Creative Writing Games for Stage 3 and above

I don’t like ‘ice-breakers’ as a rule. They tend to be far too pushy for people who are naturally introverted. So as I thought about kicking off a new set of Year 7s this week, I opted to create a simple writing game which later we’ll use as the basis for art making – drawings made from text. This is an example – and great for getting people who think they can’t draw to write (and then make a drawing). The game is designed for table work, so I’d suggest 2-8 players. It lasts about an hour. You’ll notice in the games that there are objects. For my purpose these things are simply concepts, but they could be physical things or even mathematical formulas etc., It’s a pretty low tech game, but I guess you could do this online.

The aim of the activity is to get students to think creatively and to critically follow rules to re-frame their original position. Let me know if you use it or modify it! Creative story writing game.

Minecraft isn’t just a game

In the 1950s, Disney hit on the idea of connecting classic folk-tales to their animation technologies, and from that creating their own books, magazine and toys. Minecraft, also started by one man with an plan — has enabled a very similar process except as a company, Mojang don’t chase down every licensing and copyright claim imaginable.

It’s another reason parents can’t compare Minecraft to other sandbox games — they are not all about the value-add sell, but of course do licence certain aspects. It must be a total nightmare to manage, but cudos to them for at least attempting it.

Online there are some amazing toys, gadgets and artwork that have emerged because of Minecraft. Mojang don’t appear to mind people adding their own creativity to their game such as this.

Crafting-1.3-Part-1-1 (1)

Now you don’t have to PLAY video games in your classroom to be able to see how this is brilliantly executed story. There is enough detail in this story for anyone who’s read a romantic story about the heroes journey to be able to figure out what is going on here.

This is simply ONE part of FIVE posted onto the website 9Minecraft. You can go read the rest yourself … and find out how it ends. That’s five comics, filled with pop-culture references that kids could EASILY relate to … and any (good) teacher could put to work.

I post this as an example of how VIDEO GAMES are part of cultural literacy. Minecraft is as embedded in today’s culture as Donald Duck was for Disney — and better still there is a massive fan-talent base producing plenty of FREE or low-cost resources that kids can relate to. Getting primary aged kids to turn their classroom into a Minecraft house would require almost zero effort on the teacher’s part. Go on, I dare you …

 

Go teach this!

There are a few people I have met in the last decade that constantly inspire and amaze me. Not because they work uber hard at self-gratifying themselves on social media, but because they work tirelessly to make great things and offer them to people in honest and reasonable ways. Adrian Bruce is one of them. He’s been GIVING AWAY really useful resources to teachers for years.  Not ‘ideas’ or pre-sales junk – actually useful stuff that thousands of teachers have used.

So now Adrian has created a portal for his work. Create a FREE account here – right now.

GoTeachThis.com will become your one stop shop for printable Math & Reading games. The resources available are pedagogically sound and student friendly. They make student learning social, visible and fun.

I know just how hard Adrian has worked on making this a reality, and why he’s so passionate about it. He’s definitely from the “maker” crowd that I have endless time for. His illustrations and graphics are delightful, as is his game-mechanics being used. In the site there are ton of FREE resources as well as VERY AFFORDABLE premium (which pay the bills and keeps the Universe ticking along). These are not ‘generic’ games either. Adrian has done crazy amounts of work in the classroom with these, and they are all next-generation resources in terms of design and development. Many will know Adrian, as he’s been part of the educational-community online as long as anyone. What you might not know is that he has this AMAZING set of resources which you SHOULD PAY FOR and subscribe to because it pwns the free junk that is online (link bait). 

To me it’s the evolution of the grass-roots movement – where people like Adrian are making NEW (not rehashed or duplicated) resource for learning and teaching – backing their passion and insight. Go on, get behind Go Teach This and get your school to subscribe! Get a free account here.

You are standing in what used to be the library

As most people probably know, video-games have origins in text. Back in the day, text was pretty much all there was. These games are not forgotten, but formed the basis of today’s semi-open world games, forging the foundations of game-rules and game-play. Despite the visual evolution of games, you can still find the origins of text adventures online – which began, and live on as Interactive Fiction. The magical words that spawned a generation, Adventure begins.

