Wednesday, September 19, 2007

These Kids are Wired Differently

I have to admit, before I read Karl Kapp's Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools and Techniques for Transferring Know-How from Boomers to Gamers I was on the fence when it came to gaming in the classroom. At 41, I'm at an age where I'm sort caught in the middle. I'm not an old school academic - "This is the way I learned, and this is how these kids will learn!" - but I see the value of how I was taught and have a tough time letting go of that paradigm. At the same time, I teach technology, I teach with technology, I love new technology and I'm always looking for ways to get my students engaged. It's a real delicate balance, but to some degree it goes back to the idea of control and a willingness to give up some control in the classroom.

Reading Karl's book and at the same time considering my own 13-year old daughter really crystallized it for me. Watching my daughter, play games on her PlayStation 2 (she has a Wii now) I was amazed at her persistence and determination. For example, in a snowboarding game, she would start down the mountain, fall, get up, fall again - only to reset the game and start all over. The cycle continued, until she mastered the game and "unlocked" even more difficult courses - and with the same focus took on those challenges. Big deal you say, but compare that experience to that of sitting down with her to help her with a page or two of math homework. After a couple problems, she's bored, doesn't get it and just wants to get it over with - in spite of the fact that she's a good math student and has a real aptitude for math. That along with my own classroom was the epiphany for me! There has to be some way we can capture that same excitement and engagement in the classroom.

In the book, Karl does a great job of countering the prevailing arguments that gaming is frivolous, has little academic merit,and if done well, is too costly. In fact, Karl details a number
of simple games that can be used to teach declarative (facts, jargon and acronyms) and conceptual knowledge. Also, Karl's not advocating that we do away with traditional classroom instruction, but instead that we realize that these kids are wired differently and that we need to start integrating new techniques and tools into the classroom - to better engage them.

There are some really great examples of simple and inexpensive (often free) activities that can bring gaming into the classroom and better engage your students. One that's been around forever, but remains effective is the Jeopardy by Powerpoint. If you click on the image to the left, you can download a PPT document that you can use as a template to build your own - discipline specific - Jeopardy games. Edit the file to create your own categories, answers and questions - it's really simple.

Another great tool is Hot Potatoes - a free (under certain conditions) download for Windows, Mac and even Linux. With Hot Potatoes you can create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises. There are plenty of others, but this is a snapshot of the type of tools available.

On the high end, are some emerging web-based tools that include:
  • FlowPlay is a virtual world community - in beta - where users play browser-based casual games as their own created anime-like avatar.
  • Story Blender - an online collaborative video production site - from the founder of Cyworld - where users "blend" together media to create rich, interactive stories.
  • Katura, a collaborative video site where friends can create, edit and share video content.
  • Metaplace - a revolutionary virtual world platform that provides an open, easy-to-use interface allowing users to create virtual worlds that can run anywhere and enable users to play games, socialize, create content and conduct commerce. These virtual worlds can be embedded in a blog, Facebook or MySpace and even allow users to link virtual worlds.
  • Animoto an online application that lets users create free 30-second music videos by uploading photos selecting and music - very simple. [courtesy of Patricia Donaghy]
  • BeFunky provides users with tools for uploading a photo and creating an avatar, cartoon, digital painting or comic of themselves for their blogs, websites, and social networks.


Rupa Rajagopalan said...

Thanks for all the interesting links.

bethg said...

Hi Mike,

Interesting post. I agree with what you say about today's kids: they ARE wired differently. As your post shows, I think we are limited only by our imaginations about how we use technology to help students (and teachers) to develop 21st Century skills!

At Elluminate, we find that students respond very well to the online medium for learning and social networking. I am also seeing a lot of blogs about combining a number of online tools (like those you have in your list) to create a very exiting education environment.

I thought you might be interested in a webinar we hosted this morning about virtual schools and how they are using virtual classroom tools to add interaction for students. Some of the examples are pretty amazing.
Here's the link:

And if you are interested in trying a free virtual room of your own, check out Elluminate vRoom, our 3-seat version with all the functionality of Elluminate Live! (except recording). You can use it as long as you like.

- Beth, Elluminate Goddess of Communication

Karl Kapp said...


Thanks for participating in the blog book tour. I love all the links and resources you've pointed to in your posting. This is great stuff.

I think that educators have a great opportunity to collaborate with our students and to help them understand practical uses for the technology while they can help us try to keep up with the endless supply of new technologies.

Take care and thanks again for an awesome post.


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