The Start of the Journey: Video Game Design Project

 

Writing and Game Design Compared

We’re just starting up our video game design project, with a theme of the Hero’s Journey as the storyframe for video games being designed and then published by my sixth graders. The other day, I gave them a few games from last year’s class (as well as my own mentor game) to play and to write about, from a player perspective.

Storyboarding Video Game DesignThink you can play?

Play The Odyssey of Tara

Right now, students are working on the brainstorming of the storyframe, and how they envision the levels of the game to look like via storyboarding.

Storyboarding Video Game Design

Peace (game on),
Kevin

Students Engaging in Reading with #BookSnaps

BookSnaps from Students

I wrote the other day about my plan to try out BookSnaps with my sixth graders. BookSnaps are images of reading books, with “stickers” and short text annotations. While the original idea is to use Snapchat, we used Google Draw, and it worked out just fine.

BookSnaps from Students

My aim was to talk about annotations, with text and images. I also wanted to show them Google Draw, another app within their Google accounts that can be tapped for various projects.

BookSnaps from Students

I walked them the process. We ended up using PhotoBooth to take the pictures (while I was going to use an extension created by Alice Keeler, I realized that our students don’t actually log into the Chrome Browser but instead, log into Google itself.) It turns out our librarian had already shown them how to use PhotoBooth, so that was … a snap.

BookSnaps from Students

Next, I talked about what could be in the texts, which were call-out shapes within Google. I explained that annotations make thinking visible, so they could

  • Ask questions of the text
  • Make predications
  • Find connections with other books
  • Pull out phrases or words that seem interesting

BookSnaps from Students

One friend suggested creating a Google Draw template with call-outs and stickers in the margins of the drawing field, which is a good idea, but I went with a blank Draw slate, and let them build from there. It took longer but I think it gave each BookSnap its own flavor.

BookSnaps from Students

And the ‘stickers’ were merely Google Images, related to the text on the page. I did some mini-lessons around cropping (which some used and some apparently didn’t), and the fading tool, so that they could better manipulate the image within the design of the page.

BookSnaps from Students

Overall, the BookSnap project was a success, and kids were very engaged in the activity. I have now shared all of the folders of BookSnaps with all students across four classrooms, so they can peek in and see what their friends and fellow readers are reading, and maybe get inspired to pick up a new book.

BookSnaps from Students

Peace (and stickers),
Kevin

Mapping the Journey of a Character in the World

Regarding the Fountain Student Map4I was thinking of ways to use Google’s My Maps feature with my sixth grade students, as a way to get them to play with mapmaking in connection to literature, and decided to use the travels of a character from the book Regarding the Fountain. Florence Waters travels the world, sending postcards, telegrams and other notes to a classroom in the book, which is very non-traditional in format.

Regarding the Fountain Student Map3

My students had to “pin” her locations around the world (there are more than a dozen places she travels), adding a quote from the book (with page number) and some sort of image to represent either gifts that Florence is mailing to the classroom in the novel, or a representation of the geographic place. (I saw a few students realize they could use animated gifs, which I should have shared out with everyone, giving the pins a little more life.)

Regarding the Fountain Student Map2

Then, I had them calculate distance traveled throughout her entire journeys, using the line draw tool (which gives distance between points). I also showed them how to customize the pins, which many did to represent Florence in the world.

Regarding the Fountain Student Map1

All in all, this was a very successful mapping project, and incorporated geography and math with literacy in a hands-in immersive way, and they were fully engaged in this work (which took longer than I expected to complete but well worth it.)

One change for the future: I should have had students estimate the total distance first, and then compare their calculations to the estimate. Why didn’t I think of that?

Peace (map it),
Kevin

PS – if you use Google Apps for Ed, like we do at our school, you may need to have the technology folks turn on Google maps in the student accounts. My Maps is not part of the walls of the traditional Google suite. We sent a notice home to families about the use of maps.

Pinning Class Books on the Map

Mapping Books

My sixth graders have just finished a novel in which a character is sending postcards and letters and more from her travels around the world. I want to show my students how to use Google Maps for constructing maps of information. As a sampler, I began making a map of locations related to some of the class novels we will be reading this year.

This also nicely connects to the Mapvember theme of a CLMOOC Pop-Up Make Cycle. Come join in. Make maps!

I think my students will enjoy the making of maps within their Google Accounts, once they get comfortable with how to do so and with the different visual aspects of icons, images, etc. What I would like to also do is teach them how to use the different elements of mapping (such as distance calculation, connector lines/points, and more). And also, I’d like them to learn how to move the code from Maps into Google Earth.

Take a look at my book map so far …

Or check out the embedded version:

Different layers, different complexities.

