Thursday, September 27, 2012

Engaging Students in Writing via iOS Devices and Gaming Part #3

Since my last post, the students have collected information for their writing by playing the 'Bike Baron' game, written rough drafts of their entry, and have completed a good copy of their journal entry. Here are some samples of their work:

The students have worked hard on their writing. The use of the iOS devices (iPads/iPod Touches) in combination with the game provided them with enough excitement and interest to carry them through on many fronts.

The following journal entries were written by two students who have individual education plans (IEP's). Both of these students have difficulty with language literacy and told me that they "hate" to write. At first they were reluctant to write but after a while they felt comfortable enough to take risks and provide me with the 'effort' that I was looking for. I worked with them by meeting them where they were at and accepted and celebrated any of the writing they worked on.

The 'Bike Baron' video game in combination with the iPad/iPod Touch devices has proven to be fun and engaging. As I stated in the part#1 post, the students seemed to be excited in the beginning stages of this writing activity and they hadn't even touched a device yet. They were hooked by the main character (Bike Baron) as they brainstormed about who he was and what he was doing. As they moved through the writing process they had opportunities to play the game and collect information that would eventually lead to their 'journal entry' writing task. We kept our writing time as light as possible with lots of descriptive feedback in order to minimize feelings of failure/disappointment and maximize success and growth. From my perspective this 'project' was fun for me to teach and observe and based on the journal entries I received, was beneficial to the writing development of my students.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Engaging Students in Writing via iOS Devices and Gaming Part #2

Since my last post, the students and I have continued our work with the 'Bike Baron Journal Entry Activity' by creating our learning goal & success criteria, "How to Write a Journal Entry" anchor chart, and a model/exemplar of a journal entry.

Here is our learning goal and success criteria:

We then moved on to talk about what a good journal entry would include. After a great discussion, we created the following anchor chart:

With a plan of action in place and an idea of what they are going to create, I model how the game is played and how they are to document what happens in the game in order to have information to create their journal entry. Using the document camera, I placed the iPad underneath it and projected my screen onto the whiteboard. The students were 'focussed' on the white board and very interested in what I was about to do. I asked if they wanted to watch me play a level or two without analysis - they agreed that it would be a good idea! As I played they talked to each other about what was happening, laughing at appropriate times, and gasping for air as I crashed.

It was finally time to get back to 'business'. I made sure to have a pen and paper at the ready to jot brief notes as I played (I would either "stop" the bike or crash in order to write notes). Here are some screen shots from the iPad as I played (in order):

 Can you see why my students are so interested and engaged? The graphics are fantastic and the game is so easy to play. The boys and girls appear to be equally excited.
After playing an "official" level, we talked about my notes (a few items were written down) and we created the following model/exemplar that would guide them as an acceptable journal entry:
Based on our "How to Write a Journal Entry" anchor chart I created a graphic organizer that they will use to make their notes/rough work as they play. The next step in this process is for the students to get their hands on the devices and play the game in order to gather information for their journal entries. The students will work in groups of two using either an iPod Touch or an iPad in the next portion of this writing task. 
Stay tuned for a blog post about how the students progress towards their learning goal! 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Engaging Students in Writing via iOS Devices and Gaming Part #1

Even though school has only been in session for a week, it looks like I have hooked my students into an activity that has caught their attention and given them some motivation to engage in some writing tasks.

Late last school year I read a blog post by David Andrews, a grade 6 teacher in the U.K.. David wrote about "Raising Standards in Boys' Writing using the iPad for Gaming" using a game called Bike Baron on the iPad. He followed up with a post entitled "Raising Standards in Boys’ Writing using the iPad for Gaming: Outcomes and Ways Forward". David's work caught my attention because the class I had last year would have seized this type of activity - both for the gaming component and the writing task. We had worked together to improve their writing and they enjoyed the integration of technology in our classroom community. If it wasn't for the fact that the end of our school year had arrived, I would have looked further into planning my teaching and their learning.

I recently came across an article entitled "Video Games in the Classroom: Building Skills in Literacy and Numeracy" by Drs. Emmanuel DuplĂ a and Shervin Shirmohammadi. I was pleased to read such positive information about Video Games from a document coming from the Ministry of Education in the Province which I teach in. Having read this article, I decided to move forward with a plan to teach my students how to write a journal entry using Bike Baron.

I recently showed the following picture to my students to help them with a brainstorming activity aimed to assist them with an idea development expectation:
The students engaged in this activity in a way that really impressed me. I would say that it caused a rich discussion and a lot of useful data came from it. We recorded their ideas and they set off to brainstorm who this character might be and what he might be up to. As my students worked, I could instantly identify my writers and non-writers - providing me with valuable diagnostic data. The next day we revisited the Bike Baron via an interactive whiteboard lesson that was more detailed and provided the students with more information to revise their work.

5 W's to assist with idea development


More pictures of the Bike Baron with the middle one linked to a You Tube video of the Baron in action.

The students set off again to do some brainstorming - this time they had an anchor chart to refer to in order to get more information that they had discussed with a partner (elbow partners) and with the class.
The next day I came at them with a little more information to "prime" them around the writing task that we would undertake. I told them a story, made up by me, that the Bike Baron has a journal and writes in it after completing missions (levels in the game). I asked them if they would be interested in pretending to be the Bike Baron (point of view expectation) and write a journal entry (form of writing) after playing a bit of the game. They thought it was a great idea! :)
Moving forward, the plan is to create a formal learning goal and success criteria to go with it. We need to learn how to write a journal entry and have a model for what all of this will look like. The plan at the moment is to document what our goal is and how we are going to get there. We will share the experience together before I set them off to do it on their own. We will create our anchors and we will play the game and learn to document the required information to create our journal entry. My fingers are crossed and look forward to letting you know how it goes.
*I would like to note that none of my students have laid a finger on an iPad/iPod Touch and played this game in class. Everything I have written about above has been accomplished based on the pictures I have posted and the discussions we have had in class. The fact that they are as excited as they are without having even seen the game or the devices brings a smile to my face*
I welcome your comments/thoughts!