Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gaming in Education - An Emerging Instruction Technology (Playing Kingdom Rush)



What is it about Video Games that will cause a person to sit there for hours and hours, continually fail and start over, but still enjoy their experience? 

(And how can I get a little of that in my classroom....)


So for one of my graduate classes, I was tasked with playing, Kingdom Rush, by Ironhide. The genre of Kingdom Rush is tower defense and it capitalizes on quick strategy, placement of different tower types, and money management. Overall, it requires the user to think both proactively and reactively, in that the level design and types of monsters drives the player's decision on where and what type of tower to place. You also have to know when to upgrade your tower or choose to sell it and place a different type of tower as the battlefield changes. And sometimes you have to quickly react as the game may just throw you a curveball in the form of some game mechanic that you were not expecting.


One thing held true in my multiple hour session of playing this game (and I'm sure it happened to you too...): You will fail, a lot. I've played this game many times before and beaten it on a couple of occasions. However, it was still challenging at times in the higher difficulty levels as it requires so much management and precision timing. I found that in the basic levels, I used a lot of the same strategies in which towers I was placing. However, the challenge levels will take certain towers and abilities away from you and you have to adapt your strategy. Overall, it is a great game and is super addicitive to play and I always found myself thinking of different ways that I could have won after completing the level.

It makes me start thinking, why do I keep playing this game even though I would keep losing on certain levels? Seriously there were a couple of those challenge levels where I would defeat like 99% of the enemies but the boss at the end just wouldn't go down and I'd lose after playing like 10 minutes. Many times I wanted to rage quit this game, but something about it just kept drawing me back. Now what I'm really thinking about is how can I get my students in class to be this engaged to my content and WANT to continue coming back even after failing.

So just a couple of random notes that I kept while playing: 1) I'm allowed to fail (often), 2) The difficulty of the game did a great job of increasing in difficulty slowly throughout the game, 3) There is a tutorial-esqe level for each new tower type as it gets introduced to the player, 4) I can beat a level using any strategy that I can come up with as long as I'm allowed to use a certain tower.

All of these ideas are essential to education and even though they seem like common sense, the education world has not been built upon their principles in the past. Allowing our students to be able to fail is a core concept within education. When a student fails, they need to be allowed to rework their solution and resubmit their work after some new learning has occured. When you are teaching new concepts, you cannot just start with the hardest content and hammer on it without understanding the basics first. You need to be allowed to use many different tools, strategies, etc to complete the task at hand.

The use of gaming in education as a Emerging Technology is something I'm extremely in. I would like to do more work like this in understanding how I can bring in all the positives that surround gaming and how we can better our teaching through these concepts!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

ITEC Conference 2013 - SketchUp in Education

ITEC Conference - SketchUp in Education

It's Sunday afternoon and I'm attending my first ever ITEC Conference.  Now I'm only going to be able to attend a workshop or two, so I'm going to have to make the most of my networking skills.  Looking around the various sessions, they are probably averaging around 10-16 individuals in each.  Right now a few vendors are starting to arrive, but it looks like everything is still getting setup for the next couple of days.

I'm attending the Seth Denney session over how to use SketchUp in the classroom.  Now I will fully admit, I know quite a bit about SketchUp already, but like many people, I taught myself everything.  I like to go to sessions where I think I know a lot, so that I can either confirm that what I know is correct or if I'm completely wrong about everything...

My hope is that during this session, I'm going to learn about some of the more advanced commands and animation that I don't know how to do.  So I will update throughout the afternoon and look forward to expanding my knowledge of SketchUp in the classroom.

SketchUp in Education

Presenter:  Seth Denney

Room:  303

How to Download SketchUp:


SketchUp Pro 2013 Free Licences (Public Schools)

Iowa public schools can sign up for free SketchUp Professional Licenses. About 52,291 licenses in 130 districts have been used since 2009, when this software was called Google SketchUp. The free professional license runs from July 1, 2013 until July 30, 2016. We ask that the district technology director be the contact. A short online form needs to be completed, then you download the software and download the license codes. For private schools, home schools or other educational use, Sketch Up Make is available at no charge.

