The following are curated links to free or discounted resources, products, and services for educators and schools - currently more than 125 selections! New and recent additions to the page are now highlighted as well.
Have a favorite resource you don’t see listed here? Send it to [email protected], and we’ll consider adding it to the list!
Please also make us aware if a resource has disappeared or has abandoned a free/discounted model.
Curriculum and Lesson Plans
- Amazon Inspire: Open collaboration site to share and discover educational resources.
- Discovery Education: Resources and professional networking in STEM and social studies fields.
- Ed Helper: Wide variety of free lesson plans, worksheets and more for pre-K-12.
- Education World: Searchable site of lesson plans in a wide variety of subject areas, as well as tools for teachers and administrators and many useful fillable templates. All content is free.
- Flipgrid: Free platform for video discussion and replies. Includes a Discovery Library of pre-made topics.
- Ice Breakers: Free handout from our 2017 CTE Conference.
- Jumpstart: Free games for grades Pre K-5.
- My American Farm: Free games on an agriculture theme for grades K-5 to teach science, language arts, math, geography and more.
- National Geographic: Lesson plans, maps, photos and other reference materials, Pre-K through higher education.
-Nearpod: Free lesson creation and search site that also allows for student interaction and feedback.
- Open Educational Resources: Open-source platform to share and find free lesson plans and resources.
- Project Management Institute Educational Foundation (PMIEF): Variety of resources and project to help teachers with project-based learning.
- Scholastic For Teachers: Free lesson plans, ideas, activities and more.
- Smithsonian Educator Resources: The hub to begin a deep dive on a wealth of free resources from the Smithsonian, including the Smithsonian Learning Lab (a platform for creating, sharing and discovering lesson plans based on Smithsonian materials), online educational games, and resources based on each museum in the Smithsonian system.
- Super Teacher Worksheets: Worksheets and activities across broad subject areas as well as holidays. Full access to more than 10,000 items requires paid membership, but there are many completely free items as well. Also includes “Make Your Own Printables” generators.
- Teacher Created Resources: More than 400 free lesson plans created by teachers for Pre-K to grade 8. Includes downloadable pdfs.
- Teacher.org: Free lesson plans organized by subject and grade level.
- TeacherVision: Offers many free worksheets, lesson plans, templates, forms, and more. Makes more available with a paid plan.
- TeAch-nology: Offers more than 46,000 lesson plans, 10,000 printable worksheets, and more - all for free.
- TES (Times Educational Supplement): More than 700,000 lesson plans and other resources for K-12, created and shared by teachers. Many items are free, others may be purchased a la carte.
- Tiki-Toki: Create professional-quality timelines online (free tier available). Great for history courses, business and personal planning, and more.
- We Are Teachers: Free classroom ideas, printables, even humor and “memes.”
- Webquest.org: Central hub for the "Webquest" lesson plan model that uses the Internet and information literacy concepts to teach in a wide variety of subject areas.
- Arts Edge: From The Kennedy Center, offers free K-12 lessons centered in the arts.
- Make Beliefs Comix: Creative storytelling and artwork using easy-to-create comic strips.
- National Gallery of Art: Free images, lessons and other resources.
- Recipe Challenge: Lesson plan presented at a past CTE conference with SHESC to develop a "party" food that also meets USDA school standards. Also comes with an ingredient list worksheet and taste test evaluation form.
- ToonDoo: Fast and free way to create cartoons and cartoon characters.
Reading, Literature, and Journalism
- Achieve the Core: Close reading lessons by grade level for K-12
- Ashlock Instructional Templates
- Common Lit: Free collection of reading passages in all literary and non-fiction genres for grades 3-12. Passages come with text-dependent questions which help you track student progress.
- Flipboard: By creating custom digital "magazines," this is a great tool for teaching students the principles of curation and newsworthiness using pre-existing content.
- Literacy Design Collaborative: Free assignments and lessons, primarily focused on literature, but also delving into other subject areas (including lessons written around the Hamilton Broadway musical).
- New York Times Learning Network: Lesson plans, writing prompts, multimedia and contests with a focus on teens.
- Read Works: Free comprehension lessons by grade level for K-12
- West Virginia Reading First Phonics lesson plans
- Adobe Education Exchange: Free lesson plans, curricula, assessment tools, digital assets, presentations, projects, and tutorials based on the Adobe family of software products.
- The Biology Corner: Free lesson plans and worksheets in biology.
