Education + Games= ???

On Wednesday we also had a presentation about Games in Education from Sylvia Martinez.  I really enjoyed listening to her thoughts and suggestions for using games in education.  Sylvia is not a teacher, but she talks and works with educators about educational games.  I liked that during the presentation we were able to try out some games and discuss what was good/bad about the different games. As well, we discussed what could be changed in the games to become more appropriate for the students to use.  I appreciated her honesty about choosing games and the problems with most games published for children.   She provided us with a list of things to watch for and avoid when choosing games for students.  As well, she gave us suggestions for choosing quality games.

From the presentation I learned that just because a game is labeled educational, does not me that it is good to use in the classroom.  Sylvia suggested to avoid using the games that are labeled  educational software.  Also, I learned that it is important to play the game and explore the possibilities of it before using it with students.  She told us that it important that we are evaluative of games and ask tough questions about educational purpose of games.  Is it worth the time?  What is the educational value of using this game with the students?  This presentation was very informative about and allowed me to reflect on these questions:

Are games useful for learning?  Are games useful in school?

After the presentation, I was left to reflect and think about my own experiences with games in the classroom.  I honestly had never thought about the value of using games in education.  In my experience, most of the games students are exposed to in school are not good quality games.  The games are “click and drag” games, which do not involve much problem solving and learning opportunities for students.   I think from this experience, I developed a bias against using games in school.   This presentation definitely opened my eyes up to the value of education games and the learning that can happen for students who use quality games in the classroom.   As a beginning teacher, I will definitely look into providing my students with the opportunities of using games in the classroom.  I know that I will gradually incorporate games into the classroom once I feel comfortable with it and I know it is useful for my students learning experience.  I hope to learn more about quality educational games from teachers who use them in their classroom.  If anyone uses educational games with their students, I would love to hear about it and how it benefits their learning experience.


During the presentation, someone made reference to this video from James Paul Gee.  I suggest you take the time and watch it.  I think that he raises some very important points about educational games and the value they have in the classroom.

Here is my list of interesting points from the video:

  • Collaboration:  creatively working with others
  • Assessment: no division between learning and assessment with using games
  • Games are based to develop problem solving skills
  • Production: Children want to build, design and participate in the learning process, which games provide this experience
  • Social connection:  teaching and learning new skills together
  • Model learning: teachers learning new games with the children creates an engaging learning environment

The interview with James Paul Gee about video games.

Also, check out this TED talk with Alan Kay about better techniques for teaching students with using computers.

Alan Kay: A powerful idea about teaching ideas


Second Life In the Classroom

On Wednesday during our ECMP 455 class we had a presentation was on using Second Life (SL) in the classroom from teachers in Regina, Saskatchewan.  Prior to this presentation, I had never heard Second life  or knew what it was.  For anyone who does not know about SL, it is a 3-D virtual world that users imagine and create their own world.  Erik Van Dusen, Marcel Lorenz and Garnett Gleim shared their experiences with incorporating SL into their classroom.  As well,  they took us through a brief tour of their social studies project with the grade eight students.  It is evident that great learning experience they have created for the students and the benefits of using interactive learning in the classroom. For their project, Regina Public School has their own island in SL, so the students and teachers can create their own place.  The benefits of a virtual project is that the students and teachers can access it from school and their homes.

Many of us questioned the safety of using it with the students, but they explained how strictly monitored it is  for others to join their island.  The students have to create their accounts at school with permission from the teachers.  As well, any adults that wish to join must have a criminal record check completed and permission to join.   It was obvious the detailed planning and decisions made by the teachers involved with this project to create a successful learning experience for their students.

Personally, I thought SL looks very interesting, but I am not comfortable with using it in the classroom.  I know that if I was to use it with my students, I would want to become more familiar with it.  As well, I think that it was a great project for the grade eight students, but I am not sure how well it would work with younger children.  I am planning on teaching early elementary grades, so I do not think that I would include it in my lesson planning.  Does anyone use it with elementary aged students?  What types of projects can you do with the younger students? Benefits? Problems? I definitely want to learn more about SL and hear other experiences from educators.  I hope someday to create my own SL account and explore the possibilities of using it and how it could be used as an educational resource in my classroom.

Inspiring Presentation

For our ECMP 455 class, we listened to inspiring stories from Darren Kuropatwa, Clarence Fisher and Kathy Cassidy.  It was amazing to hear what each of these educators are doing with technology in the classroom.  They all teach different subjects and grade levels, yet they have a common vision for their classrooms.  The vision of supporting their students and providing them with the tools necessary for successful learning.

