Sunday, October 12, 2014

Gamification vs. Game-based Learning, Who Wins?

Educators are looking for ways to increase motivation and engagement in learners. Gamification, and game-based learning, are increasingly popular discussion topics in educational circles. Research suggests gaming significantly contributes to engagement, focus, and self-determined learning. Anyone who has played Minecraft, Clash of Clans, or Angry Birds understands the intrinsic power of overcoming obstacles. leveling up, and achieving success as a result of improved skills. Recent posts have shouted the virtues of gamification and game-based learning interchangeably, but aren't these concepts vastly different?

While both gamification and game-based learning (GBL) can contribute to motivation, focus, and engagement in learners, these concepts when applied to classroom situations, are not the same thing. Which practice makes a bigger impact on learning? When it comes to gaming in the classroom, who wins?

Gamification


Gamification adds a layer of gaming elements to classroom practices. Key components can include points. leaderboards, badges, and player roles.
Pros - Competitive students can be motivated by point rankings. Learning roles provide purpose to classroom activities. Badges for competencies and contributions can be motivating for learners. Differentiation is built into gaming levels.
Cons - Research by Daniel Pink tells us that extrinsic elements have been shown to reduce motivation in learners. Competition can interferewith collaboration efforts in the classroom.
Example - Chris Aviles, one of my PLN heroes, has gamified his high school classrooms. He does this to foster an environment of interdependence, purpose, and skill mastery for his students. Chris's ability to blend intrinsic motivators (mastery learning) and extrinsic elements (badges) has fostered a classroom of increased student engagement and empowerment.


Game-Based Learning


Game-based Learning utilizes classroom games to engage students in skill acquisition and thought processes that support meaningful, fun learning experiences. Technology enables the creation of games that support differentiation, metacognition, and personalization of learning.
Pros - As you would guess, games are fun learning tools that can increase engagement and motivation. Interactive games coupled with one-to-one devices create learning opportunities that extend beyond classroom walls and bells. More than 85% of school aged children play digital games.
Cons - It takes time for educators, who may not have experience with games, to evaluate and reference them to learning standards. Games can be distracting to other classroom activities. Games are constantly being updated and changed. This makes it difficult to maintain consistency with these resources. Technology limitations can hinder the effectiveness of digital games. (Top 100 Learning Game Resources)
Example - Medical schools and military organizations use simulation games to assess performance under duress. Charlie Filipek has not only gamified his AP Biology courses, but he also uses online games such as Quizlet and Kahoot to formatively assess his 1-to-1 students in a fun and engaging way.






There are similarities between gamification and game-based learning, however the differences are obvious. Gamification is the addition of gaming elements to augment classroom processes. Game-based learning is the implementation of games to reinforce the learning of content and skills. Knowing the similarities and differences, which practice has more potential impact on learning in the classroom? Who wins when games are used for learning?






References & Related Reading


Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Game-based Learning - Mindshift Compilation

A Guide to Game-Based Learning - Edutopia, Vicki Davis

Gamification in Education - Edutopia, Vicki Davis

Using Gaming Principles to Engage Students - Edutopia, Douglas Kiang

Game-Based Learning - Edutopia Compilation




photo credit: Chealion via photopin cc

Saturday, October 4, 2014

How Information Flow Supports Connected Learning


Ubiquitous access to unlimited information is creating massive adjustments to modern learning. There are some that say learning, in the traditional sense, is no longer necessary because of the instantaneous availability of boundless information. For example, I no longer need to memorize the names of all fifty states and their capitals because Google will provide me this information in a fraction of a second. These shifts in learning are causing many educators, and with good reason, to reshape their thoughts on the purpose and function of schools, and of education.  



Whether informal or formal, information is feeding our learning significantly. With only 24 hours in a day, how can we possibly make sense of all of the information that is available to us? As with water, electricity, or air, I find it helps to have a process or plan for information flow. Three stages make up this flow model, input, processing, output. Each stage contributes to the overall understanding of a topic or situation.


INPUT

With so much information available to us, it takes a critical eye, and higher level thinking to compare, assess, and analyze the resources that support our learning. Evaluating sources of information contributes to depth of knowledge. The tools that I use most frequently in my curating process include the following; 
  • RSS Feeds / Blogger Reading List - I subscribe to about 100 educator blogs. I have discovered some of my favorite educators on Twitter, others I found through Google Scholar resources, and Teach 100. Efficiency is achieved because I don't spend time searching for new material, it comes to me every day via email, or my reading lists. By subscribing to highly rated, trusted bloggers, I consistently receive outstanding learning material.
  • Social Readers - Zite, Flipboard, and News-360 are my favorite social readers. Besides looking great on my iPad, these apps intuitively "feed" my daily reading list by pre-selecting material based upon personalized criteria, reading habits, and "favorited" stories. Deeper understanding comes from comparing and analyzing varied perspectives. As with my reader list, my social readers provide a never ending supply of fresh material tailored to my interests and needs.
  • Social Media - On demand, personalized learning is made possible through YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr, and Google+.  Using channels, lists, and communities helps to narrow my search for relevant material. When I need more than words, these resources provide images and video to help reinforce my learning. These resources deepen my understanding by supporting my preferred learning styles.

