Visual Math Gaming

I have been very interested in math lately in a pondering and questioning kind of way. Perhaps because I see opportunities for improvement in the way math content is currently delivered. I recently happened across a great article from 2014 entitled, “Research on Children and Math: Underestimated and Unchallenged“, by Annie Murphy Paul, which explained why the perception that U.S. students are bad at math might indicate schools aren’t challenging students enough. I also just read a book by Jo Boaler titled Mathematical Mindsets: Unleashing Students’ Potential Through Creative Math, Inspiring Messages and Innovative Teaching, that addressed ways via a mindset shift to banish math anxiety and give students of all ages and abilities a clear roadmap of strategies to unleash their math potential. Finally, my many visits to classrooms have made me also realize just how language dependent that math has really become. As a district, we have been reimagining what a variety of core content areas can look like in the future and math is one of them. The product that I’m going to share a little insight on and one we are beginning to pilot in the 4th, 6th and 7th grades for the 3rd Trimester in my district is called ST Math.

ST Math is a game-based instructional software designed to boost math comprehension and proficiency through visual learning from foundational math concepts all the way up to algebraic skills. This blended learning tool is accessed through a web-browser, on an iOS or Android App, or even on a Kindle. From demoing the game at different grade levels, the learning experience seems to be very interactive, filled with a variety of graphically-rich animations that represent mathematical concepts to practice and develop deeper conceptual understanding, and an JiJi No BGopportunity to really grow a user’s problem-solving skills. Teachers determine the program placement for each student and then students are guided by JiJi, the penguin, and encouraged to intuitively navigate through the gaming environment. Every time a student demonstrates an understanding of a targeted math concept/skill, JiJi meanders across the screen to signal success as well as lead the student to the next challenging puzzle. ST Math also utilizes a teacher dashboard and offers embedded assessments, detailed progress monitoring and whiteboard integration.

According to MIND Research, the creator of the ST Math system, their mission is to “ensure that all students are mathematically equipped to solve the world’s most challenging problems”. The ST Math program is closely aligned with the Common Core State Standards and our District curriculum. Potentially, this program closely aligns with our District Strategic Framework and Learner Profile in providing personalized learning through a scaffolded learning environment, removing the language barrier to learning math for students of all abilities, and equipping students’ spatial temporal reasoning abilities to better understand, explain, solve and master multi-step math problems. I’m really looking forward to observing the role that neuroscience plays in visual math instruction throughout the 3rd Trimester from both a student and teacher lens.


Sources:

Boaler, J. (2016). Mathematical mindsets: unleashing students’ potential through creative math, inspiring messages, and innovative teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass & Pfeiffer Imprints.

MIND Researchhttp://www.mindresearch.org/

MIND Research on Neuroscience – http://www.mindresearch.org/science/

ST Math Results – http://www.mindresearch.org/results/

 

Can You Digitally BreakoutEDU?

With many digital-based coding gaming tools in “pilot” mode throughout my district, it’s time to turn some attention on an educational game-based learning tool that can be used across the K-12 grade levels and subject areas. This hands-on tool is called BreakoutEDU and you can play the game with a set of boxes and locks or through a web-based version. Both options of this ultra-engaging gaming tool promote teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and troubleshooting by presenting learners with challenges to be solved. Although BreakoutEDU boxes are perhaps more “hip” and appealing, going digitally with BreakoutEDU is a quick and less expensive way to get started.


Let’s start with a quick overview on BreakoutEDU using Simon Sinek’s “Start with Why” philosophy to build a foundational footing:

WHY use the game-based learning tool BreakoutEDU in an educational setting?

10-reasons-breakoutedu-sylvia-duckworth

Image Source: @MariaGalanis & @sylviaduckworth


HOW to use BreakoutEDU digitally & in box and lock form?