I think the big learning moment for me was that there is no formula for incorporating technology in the classroom.  It will vary from teacher to teacher in how much or how little technology they use with their students.  Personally, I have been searching for someone to tell me what tools I should incorporate and how much technology I should use in the classroom.  I learned from this presentation that the answer is inside of me.  I have to decide as a teacher, what is important to me and what I am comfortable with using in my classroom.  I have to decide what tools to use for supporting my students learning.  Why would I choose not to include technology in my classroom, especially since my job is to prepare students for life long learning and teach them life skills?  I liked the point Kathy Cassidy made about, “I teach my students to live in a digital world.”  I completely agree with her because we are living in a digital world, so we should educate our students about how to use these tools in their lives.

Another important point to their presentation was collaboration.  They all shared comments about how they work with others for creating new ideas and activities in the classroom.  I have definitely learned from taking this class that building a strong personal learning environment (PLN) is very important for expanding my own learning with technology.   Also, I think that because my class is online, I am forced to rely more on my PLN to provide me support and resources for my own teaching and learning.  I think that I am lucky to have this class to develop my PLN and gather great resources before I have my own classroom.

It was very inspiring for me to hear them say start small and slowly build up to using more and more technology with students.   I know that starting teaching is gong to be very overwhelming, especially to try and incorporate technology into my lesson plans.  As a new teacher, I think that it is important to start my career with small goals and slowly take steps into incorporating more technology.

I learned many important things tonight about teaching with technology from these presentations.  Before starting this class, I always thought that teaching technology relies on personal skill level and experience, which I lack  both confidence and skills in.  One of the presenters shared this image below from flickr (by superkimbo) that is very powerful and inspiring to me.

I know that in order for me to succeed in teaching with technology, I need to believe that I can do it as well as develop realistic goals for my classroom.   Also,  I think that I need to reach out for support from my PLN and not be afraid to ask others for help.  I think this image says it all, using technology successfully is a mindset and we all are capable in reaching this mindset if we believe in it! 😀


Here are links to these wonderful educators classroom blogs: Darren Kuropatwa, Clarence Fisher and Kathy Cassidy

First Reflections


On Friday, I had my first visit with the grade four students from Carlyle, SK to work on creating their digital stories about storms.  It was a very busy day of learning for everyone and I went home completely exhausted!

To begin our day, my cooperating teacher was very sick and needed to go home.  She managed to stay until a substitute teacher could come in and help out.  Meanwhile, I was in a rush  gathering equipment I needed to get the students started on their projects.  We decided to work in the regular classroom with the laptops, so I had to re-arrange the classroom set up to get the projector working for the students to see.  For some strange reason the projector would not work, so I had to get the principal to come and help me get it going.  Then, I set up the sound system.  The classroom has a FM system, so I plugged it into my computer and instantly I had surround sound.   I finished getting the rest of the equipment set up and scanned a few photos for the students stories.  I was finally ready to begin our journey.

From my experience, I definitely learned how challenging it is to enter a school not knowing where everything is or how to use all the equipment.  It takes a lot longer to get things set up and ready for the students to work with when you are not in that environment all the time.  Also,  since my internship in the fall the school has received new equipment to use including the computers, so I was a little unfamiliar with using it all.

Step by step process for creating digital stories with the students:

First, I explained to the students details about the process in creating digital stories and shared my personal story about freezing rain.  Previous to my visit, the students had wrote their own story about a storm, then decided on images they would want to find for their stories.  The cooperating teacher took them through the story board process for me, so I could get them started on searching for images during my lesson.  Their story boards were amazing!  I had sent a story board template, but instead the teacher created a different template by photocopying the students stories, then cut the stories into sections and glued these sections onto separate  8 x 10 white papers.  Once all the sections were glued on, the students wrote descriptions of pictures they wanted to find for their stories.  It was an easy story board template, which allowed the students enough space to make changes to their story ideas.


Before getting started, we had a brief discussion period to remind students of the rules and expectations for this assignment.  Then, the students were ready, so we got out the laptops and logged on.   While the computers were loading, I explained to the students how important the images are for creating good stories.  We discussed good and bad examples of images to find for their stories.  As well, we discussed the importance of working with a partner and how to share the computer, so both people have a chance.  (I honestly never knew how long it takes to get eleven laptops up and running on the Internet!  I was very glad that the students were working in partners because it would have taken twice as long if they each had a computer.)

I used the projector to show the students how to search for pictures on the Internet.  I found using the projector was a great tool for teaching all learning styles.  It helped visual learners see what they needed to do, as well the auditory learners could listen to my verbal instructions and the kinaesthetic learners could physically do what I was saying on their own computer.

For the stories, I wanted to find good quality photographs, so I used a few different websites.  The first one we explored was FlickrStorm.   When I created my own digital story, I used this site and found wonderful photos.  I learned about using FlickrStorm on the JakesOnline website.  It is a good resource because it has a tutorial that shares the step by step process of using FlickrStorm and creating photo trays.   It was a nice tool for the students to create their own photo trays that we could download later.   As well, the students searched google images for any extra photographs they needed.