- Code Combat: “Dungeon crawler” style game that teaches kids computer programming and coding.
- Code.org: Site to help with teaching coding to K-12 students with lesson plans and projects, including ones based on popular games such as Flappy Bird and Minecraft.
- Draw.io: Create for free a variety of visual flowcharts, mindmaps, Venn diagrams, engineering diagrams, network plans and much more.
- NASA: Free K-12 lessons based on resources from the space agency.
- National Science Teachers Association: Free books, resources, videos, games, activities, lesson plans and more in science.
- Simple Planes and Simple Rockets 2: These highly realistic “sandbox” games allow students to explore everything from aerodynamics to orbital mechanics to rocket propulsion. As of April 2019, they are also free for educators, DRM-free, so they can be used on as many computers as necessary.
- Weebly for Education: Create a free classroom website and blog, allow students to build their own free sites, and manage classroom assignments and communication with parents.
- Wix: Easy and free website creation and hosting for an introduction to Internet design, blogging and web commerce.
Business & Humanities
- China Dynasty: Free project-based lesson plan from Marketing Education Resource Center on global economics and manufacturing.
- CoreEcon: Free full eBook and app-based electronic textbooks on the economy, economics, society, and public policy.
- EDSITEment: Lesson plans and classroom activities in the humanities for free.
- National Women’s History Museum: Lesson plans, video, “Electronic Field Trips,” and more.
- New York Federal Reserve Bank's Educational Comic Book Series: Free downloadable comic books on monetary policy, the Federal Reserve System, and the concepts of barter, currency and banking. Free printed classroom sets are also available upon request on a limited "first come, first serve" basis.
-Odoo's "Scale-Up!" business game: Combining online elements and physical cards, students learn about business creation, entrepreneurship, accounting and more! Educators can get a free copy or try it first by checking out the copy in our Resource Library!
- Smithsonian’s History Explorer: Lessons, interactives, media, featured artifacts and more connected to the National Museum of American History for K-12.
- USA.gov: A few free lesson plans on aspects of the federal government.
- CORE Phonics Survey: 10-15 minute survey from Scholastic to assess phonics skills, grades K-8.
- Really Great Reading: Free, downloadable diagnostic surveys for pre-reading through advanced phonics. Copies are permitted. Provides only one version of each test, so not intended for progress monitoring.
- San Diego Quick Assessment of Reading Ability: A 10-minute test for grades K-11 to assess reading level.
- Socrative: Real-time student assessment of student learning and comprehension. Includes a free tier.
Free Multimedia Resources
- Adobe Spark: Free for educators, a great tool for creating presentations, graphic design, videos and more.
- edpuzzle: Free tool for teachers to turn existing or original videos into engaging and interactive video lessons. Allows tracking and accountability tools as part of the website.
- Kansas State Library – Digital Book eLending: Free eBook and digital audiobook resources for Kansas residents, including cloudLibrary, Enki Library, Freading (eBooks); RBdigital (eAudiobooks); BookFlix, and Britannica E-STAX (digital materials for youth).
- Internet Archive: More than 15 million free-to-download books and texts.
- Lapse It: Free iOS app for taking time-lapse photography.
- LibriVox: Free public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers.
- Pixabay: More than 1 million free and royalty-free stock images and video.
- Powtoon: Video animation cartoon presentation tool. Includes a free tier and discounts on pro plans for educators and students.
- Prezi: Unique and engaging presentation tool. Free for basic use and discounted pro account for educators.
- Project Gutenberg: More than 58,000 free eBooks and magazines in the public domain.
- Screencast-O-Matic: Program for capturing screens to create lesson or educational videos. Includes a free tier.
- SlideShare: Free tool for creating presentations and infographics.
- Sunflower eLibrary: Central location for more than 130 public libraries in Kansas, allowing checking out eBooks and audiobooks for free with a library card.
Like many people my age, I will probably remember the names of hundreds of Pokemon until I die. In the spring of 2019, Stanford neuroscientists released a study that might explain the reason behind this phenomenon. When exposed to images of Pokemon, people who had avidly played Pokemon games as children demonstrated heightened activity in a region of the brain called the occipitotemporal sulcus. Not coincidentally, it’s the same part of the brain that recognizes different species of animals. Playing hundreds of hours of Pokemon trains you to recognize fictional monsters in the same way that you might recognize wild game or edible plants.
