Gamification: Here’s the Deal

And what a deal it is! I have written about my use of Mangahigh in my classroom in the past (Gamify My Homework, Math In the Summer, Engage Student With Mangahigh, and Online Homework). I really do like the tool!

Here’s an opportunity to check it out…for FREE (for a limited time). Not only do you get to check out all the features, your class/school can participate in an online challenge! Adding to the gamification fun. Go ahead, sign up for the challenge. What do you have to lose? It’s FREE.

10% Discount

And if you like it and decide to purchase…You can receive a 10% discount and a 30-day FREE trial. See, it just keeps getting better! Email Amber (amber@mangahigh.com) with the code: NOWATECHIE10.

Mangahigh

Challenge Details

The challenge will run from February 1st – 15th 2016 for all K-10 students at schools in the US and Canada. It’s completely free to participate and we encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to explore Mangahigh and see the impact digital games-based solutions can have on students’ learning.

 

During the challenge, you will have full access to all of Mangahigh’s premium features, including 600+ activities aligned to Common Core and other state standards. You can assign specific challenges to support the topic you are currently teaching, or simply allow students to complete challenges independently.

What do we win?

The school that scores the most points during the competition will be crowned the Math Bowl Champion, winning a $500 Amazon voucher, $500 Mangahigh voucher, trophy plus medals and certificates for their top 10 students.

The 9 runners up with all receive a $100 Amazon voucher$200 Mangahigh vouchermedals, and certificates for their top 10 students.

Students with 200 points or more will receive a Mangahigh medal!

Who can enter?

The competition is open to all schools in the US and Canada for grades K-10 regardless of school size, location and previous experience with Mangahigh.com. You are welcome to enrol as many teachers and students as you like.

Who will join me?

I’ve already signed up. Who will join in the challenge?

 

Working WITH Technology

This school year has had its ups and downs. One of the ‘Ups’ were my students’ State Reports. We used Google Maps to accomplish the same task that use to take 10 type written pages. I still maintain, no one wants to read a 10 page report – let alone 47? Yeah, much happier with the Maps idea. As we went through it, I saw ways to improve; and will implement those changes next year.

Then there were the ‘Downs’. Yeah, some of those made me want to pound my head against a brick wall. My ‘Road To the Revolution’ project. I thought I was soooo brilliant. Not so much! I will attempt it again next year, but will make several changes. Then, there are the downers that I have little to no control over. One that popped up throughout the year, were the ones where teachers and/admin wanted to block/ban sites. (This is where my head hangs low, before I hit a wall) Banning/blocking is NOT the answer. As with anything, education is. We not only need to educate our students, but we need to educate the teachers.

The answer is to teach our teachers HOW to work with technology. We need to show teachers and students what it means to integrate technology. When students are doing research; provide a list of acceptable sites,create a custom search engine via Google, and teach students HOW to search. Typing ‘What is the state flower of Maine?’ is not an efficient search. These are tools that students, and teachers, need. It is a district’s responsibility to provide the training so that quality instruction can occur. Far too often, a district thinks that giving a classroom a set of computers will be the answer, but it’s not. What ends up happening – more often than I care to think about – is that the computer becomes a babysitter, time filler, or dust collector.

I understand the need to block certain sites – like the super bad ones (remember: I’m coming from an elementary perspective). But in general, I am an advocate of keeping the sites open. Yes, students will push the limits. Yes, they will try to find inappropriate pictures, videos, whatever. But it’s our job to guide them along the path.

Teachers need to work WITH technology. We need to use the inappropriate searches as teachable moments. We need to monitor, walk around, give students the tools to be successful. Will we catch everything? No. But my teachers didn’t catch all the notes and things I tried to get away with, and I came out fine – mostly.

Inspiring Teachers

Lately I’ve been thinking, what makes a great teacher, an inspiring teacher?  What characteristics do they possess? Who do I aspire to be like?

creative commons licensed ( BY-NC-SA ) flickr photo shared by courosa

1. Sharing is Caring

These people share everything they do – FREELY. They share their ideas, successes, and failures. Whether they are sharing with people in the department, site, or on the Internet via blogging or tweeting. They realize that by sharing, not only are they impacting their students, they can impact hundreds.

