Monday, October 15, 2012

Games in an L2 Classroom

Since I have been talking about strategy games in my last post, I decided to play this online game called  Stop Disasters which its main objective is  to save lives  where a player would choose a scenario and try build and upgrade a community and house them all before a disaster occurs. A player is given a budget and a time limit on finishing their mission and housing the population and statistics are then shown after the game of what occurred in the disaster and survivors etc. I played it for quite sometime I failed on my first try. I think this type of game is a great way for students to build their strategic thinking skills and find ways to solve the problem of housing a certain amount of people in the game. As the game ends I like that it shows the newspaper and the mission report that the player can read to determine whether they've succeeded in housing the population. Although it's not one of those games that automatically works in terms of language context, I think it's a great game to use in a class or even outside of the classroom for students. I like that I can use it as a reading activity with the newspaper at the end of the game and have student discuss what their mission was for the game and what their end result was. It can even be turned into a writing activity where I can have students write a narrative of their experience of the game. I would ask them what they did to build the homes, hotels, hospitals and how they tried to achieve their goals in making the community safer from a type of disaster. I would also ask them the type of disaster that hit the community and how affected it. I think its important for students to have that kind simulating game where they feel engaged and interested in finishing a task. It gets them to learn about the different disasters and affects they can have in a community and provide a important discussion for any classroom.

Another game that isn't strategy but is I think is basic and simple start for students that aren't all too familiar with gaming is Rice. I've been playing  Free Rice  which as a game that donates 20 grains of rice to the world food program whenever a word is defined correctly. I've been playing this game for some time and has been a little bit addicting.What I like about this game is that it has different levels for students to work with and it is a simple and easy game to follow for students. It gives a chance for ESL students to stay engaged in the game by earning points every time they get a word correctly and contribute to donating rice to fight hunger. This can be a game that can be played in class or outside of the classroom. This is a great game for anyone to work on their vocabulary. This definitely a game I would use in my own classroom, especially working with students one on one with their vocabulary or even break them up into groups and who ever gains the most points in donating rice earns a badge or extra points towards their grade. It's a great way for students to work together and build their confidence in learning a new language. This game gives anyone a great sense of accomplishment in what they've learned and the fact that they've helped fighting hunger makes it important. As someone learning to be a teacher, I think incorporating games in a classroom can prove to be helpful as long as they aren't so complex that students have a hard time following the subject. 

Learning What is Gamification

Gamification is used to engage and motivate students of all ages in particular subject areas. I've always known and used certain games outside of classes as a younger student; since I wasn't so great in math or science computer games were pretty popular in my learning process. I see where today it can be so important to students who may either be struggling in a subject or just don't have any interest in what they're learning in a class. Using gamification is a great way to get student interested in learning and gives students a sense of competition to always challenge themselves. 7 Things You Should Know About Gamification gives several good points about how gamification works in academic environments. Stating that "Gamification offers instructors numerous creative opportunities to enliven their instruction with contests, leader boards, or badges that give students opportunities for recognition and a positive attitude toward their work." The article  presents some interesting  reasons why they work so well for some students and other students may struggle even more with the addition of gamification into a classroom. Their concern is that gamification would makes learning a subject more complex than it already is, and if a student is already struggling in a classroom it may completely turn them off. I think that teachers should be alert in the types of games they would be using for a classroom. I like the idea of breaking students into teams and having them work and collaborate in gaining points or earn badges. This creates an environment where students are driven to work and get a sense of accomplishment when end up in a new level of gaming. It also works for shy students since it would bring them out of their shell and give them a chance to participate in a group environment.

One example of  a style of gaming is a strategy game where players  have the ability for decision making in order to determine the outcome of what they want to achieve with a particular game. What strategy games work on is getting the player to think internally of their decisions as well as creating this awareness of what and how they should play the game as they go along. For example a simulation game is a great way to get players to think about their decisions and process it in a similar manner as if it were a real world situation. Most of the simulation strategic games are meant to reflect real-world consequences. One those games would be 3rd World Farmer which relates to world hunger and poverty where a player works in the decision making of sanitation, education, infrastructure and where the player makes choices of the crops, livestock, and tools needed or used for a farm. This game is fairly easy to follow even with or without instructions although I would start students out by giving them an example of how I played my game and also show them how it can be used. This game is a great example of creating a sense of awareness in the player bases on the type of situations they encounter throughout the game and the measures they have to take to achieve their goals. I think simulation games are great to bring into a classroom since it provides a way for students and teachers to discuss on important subject matter. I think this type of game will get students to be engaged in their learning experience. I would create an assignment where they would play the game several times and get them to discuss the type of crops they used, animals, and housing in the farm. It gets them to build their thinking and decision making skills as well as practice their writing skills when given an assignment such as this. I can see them building their vocabulary as well by learning what's on the Farm such as "Pig", "Chickens", and Crops such as "corn" etc. I think this a great way to get them interested in learning the language and to discuss their experiences playing the game.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Using Twitter: Microblogging