You are standing at the end of a road before a small brick building. Around you is a forest. A small stream flows out of the building and down a gully.

My idea was that it would be a computer game that would not be intimidating to non-computer people, and that was one of the reasons why I made it so that the player directs the game with natural language input, instead of more standardized commands. My kids thought it was a lot of fun.”

— William Crowther

There are plenty of these games still online, lovingly curated by people long forgotten in this era of gamification. But they were both romantics and adventurers who helped create the code that today powers the Internet and began the epci adventure we all experience daily as “ICT”.

Despite numerous studies and scholars attempting to find a definition for video games, something that seems to take an extra-ordinary amount of time, money and effort, it seems that no one has managed to come up with one that does more to describe how games feel to players than calling it Interactive Fiction.

I don’t like the idea of Serious Games, as it smells schooly and sells-out programmers like Crowther and fiction writers like Gibson in order to appease the minutia of experts defining them. Most equally they don’t like comics, cyberpunk, steampunk or Buffy. That doesn’t mean they are right.

Can we go back to the origins of the adventure, and find ways of using game-play that doesn’t have to have a ‘sanitised’ label on it? I think so.

Today, this idea of transmedia is being explored taking advantage of new tools – and requires new literacies. It has close relationships with Augmented Reality games and even the what you are about to see more of – devices that augment console game play – like the new Skylanders, where your physical characters unlock pathways and talent of your in-game character (which is marketing’s brilliant idea that sucks). Just for the record, as soon as it say’s “sold separately” you sucked the fun out and I’m not playing. So while I advocate for games, I don’t advocate for this idea that shoving a console in a room creates more motivated and engaged humans.

There are plenty of people keeping the idea of adventure alive — though now is has morphed into “transmedia’ – and these games don’t have to reside on devices most people will associate with games.

Schneider (2005) states that “the readers of hypertexts appear as empowered readers, liberated from the constraints imposed by ‘traditional’ literature – some commentators even raise the question whether the very terms ‘reader’ and ‘reading’ might not have become inadequate for hypertext reception”. This type of reading requires skills not required in traditional reading.

Oh no, so moving from printed to page to ePub isn’t as 21st Century as it seems. In an era of ‘push me’, i’ll do everything read/write technology, it seems that we are no more creators now than when we started, as few people are actually learning how code works, and how to link the medium’s together. I recall the phrase “A good story, well told” by Adam Elliot. To me a this isn’t using one media, or embedding some widget inside another widget, it’s understanding the media itself, and then linking them together to tell a good story. In many ways all Internet media is Interactive Fiction, as reality is only that we experience first hand.

Take a look at The Amanda Project as an example of what I am driving at. The Amanda Project is the first collaborative fictional mystery told across an interactive website, and an 8-book series published by HarperCollins.

Amanda Valentino is the most mysterious, the most magnetic girl you’ll never meet.

How good is that! No it won’t leap off the page and tell you exactly how to use it, you have to figure it out. However, I’ve posted the synopsis video and suggest you look at this post, just to illustrate the link with the original idea of mapping an adventure. Here’s a clip from a teacher talking about the Amanda Project.

It’s worth watching, then going back to the website and pulling it apart. There’s nothing in there that is impossible to re-create. Even if you didn’t use this book, there are plenty of ways to rethink reading and writing. There is a free teachers kit – which if you an educational developer would give you some clues on how you could re-package any story, or perhaps, with a little creativity, create just enough story for another subject. There are so many resources about writing, such as the Sydney Writers Centre that getting started isn’t impossible at all. Then there are tools, such as Inform7, which allow kids to create their own interactive fiction based on natural language.

These things are all games as much as they are books. Even if you’re not yet interested in jumping into Massively Minecraft with us, this post is a fore-runner to where we are heading with our guild. Almost all our players now have the skills to create Interactive Fiction, it remains to be seen if they’d want to. What we know is, that there has to be a constant call to adventure in which they explore their own creativity – and to me, Interactive Fiction is a game, and reading today is not about just about text or where it appears. All we have to do is make it part of the game, to facilitate the steps in the mission and to celebrate the end product.