2. It’s Not About Them

This goes along with sharing. These teachers realize that education is bigger than them, or their classrooms. It’s about helping to create thinkers, doers, and problem solvers. They understand that what they do is for the greater good.

3. Connected

These educators realize that in order to grow and learn, they need to seek out others. You can find them on Twitter, Google+, LinkdIn, writing blogs, etc. They attend conferences, local and otherwise.

4. A Need to Learn

The learning never stops. Thus the conferences, blog reading, #brewcues, #coffeecues, and ed tech meet-ups. They go back to school, enroll in MOOCs, or take courses. There is a constant need to learn and improve themselves.

5. Collaborators

Along with sharing and being connected, collaboration is another key. They listen, and welcome, other ideas. The act of building upon one another’s ideas is a regular conversation.

6 Humble and Uplifting

When I really thought about it, I realized these people are humble about their abilities and help others along on their journey. This, I think, is by far their greatest asset.

These are the qualities of a great teacher. This is what I aspire to be.

Becoming a Teacher

This week’s #youredustory topic is:

“What was the defining moment you decided to be a teacher?”

Smoke Plume

So imagine that you are sitting in a smoke filled, windowless back room working as a telemarketer for some shady company one summer. Now imagine that you have decided to change your major, yet again. This is the story of how I decided to become a teacher.

Most people have some really great story about becoming a teacher. They were inspired by a teacher in their youth, maybe they were inspired by a parent who happened to be a teacher, or it was a drive within them that they’ve had since childhood. Yeah, my story isn’t flowery or touching; in fact, my story is somewhat embarrassing/depressing, in a ‘I can’t believe that really happened’ kind of way.

One summer I had returned home from college waffling over my latest choice in majors. I began college declaring I was going to be a Physical Therapist when I grew up. Then I changed my mind and declared I would be a nurse. Needless to say, neither one of those worked out and I needed to make some decisions.

That summer I was taking classes at a University that was closer to home and needed a job to pay for expenses. It was at this job, that I HATED, that I made the life choice to become a teacher – in a most uninspiring way.

I was hired to do telemarketing for a shady company. They sold magazines, and I was charged with calling places like Kmart and Sears in locations like Florida. My first day on the job, one of the other workers warned me that the company won’t mail out W2’s so I should keep all my pay stubs in order to file taxes (I did as suggested, and no the company never mailed out W2’s). All the other telemarketers were in their late teens early 20’s. I just remember a lot of cigarette smoke, no windows, and having to shower once I got home because of the stench.

One day at lunch I decided I needed to sit down and look at what majors my University offered. I had put in a few years and didn’t want to lose credits by changing universities (this was back in Michigan). And I was lazy and didn’t really want to apply at another university – too much work involved. So I pulled out the paper that listed all the majors available. I went through the list and thought, “Shit, nothing appeals to me”. I then decided to go through the list again – I was seriously NOT changing schools – and thought, “Okay, it will go on ‘the list’ [of possibilities] if I can even remotely see myself doing it”. I got to the E’s and found Elementary Education. I sighed and thought to myself that yeah, I can imagine doing this, but I’m only in the E’s there’ll be something else that catches my eye. I wasn’t all THAT thrilled. AND… I got to the end of the listed majors; Elementary Education was the only thing on my list of possibilities. So the next week, I went to my University and officially changed majors, again.

I told you it wasn’t the most inspiring story, but makes a great story to tell others. I clearly enjoyed the classes and my choice. Otherwise, I would have gone through that list and changed majors yet again.

I can honestly say that I have never regretted my decision. My journey to becoming the teacher I am today may have started off in a smoke filled, windowless room; it has taken me to amazing heights, down passion-filled roads, and connected me with inspiring educators. This is my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Why I Love My Partner Teacher

In the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, a new 5th grade teacher was brought in. I’ll admit I was excited yet skeptical. I’ve worked with lots of teachers at my grade level and generally have gotten along with them, but never truly ‘clicked’ with another teacher. Until Mrs. Pursley came along.

And here is why I love (working with) her – in no particular order:

  • I can talk her into doing almost anything in a classroom, no matter how crazy it is. Within 2 months she was doing Genius Hour with me.
  • We both have a student-centered classroom.
  • I get random texts from her saying things like, “You complete me <3”
  • When asked if we do A.R. (Accelerated Reader) we both respond no (in a disgusted tone) and she adds ‘Cuz AR sucks’.
  • She calls me a Dork, when I’m being one.
  • I get to call her a Dork when she’s being one.
  • She will text me at random moments just to say something smarmy.
  • We share random 80’s aerobics videos back and forth – and we both secretly love them!
  • We generally have the same mentality (age) – that of a 12 year old.
  • We constantly laugh, mainly cuz of the mentality issue.