This week, I've been able to look through several blogs on the topic of twitter. As I was making another twitter account for this class, I found that I wasn't really taking advantage of the opportunities twitter could offer in my learning experience. I already had a personal twitter account that I barely used and had thought whats the point? I was necessarily getting much out of it beside the occasional article that I'd find. As I had set up my account for this class and started following other educators, I really started to see why twitter was so important to our learning experience. This new for of micro-blogging allows us to be able to share and exchange information and knowledge in small contents.  As it states in Wikipedia, micro-blogging is a way to post about topics that can range from a simple "What am I doing right now?" to more specific or thematic such as ESL. A Teacher's Guide To The Use of Twitter gave me several ideas on the use of twitter in a classroom. Even though I had previously used twitter in an undergrad class for question/answer assignments. The blog displayed some interesting steps on ways to use twitter as a networking platform. I thought the idea of even getting parents involved in the twitter process as useful in keeping them informed on assignments and would give them the opportunity to ask questions as well. Teachers and Students will get a great challenge in figuring out what to use in a 140 characters. It can go as far as being used for an ESL assignment and getting students to create sentences in a 140 characters or under.Students will be able to work on developing their writing, communication, and critical thinking skills through discussions on readings or assignments. Langwitches also gives a nice break down on why twitter works so well  for younger students in a classroom. I can see how it would be effective to use with the middle school and high school students and getting them to go beyond the routine of what they're doing at that moment and be able to instead think and create a real discussion on classroom topics. As Teachers we're providing students with the skills to be able to build a network and finding strategies to share and connect with other global communities. As knowledge changes every day it keeps them current on learning the new information and techniques on any topic that may be of interest to both students and teachers. As a student I see the benefits of using it for my current learning as well as being able to using in the future for professional networking. I think so far by following other educators I've read so many interesting articles on topics of learning. Twitter keeps things simple and it gets right to the point and the specifics of a topic.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Learning to Network: Ning

One of the networking sites that I explored was Ning. It is a networking site where people are able to create and customize their own website by having the ability to have blogs,videos, forums, and integrate their site with Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Twitter. It works for anyone who wants to able to create a platform where people are able to share ideas and knowledge. They are able to build their own online community based on a specific topic of interest. Ning actually lets service members charge their customers through their site and has three different plans for its members as well.
 One of the features that I like is that people have the ability to integrate with twitter and Facebook and anyone can join the groups through both of these social networking site. One of the forums that caught my attention was the NCTE Assembly for ESL/English Language Learners it's a group targeted at promoting the understanding of ESL/English Learners of all ages. It works at informing teachers, students, etc. on ways to aid ESL students and also teachers in how to provide a better teach the academic language and content. They also provide sessions in getting students to develop their academic language and literacy in content areas. I think its a great way ESL teachers to share their perspective and experience in how to able to better serve ESL students in their learning as well as being able to get teachers to learn how they will be able to help their students in their language development. I like the idea that I might be able to use a site like this where I'm able to discuss different ways of being able to teach an ESL classroom and be able to find sessions that I can attend to enhance my learning as a teacher. Networking sites like this gives teachers and students the ability to experiment with different ideas and exchange information with a global community. It's having the ability to connect with other teachers going through similar experiences. According to Alan Levin's New Media Consortium "It's always important in tapping into our sense of willing to experiment, play, and try new things." In other words being a teacher or a student is all about being able to get out of our usual comfort zone of learning and being able to  try and experiment with the tools we are given, such as a networking site. Being able to improve our knowledge in teaching and keeping an open mind about what is out there for us to learn and improve on. It's about sharing our knowledge and our creativeness and getting feedback from others and again going back creating something even better.I can definitely see myself joining an ESL forum as a new teacher to be able to take tips from other teachers to better my experience and my students experience in their learning. I can also see being able to create my own network and gather teachers and students around the globe to have an open discussion about any number of topics in teaching the English language and what we can do to improve the way we can help students to become confident and interested in their language learning. Its a great way for anyone to build a network and create and recreate information and knowledge.

A Learner is Like a....

SPONGE!! When I was looking through those videos and reading George Seimens Connectivism: A Learning Theory for the Digital Age I thought a sponge; because in this digital age students absorb so much information with each other through networking.  A learner is open to adapt and evolve and continually learn new information every day. In this digital age a learner is forming new networks through their, work, school, and social sites that allow them to interact with people all over the world.  Network is the new form of gaining new knowledge!

In George Seimens Connectivism: A Learning Theory  for the Digital Age He explores the idea of connectivism as learning elements that aren't entirely based on individual learning. But explains that it is an outside of ourselves learning experience; and that "the connections that enable us  to learn more are more important than our current state of knowing" As information changes everyday, we must change our ways of learning and skill in order to keep up with the world. I think its important for students and teachers alike to take advantage of all the opportunities technology has to offer to us. If teacher's don't keep up with the learning styles of students and their world of technology then they would not only be letting students down but themselves as well. It poses as a great learning experience for anyone who is willing to come up with creative ways of learning and for those who aren't so great with technology social networking is a great start to being able to put themselves out there and learn something new every day.

I think Seimens sums it all up very well in The Network is the Learning when he says that "What we know today is not as important as our ability to stay current, so if what I know today is going to change; because knowledge changes rapidly, if I'm not continually learning I' becoming obsolete in my particular field or particular knowledge space." This is why learners are like sponges they're constantly learning, reworking, and creating ideas and absorbing other's learner's ideas and experiencing it for themselves. A Learner can now go on the internet search Google, Wikipedia,etc. and find out anything they'd like to learn any time and any where. And interacting and the sharing of information through social networks has become that much more important for us.