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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Guest Blogger on Classcraft! (Creating an RPG adventure for your classroom)

I have been a fan of Classcraft ever since Tim Oltman introduced me to it in his Collins classroom.   A few months ago, on the behest of some of our Shelby elementary teachers, I even created an online "primer" on how to get started on Classcraft.   Of course, Classcraft resonates strongly alongside my interest of gamification and game-based learning in the classroom.

Knowing this interest, Stephanie Carmichael (the head blogger for Classcraft) reached out and asked if I would be interested doing a guest blog entry for their site.   I was flattered, but what would be something new I could talk about?

Then, it hit me.  Roleplaying games in education.

The first RPG I ever played was TSR’s Star Frontiers back in the mid-1980's, and from there my fate was sealed.  Soon I was tumbling polyhedron dice for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons and Marvel Super Heroes (TSR), James Bond 007 (Victory Games), Car Wars (Steve Jackson Games), Ghostbusters and Star Wars (West End Games) . . . the list of games rolled on and on, including customizing and making my own. In short, I'm a huge fan, although I lament that I have far less time to play nowadays.

So, I took the RPG lens to the classroom and wrote about several free edtech tools: Habitica, Lone Wolf Online, Inklewriter, and more. Please check out my entry on Classcraft's blog, and keep those dice tumbling!

Update 12/17/18: Almost two years after I published this entry, I read an article from District Administration on teachers who have integrated "adventure-based learning" (specifically, Dungeons and Dragons) into their classrooms ("Dungeons & Dragons storms education" by Matt Zalaznick, December 2018). If Classcraft strikes your fancy, it's definitely worth a read. The second link to share is from that same article, and is a wealth of resources for teaching with Dungeons and Dragons from teachers who have actually done so.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

First SnoGo Days, and Eminence's EdHub

Welcome back from the holidays!  We had our first significant snow last week, so Thursday and Friday (January 5 and 6) became our first official and inaugural SnoGo days!

For the uninitiated, "SnoGo Days" are non-traditional instructional days, where students work at home on material prepared in advance by teachers.  It's the enactment of our philosophy that learning never stops and continues beyond the boundaries of a brick and mortar building. The teachers also remain in contact with students via email, phone, messages via Schoology, and more.  Speaking of Schoology, our LMS was a crucial tool to organize work and accept submissions during SnoGo . . . and students definitely used it.  Here's a way to compare just how much: during the week before winter break, our most active Schoology usage day inside our buildings was December 13 with 45,591 Schoology page views.  On January 5 and 6, we had 79,046 and 75,929 views, respectively.  I should point out that teachers certainly could give students a menu of optional offline work, and just as they would for an excused absence, students have a small window to make up work upon their return.  We don't want lack of Internet access at home to limit their SnoGo learning!

Our SnoGo caught the attention of two local newstations.  WHAS 11 discussed the non-traditional nature of the learning.   WAVE 3 talked to the Leonberger family, and got this great quote from eighth grader Jake: "I think it's really cool they gave us these Chromebooks and made SnoGo a thing. It makes it so kids can pace themselves at home."  (Add a path of learning and factor in the choice of when to do the work, and you have our 3PT program.)  Both stories include video with some helpful visuals of Schoology at work.

And learning didn't stop with students.  Lora Shields (our Shelby Staff Developer) and I created modules in -- what else? -- Schoology, in order for classified staff to have professional development online during SnoGo.

Several teachers, principals and students tweeted throughout our SnoGo, but this is probably my favorite:

On Day Two of SnoGo, I took an already scheduled trip over to a nearby neighboring school: Eminence.  I've been wanting to see their library expansion, named the EdHub, since it opened at the beginning of the school year.  Along with SCHS's librarian Julie Webb, we got the grand tour.   Here are some of my social media posts:

I particularly like the picture in the last tweet of the Scantron sheet and pencil, an archaic artifact of the past, enshrined in a museum case for future students to puzzle its ancient purpose and use.

We left with some great inspiration on how to better utilize our own libraries and increase our makerspace opportunities.  Thanks to the EdHub Director and secondary librarian James Allen for being a gracious host!