Game On: Gaming Enrichment Cluster

game on! 003For 14 weeks, 15 boys have explored how gaming can be used in education.  They have used xbox with Kinect, Nintendo DS, Gamestar Mechanic, and Minecraft.  They also skyped with Matthew Winner, librarian in Ellicott City Maryland, who uses Nintendo Wii with his students.  Tonight at our enrichment cluster fair, they will share their great learning.

As the boys have played games, they have thought carefully about how each game might be used in classrooms around our school. Their main goal was to develop a Google Doc that lists all of the games that they played and how they might be used.  I was responsible for typing into the doc as they talked after playing each game.game on! 002

A small group of boys played Gamestar Mechanic, which teaches game design.  Their exploration has peaked the interest of a few teachers in using this tool for critical thinking, problem solving, and game design in order to support other game design projects in those classrooms.

Two students worked together in Minecraft to create a math-based game.  They plan to set this up for classrooms to try and hopefully will think about how they might tweak the game to be more  user-friendly.

Each boy sat down with me to tell me what they loved about gaming in education.

I saw tremendous focus from these boys.  They were fully engaged with few behavior issues coming up.  They found many uses for games in math, but they also saw how the games could spark creative writing, physical activity, problem solving, and teamwork.  They are now releasing their learning into our school by sharing their Google doc and video.  I hope that their exploration will pay off in many classes and small groups signing up to use the xbox and other games in creative ways in the classroom.

Gaming in Education w/Xbox: NatGeo TV

This year, we are exploring ways that gaming can be used in education.  I’ve previously mentioned that a group of 14 boys are exploring the xbox, Nintendo DS, and Minecraft during an enrichment cluster.  This week, a 5th grader used our xbox 360 with Kinect to research wolverines for his animal research project.

One of the games that we purchased for our xbox is Kinect NatGeo TV.  This 2-disc set includes multiple NatGeo 30-minute episodes on a variety of animals and places.  As you watch the episode there are sidetracks where you can take pictures of the animals, discover hidden facts, take short quizzes, and play games that help demonstrate an animal behavior.

Henry is a 5th grader who did not find a book in our library about his topic, wolverines.  He has been relying on digital resources, databases, and encyclopedias to get his information.  I was so excited when I looked at the table of contents on the NatGeo TV game and saw wolverines as a topic.  Mrs. Mullins, a spectrum teacher, worked out arrangements for Henry to come to the library during language arts to do his research on the xbox.  I setup the machine, dimmed the lights, and helped Henry get setup with his notecards and floor space to interact.  As he watched the episode, he added several notes to his notecards.  When a sidetrack popped up, he put everything down to interact.  I was impressed by how the facts in the episode were reinforced through the games.  When Henry learned that wolverines dig through snow to locate dead carcasses, he was able to practice digging by becoming a virtual wolverine and digging through snow to find meat.  When he left, this was a fact that stood out to him.  It made me wonder about how we can bring facts to life for students when they discover them in books, websites, videos, or other resources.  The active game element seemed to reinforce the facts and help Henry retain them.  I know that the amount of NatGeo content on these discs is limited and will only support specific students and projects, but the concept makes me think beyond the xbox and how it might inform future lessons.

Game On: Gaming in the Media Center

Enrichment clusters have kicked off again and this year our clusters will meet 14 times across the entire school year.  During enrichment clusters, teachers offer topics on a variety of topics.  Students self-select their top choices, and then they are assigned to one of their choices.  The clusters are student-driven, so although the teacher offers the topics, the students are really the ones that make the decisions about what takes place.  During clusters, students are expected to make a product, service, or performance related to their topic and they also showcase their learning at a cluster fair at the conclusion of clusters.

This year, I am offering gaming in education as a cluster.  We now have an Xbox with Kinect in the media center thanks to profits from last year’s book fairs.  This gaming system will be available to all students in the school, but my cluster will specifically look at how this system and others can be used in education.  Our cluster is made up of 14 boys in grades 2-5.  We had an overwhelming response from boys, so it was decided to keep the cluster all male.  I definitely don’t want the girls to be left out, so we’ll be looking at ways to create opportunities for girls as well.

Today, the boys introduced themselves and shared their own experiences with gaming.  We named a few ground rules we should consider as we play video games in the library.  Many of these ground rules had to do with safety such as no body contact with others and keeping the gaming area clear.  We also talked about what it means to take turns and how we handle the adrenaline rushes we sometimes get when we play games.

Students each had a chance to play Xbox sports.  We chose a mini game of soccer to give every student a quick chance to play.  Then, we met back together to discuss how we handled our ground rules and what we need to remember for next time.

I have a couple of students who are already excited about the possibility of other kinds of gaming, specifically Minecraft. There are several schools who use Minecraft in education, and I think the boys that are interested in this are going to do some great things over the next 13 sessions.

At the next cluster session, we will Skype with the busy librarian, Matthew Winner, who already is well-established with gaming in his library.  He will share his expertise and students will have a chance to ask him questions.

I’ll post more as things develop.

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