I take great issue with games, when they deceive kids if the only acceptable meaning is that which the teacher wants, presented in ways they like to mark. My view is that using  play as a frame has strong links with the past – and quite happy to say that I believe using and then creating ‘transmedia’ as Interactive Fiction is an approach to ‘digital literacy’ that connects the dots for some students far better than arguing there read/write web is anything more now, that when Berner’s Lee invented it. You have always been able to read write, if you had the literacy of the day.

To figure out what’s next, we have to be willing walk down that road, and find out what’s in the brick building, not wait until some merchant appears from the distance and tells us as we hand over money. Adventure still awaits – and for the most part it’s still free.

Crayons, physics, wipeboards and fun

A colleague showed me this today. It’s called CrayonPhysics, and you can download the demo for nix or spend a measly $20 on a great game, that is going to motivate and engage pre-schoolers upwards. There are endless eCreative applications for it, but one we thought would be really great was to combine this appliction with an IWB and Scribblar. We’ve been working with a Biology lecturer who wanted to combine her internal class with externals. In the past she has had to come up with 2 different types of learning activity, so wanted to find a way to find one. As most of the work revolves around formulas and maths – the IWB was rolled in to replace the wipeboard. We’ve then hooked up Scribbar live, and Bob’s your uncle, external students and internal ones can work at the same time live using voice and vision. We then record the entire thing that the project beams out and stick it on the burbclave so people can re-watch it.

CrayonPhysics would work in the same way! – So while we are using the set up for high-end stuff, there’s no reason not to try this with primary school IWB or EyeBeam between schools and classes. It’s a game! so play will be a great kicker to get kids motivated. They could design their own challenge levels and more … but you get the idea right. $20 and you’re into game-based-learning with maths and physics across the metaverse.

Too tight to buy a game – or still thinking games are not for you – have a look at physicSketch an adaptation …

Games, connecting to others, solid theory and fun … happy-class activities on a total shoe string … if you don’t have and IWB, then there’s the iPhone/iTouch app, Wacom tablet or Wiimote option too. Can’t wait to try this one out with the kids …

Here are a list of virtual boards we looked at, and some short descriptions, leeched from the marketing blurb.

1. Twiddla

http://www.twiddla.com/Twiddla is a web-based meeting playgroundMark up websites, graphics, and photos, or start brainstorming on a blank canvas. Browse the web with your friends or make that conference call more productive than ever. No plug-ins, downloads, or firewall voodoo – it’s all here, ready to go when you are. Browser-agnostic, user-friendly.

2. skrbl (online IWB)

http://www.skrbl.com/Simple and easy online multi user whiteboard, start skrbl, give out your URL & start working together. Sketch, text, share files, upload pictures all in one common shared space. There are no new tools to learn, nothing to download, nothing to install. Brainstorm on our simple whiteboard to start thinking together, everyone sees the same screen, everybody gets on the same page.Also team skrbl http://www.skrbl.com/aboutteamskrbl.html

skrbl now

3. Scriblink (Browser Based IWB)

http://www.scriblink.com/ Scriblink is a free digital whiteboard that users can share online in real-time. Sorta like pen and paper, minus the dead trees, plastic, and the inconvenience of being at the same place at the same time.

4. Groupboard – simple java whiteboard

Groupboard is a set of multi-user java applets including whiteboard, chat, message board, games and voice conferencing which you can place on your web page by simply copying a few lines of HTML code. You can also run Groupboard on your own web server. It can be used for tutoring, distance learning, training, or simply for fun! With the whiteboard you can upload background images and draw on top of them, and all of the users connected to the board will see the changes in real-time. Free for 5 users.

5. Dabbleboard (Browser Based IWB

http://www.dabbleboard.com/ Dabbleboard is a powerful digital whiteboard that’s actually easy and fun to use. With a revolutionary new interface, Dabbleboard gets out of your way and just lets you draw. Draw with flexible tools. Reuse previously-made drawings. Share and collaborate in real-time. All as naturally as using a marker or a pencil.