Consider using BreakoutEDU to:

  • Welcome students to their new classroom in the fall or at each Semester/Trimester changeover to build student engagement, getting to know your peers activity or getting to know the classroom and how it will run
  • Connect BreakoutEDU to a curricular component or as an activity to practice 21st century skills of collaboration, critical thinking, creative problem-solving, etc.
  • Kick-off a Staff Professional Development session to build team capacity, practice communication strategies, learn new instructional content or even to learn a new building protocol
  • Want to know more? Check out these links: How to Get Started & Game Facilitation Slides

WHAT exactly is BreakoutEDU?

by James Sanders – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWSoR-0DH8Q


Let’s dig a little deeper into the tech tool itself…consider me your “thinking aloud” tour guide. The best way to get started is to go to the www.breakoutedu.com/digitally landing page that provides a welcome message, access to featured games, FAQ’s, digital sandbox and more. From there, simply click on a featured game and begin to poke around. For example, I selected the “Trapped In Our Classroom” game to explore how this digital game works. The first thing that I notice right away is that a storyline appears at the top of the web page. This story seems to serve as the anchor for the BreakoutEDU experience. It’s interesting that there is a clickable link in the storyline called “abandoned classroom” that leads to some picture clues. Seeing that one clickable link, leads me to believe that there are other clickable links elsewhere on the web page, so I start hovering on images all over the page. I quickly discover that there are a series of book titles that all have individual links as well as images at the very bottom of the screen that also link to somewhere on the Internet. Probably one of the more noticeable items on a Digital BreakoutEDU web page is the digital locks section that must be “broken into” to successfully complete the game. I’m starting to put 2+2 together and realize that I have some investigative work to do on all of those clickable links. I’m thinking that they will produce the lock information indirectly and after a lot of collaboration and thinking power with a group of learners. Furthermore, I notice at the bottom of the game web page that I can email the game creator if students or I get stuck. That’s definitely comforting! Additionally below that email, I realize that I can get a “Hint” if I’m stuck. I’m feeling that this type of learning is a lot different than having scripted instructional materials with an answer key, and that’s a good thing.

As you can see from the brief “talking” tour above, a Digital BreakoutEDU game, that “breakouts” can be used to enhance or extend learning in a classroom or training setting for learners of all ages. In my mind, what makes BreakoutEDU a value-added learning tool is that it complements, is aligned with and really amplifies the ISTE Standards for Teachers & Students as highlighted below:

  • facilitates and inspires student learning, in particular the experience of breaking out amps up the innovative thinking and inventiveness that students must use to find some level of success through a variety of small failures to unlock the locks
  • fosters communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking because the random web links and hints in the game require constant thinking, discussing, testing, and retesting in a collaborative manner to succeed
  • models digital age work and empowers learners to take an active role in learning because the answers are not easily achieved, learners must navigate the digital resources and artifacts, curate their meaning and apply to the storyline to find success
  • allows learners to become innovative designers themselves through constructing their own BreakoutEDU digital game

If I had the chance to refine the digital version of BreakoutEDU, I would first survey teachers and students that have used the website before. From a teacher perspective, I would look to find out what additional supports might be needed for successful implementation in a classroom setting, what hurdles teachers feel are preventing them from facilitating a digital BreakoutEDU experience, and any ideas to improve the current landing page. From a student perspective, I would look to gather open-ended feedback about the gaming experience and then share that data back with the teachers so that they can see the value of running this type of learning experience. Additionally, I would add a “cheats” web link that was password protected to hide important facilitator information that cannot be conveyed on the actual game pages. Doing the aforementioned refinements might bring about a higher comfort level to the facilitator. On a positive note, the user base for this type of learning has grown so dramatically that BreakoutEDU has created User Groups by teaching discipline on Facebook which allows for social and focused discussions on facilitation tips and much more. As BreakoutEDU suggests, “It’s time for something different“! Give it a try and you’ll not only like it, but find it’s more than just a game…it’s a new way of thinking!

OSMO is in the House!

osmo_3The district in which I work, lately has been the lucky recipient of a variety of new technology tools to integrate into the classroom setting. One of the tools taking a few elementary and special education classrooms by storm is OSMO. OSMO is a gaming accessory that is compatible with the full line of Apple iPads that have cameras in conjunction with specific free apps that get downloaded to support the hands-on play. OSMO promotes gaming for students aged 4-12 in the areas of creative problem-solving, art, STEM, and the Common Core curriculum standards. Additionally, OSMO supports a variety of languages too.

