Monday, October 20, 2014

The Undocumented: A Serious Game

Serious games can be a great way to intrigue and engage your students by using flow and fiero while they are still utilizing important strategies and skills. The game I decided to play and blog about is called The Migrant Trail which is based off of the documentary The Undocumented by Marco Williams on PBS. 
THE MIGRANT TRAIL presents a first-person journey through Arizona’s desert borderlands.  Play as an undocumented immigrant attempting to cross the Arizona desert and/or a border patrol agent attempting to secure the border.  Playing the game offers an alternative  platform to further engage conversation, investigation and inquiry, into the themes and questions raised by the documentary.
Migrant Mode IntroEvery year an unknown number of migrants cross through the harsh Sonoran desert from Mexico into Arizona. They pay $1500-$2500 to join a crossing party, that is led by for hire guides referred to as Coyotes. If one cannot keep up, twists ankle or runs out of water, he or she is left behind and many die. On average, the remains of 200 dead migrants are found each year.  It’s not known how many are never found.
Border Patrol Mode IntroEvery day U.S. Border Patrol agents patrol the Sonoran Desert along the Arizona-Mexico border. Their job is to apprehend undocumented border crossers, provide first aid to the injured, and locate the remains of dead migrants.
After gathering background knowledge about the documentary and the game I played the game four times; two time as Patrol officer Anderson (because when I returned to the game it didn't save my progress) and two times as a Migrant (once as Diego and once as Adriana). 

First I played as the patrol officer Anderson. The first thing you hear is some haunting music which really sets the tone for the game. When you click on your character it gives a back story about the officer using prologue as seen above. You are given 5 hours on patrol (5 minutes). You drive around a car using a similar method to the Escape the Room Games. While you are pointing and clicking you are looking for foot prints which will go out of sight once the car moves past them. Then once you see a foot print and have to click on it quickly (this game is much easier with a mouse). Once you click on the foot prints you will see a dialogue box which you must respond to. Sometimes you will follow the foot prints to a dead body, sometimes you have to chase them, sometimes you will find them and have to administer first aid or you can just bring them in sick in which case they have a higher chance of dying but it also wastes a lot of your time. The best part is that you get to make the choice, choose the direction you want to go in or if you even want to click on the footprints. At the end you will get a total of migrants apprehended, died, applied first aid, miles traveled. At first you feel good about saving people because you administered first aid and were careful about clicking all of the footprint but then upon seeing the other statistics you then realize how many died and you feel like you should have been able to save them.  

Then I played as a migrant. First you are given a back story with a prologue similar to the patrol officer. Your objective is to cross the desert and meet with your coyote so you can see your family again. With the migrant you first need to go shopping with only $100 to get you through the trip; you need to plan strategically so you have enough supplies but are not overloaded. Then you are on your way and it's a constant struggle. You are always eating and drinking things to keep up your hydration and energy but they keep going down. Sometimes you will have popups and you need to decide if you want to take them or not because they will effect your health. You also have to be aware of patrol cars but they are mostly unavoidable. It's such a relief when you arrive to the safe point but it's so scary at the same time because I only had one jug of water left.  
There are so many language learning objectives that can be met by watching the documentary and then playing the game. I think an important standard being met would be Standard-ESL3: Language for Critical Analysis and Evaluation. To meet this standard students must use English to express their opinions and judgement on experiences, messages, ideas, information, and issues from a variety of perspectives. This game makes meeting this standard very easy! After watching the documentary students can write their own opinion of the migrants trying to cross the boarder. Then the students can play the games as a patrol officer and a migrant and compare and contrast their varying view points. 
Students can complete these objectives through Kyle Mawer's task types. Problem solving: Analyzing actions & consequences of the game sequence as well as discussing game strategy. Personal: Describing personal preferences/ opinions of the migrant trail. Storytelling: narrating the story of the patrol officers and the migrants through their points of view.  

Monday, October 13, 2014

Wanna Play?

Escape the Room Games

There are many different types of game genres. Today I focused on Escaping the Room Games. These types of games are played by pointing and clicking around the screen to explore a world of your choice. The main task you are trying to full fill is to help your character by reading the pop ups directing you what to do and clicking around to find items or trigger actions.

The game I chose to play is called Phantasy Quest.  I played the game 2 different times for about an hour and then for 45 minutes. If you like this game comes with an option of using a walkthrough to aid you in the game.