6. Virtual WhiteBoard

http://www.virtual-whiteboard.co.uk/home.asp Virtual WhiteBoard is a web-based collaborative system that provides a realtime canvas for thinking, designing, and working with your colleagues, clients, friends or family. It is free for anyone to use | web 2.0

7. FREE Virtual Classroom!

http://www.wiziq.com/Virtual_Classroom.aspx Now teachers and students anywhere in the world, can connect and meet live in the Virtual Classroom for an online interactive class. The collaborative web conferencing environment enables you to communicate synchronously using video and audio or through text chat, and to share presentations, documents and images on an interactive whiteboard. Join us now, to conduct your online live class and experience the next best alternative to classroom teaching.

8 GE IWB

http://www.imaginationcubed.com/index.php A free white board that you can easily invite people to collaborate with. With a plethora of features and no membership required. Great for small businesses, not for profits and just people that want to share ideas.

9. Scribblar

http://www.scribblar.com/ Simple, effective online collaboration. Multi-user whiteboard, live audio, image collaboration, text-chat and more

Etherpad – Live Text Collaboration

picture-8

One of the common comments people make in workshops about Google Docs is ‘what if two people are editing’. Well in reality that doesn’t happen that often, and even so, Google Docs informs you … but in a real time classroom, it can be kind of annoying. Etherpad, is fantastic for classroom collaboration. It has been in closed ‘beta’ for a while and has always looks good. The ‘real’ deal is even better. Being able to work in real time, with ‘live’ text significantly changes the interaction between students when collaborating. Not only can you ‘see’ who is doing what, but the digital text needs negotiation by the group. Knowledge is therefore being constructed in real time, using Etherpad at the centre of mutli-modal activities. Students could be using text books, visual resources or recording live events and dialogue. It bridged the gap between live blogging and chat, where time is the publishing criteria, to a live activity that allows students orgnise it. Best of all, there is nothing in ‘Etherpad’ that puts students at risk – it is a great tool, and will enable many classrooms to engage in ‘live’ activities – especially if the collaboration is over distance, cultures or disciplines

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Diigo Update (weekly)

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Diigo Update (weekly)

  • tags: controversy

  • tags: wow, warcraft

  • With Lovely Charts’s dedicated symbol, you will be able to create great looking wireframes in no time! Check out these samples to see what’s possible, then try it out for yourself!

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  • visual representation in real time of social media happening. Very cool

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  • The qualitative outlook

    In the qualitative outlook, it is assumed that students learn cumulatively, interpreting and incorporating new material with what they already know, their understanding progressively changing as they learn. Thus, learners’ comprehension of taught content is gradual and cumulative, more like climbing a spiral staircase than dropping chips into a bag, with qualitative changes taking place in the nature both of what is learned, and how it is structured, at each level in the spiral. The curriculum question is to decide what meaning or levels of understanding are “reasonable” at the stage of learning in question.

    As regards teaching method, the teacher’s task is not to transmit correct understandings, but to help students construct understandings that are more rather than less acceptable. Content thus evolves cumulatively over the long term, having “horizontal” interconnections with other topics and subjects, and “vertical” interconnections with previous and subsequent learning in the same topic. The process of teaching is to help the learner undertake activities that involve progressive understanding of the meanings. The process is multidimensional, not linear: it is to intrigue the gourmet, not to sate the glutton.

    Teaching here then engages the learning in constructive, in addition to receptive, learning activities. Typically, these activities involve (Biggs, 1989):

    * a positive motivational context, hopefully intrinsic but at least one involving a felt need-to-know and a aware emotional climate.
    * a high degree of learner activity, both task-related and reflective
    * interaction with others, both at the peer level with other students, and hierarchically, within “scaffolding” provided by an expert tutor.
    * a well-structured knowledge base, that provides the longitude or depth for conceptual development and the breadth, for conceptual enrichment

    tags: john, biggs, theory

  • It’s that time of year again. Students have taken their finals, and now it is time to grade them. It is something professors have been looking forward to all semester. Exactness in grading is a well-honed skill, taking considerable expertise and years of practice to master. The purpose of this post is to serve as a guide to young professors about how to perfect their grading skills and as a way for students to learn the mysterious science of how their grades are determined.

    tags: assessment, howto, presentation, ideas

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