An Inside Tour of Student-created/Science-based Video Games

My current group of sixth graders is at the starting point of our video game design unit, and next week, they will be fully immersed in the making of games. But this week, as they brainstormed the science concept and story ideas that will form the narrative and informational frame of their video games, I shared with them this collection of looks inside projects from last year. The video captures a lot of the elements of the project.

Peace (in the game),
Kevin
PS — if you want more information about our game design project, visit our website resource: http://gaming4schools.yolasite.com/

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the #Nerdlution

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Here I am, in day six of the Nerdlution effort of mine to leave 50 comments on 50 blogs over 50 days. I’m doing fine, and am making an effort to avoid bloggers I know (sorry, friends) in order to read and write on blogs that are new to me. I’m finding a wealth of words just off the #nerdlution twitter feed. It’s a been a great way to connect.

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And a funny a thing has happened on the way to the Nerdlution.

Although my goal was just a single comment a day on a blog, once I have left that first one, I find myself seeking a few more bloggers each day, and adding more comments during my morning writing. On average, I am doing about four comments per day. Plus a few responses on Twitter. It’s interesting how a single goal can morph into something larger, and small accomplishments move into a larger shift in how we view our days and how we view our lives. Suddenly, commenting is what I am doing, a natural part of my writing experience.

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I chose the 50 comment idea because I found myself slipping back into the mode of “I wish more people would comment on my writing” until I realized “I’m not commenting on anyone else’s writing, so why would they comment on mine?” This harkens back to a 30 day challenge from a few years ago, overseen by Sue Waters at Edublogs (if I remember correctly) to go out of your comfort zone, and out of your usual echo chamber circles, to add ideas and questions and reflections on the posts of others. (Although some of the same concerns remain for me — how do I best track where I have left comments so that I can return to read and respond to what others have written? I have not yet figured out a good system. I am using Diigo to bookmark my trail and Storify to collect the stories of my Nerdlution effort. Neither is seamless and a natural fit to the commenting idea, though)

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If we truly believe that we are in the age of the Read/Write Web, or whatever term we want to give it, then we have a certain responsibility to engage in the writing part. Blogging is not a one-way street, at least in the way I see it. The reason to use a blog is to write and share, and instill the ethos of conversations and discussions. We should be engaging our communities in thinking an struggling with ideas.

Maybe that’s too much to ask of a comment on a blog, but it’s a start. It’s a start.

Peace (in the challenge),
Kevin

PS — yes. I created memes. Trying to keep the mood light in the #nerdlution twitter feed.

Tinkering with Tynker for Hour of Code

Tynker for Schools from Tynker on Vimeo.

I am going to use Tynker with my sixth grade students as part of the Hour of Code next week, just to see how they do and if any of my sixth graders get the coding bug (good bug — interest). I’ve been playing around with the site a bit, and I like it builds off the Logos Programming tool and Tynker might be a way into Scratch later on. The lesson plans built into Tynker seem have an easy entry point, too.
Here is a screenshot from a level I was playing, pretending to be a student.
tynker
You can see the Lego-style programming and the hints/tutorials were in kid-friendly language. Plus, they have baked a story into the programming activity. I haven’t gotten too far but I like what I see so far. And there is a whole section where kids can make their own stories, too, with a lot of different options for characters, scenes, sound and more. It’s nicely done. We won’t get to the “create your own animation” elements next week but I suspect I might have some intrepid students who will be intrigued by the possibilities. I am thinking I might have to put some voluntary challenge out there (connected to our game design unit underway right now).

Peace (in the tinkering),
Kevin

 

Mapping Out Peaceful Imaginary Lands

Some projects just seem to connect with students, and our Imaginary Peaceful Land Brochure project is one of those. With lessons around informational text and creative writing, with a focus on our school’s role as a Peacebuilding Community, students create an imaginary place and then design a brochure. I particularly love the maps they draw, which brings out a different angle of creativity in students.

Check out some maps:

Peace (in the lands of peace),
Kevin

A Few Lost Memes for the MakerText

This post has been sitting in my bin for a few weeks now (lost and lonely), but during the Makertext Collaborative Project, I could not help myself in creating some memes about the act of joining multitudes of writers working on the same text (a novel) over 48 hours of a weekend. It was crazy, fun chaos. The memes captured the energy and enthusiasm, and nuttiness of the project.

#readmake memes

#readmake memes

#readmake memes

#readmake memes

Peace (in the funny),
Kevin

 

At MiddleWeb: Using Game Design to Reach Reluctant Writers, and Reviewing Close Reading

Some of you know that I also blog over at MiddleWeb and my most recent post was an offshoot of a vignette I shared at NCTE during NCTE President Sandy Hayes’s speech. The post has to do with reaching a reluctant boy writer with our game design unit, and how he was so inspired, he began writing a novel.

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View the post: Reluctant Writers and Game Design

The second is a book review of Falling in Love with Close Reading, which I highly recommend.

falling in love with close reading hodgson

Read my review

Peace (in the web),
Kevin

 

Circuits, Pictures and Words: Illuminating a Writer’s Notebook

The one session that I wanted to attend but could not attend at National Writing Project Annual Meeting was about “hacking the notebook/illuminating the thinking” in which some very inventive folks are revamping what we can do with a notebook by using circuitry stickers to add electronics to notebooks. (I was presenting at te same time). Friends were raving about it for days.
How cool is that idea?