I definitely think that the process of searching for images is one of the hardest steps to creating digital stories and it takes a lot of time.  We spent the afternoon searching for photos in order to find all the pictures we needed for our stories.  Overall the process went well, there were a few problems that I had to deal with in my lesson.  One issue that occurred was a few students came across some inappropriate photos while searching on the Internet.  They showed me, so I helped to redirect their search.   Soon more students were coming up with inappropriate pictures, so I stopped the students for a class discussion.  We reviewed how to properly find photos on FlickrStorm, so that the pictures can be  commercially used as well, I talked about how to search for specific topics.   I noticed that many students did not know how to properly search for topics.  They were typing in sentences into the search bar, instead of specific word topics.


This was a real teaching moment for me.  I never thought about the students not understanding how to find specific pictures on the Internet.   As well, I discussed with the students that they may not find the exact pictures they want for their story on the Internet.   If this happened, the partners would have to edit and revise their plans to find different pictures.   Also, I provided the students an example of what they can do if they had trouble finding pictures they needed.  My example: One group was discussing how they needed a picture of firefighters knocking on a house door, but could not find one.  I told this group to maybe try and find a picture of just firefighters because their story will narrate the men are knocking on door.  I reminded the students that their narrations with help create the whole picture for the viewer and add those specific details to their story.  I found that stopping and redirecting the students helped a lot and we were able to finish finding our images 😀


Reflections on this teaching experience:

From this experience I learned many new things about working with students and technology.  If I was to do it all over again, I would know details about my students stories and gather ideas about the types of images they wish to find.  I think I would develop a photo tray of pictures for the students to pick from as well as assist them directly in finding additional pictures.  Also, I would set a picture limit and enforce the importance of quality pictures to illustrate their story, rather then quantity.  I think that it was harder for me to enter the classroom and try to teach the second step of the digital story process because I missed the information and planning of the first step.  It is important for a teacher to be involved with the planning process from the start in order to develop a full understanding of creating digital stories with students.

Also, I would practice saving documents and pictures to files before they begin this process.  I was told that the students know where to save the files on the computers, yet I still had issues with pictures being saved in the wrong folders.  I reminded them about where to save things, yet there still was confusion.  As well, I would spend more time preparing students and teaching them how to label files they save to their computer.   It was very confusing to look at the computer files and figure out which file was their pictures.   I think next time, I would have the students write the file name for the picture on their story board, so it is easy for them to organize into their stories.

Another issue that came up from using FlickrStorm was that some students forgot the first step and make sure they select searching pictures that are for commercial use.  If they forgot to do that, the images they collected were copyright and can not be downloaded for their stories.   I did give several reminders, but when I was checking their files at the end of the day, a few students saved some copyright pictures.  We will have to do more searching for images in my next visit.

As for the inappropriate pictures that they found on the Internet.  I think that I would maybe do some pre-teaching about how some bad images can be found on the Internet.  I would teach them how to avoid finding them and what to do if a bad picture comes onto their screen.  I think a major key to this, is reminding students what the purpose of the assignment and teaching them how to successfully search for specific images.  It is hard and frustrating for a teacher trying to create stories for students because of these inappropriate pictures on the Internet.  I think an important step in creating stories is being able to choose your own photos to illustrate your ideas.   I wish that there was a site specifically designed for students to search on and gather photos.  I had done many searches on FlickrStorm prior to my visit and never came across any inappropriate pictures, so when the students found them I was really shocked.  This was definitely a big learning experience for me and I would like to learn more about searching for images with students on the Internet.  I would love to gather ideas and resources from teachers who create digital stories with their students.  Does anyone have any suggestions or ideas for this situation? How do you handle these problems when searching the internet? I do think that it is important we educate students about these problems because even if they do not find inappropriate things at school, they have a chance of coming across it at home when searching the internet.  Are there any websites  safe/ good for students to search on and find great images?

I will be heading back in a few weeks to work with the students and try to finish their stories.  I am definitely going to take my reflections and ideas from this experience to design and plan the students next work period.  I am glad to be working with students for this project and to be able to get experience with using technology in the classroom.  It is good to experience these problems, so I can learn and make changes to the next lesson plan.  I think the key to this process is reflecting and learning from my experience with creating digital stories with my students!

Creating My First Digital Story

On Thursday, I created my own digital story using Photo Story 3.  My story is based on my personal experience in a Saskatchewan storm.  I decided to focus my story on storms because the students I am working with have wrote personal narratives about storms for creating their digital stories.

Before I started creating my story, I read through an excellent online resource that has step by step tutorials for using Photo Story 3.  It had ideas about planning, finding pictures and using the program to create a story.  I found this resource very helpful because it had detailed descriptions as well as screen share tutorials to walk me through each step.

