Time to Play!

Let’s be honest.  Games are super fun.  I like them.  I’m sure you like them too, reader.  But when played in the classroom, sometimes, most of the time, they don’t look like ‘conventional teaching’.

And that is a good thing.

As most of the readings on gamification state, using games in education is not a novelty.  Educators all over the world have been using educational games for decades in order to engage their students.  I remember when I used to teach English to adults back in the start of my career, the one thing that would get my class going at at 8pm was a quick language game.  There was this competitive streak, innate to all human beings, to participate, learn quickly and beat the other opponent/team.  It was awesome.  And whether I did it for a short time at the beginning to get everyone going or as a formative assessment to check how much they  had acquired, everyone had fun and that was my main goal.

Enter 21st century technology.  Back then, the only technology I used for gaming was flyswatters on a whiteboard, where students had to swat the past participle of an irregular verb I called out… I’m literally laughing out loud as I remember how awesome it was 🙂

Gaming in classrooms, especially one-to-one environments, cannot escape the use of gaming for learning.  There is so much out there that engages students of all ages!  It also allows students to acquire skills that make them feel successful.  For instance, an ELL playing PopWords against an opponent in his class or anywhere else in the world, doesn’t have to worry about making mistakes with a word they don’t know.  Rather they get to explore the different ways they can form words, and when they form a word they don’t know, they quickly learn it in order to use it in the future and become ‘better’ at playing the game.  It’s a win, win situation.

Although this might be a very simple way of looking at gamification for education as I know there are all sorts of games out there that reinforce all kinds of learning in all subjects, I think the most important aspect of gaming is the engagement of our learners.  If a game can present students with situations where they have to think in different ways, see things from different perspectives, use diverse problem-solving skills and challenge themselves to learn new things, I can certainly see the relevance, or even importance of gaming in any classroom.



Understanding Ecclesiastes 1:9

“…It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new.” -Ecclesiastes 1:9, NLT

Yes.  I just cited Scripture, The Bible, The Good Book, The Word of God.  Why? Because when reading Shaping Tech for the Classroom by Marc Prensky of Edutopia, this verse kept swirling around in my head.  Doing old things in old ways, doing old things in new ways, doing new things in new ways… what does all this mean if there truly isn’t anything new under the sun?

Mark P. said it best “For the digital age, we need new curricula, new organization, new architecture, new teaching, new student assessments, new parental connections, new administration procedures, and many other elements.” Period.  We need new.

For the past few days, I’ve been looking at how I’m using technology and how our students are adapting to the use of their devices.  I decided to write my reflection based on my observations, although I’m not sure I’ve categorized them properly.  I welcome your feedback in comments section!

Old Things in Old Ways (or as I call it, An Oldie can be a Goodie)
While conferring on a writing piece, I asked a high needs ELL (English Language Learner) to revise his word choice by looking at synonyms for some words in his writing (i.e. What’s a stronger word for ‘happy’?).  I also asked him to to figure out a strategy to look for synonyms without using his iPad.  He put his iPad down and didn’t even flinch.  He went over to the shelf where all the classroom thesauri are gathering dust located, and searched for synonyms.  I later gave him some app suggestions where he can do the same (Dictionary.com & Merriam Webster are pretty good, and free!) on his device.  

Here’s a picture of how our ELLs are juggling the old and the new.
**Disclaimer: This picture was taken by Rosana Walsh, G4  teacher with whom I collaborate, and this is not the student I refer to in my example, rather a representation of my experience**

Old Things in New Ways (or, as I call it, My Everyday Teaching Life) 
Everyday, myself and the teachers I work with try old things in new ways.  We have to! Disruption has become our teaching philosophy.  From the moment our G4-5 students started using 1:1 self managed iPads, we’ve had to learn right beside them.  Because ‘for true technological advance to occur, the [devices] must be personal to each learner’, students are making individual choices about how to do old things in new ways.  For instance, they now use Evernote instead of paper notebooks, they make Glogsters to make poster projects, blogs to write daily learning reflections, and ShowMe to show their understanding of big concepts.  All of their learning, like mine, is now condensed into one device.

New Things in New Ways (or as I call it, The Next Step)
This year, I have been exploring how to best support my ELLs within the Reading & Writing Workshop, especially when they are beginners to English.  Classroom teachers make anchor charts about their teaching points, and I wondered how I could make differentiated anchor charts for ELLs without interrupting the teacher’s mini-lesson.  I want ELLs to use what they can do to meet the standard of a writing piece.  So today, I conferred with a student about her ‘Migration Story’, how she came to be here in China from her home in South Korea.  After the teacher’s mini-lesson, I conferred with the student and used InkFlow to create a differentiated anchor chart for her to revise her pre-write.  We built it together and we focused on the grammar she needed to use to tell her story.  We also determined which details might help her tell the story better, and listed which apps might help her in her writing (Korean-English Translator, Pages & a Dictionary app to help with her word choice).  So how is this a new thing in a new way? Well, it was certainly a new way of thinking for me! Personalizing anchor charts, building them together one on one based on what the student can do and how she thinks she can grow as a writer, and of course, sending it to her digitally (InkFlow allows attachments as PDFs or JPGs), so she can build an anchor chart bank in her iPad.  Here’s a picture of our work I tweeted earlier today:

Experimentation is a good thing.  I have found that all of these experiences, both successful and others less so, have empowered me as an educator and my students as learners.  Is the learning taking place different than it was before? Of course!  Is it still valuable, authentic and relevant? ABSOLUTELY.  So maybe that’s what is meant by ‘nothing new under the sun’… learning will always be.  It’s just that over time, it has gone from being a fish, to having legs, and maybe someday in the 22nd century, wings.



I bet it happened to you as well fellow COETAILer.  The email from Jeff came in to your notifications and you took a deep breath, as I did, and exhaled the words ‘Here we go…’

So here we are.  As Jeff says, we’re in this together.  I’ll start.  My name is Ceci (SEH-SEE), short for Cecilia.  Yup, like the song.  (Bet you won’t be able to get the tune out of your head for the rest of the evening).  I’m currently working at Shekou International School, in China (#SISRocks) as the coordinator of the EAL program, as well as support teacher for grades 4-5 who are currently on 1:1 iPads.  I love my job and I’m passionate about what I do.  And now, the newest addition to my professional passion is COETAIL.  I can’t think of a better way to jump on the fast-moving eLearning train than by doing this course.  I’m excited and can’t wait to go on this journey.

What about you? Who are you and why are you here?  Looking forward to your blogs 🙂

Let the COETAILing begin!