Processing


Many times, my processing of digital information is merely reading, and then sharing. I am in the habit of bookmarking and sharing everything I read or view. I have learned so much from what other educators have shared with me, it's just the way a good personal learning network (PLN) works. My processing of information may also include writing a reflective blog post, creating a short video, or building a presentation for a conference or workshop. Frequently, the processing of information allows me to contribute to school, or community based initiatives. In short, my understanding is deepened by consuming what I have read or experienced, and then producing my own interpretation of the newly acquired knowledge.



Output


Authentic audiences force my conscientious effort to share accurate, valuable information. I share to platforms that are complimentary, and readily accessible on any web-connected device. Deeper understanding is achieved by frequent reflection, feedback, and at times, a revisiting or rethinking of my original inquiry. My information output is directed to primarily three sources, my blog, my tweets, and my e-zines.

  • Nocking the Arrow has evolved into my digital portfolio. The main blog feed contains conversational and reflective pieces. The subsequent pages contain presentations, professional goals, and artifacts relating to my professional learning. 
  • Twitter is my go-to app for personal learning. A few minutes each day provides the spark for further inquiry, investigation, and collaborative problem solving. Many of my learning relationships, and professional partnerships were initiated through contact on Twitter. It sounds strange for me to admit this truth, I have more "virtual" friends than I have face-to-face friends. Is this the new normal?
  • Flipboard provides repositories for my favorite "consumed" and "produced" information. Just about any piece of web-based material can be flipped into a Flipboard magazine. My archive is in an attractive, easy-to-read, format. I can invite other collaborators to make contributions, and subscribers can perpetuate the learning cycle.
Here is a visual interpretation of my preferred information flow. One of my goals is to incorporate other forms of media into my flow processes. Although I have grown to love writing, I would like to become better at producing instructional videos. My information flow process has provided greater efficiency in consuming information, while also deepening my understanding through the curating, processing, and sharing of personalized content.



Do you have a digital information flow process? If so, is it effectively supporting your learning? What do you think of this flow model? How does your information flow compare?

photo credit: ccrrii via photopin cc

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Four Features to Help Build a Better Blog

With millions of blogs, and millions of blog readers exchanging information across the world wide web, what are enhancements that can turn the ordinary into extraordinary with respects to blog appeal? Here are a few suggestions for building a blog that offers greater functionality while also standing out from the ordinary. This post will focus on features provided by Blogger. However, excellent platforms such as WordPress, EduBlogs, and Weebly offer similar enhancements for educators and their students to create attractive, engaging blogs.


Google Translate


Why? - Increase the chances that your blog will be appreciated by world-wide audience. Google Translate will convert your words into other languages.
How?  - Google Translate can be found in the Blogger gadgets menu.

  1. Sign in to Blogger
  2. Click on your blog title
  3. Click on "Layout"
  4. Click on "Add A Gadget"

Blogger has about thirty "gadgets" built into their main menu. 900 others may be found through their web menu. You can also create your own gadget by searching the Internet for the HTML code, then copy / paste this code into the HTML/Java Script gadget.


"Share To" Buttons



Why? - Readers are liking what you have written and want to share it out to other people in other locations on social media.




How? - By default, Blogger provides a menu of "share to" buttons that are included in the post window. However, accentuated "share to" buttons can be found in the gadget menu.


Attribution


Why? - Let readers know what is permissible with respects to your intellectual property. Provide notice of legal protection against commercial exploitation.
How?  - Blogger has an on board attribution gadget, but I prefer the Creative Commons license that can be customized and added to the blog tool bar.

  1. Go to the Creative Commons license site
  2. Use the radial buttons to choose the license that fits the needs of your site or blog.
  3. Copy the HTML code
  4. Go to the blog "Layout" page, click Add Gadget
  5. Choose HTML / Java Script gadget
  6. Paste copied code into the HTML window - click SAVE

Photos


Why? - Media such as photos and videos add visual appeal and help reinforce the message of the post. Not all images on the Internet are free to use. Images that are not created personally must be free to use and share, and / or modify.


How? - Use your own images whenever possible. Otherwise, I like sites like Photopin which provide commercial and non-commercial images from Flickr along with the HTML code for attribution so credit can be given to the provider.


  1. Insert the image at the desired location on the page. 
  2. Copy the attribution code and paste into the HTML editor for the page as either a credit or as the image caption.

With good reason, more educators and their students are sharing their learning with blogs. There are many helpful tools available to make blogs more interesting and interactive. Knowledge and use of these tools can help turn an ordinary blog into something unique and engaging.

Related Reading



Tips For Better Blogging - The Edublogger

Blogging Resources For Classroom Teachers - Center for Teaching Quality, Bill Ferriter