There is a little upfront set-up needed before OSMO can be actively used in a classroom setting. An adult must go to www.playosmo.com/start on the iPad designated as the classroom OSMO gaming system to begin the set-up process. Critical to the set-up process is writing down the activation code to link the account with the downloaded games. From there, the gaming base needs to get attached to the iPad as well as the red reflector that sits on top of the iPad camera. The last step in the process, is to select a Classroom (or teacher) avatar and create student profiles if there is a desire to track student progress down the road.

The OSMO gaming system offers a variety of games including Tangram, Words, Newton, Masterpiece, Numbers, Coding, Monster, and Pizza Co. Access to these games depends on what kits or games were purchased. Each OSMO game has a set of specific educational skills on which students can work in small collaborative groups (pairs preferred) or independently if tracking student usage and levels achieved is desired. With the Pizza Co. game, OSMO teaches students about real-world math, money, fractions and non-verbal communication skills. Whereas, the OSMO Numbers game focuses on teaching counting, addition and multiplication as outlined by the Common Core standards. Given my district’s push to include coding in the K-3 classrooms, I can see the OSMO Coding game challenging students to work in collaborative pairs to construct code and conquer a tree-shaking, strawberry-munching adventure.

In eLearning educational gaming terms, OSMO would be considered more of a game-based learning tool because it is tied directly to curriculum and teaches specific skills, as well as providing students with the opportunity to practice and acquire new skills in a fun and engaging way. Furthermore, using the SAMR model to evaluate OSMO’s impact in the teaching and learning process, this gaming system would hover on the lower half of the SAMR model between the Substitution and Augmentation levels depending on how the lesson or groups of lessons are constructed around this technology tool. The OSMO gaming system would make a great addition to any K-5 classroom and can be implemented as an independent workstation because it is very intuitive to the end-users, and won’t require too much troubleshooting. In fact, OSMO might become your virtual teaching assistant! To see OSMO in action, take a look at a couple of videos teachers in my district have created.

New Year, New Focus!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of “DNA” in a K-12 educational systems type of way. Wonderings like, “What should be the DNA of a school district in 2030?” or “How can the genes (staff, students, parents, community) better use their talents to impact the future generation from a learning, global citizenship and career perspective?” or “What traits (skills & thinking) do our students need to possess to become successful and make a difference in the world in their lifetime?” and more importantly, “How will our teachers transition their mindsets, pedagogy and classroom experiences to support Generation Z and Generation Alpha students today, tomorrow and beyond?”

Just as the DNA of our student population is changing…Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z and now Generation Alpha, so should our instructional approaches and the tools used to facilitate learning. Growing our practice sometimes requires us to revisit the past with a newfound lens. One big instructional approach that I personally feel did not get a fair shake the first time around was the concept of “gaming” in the classroom. The field of educational technology is in a much better position now to facilitate deeper usage of gaming types of tools to promote active learning in the classroom, encourage student collaboration, afford personalized learning, offer students immediate feedback, and encourage student voice and choice.

To get the conversations rolling again on purposeful eLearning gaming in the classroom, it’s important to look at the DNA of the two very distinct types of gaming currently available to support the teaching and learning process. In eLearning gaming, you’ll hear the terms gamification and game-based learning used interchangeably. Do they have similarities? You bet. Both approaches share “traits” such as game thinking, design and mechanics. Both types of gaming also engage players and solve problems. Digging a little deeper though into the DNA of gamification and game-based learning, they are similar yet quite different as the graphic illustrates below:

gamification-gamebased

Over the next month or so, I plan on posting a variety of blogs on gaming tools. Some will be from a gamification lens and others from a game-based learning perspective. To showcase a larger variety of gaming tools, thanks to my doctoral class at Central Michigan University, EDU807 Learning Tools, I’ll be collaborating with a peer of mine, Natalie Makulski, a 3rd Grade teacher from Botsford Elementary in Clarenceville Schools. We’ll each write multiple separate blogs about eLearning gaming and link our blogs to each other’s for a deeper storyline about why gaming should be revisited and utilized more often in the K-12 learning environment. Looking forward to sharing our thinking! Also, don’t be surprised if a few Saline Area Schools teachers pop in as guest bloggers too!