-by-step to design your own game:
  • Select programming language to design game with