Thursday, December 15, 2016

Flower Power Preschool Gamification Project

Come one, come all to read about how I gamified my classroom using the Bloomz app and ActivInspire software! I also threw GoNoodle in as a reward for students as the level up!

This project was my final project for my grad class this semester! I'm excited to have some of my MA program partially done!!

Enjoy the read!

Game Name: Flower Power Preschool

This game is intended for students in my preschool classroom. I have a culturally diverse classroom with 3 African American students, 2 Hispanic students, and 11 Caucasian students. I have 9 female students and 7 male students. Currently, I have no students with IEPs on my roster, however, students from other special education classrooms do join our class at some points during the day to work on social skills. My students are 4-5 years old and will all be attending kindergarten next year.

Learning Goals of the Game:

This game has many learning goals! My students are very young and I wanted to use a system that encourages both social and academic skills. The overarching goal of this game is to motivate students in multiple content areas while incorporating using a game-based rewards/leveling up system.

Objectives the Game will Meet:

I use the Teaching Strategies Gold Objectives in my preschool classroom as my overarching assessment system. I tied in my point awards to individual objectives. Our preschool program uses the Teaching Strategies Gold Online Assessment System to record student data. This system provides a reasonable expectation of progression through skills in multiple learning areas. We are also conducting the Individual Growth and Development Indicators three times a year. These are some of the skills I’ve incorporated into the point system.

-Objective 2: Establishes and Sustains Positive Relationships
- Met by: Caring Award (50 Points), Helping Others Award (75 Points), Respectful (75
Points), Sharing Superhero (25 Points)

- Objective 8. Listens to and understands increasingly complex language a. Comprehends language b. Follows directions
- Met by: Following Directions Award (25 Points), Participating (25 Points)

Objective 15. Demonstrates phonological awareness a. Notices and discriminates rhyme
  • Met by Rhyme Time Monster (100 Points)

Objective 16. Demonstrates knowledge of the alphabet a. Identifies and names letters b. Uses letter–sound knowledge
  • Met by: Beginning Sound Brainiac Award (100 Points), Letter Expert (100 Points)

Objective 19. Demonstrates emergent writing skills a. Writes name
  • Met by: Last Name Ace (100 Points)

Objective 20. Uses number concepts and operations a. Counts, c. Connects numerals with their quantities
  • Met by: Counting Master (100 Points), Numeral Knowledge Whiz (100)

Objective 21. Explores and describes spatial relationships and shapes b. Understands shapes
Met by: Ninja Shape Star (100 Points)

Objective 23. Demonstrates knowledge of patterns
Met by: Pattern Hotshot (100 Points)

Game Description:

Why I chose this theme/game: This game integrates typical preschool expectations and tasks into a points and leveling system. I chose to use the Bloomz points/rewards tool as a basis for my game because I am already frequently using the Bloomz Application with my parents and families. The flower portion of the game comes from the built-in leveling up system on Bloomz which I further incorporated into my own leveling up and leaderboard system.

How to Progress Through the Game:
  • Experience Points: Students earn points/awards for each academic, social skill, or responsibility tasks demonstrated throughout the week. There are badges for each task students can be awarded points for. I consider these badges/awards to be the XP points students can earn. I edited each award to meet specific objectives in the preschool curriculum. Here’s a screenshot of some of the badges I added (not all badges are shown):

  • Leveling Up: Once Students earn 500 points - they earn a flower on Bloomz. I was very excited I could edit point values! Originally, the points to earn a flower were 25, I chose to edit the point values of the badges and the points to earn a flower after learning that higher points generate more excitement. Bloomz only adds a flower and that’s the extent of the reward system on the application. I tied in my own leveling up system for students to make the game rewards relevant and motivating for preschoolers. Thus, the more students master the content, the more flowers, and more exciting rewards they can earn!!
Screenshot of Bloomz Points to Get a Flower          Screenshot of Flower Graphic on Bloomz

  • Rewarding Mastery: I was able to tie in some mostly free and highly motivating rewards as students progress and earn more flowers. This aspect is above and beyond what the Bloomz App has built in. I chose to add this because I felt students would continue to be motivated to earn not just one flower, but many flowers! I chose to show this system in a very picture-based format for my preschool students. They are not yet readers, so I want them to be able to understand the leveling up system without much verbal explanation. Here’s a synopsis of how continued mastery of content and social skills will be rewarded:

(500 Overall Points)  = Pick one song on GoNoodle Website
GoNoodle Screenshot

(1000 overall points) = Pick the read aloud book for the day
Image of my Classroom Library Shelf

(1500 overall points) = Line leader or stick helper for the week (Student can collect the name sticks when it’s time to clean up learning centers)
Image of our Class Name Sticks