I’ll share some student maps in the coming days …

Peace (mapped and known),
Kevin

Mapping the Internet: The Digital World Made Visual

Internet Mapping Students

As part of our Digital Lives unit, I tapped into a project by Kevin Kelly to have my sixth graders visualize and map out their relationship and understanding of the Internet and technology. Kelly’s Internet Mapping Project, started years ago, offers an interesting glimpse into how we see the wired world around us, and where we situate ourselves. Part of the visual prompt is find your home.

This also dovetails with the theme of mapping in the #CLMOOC Mapvember Pop-Up Make Cycle theme now underway. Come make maps with us!

My students were no different. What was just as interesting was getting them to write a reflection on their Map of the Internet, digging into the ways that technology both expands and contracts their experiences as adolescents.

Kelly still invites folks to make their Maps, although I am not sure if he is adding new ones to the collection. You don’t need Kelly to do this. Use that Internet you’ll be conceptualizing and mapping to share out with us. You can download the PDF and also view the gallery of Maps.

Peace (mapped and charted),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Rattling The Bones

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

The title for this post is sort of click-bait. This is not about Halloween and funny bones. It’s about the final lesson in my Digital Lives unit with my sixth graders, where I talk about bullying in online spaces. While I often try to balance out my Digital Lives unit with lots of positive messages — for all the many ways that technology allows them to compose and connect and learn — this lesson is a bit of hard reality for them.

It’s the only time I will intentionally mention how two students in our area of Western Massachusetts were harassed so much in online spaces that they took their own lives, and how those tragic events triggered the ways we talk about bullying in our state and our schools.

The room gets completely silent and thoughtful, as I see that reality registering in their minds. I see looks around the room when I talk about how police now keep files on students who have engaged in any bully behavior in the school system. I see the seriousness in their eyes, and it feels as if they are too young for all this.

But, of course, they are not too young. They are at the right age for this discussion. Social media is already in their lives, as I know from the survey I did with them and from our discussions.

These sixth graders are heading off to the regional middle/high school next year, where all sorts of new social dynamics kick in, and many of them are already in multiple online social spaces with their smart phones.

I always end with the message of hope and love. Of places where they can turn if they find themselves the victim of online bullying. Of the importance of friends and family. Of us, as teachers, caring deeply for them and being here for them. That they should look out for each other, too, and stand up when needed. To be strong. That despair and loneliness in the face of social media can be countered and dealt with.

Of all the things I said yesterday to my sixth graders, I hope that message is the message they remember the most.

Peace (in the world),
Kevin

Fake News/Media Literacy: The Slideshow Digital Comic Lesson Plan

Yesterday, I shared out the presentation that I did for my sixth graders around Fake News and Media Literacy skills, providing information and talking points for 11 year olds navigating a strange social media-infused world of truth and fiction.

Today, I want so share out my lesson plan for them, in which they use Google Slides to create a Digital Comic that focuses in on strategies they learned for filtering news. This lesson had two focus points: showing them how to use ‘call outs’ for dialogue bubbles in Slides and how to use the ‘scribble tool’ to free draw, as well as sharing information about Fake News in an engaging format.

As always, I created my own version of the project, making a Slideshow Digital Comic on the Fake News theme. In the next day or two, I will share out some of the student work on comics and fake news.

By the way, making comics in Google Slides is an idea that came from Mike Petty, who has tons of resources on how to do this.

Peace (spilling beyond the frame),
Kevin

Fake News/Media Literacy Overview

I did a series of lessons this past week with my sixth graders on the idea of Fake News and Media Literacy, and how to become a more active and critical media consumer. This is all part of our Digital Lives unit.

While many of my young students had heard the term “Fake News,” much of the connection was the uttering of the president’s critique of news organizations (you know, the ones that hold him accountable). Trump’s use of the term unsurprisingly co-opts the word and muddies the need for readers of all ages needing more filters for truth.

I put a call out on Twitter, asking for lesson plans and ideas around teaching Fake News for upper elementary/middle school students, and many people shared links and resources. I am very grateful for all of those friends who went out of their way to dig up and share out ideas. Thank you, all.

My aim is to:

  • Define and discuss the concept of Fake News
  • Provide some context
  • Think through some strategies of critical reading

While much of the shared resources was aimed at older kids, I was able to supplement and strengthen a presentation I had created last year for our Digital Lives unit. For example, the slides around vocabulary comes directly from A. Hinton Sainz, who is working on a series of units herself.

In the coming days, I’ll share out the activity that my students were working on to show some understanding of ways to filter through the raft of Fake News in the digital world.

Peace (it’s real),
Kevin