The main plot of this game is you are stuck on a deserted island (well it seems that way at first). You are given no back story at first and you start on the beach by yourself and you are able to click arrows to move around the island. As you play you start to figure out information about how you got there and you learn that you are maybe not alone. As you move around you pick up items and use them to complete small tasks by taking them out of your inventory and clicking them on things in hopes an action will occur.

Here is a description of how to play the game from the website itself:
Use your mouse! Just click anywhere on the game screen. Some things you can activate simply by clicking on them, while others you may have to use an item that you have collected in your inventory.
To use an inventory item, move the pointer over it, click and while holding the mouse button, drag the item out of the inventory bar onto the game screen, then release the button. The item should then move with your cursor, and you can click it on things in the game screen. To put the item back in your inventory, just click it on the inventory bar.

 I found this game fun and quite addicting. It followed an easily hookable storyline and I wanted to keep following it to find out what was going to happen next. Once I found the gate I really wanted to get inside and figure out why I was stranded on this island! I found myself playing the game for longer than I wanted instead of doing other homework, oops! I think there are plenty of performance indicators that can be included with this game.

  • Problem solving is a great performance indicator. Students must analyse their actions and what they want to do next as well as anticipate consequences. Students can discuss with each other game strategies and why one thing must be completed before another and use reasoning to back it up. To assess this indicator the teacher could place bench markers in the walkthrough where students will stop to anticipate consequences and discuss with their partners what they should do next. 
  • Storytelling can be used to retell the story using sequencing vocabulary. They could use the game as an inspiration to write a narrative. This would be a great time to use images from the game to help prompt specific points in the game so students can write about them using sequencing. The teacher can then assess the sequencing to see if it was similar to the game and note the rationale behind it.

 I would use a walkthrough with this game because with the use of the walkthrough the students can follow the directions and follow the sequencing. This will allow them to continue with the game even if they are confused. Then the teacher will be a helper and can help aid them with what to do next but the walkthrough will help them out the most. Though the teacher can also ask thought provoking questions about why would we need to push the rock off before we entered the gate? This will make students actively think about the walkthrough while they are reading it and anticipate further sequencing according to the feedback the game gives them.


Now, what exactly is "gamification? Well according to 7 Things to know about Gamification, gamification is when there is a application of game elements in a non-gaming situation. These elements often motivate or influence behavior in a classroom.

According to this article there are 7 important things you should know about Gamification:
1. Gamification elements often motivate and influence behavior
2. Competition will spur students' concentration and interest to lead to more effective learning
3.Used in higher ed. but adaptable to many
4.Helps build connections among by drawing in shy students, supporting collaboration, and engaging interest in course content that might have no otherwise.
5. But there are downsides: it can be difficult to employ effectively
6. If it is properly supported it can really be of use and grow!
7.Implications?: Offers instructors numerous creative opportunities to enliven their instruction.

I think the scenario is very intriguing in this article. I know that I would love to participate in an activity like this in a class and I would also learn a lot from it in the process. Personally I have used an idiom game where students must find native speakers of English and ask them what the idiom they have means and to use it in a sentence. I awarded points to the students for achieving this goal quickly and in ranking order. This gave incentive to the students and they found it fun, like a game. I really want to discover ways that gamification can be applied specifically to the ESL classroom.

In order to gain clarity on what exactly games do to engage students I read Sculpting Flow and Fiero: Daily MTG. I think the most interesting points of this article is about flow and fiero. So, what is flow? Flow is displayed in the moments where the challenges we face match up almost exactly with our ability to overcome them.
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi defines it as "the satisfying, exhilarating feeling of creative accomplishment and heightened functioning."  Csikszentmihalyi found that there were three factors essential to making flow: clear goals, rigidly defined rules of engagement, and the potential for measured improvement in the context of those goals and rules.

So, now that we understand flow, what exactly is Fiero? According to Dr. McGonigal, fiero is "possibly the most primal rush we can experience." It's the feeling we get when we conquer an obstacle that, for whatever reason, is emotionally important to us.  McGonigal describes it as "a craving for challenges we can overcome, battles we can win, and dangers we can vanquish."

These strong emotions and feelings are what tie us to these games, make them engaging and intriguing.

Now that we know the benefits of gamification how can we include them in out classroom?!
Well, luckily there is an article called 10 Gaming Genres to Adapt to Class. This is a lovely resource of ten gaming genres and how they could be used in the classroom.