Technology Directors email vic.jaras@iowa.gov for details on obtaining district license codes (you will be put into the distribution list and receive instructions via direct email)

Resources for Educators:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Iowa Student Learning Institute Review

Iowa Student Learning Institute Website
Breakdown of the Event:

When:  October 5th, 2013      8:00am-3:30pm
Where:  Waukee High School - Waukee Community School District

Yesterday, I attended the Iowa Student Learning Institute, the first event of it's kind in Iowa to bring students, administrators, teachers, local industry leaders, and secondary institutions to discuss what and how students should be learning in their classrooms.  The whole idea surrounding the event was that students were going to take an ACTIVE voice in the various afternoon sessions and their learning for the day.  Adults were supposed to stay on the sidelines and only interject when the discussions slowed or stopped.

Walking into the institute at 8am, I was immediately taken back by how many different groups of students, teachers, and administrators were waiting to hear the keynote speakers and start discussions over various school topics.  Attending the institute, I represented many parties including; as a Waukee Community School Technology Education Teacher, a University of Northern Iowa Graduate Student, and as a STEM-based student organization leader.


The Keynote Speakers were Scott McCloud and Zak Malamed, who both spoke on various ways that students can empower themselves in their own learning and take more ownership over their courses in school.  I thought both presentations added to the event and it made everything much more exciting and monumental for myself, fellow educators, and especially the students.

Throughout the event several hashtags were used, primarily #isli.  I did my best throughout the conference to Tweet when I could.  However, as Scott McCloud brought up at the beginning of his presentation, I tried to tow the line between paying attention to my Twitter account and actually paying attention to the people in the room.  Below you can read a history of the tweets that we sent out from the #isli hashtag.


The most interesting part of the day for me was getting to be apart of the student discussions.  I attended the first session as a complete observer, facilitated the discussion over Gamification in the Classroom, and contributed in the STEM discussion at the end of the day.

The first session was a bit rough, as could be expected, students were not really accustomed to leading entire discussions by themselves.  It was also hard as a teacher to not try and jump in too often and instead let the students do the talking.  However after a few well placed questions, the students started to pick up steam in their conversations over the keynote speakers and everything was fine in the sessions that I attended.

I facilitated the discussion over Gamification in the classroom, which I had a feeling would draw a large number of students.  And it did, we were at standing room only at one point.  I had a great mixture of students, parents, and teachers.  I really wanted students to take a serious look at how video games could be used in the classroom, so I brought some of my examples of how I've done it and how other educators have tried it in the past.  I didn't want the discussion to erupt into students just talking about their favorite games and what they have done in them.


You can see the list that the students' generate to the left and we tried to focus on these games in particular, with a few additions from me.

Student Generated List:  Minecraft, Halo 3, Gary's Mod, GTA 5, Sims 3

My additions:  Oregon Trail, Carmen Sandiego, SimBuild, SimCity, Farming Simulator 2013

At first, it was very clear that a few students in the room were trying to illicit reactions from the adults by wanting to talk about some "M" rated games.  They were not prepared for a teacher who also has done his share of gaming and was prepared for such a reaction...whua ha ha ha.  From a facilitor's point of view, I quickly nixed the "let's be silly" vibe and got everyone back on track.  Most surprising, once we began with a discussion on Minecraft, there were two middle school girls who had lots of ideas for how they could use that in several different classes.  Many of the older students then followed suite and brought up some great ideas for how Minecraft, the Sims 3, and Farming Simulator could be used for various elective courses.  Our discussion went over our time limit and I basically had to push everyone out to get the next session in the room started.  I thought it was excellent and the students really took the discussion seriously after only a couple redirects from adults.


The rest of the day went very well, with a final presentation over some different steps that students can follow to find their inner genius.  A poll was conducted over a cell phone polling service and the results were overwhelming positive.  It looks like we will be expecting a second Iowa Student Learning Institute next year, and I can't wait!

~Jeremy Cooper