Monday, 27 March 2017

Wrapping It Up

I cannot believe that these 10 weeks in the course have come to an end. Reflecting on my experiences with Genius Hour, I believe I have learned a lot, both about myself as an individual and as a teacher candidate. I thought Genius Hour was phenomenal because it allowed me to take something that I am interested in and research about it myself. I was able to guide my own learning and this worked very well for me. Before beginning this course, I felt nervous about teaching and learning with technology. However, now I feel excited about the potential that technology can bring in the classroom, both for instructional strategies and classroom management strategies. Teaching with technology creates an engaging classroom environment, where students' different learning styles can be embraced. I have become increasingly comfortable with using technology in the classroom, thus I believe I have developed substantially over the duration of this course. Genius Hour is a great way to foster creativity in the classroom and allow students to invest in learning about something that they are passionate about. Due to my positive experiences with Genius Hour, I plan to implement it in my future classroom. When you are passionate about something, continuous growth and learning occurs! I now believe I have substantial tools in my toolbox to create a positive, tech-enhanced learning environment.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Using Gamification for Motivation

As a wrap-up my research for my Genius Hour, one of the overarching themes that transpired throughout my readings about video games in the classroom is the power of gamification. Gamification can really motivate and encourage students to achieve success. However, this success is most powerful when intrinsic motivation already exists. When the activity has a core intrinsic value that students desire, then weaving gamification into it can deepen their engagement and desire to participate. Using gamified elements such as badges and rewards is a great way to foster collaboration amongst students. Extrinsic motivators can also increase self-efficacy and motivate desired behaviours from students. Adding gamified elements within the classroom is also a great way to create an inclusive classroom environment, as it can be modified so that students with exceptionalities can participate!

Using What I've Learned!

The other day I had to complete a Unit Plan for Grade 7 Geography, Strand B- Natural Resources Around the World: Use and Sustainability. While creating the unit plan, one of the requirements was to create a fun and engaging lesson. I thought about it for some time, and then it clicked. I could use all of the information that I have learned from my Genius Hour (implementing video games into the classroom) to create an engaging lesson! So, that is exactly what I did. I reviewed my research and found a great game that aligned nicely with the curriculum expectations of the unit. It is called Don't Starve, and it is action-adventure video game with survival elements. The goal of the game is to help the character, Wilson, survive as long as possible. In order to survive, students must use natural resources from the environment to meet Wilson's needs and sustain his life. This game aligns nicely with the third Big Idea of the unit, as well as the specific expectation B3.2. This assignment really solidified my belief that video games can easily be aligned with curriculum expectations to create engaging and motivating lessons. Video games also have different settings (sand box mode, easy, medium hard, etc.), so differentiation can be seamlessly embedded!

Monday, 27 February 2017

The New Google Sites

The New Google Sites is a great way to create a web page that serves as a personal learning portfolio. This tool can be used effectively with Genius Hour, as students would be able to document their progress for their Genius Hour topic on their Google Site. Their Google Site can outline their student-created project, such as their Genius Hour, and is a great resource for students to share their expertise! Google Sites can also enhance students' Genius Hour project by serving as a catalyst for action, displaying a gallery of their work, and supporting and showcasing any collaborative projects. I wish I knew about this tool when I was creating and documenting my Genius Hour project!

Trading in Homework for Play Time

While reading an article from Doug Peterson's Best of Ontario Educators paper, I came across an interesting topic that has had some debate over the years - should homework be given in Elementary Schools? Principal Mark Trifilio of a school in Vermont proposed an experiment to eliminate homework and to instead replace it with reading - either alone at school or with a parent or guardian at home. To his surprise, teachers and Educational Assistants unanimously and passionately agreed with his decision. A "No Homework Policy" was created and instead students had the responsibility to read just-right books every night (and have parents read to them too), to go outside and play, to eat dinner with their family, and to have a good nights rest. What I love most about this idea is that is focuses on bettering students' health, both physical and mental. Homework can be a very stressful task for students, especially students in older grades. This "No Homework" policy is a great way for students to focus on their family (by prioritizing eating dinner with them), their physical health (by playing outside), and their mental health (by ensuring a good nights rest and allowing time for play). It also values reading, alone and with a parent/guardian, which not only can increase students' reading fluency, but it is also a great way for students to relax.

So what happened when this policy was put into practice? 
Six months into the experiment, Trifilio announced its success. Students were not falling back academically and instead were doing much better. Families and students also enjoyed the policy, saying that students now have more time to explore their passions and are reading much more on their own than before, instead of spending countless time on worksheets. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

What Happens When We Bring Video Games into the Classroom?

What happens when we bring video games into the classroom? Play is a powerful method of learning where new skills can be taught. This week I decided to explore academic journals that investigated using video games and play within the classroom to further my inquiry for my Genius Hour. What I found was, using video games in the classroom can result in increased motivation among students. Squire (2005) notes that video games create intrinsic motivation through fantasy, control, challenge, curiosity, and competition. Incorporating video games in the classroom can also increase students' desires to develop new skills and participate in new roles. Not only do video games increase motivation, but they also invite communication and collaboration within the classroom, friendly competition, and the opportunity for students to teach one another and learn from each other. Video games also invite students to express their creativity and learn in a way that best fits their learning style. Open-ended games with multiple solutions and play options (sometimes called sandbox games) are especially conductive to self-expression. These types of games, like Sim City and Roller Coaster Tycoon, are great because multiple trajectories and experiences can lead to new ways of learning. Each students can experience the game differently and therefore tailor the game to coincide with their learning style. Being able to customize these types of games can also highlight students' personalities and interests.

These are just a few things that can occur through incorporating video games in the classroom. It is important to note that video games should be viewed as a tool to help teach curricular content and to supplement textbook material. Using both traditional and new, innovative ways of teaching can be beneficial to support a wide range of learners in the classroom!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Using Video Games to Encourage a Growth Mindset

One thing that I am very passionate about is helping students embrace a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset. One of the reasons why I decided to focus my Genius Hour on using video games in the classroom is because I believe video games are a great way for students to acquire a growth mindset. Video games are a great way to use failures as a teaching mechanism. For example, if a student's actions lead to disastrous in-game consequences, teachers can help students use this feedback strategically, rather than having students believe the consequence as penalizing them. Teaching students to use their failures in video games as a motivation to keep trying to succeed can really help encourage a growth mindset. When first introducing a virtual game, educators should tell students that they should expect to experience failure and have times when they must go back and start over. This will go a long way in coaching students to think about negative outcomes as an opportunity to improve, rather than a message about failure. Using video games in this context can significantly help instil a growth mindset among students and can contribute to creating a positive, safe, and inclusive classroom environment where mistakes are viewed as stepping stones to success.

If you're interested in learning more about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, check out this short clip!