Here is a brief description of the step by step process for my digital story:

First: Created my own story board (including text and pictures)

Second: Created a file for my digital story (photos, text, etc)

Third: Searched and saved images for my story

Fourth: Imported pictures into Photo Story 3 and saved my story

Fifth: Followed the step by step process to edit images and add transitions

Sixth: Revised my story board (added and deleted text/ pictures)

Seventh: Recorded my narration (I choose not to add music to my story)

Eighth: Saved my video to my computer

Overall the process was very simple and easy for a beginner to use this program.  I definitely would recommend referring to the JakesOnline resource if you are creating your own story using Photo Story 3.  I think that this program will be great for my students to learn about making digital stories.  As well, this experience will help them become familiar with the process of planning, creating and editing digital stories.

Digital Stories About Storms

Prairie Storm

This week, I have been busy planning and preparing for my visit to Carlyle Elementary School.  I am going there on Friday to start our digital stories.  My cooperating teacher and I have decided to have the students create their stories about a personal experience with weather storms.  The students have already completed writing a short story about a storm, so the first step is to organize their ideas into a story board.  I have created a story board template for them to map out ideas for images and text.

I have sent a note home explaining our project and asking students to bring relevant pictures to scan for their stories.  As well, I plan to have the students search online for real images of storms.  I am a little nervous about the students searching for images, so I am going to find specific sites for them to find pictures on for the stories.  I have done a brief search on flickr and the storm photos are amazing!  If anyone knows of a great photo website the students can use, I would love to hear about it.

I have never created digital stories before, so this whole process is new and exciting for me and the students.  I am a bit nervous about the project and how everything will come together in the end.  I think my biggest struggle is that the students I am working with are two hours away from me, so I can not work on it whenever it is convenient for me.   It has taken some major planning and organizing schedules to finally get my first visit in to work with the students.  Also, I am not sure of how long it will take the students to create their digital stories.  I know that I will be making a few trips to the school in order to get the projects complete.

During my planning, I am definitely learning the importance of collaboration and support from others.  I am relying on support from my cooperating teacher to help me distribute notes and inform the students about the project.  As well, she is booking the computers and other equipment we need for the project.  The school division technology support teacher is helping me with gathering equipment and resources for this project.   Also, many people on twitter have sent their ideas and support for creating my project.  These ideas and resources have helped me develop a thorough lesson plan.  I definitely feel more confident about this project from all the support and guidance I have received over the past few weeks. Thanks everyone! I will keep you updated with my progress on creating digital stories with my students.

Getting Started

Finally, I have a few minutes to work on my final project for ECMP 455.  I decided earlier that I am going to create digital stories with my internship classroom in Carlyle, SK.   My plans are slowly coming together and I hope to make it to the school next week to work with my grade four students.  I am actually glad to have waited to work on this because the past three ECMP classes have been very beneficial to my project.  Dean Shareski presented and discussed with us the importance of visual design for creating videos as well as information about using flip video.  These presentations provided me with resources and ideas to get the students started on their stories.  As well,  Alec Couros provided us with a list of digital storytelling resources.

We had an amazing presentation from Alan Levine talking about 50+ ways to tell a story.  Allan talked about his experience in creating digital stories and shared many good resources to use for creating our own.  His wiki has an abundance of resources for digital storytelling, which many of them I had never heard of before.  During the presentation, he went through and highlighted a few of his favourites, which I thought was very beneficial for starting my own project.  Honestly when I saw the big list of resources, I panicked and thought how will I ever know where to start?  I am the type of learner that likes to have freedom of choice, but specific boundaries.   I feel that way especially working with technology because I do not feel confident enough to explore it solely on my own.  I like some direction to get me started.

From conferencing with teachers at the school and getting a better understanding of the resources available to me, I will start the students out with creating their stories on Photostory 3.  I know that there is so many other options and tools to use, but these students have very little experience with using technology.  In January, the school received all new computers, including laptop carts for transporting into the classroom.  All the computers have Photostory 3, so I think it will be easy for the students as well as the other teachers to use.  I hope to create a wiki about digital storytelling for the teachers at the school, so they can continue to create stories in their classrooms.  I only have a few more things to finish up before I introduce the lesson to my students.   I find the hardest part about planning for digital stories is finding a topic of interest.  I definitely want it to be a creative and fun project, yet I do think that the students need a general topic and guidelines to follow.  I want the students to experience the chance to share their own voice.  If anyone has some topic ideas or experiences they would like to share about digital stories, I would love to hear about them! 😀

I am ready to begin my process of creating digital stories with my students, which I will share my progress on this blog.  Thanks again to everyone who sent me resources and ideas about digital storytelling! If you are interested in learning more about this topic, a colleague of mine, Sarah Hill posted a wonderful explanation of three important steps for digital storytelling.