Seriously though, she’s awesome and just felt like sharing her awesomeness with the world.

Oh, and she’s one hell of a great teacher!

Supporting the Beginner

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 6.38.00 PMA few weeks ago I got together with a first grade teacher at my site. We decided to video tape her students holding high frequency words. The idea was to create a fun way her students could practice their words, at school and home. Needless to say, it has been a big success. The students love it, and the parents love seeing it on our school’s FaceBook Page.

So today when I stopped by to see if she needed another taping session, I was sad to find that she was a little down about the project. She had been so excited about this idea and how well it went, that she shared it with others – in hopes that they would find it as inspiring as she had. This is where she became disappointed. Unfortunately, some that she shared this with, immediately disregarded the idea saying that it would never work [for them].

And this is when I realized that those ‘new’ to technology in the classroom can be fragile. Fragile in the sense that this great new ‘thing’ that they are excited about and finding success with, which is then quickly disregarded by others, can easily break one’s spirit. She was truly disappointed that others had not wanted to try this. However, I quickly reminded her that 2 other teachers were inspired by her and had also taped their students.

It is stories like this, that encourage me to be the cheerleader for those who are willing to try. It is because of this teacher, who is now thinking of other ways to incorporate tech into her classroom, I will do what I can to support all those who dare to try something new. It’s not easy being the ‘Lone Nut’ [Jon Corippo & CUERockStar reference] in your grade level, on your campus, or in your district. But when a bunch of ‘Lone Nuts’ get together, amazing things begin to happen! And for this reason, I am looking forward to working with her with all the crazy ideas we can dream up!

Oh, and did I mention that she is a self proclaimed ‘non-techie’? Yeah, she’s THAT crazy – willing to dive into tech even when it’s outside her comfort zone. Mrs. Bolger, you inspire me!

Check out her kiddos:

It’s Beyond Me

Photo on 3-25-13 at 2.53 PMThat’s a phrase I often hear when I am talking to other teachers about technology in the classroom. As much as I want to help others, I can’t help but feel that many are intimidated by my knowledge. When I begin to share information or ideas, many of my teacher friends seem to automatically assume that they cannot do it, and that technology is only for those who have the “know-how’. I assure you, this is NOT the case! Everyone can, and most likely does, integrate technology in the classroom.

Today I was speaking with a friend, and urging him to attend a CUE RockStar event in the area that is coming up. I was telling him about the great presenters (of which I am one), opportunities, and benefits that will come with attending. His immediate response was, “Well if _______ (another presenter and mutual friend) is there, then it’ll be above my head.” I assured him that that would not be the case for my session (I cannot speak to other presentations). He said he’d check it out, but I am still worried at the perception we techie educators are giving off.

I know that none of us intentionally tries to intimidate others with our passion, but I fear that this is happening and is keeping those who feel less comfortable with technology at bay. What can we do to help newbies feel more comfortable? What can we do so that others see that the technology is within their scope? This same person expressed slight frustration when describing a time when he asked for help. He said that he felt that the person who was helping him BEGAN above his head. How many of us have done that? Without meaning to? Maybe we need to stop assuming what someone already knows, and begin at the beginning. I know it sounds silly or obvious, but I bet I have assumed someone knew more than they really did. And I most likely made them feel uncomfortable, for which I am sorry.

And as much as I understand about technology, there is a TON I don’t know or understand. I am a dolt when it comes to spreadsheets. There have been many instances where I felt way out of my league in some tech conversation. So rest assured, you are not the only one who has felt that something is beyond you. My advice? Ask questions, a lot of them! When you attend a conference or PD, find one thing that you can bring back to your classroom. Focus on one or two things. It is easy to become overwhelmed and feel lost, so by focusing on one or two key points, you will feel successful and will WANT to learn more. After all, that is the goal — amassing information.

And this I promise to you…I will not assume you know more than you do. If I do, PLEASE stop me and remind me of my promise. We’re all in this together.