I just added my support for the idea by ordering a kit, still under development, at a crowd-sourcing site. And I am hopeful that I might be able to join a webinar this Thursday afternoon about the notebook circuitry kit. Here is the blurb I received from NWP:

When: December 5, 2013, 4:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m. PST
Where: Via Google Hangout on Air from this page.

Graphic.Vertical.HackingNotebooks

In a reprise of a National Writing Project Annual Meeting session, Jie Qi of the Responsive Environments group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and David Cole and Jennifer Dick of Nexmap.org and its I/O (Inside/Out) program walk you through the building of low-cost circuits that allow writers to hack the traditional notebook and tell stories with interactivity. Tune into this webinar to learn how you can work with circuits, writing, and your creative impulse to turn the writer’s notebook into a repository of STEM-powered storytelling.

Interested in learning more about this work and its approach and materials in advance of the webinar? See the I/O notebooking page and Jie Qi’s recently announced crowd-funding project, Circuit Stickers. Check out the video and take a look the circuit stickers she and her research partner, Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, are producing.

Tell me you aren’t intrigued, too?

Peace (in the systems),
Kevin

My #Nerdlution: 50 Comments/ 50 Blogs/ 50 Days

(Thanks to Katherine Mraz for making this cool icon for the #Nerdlution)

There’s a whole thread of conversations that led me to stumble upon this idea of using a twitter hashtag of #Nerdlution for making a personal challenge over the next 50 days. I saw it first with Franki Sibberson, and then with Colby Sharp, and then on to Chris Lehman and finally, here with Katherine Sokolowski. The idea is sort of a version of the New Year’s Resolution, but maybe a little more doable. In the next 50 days (December 2 through January 20), set yourself a goal and try to keep at it.

My goal is to make a daily comment on a different blog, so that by January 20 (if I succeed), I will have left a trail of 50 comments throughout the blogosphere. This goal comes from the realization that I have gotten a bit lazy with commenting on what I am reading, and not taking full advantage of the read/write/comment nature of the blogs that I read. I am still thinking of how best to track my comments and my path. I am beginning to use Storify to curate my activity.

Yesterday, I also wrote a poem about the nerdlution, as a way to show how it is about connections and community as much as motivating for change and new habits. (see a version on notegraphy)

nerdlution poem

 

You come, too. Just use the hashtag #nerdlution as you set a goal and strive for it. Make sure you post updates on Twitter with the hashtag, so you can get plenty of encouragement from others. Meanwhile, I am getting my keyboard ready for some commenting. Maybe I will stop by your blog. I hope so.

Peace (in the comment),
Kevin

 

Inspired at NCTE: A Documentary MultiMedia Poem

I attended an interesting session with co-facilitated with friends Ian and Greg (whom I met when they were facilitating the Massachusetts New Literacies Initiative). The session dealt with documentary poems (see Ian’s post about the session), and how to guide students to research a historical figure or time period, write a poem, and then use podcasting for publication. While in the session, I began a poem about Sojourner Truth, who lived for a time in my small city and whose statue is located just off the main road in one of the village areas not far from where she resided.

The other day, I returned to the poem, finished it up and then recorded it.

But I decided to take Ian and Greg’s idea even further, using Popcorn Maker to create a multimedia poem, with images, video and music. I like how it all came together here, even if the tool is still a little wonky at times, as I explore my own thoughts of seeing the Sojourner Truth statue, about the work she did around abolition and awareness of women’s issues, and about the world right now, still in need of the Truth.

Experience: Sojourner Tells the Truth

 

See what you think. I’d love some feedback. Is this doable for your classroom on some scale?

Peace (in the words),
Kevin

 

Book Review: Dairy of a Wimpy Kid Hard Luck

Jeff Kinney continues to generate a lot of excitement with his Wimpy Kid series of books (it helps that Scholastic is “all in” with its promotion, too). The excitement is visible at school, where I have a line of students waiting to read one of our classroom copies of the new Hard Luck. And it is evident at home, where my two youngest sons wrestle over the books. It’s not unusual to see a line of Wimpy Kids books all over our couch as my youngest reads them yet again.

I finally got a chance to read Hard Luck. It has a typical Wimpy Kid storyline — Greg is feeling socially left out and must navigate the weirdos of his world — and some very funny scenes for anyone who spends any amount of time in a school building during the day (inside jokes about the change of french fries to sweet potato fries, etc.). The writing isn’t all that deep but I suspect readers of Wimpy Kid don’t really care. They’re there for the jokes and the visual puns and the “voice” of the Greg Heffley, which Kinney has honed over the years.

I read Hard Luck in a single sitting and found it to be a nice diversionary entertainment. For many of my reluctant readers, though, Kinney is often a lifeline to books, and even if I wish the stories went deeper and even as I bemoan the influx of inferior copycat books (illustrated as comics — you know what I am talking about), I am appreciative of the fact that these kids are reading, and reading out of interest.

Peace (in the kid),
Kevin