Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Super Mario Brothers

Super Mario Brothers was by far my favorite video game growing up as a kid in the 90s.  There was something about jumping over tubes, stomping on mushroom men (I never picked up the lingo obviously), and beating King Koopa, that made my life seemingly complete.  My sister and I would sit for hours as long as our parents would let us, playing the game.  We tried every trick in the book to earn extra lives, and tried our hardest to beat that game without skipping levels.  Skipping levels was cheating.  I think I beat it once that way.  I think...  Now present day, my husband and I have a Wii.  I have Just Dance 3, but let's face it, as a pregnant momma Just Dance is not my game of choice right now.  What game do we play most often?  You guessed it, the updated version of Super Mario Brothers.  The updated version give you continuation of life no matter what (seriously, we have tested this many times).  We will sit and play as long as we can keep our eyelids open, which at best is 9:30.  Hey, we are both old and teachers.  We are up every morning at the crack of dawn.  I digress...We laugh every time we die, because one of us did something stupid.  Usually we make the same mistake a few times, then learn from it.  Wait, did I say learn from it?  You mean LEARN from a video game?  Keith Stuart writes in his article The Seduction Secrets of Video Game Designers, that people can actually learn from video games.  If that is the case, why then did my mom limit the amount of time I could play my Nintendo.  I want a do over!  Stuart claims our brains learn best by learning from "systems and puzzles."  I believe almost all video games would fall into these categories.  We as humans like playing games because there is a natural progression.  You see your successes and failures, and are not judged for either of them.  In fact, in video games failure is ok and sometimes celebrated.  He gave an example of their being a reward for the best car crash in a racing game.  I can't tell you how many times I have been in competition over failures while playing a video game (I hope that made sense to you because it made total sense to me.  If not, check out the article).  I think we like learning from video games because the games are always progressing.  There are games in which you "beat" the game, then get to go back through it with even tougher challenges.  Take any NCAA Football game.  There are multiple levels.  You win on All-American, then work up to Heisman level.  A football game is a great segway to Stuart's next point, control.  My husband's favorite games are the games in which he gets to coach a football or baseball team.  In real life, the man has probably never played a whole game of football or baseball.  He will never coach a "real" team unless you would consider little league coaches as "real" coaches.  Obviously I do not think little league coaches compare to collegiate and pro-level coaches.  Again, I digress.  My husband sure can coach an award winning team though on his PS3.  Stuart believes we all need control in some way.  Video games are the perfect way to gain this control.  They allow us to live in a fantasy world for a time.  We are rewarded for our successes as we go.  Each game gives a sense of stress in the form of a problem that needs to be worked out.  We master the problem, and boom, we are rewarding in an amazing way!  Stuart states, "games always notice success."  How often do our good deeds go unnoticed?  The article supports the thought that video games fulfill our intrinsic needs of control, success, and experimentation.  I am not going to lie by saying I didn't get a little excited to earn an extra badge in our class game.  I also like having the control to complete tasks at my choosing, and I also like seeing my points tick up.  There is something about me that likes competition. 

iTunes University

As it turns out, iTunes University has a wealth of free resources for teachers.  These resources include review materials for students, lectures, ideas for the classroom teacher, and so much more.  Here are a couple of resources I found for my Spanish Classroom.

Spanish 1 Yo Form of AR Verbs

Spanish Descriptions

Although these resources from iTunes U are very basic, they would still be great review materials for my students.  These would also be great back up substitute plans.

The following link is from Power On Texas, the Texas Education department.

This collection has amazing ideas for teachers on integrating technology in the classroom.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A $35 Computer? In India of All Places?

Click here to read the article.

A tablet would be the better word, however the $35 price tag is legit.  "A contract between the Indian government and Canadian development partner DataWind, should put between 10 and 12 million devices in the hands of students across India by the end of 2012, according to Computer World."  How amazing and inspiring is this going to be to the students that will be receiving one of these new tablets?  If I had my guess, we should be should be expecting some pretty amazing things to start coming from India.  To me, this is a message from the Indian government to the students.  They are saying "We want to invest in you, and we want to invest in your future."   I feel like this message will be heard loud and clear.  Anytime a student is told that someone believes in them, they are more likely to succeed.  Although their are some obvious disadvantages such as slower speed, and toy like features, all of these things are relative.  To a student in the U.S., the act might not be so inspiring.  To these students (some of whom have never held or used a computer), this will be cutting edge technology.  This just goes to show when a government puts their minds to it, they can make huge strides in education.  If the United States does not do something soon, we will quickly fall further and further behind.

Top Ed-Tech Picks

Mind Connex- Shakespeare in Bits offers a new way of looking at Shakespeare.  Many students crave a visual representation of what they read.  As a bibliophile, this pains me somewhat.  I want kids to enjoy reading, and to be able to imagine a world beyond their own.  The reading of classics in early grades is however very difficult for students.  Shakespeare is especially difficult.  This program helps students have a visual of the scenes.  Students can also listen to the story, as well as have access to difficult words.  The site offers literary analysis as well as character analysis.  One screen shot showed a family tree of the Capulet and Montague families.  Considering how difficult it is to keep all of the characters straight in a Shakespearean play, I would image this to be a very helpful feature.  The program is offered as an app for $7.99 as well.

BrainPop is an interesting website that features a number of free videos and games for students.  The link below goes to a video about Shakespeare that I plan on using with my students.  The site simply puts things into an easy to understand format.  Their are also numerous lesson plans available to educators that sign up for a free subscription.  Most of the educational fields are supported by BrainPop, so I would heavily encourage any educator to check it out.