Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Cartoon: "Boy" toys, "girl" toys, and STEM careers

From SMBC.
Computer Engineer Barbie to the rescue?

WallWisher for a Reading Review

I read about WallWisher a couple of months ago on Free Tech for Teachers. WallWisher allows you to set up a quick "wall," to which users can add "sticky notes."  No sign-in needed, and the creator can moderate before allowing a note to appear. 

I hadn't figured out a good way to incorporate it into a lesson yet.  I was overthinking! It's perfect for a quick review. Yesterday, I was introducing a lesson on Australia, and I needed to review some background reading that they had done for homework.  I set up a Facts about Australia WallWisher, and had student groups of 4 work on adding facts they remembered from the reading using laptops.  I set a timer, so there was a great sense of urgency as each group tried to get a fact onto the wall before someone else did (I had a "no repeat" requirement). 

When the time was up, we did a "List-Group-Label," one of my favorite standby activities for intros and reviews. The listing of facts done already, we moved around the "stickies" on the wall into groups with similar ideas, and gave each category a label. List-Group-Label generally works well with post-its and small groups, but is tougher with the whole class-- lots of little, hard-to-read pieces of paper all over the place.  This worked great and provides a record that students can look back at later as a refresher. 

With just over 2 weeks left of school, I am planning to use WallWisher for a "This class is about..." wall that this year's students will leave for next year's.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Sim*Sweatshop and "Persuasive" Games

I teach a 3-day lesson on the impact of globalization that focuses on sneaker design, manufacture, and distribution.  Pros and cons of free trade are discussed, as well as working conditions in garment factories.  Today my students played Sim*Sweatshop, which simulates conditions in a sneaker factory in a developing country.

The "fun" aspect is racing to complete the required 3 shoes in your 12-hour shift (actually 60 seconds, ticking away stressfully).  As your shift wears on, you get tired and have to spend some of your hard-earned wages to buy food and drink, or work more slowly.  Periodically, you are asked to make decisions, like whether to start a union or work an unpaid overtime shift. The more you play, the more you realize that while you can get by for awhile, there's really no way to "win."  The game has a section called "What's the Story?"  where the concepts in the game are explained (and sourced, which I appreciate).  I realized I need to make sure to use those sections when debriefing so that students are actually getting the point instead of just racing to make shoes.

I have used persuasive games/games for change several times this year, including Oiligarchy, Darfur is Dying, Against All Odds, and Ayiti: The Cost of Life.  Some court controversy than others (Oiligarchy is particularly biting in its criticism of Big Oil).  These games provide opportunities for media literacy-- does the game have a "point of view" or bias?  Is it constructed to predetermine a certain outcome?  Did it convince or persuade you to agree with its point of view?  Why or why not? (I always stress that it is okay to be persuaded by a good argument!) 

Developing a "filter" for media consumption is just as important as learning the "official" curriculum, and I don't see it being taught as much as I would like.

Do you use "persuasive" online games in your classroom? Which ones, and what do you think are best practices when using them?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Working the Backup Plan

In my classroom, I have an ActivBoard (we have them district-wide) and a set of ActivExpressions (won them in a professional development raffle-- best workshop ever). 

My ActivBoard projector went kaput on Thursday, and I was assured that it would be fixed by today.  Broken projectors are considered "emergencies."  Still, this morning 9:15 rolled around with no projector.  My lesson for today, concerning population challenges in China, was supposed to include the following:

1) ActivExpression preview quiz (What fraction of the world's population do you think lives in China?)
2) Analysis/discussion of data and photos on the Activboard
3) Research and brief debate on the one child policy
4) ActivExpression survey on whether students agree that the one child policy is a good idea

Note that 1, 2, and 4 were shot without the ActivBoard.  Fortunately, I was able to secure a laptop cart for today. I uploaded the images quickly to my class blog so that students could view and discuss them with the laptops.  I whipped up a quick version of my quiz and survey on Poll Everywhere.  With Poll Everywhere, students can answer by text message or mobile web on phones as well as on the "regular web." This was the first time I had my kids take out  their phones during class this year, and they were very excited-- much moreso than when they use the ActivExpressions. 

My projector was replaced about halfway through the day, and I switched back to my original plan for the photo discussion, but stuck with Poll Everywhere for the rest of my classes.

So my technology backup plan wound up being... more technology.  If I hadn't been able to use the laptops, I could have run some quick copies of the photos, and had the kids hold up sheets of paper with answers for the quiz and survey.