(2000 overall points) = Extra iPad Time
Image of one of our Class iPads

(2500 overall points) = Choose a Special Pencil

  • Leaderboard: The amount of flowers students earn will be displayed on an Activinspire flipchart. The leaderboard will look more like individual gardens with students adding flowers to their own garden plot as they earn them in the Bloomz app. The students can compare flowers and see how they are doing visually compared to other students. I chose to give students the opportunity to move flowers into their individual gardens as they progress to keep them actively involved in their progress. The students love using the ActivInspire software and they will recognize how it works as well.
Screenshot of ActivInspire Leaderboard
Directions for Playing the Game:

Students engage in the game through participating in class, showing mastery of skills, and through demonstrating acceptable social skills. Once students enter class, they are automatically participants in the game.

  • Step One: Students earn a badge/award worth so many points. The type of badge students are awarded depends on the skill/objective demonstrated. The teacher can determine that a student has earned a badge, or a student could be recommended by another student or teacher.
  • Step Two: Once students earn 500 points, their flower grows! They get to use the ActivInspire Flipchart to manually move a flower into their virtual garden, showing they’ve earned one flower. Students also can choose a song on our GoNoodle class page!
  • Step Three: Students can continue to earn flowers and as they level up they can move through the levels and earn rewards (see the leveling system above)
  • Step Four: As students progress through the levels, the teacher will change the awards/objectives to continue to encourage mastery.

Student Reactions to Playing the Game:

 Students gave the game a thumbs up! They really have enjoyed watching their flowers grow! We have only used the game in class for two days and they already have a huge enthusiasm for earning points! I am excited to see their reactions when their points grow into a flower and they get to choose a song on GoNoodle. I want to be careful with such young students when giving points because I don’t want a student to feel they are not having fun with the points system. I stressed with students when introducing it that there are many different types of awards they can earn. Demonstrating this through actions and awarding multiple skills demonstrated helps give each student a chance to fully participate.

Reflection on the Game Development Process:

This project stumped me for a long time! It’s hard to develop a game for preschoolers when they can’t yet read and write! I love the idea of using Classcraft, however, my students are far too young for that! I had been frequently using the Bloomz App with my parents and I was aware the app contained built in rewards/badges, but I had not fully explored that aspect of the app/website. I was really excited to see that not only could I edit point values and the awards themselves, I could edit how many total points students would need for their plant to grow into a flower! I was able to have more control over the points system, however, I still wanted to incorporate a leveling system and a kind of leaderboard. I was able to move away from the application to create a unique leveling system which would be specific to my students. The software we use in our classroom was a great platform for creating an interactive leaderboard. Each student has their own mini-garden where they can put their flowers in as they “grow” in Bloomz. Every student is on the same page, therefore, all students can visually see how full their garden is compared to everyone else.  
I am going to try out this gaming system with my students beginning Monday. I anticipate my students will be really excited about earning badges/rewards, especially when their parents can see the awards. My students will also enjoy putting their flowers in their virtual gardens, they are young and the more involved they can be, the more buy-in I will get from them. I usually implement some kind of reward system for winter in my classroom and this system will work really nicely for keeping students motivated.

The Bloomz App compliments my project nicely. I am able to use this game system with my students this week. As a teacher, tools I can use tomorrow are far more worth my time than tools I will use months from now. After learning about Gamification, I’m excited to see how I can add in gamification to my grant project. I recently learned I was awarded my two grants I need to acquire Cubetto robots. Cubetto robots encourage natural challenges and innovation with young students. I could see using a game system and leaderboard for students to encourage familiarity with the robots and early coding strategies. Adding a gaming system to the robots in my classroom may further motivate students to not only meet challenges, but create their own challenges for their classmates.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Let's Collaborate: Globally

Global Collaboration Projects sound cool...

However, I lacked enthusiasm for this particular assignment. In the early childhood world, students cannot yet fluently read and write. They are learning early literacy and math concepts, which they will build on as they go through school

For this reason, getting students involved in a global collaboration project means I will have to be facilitating and organizing each step. Most of this collaboration will need to use video conferencing tools or other pictorial and visual representations to make the project meaningful for such young students. I experienced some anxiety in feeling like this might be out of reach for my very young students.