The three I found the most interesting and want to use in in the classroom are as follows:

5. "Strategy Games- This is a game in which the gamer is presented with a number of possible choices in game play which will effect how they progress in the game...With these games students can practice activating prior knowledge, making inferences, and predictions."

6. "Adventure Games- Adventure games are a sub genre of point and click games but usually differ in that the game has got strong narrative elements. There is usually a central character, a storyline, objectives to be achieved, an enemy and an outcome at the end".
These types of games can be used in replacement of books! They have all of the same aspects of a novel and then students can apply literary elements to them.

8. "Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs)- Is a computer role playing genre in which a massive number of players interact with one another within a fictional virtual world. The player assumes the role and takes control of the actions of a fictional character."
These types of games are great for working on collaboration and cooperation As well as handling money and peer relationships.

All of these are great ways to engage students while still meeting standards and teaching students skills.

Monday, October 6, 2014

A Little Bird Told Me...

I've never personally enjoyed Twitter as a social media. I find that I have nothing interesting to share with the world especially in only 140 characters. But I found, when given a purpose, twitter can be exciting and beneficial. For a educational technology class I am currently taking I had to follow a twitter chat. I decided to followed the hashtag #ELLchat. They post on Mondays at 9-10 pm EST and they are a group of Teachers of English Language Learners. This was a perfect choice seeing that I am currently getting my masters in ESOL. Some of the topics we discussed were testing out of ESL in Elementary and the criteria for that as well as how long students should have to stay in ESL and receive aid. 

Following this twitter chat is great professional development for me because I can follow and ask questions about teaching materials and strategies in real time and I will more than likely receive a response. It's amazing how quick and how many topics are gone through in just an hour! If only one thing interests you, you can pursue that topic in a conversation, but if you just want to sit back and read everything and then choose what to reply to, you also have that option too. I think Twitter can be very helpful as PD but it's also a little confusing and not well rounded. Some of your questions may go unanswered or the topic might be changed so quickly it's difficult to keep up. But at the same time I like it because teachers are known to be wordy and some people may dominate a conversation in person but with Twitter everyone gets a chance and it's easy to read because it's only 140 characters. 

Twitter in the Classroom!

What exactly is Twitter?

According to Twitter in the K-8 Classroom- Globally Connected Learning, teachers can use Twitter to introduce students to the connected world of a learning network. Students should make a profile with an avatar and a detailed bio stating their age and purpose of using the twitter. Also, privacy settings are important! You can make your tweets public or you can change it that only people you approve can see them.

But What can Twitter be used for?!

There are so many ways you can take advantage of Twitter in your classroom! But, make sure to have proper twitter etiquette including being polite, not gossiping, don't plagiarize, and respond to your followers.

Have no idea what to tweet about?! Here are some great suggestions!

But make sure your tweets are quality; are they clear, concise, grammatically correct, and informative. Also make sure to make use of Twitter vocabulary like RT (re-tween), # (hashtag), @ (mention), and DM (Direct Message). All of these tools will make using Twitter in the classroom effective, easy, and fun!

Another site with very useful twitter information is A Must Have Guide On Using Twitter in Your Classroom. This site, I think, is more helpful for teachers who have older students and maybe even college professors.

Here are some of my favorite helpful tips from this website:

  1. Ambient office hours: With Twitter, Howard Rheingold at Berkeley uses Twitter for group contact, which he calls “student-to-teacher-to-student ambient office hours.”
  2. Keep students in the loop: Using hashtags on Twitter, students who were not able to make it to class can follow along and stay on top of the conversation.
  3. Attendance reminders: For students who have trouble making it to class on time, send reminders before school to get them in the door earlier.
  4. Twitter pop quiz: Send out quick quizzes on Twitter, and have them count for bonus points in the classroom.
  5. Parent communication: Parents can sign up to receive tweets from teachers, learning about activities, tests, projects, and more.
  6. Find foreign pen pals: Students can use Twitter to communicate with students in a different country, learning about their hobbies, home, school, and more.
  7. Twitter can improve writing and punctuation: As long as students are held accountable for their grammar, using Twitter offers a great opportunity for improving writing and punctuation.
  8. Communicating with experts: Find authors, scientists, or historians on Twitter and get connected; a great resource for the classroom.
Both of these sites are worth checking out. They make be excited to use Twitter in and outside of the classroom!