Fortunately, I was able to find some really simple ideas for early childhood global collaboration ideas. This is the project I would begin with:

SkypePlay: Mardelle Sauerborn
The simplicity of this project is so appealing to me as a preschool teacher!! The best explanation comes from the linked blog post above,

     "The purpose of this PlayProject is to play in real time with other children in other places.                     Building on traditional Skype projects like MysterySkype and Skyping in experts,  this moves
      into giving children 1:1 or 2:2  peer to peer audience for their play that provides immediate
      interaction, collaboration, and conversation." Mardelle Sauerborn

Children have a very unique ability to almost automatically connect with each other when engaged in meaningful play-based experiences. Global friends can encourage students to engage with students from a different background and location while participating in meaningful play. I would collaborate with another teacher to decide what materials each of students would be engaged in during the SkypePlay. Students freely move from center to center in my classroom. The computer or iPad we are using to Skype would remain at one center while students flow in and out of that particular center.

Here is a really great example which demonstrates the simplicity and engagement students have in something like this:

SkypePlayVid from Mardelle on Vimeo.

This is a way I would like to start with global collaboration within my preschool classroom. I feel the approach is very developmentally appropriate and engaging for students.

I'd like to eventually expand this, using something like Skype to have my students interact with students living on a coast or in a warm climate while we have snow on the ground. That type of weather/climate based project would be my next stepping stone from this.

These last couple of weeks have been overwhelmingly odd to me as a grad student. Unfortunately, our attempts to reach out to global counterparts were met with challenges and ultimately didn't end up working out. I found this annoying, and also relieved. I was surprised that I felt relieved, this feeling really speaks to my personality of stepping out of the box when encouraged, and of my true desire to remain in my box when comfortable. I have many global teachers I follow on Twitter and have been to a few different conferences this school year (I'm writings this at the Iowa Culture and Language Conference). It's very different for me if I get to pick who I collaborate with!!

The only thing I might have done differently might have been to allow teachers to make contact on their own with some of their Twitter friends we found earlier in this class. I have a hunch that some of my Twitter chat friends would have been willing to make a quick video with me. I liked the Twitter project because we had to reach out intentionally on our own which meant we could tailor our Twitter conversations to our teaching. I want to remember this when thinking of global collaboration projects with my students! Maybe they have a particular topic they want to learn about or something that really gets them excited. If they have more choices and a higher level of personal interest in whatever global project we choose, the project will end up more productive.

How about you?! Have you ever had a lesson go off-track or just not work out? If so, what did you do?

Thanks for reading! Peters out!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Getting Hooked on Games = Getting Hooked on Learning?!

This week we our assignment was to play Kingdom Rush for 3 hours! YES!

Image result for kingdom rush

Image found using Google Image Search

Best GRAD SCHOOL HOMEWORK EVER! The only issue I had is that I do not have time to prepare for conferences, complete this blog post, AND get hooked on a game! Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened!

When I first began playing this game, it didn't really get me excited. It is like the first few weeks of school, mostly exposition and learning the ins and outs of a game or routine. The game reminds me of Plants Vs. Zombies because each level has many waves of enemies over an extended amount of time. As the levels get tougher, you spend more time defeating the waves of enemies. I began to enjoy the game as I leveled up and was able to build more spectacular towers! Once I discovered all of the different things the higher level towers could do, it became really entertaining to watch the waves of enemies get decimated by zapping, exploding, or ax throwing! I already know I tend to get lost in games once I start. I spent many hours in my youth building amazing theme parks on the PC game, Roller Coaster Tycoon.

While playing Kingdom Rush, I did get frustrated at first, especially when the snowy guy kept freezing my towers. I usually took a break for a while after losing. The play of each level takes so long that it was easier to come back to it later and try again. I did reach a certain Flow level while playing the game, otherwise I wouldn't still be playing!

And now, for the main event, how can educators connect gaming to learning?

I think the first month of school is like the first few levels of a game. Both the teacher and the students are figuring out the routines. The teacher is figuring out their students so they can plan for their classroom and the students are figuring out how this particular classroom works. Teachers can make this a smooth process through building a classroom community and helping students to feel like they are "leveling up" each day. Teachers don't need a total gamification system in order to make this happen. If you can consistently show students evidence of their own progress in the midst of a few trial and errors, you can get them closer to that feeling of purpose and flow in their work.

We have big celebrations in my class when a student gets over a hump they have been struggling with, behaviorally or academically. In my classroom, using GoNoodle with a simple point system and visual leveling up gets my students really excited. It would be interesting to try and expand something like that to academics. We focus on letter identification, if students could visually "level up" every time they remember a new letter, they may be more motivated to commit the letters to memory.  

In the future, I would like to try creating my own Gamification for students in relation to preschool academic skills. The students would get a huge kick out of seeing their progress in a fun way, and be motivated to keep improving, even if it gets hard sometimes.

I'm so sad to see this assignment conclude. It's not every day you can say you are playing a game because you have to!

Thanks for reading! Peters out!