This finding probably isn’t surprising to anyone who played a lot of Pokemon (or their parents). On its own, the Great Stanford Pokemon Experiment isn’t a cause for alarm in any respect: it was just taking a look at how the brain learns to recognize and categorize patterns.
The study did, however, demonstrate something that has long been suspected: games can have a lasting impact on the developing brain. Over the past 30 years, a growing community of video game designers, teachers, researchers, and educational reformers has emerged to harness the power of games for education. Learning can be difficult, frustrating, and boring. Proponents of games argue that fun, attention-sustaining systems can make learning simple, joyous, and effective. It’s also commonly argued that Gen-Zers are addicted to screens and must be counter-addicted to learning in order to succeed. This push is part of a broader movement towards gamification: the introduction of games and game-like interfaces into more serious contexts.
“I think we’re going to see a mainstreaming of using games and playful interactions for all kinds of purposes,” Sebastian Deterding, a senior research fellow at Digital Creativity Labs, said in an interview. “Particularly in education.”
The wave is already building. Games and gamified platforms or apps are exploding onto the market. Metaari, a business analytics firm, projected that by 2023 the global market for educational games will surpass $17 billion. EdSurge, an ed tech-focused news outlet, reported that investments in ed tech startups exploded through 2018, surpassing $1.9 billion dollars in venture capital or philanthropic funding. Articles with titles like “Are Games the FUTURE of Education?!?!”pop up in outlets like Wired and Techcrunch. EdSurge has an entire suite of articles dedicated to the topic, complete with a lesson planner for teachers.
Games and gamified “playful” interfaces are ubiquitous features of other digital technology. Most of these aren’t “games” in a true sense. Gamified apps layer the trappings of games such as points systems, badges, and fun interfaces over a more purposeful core. Duolingo gamifies learning foreign languages. Fitbits and other activity trackers gamify health and fitness data. Credit card reward programs and credit scores gamify personal finance. Uber and Lyft send drivers on “quests” to push them to drive more hours. The West Virginia teacher’s strike was partially precipitated by the introduction of mandatory Fitbits as part of a wellness scheme. The teachers resented the intrusive gathering of sensitive medical information that came with the program. Amazon uses video game-like interfaces to drive competition between warehouse workers, all to meet higher quotas while also tracking worker behavior.
But while we may agree that much of gamification is creepy, the question remains: in an educational context, is it useful? Do games and gamified platforms actually help students learn? If so, how and when are these techniques appropriate? And who actually benefits from the introduction of these technologies to the classroom: students and teachers, or administrators and technology firms?
This last question is especially significant. After all, the elite of Silicon Valley are increasingly sending their kids to screen-free (and therefore gamification-app-free) private schools. One parent was quoted in the New York Times as saying: “the devil lives in our phones.” The children of the tech elite are being kept away from the very “innovations” their parents are pushing. The disconnect is troubling, and the reasons behind it are worth examining.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with play. The impulse to play predates humans. Dogs play. Dolphins play. Ravens play. Monkeys play. There are weird examples of potential play behavior in fish and eusocial wasps. Play is a hard concept to define. French philosopher Roger Caillois argues that play is “an occasion of pure waste,” a voluntary activity undertaken solely for amusement bounded by its own rules where the outcome is uncertain. But play, as the late sociologist Brian Sutton-Smith notes, is ambiguous. No single definition can contain it.
Humans have likely always played games: both the type with rules and more imaginative freeform varieties. Evidence for games dates back at least 5,000 years. Archaeologists have unearthed boards and dice-like knucklebones from ancient sites worldwide. The late historian Johan Huizinga framed the development of games as a necessary precursor for complex human behaviors like war, law, philosophy, and art. For Huizinga, there was no formal difference between rituals or cultural institutions and play. “The arena, the card-table, the magic circle, the temple, the stage, the tennis court, the screen, the court of justice etc are all in form and function playgrounds.” Our sacred spaces are bounded, temporary worlds within the ordinary, featuring their own separate rules and conventions. Huizinga, in opposition to the dominant theories of his time, centers play and games as what makes us human. We are not Homo sapiens. We are Homo ludens. We are the players, not the wise.
For as long as games have existed, they have likely been applied to purposes beyond simple entertainment. Games like India’s ancient Gyan Chauper were designed to impart religious and moral lessons. The game board depicts the climb to enlightenment, moving from lower levels of consciousness to higher levels by overcoming vice and attachment (both represented by snakes). Players move upward based on die rolls, ascending or falling back if they land on a virtue or a vice square respectively. The gameplay models predestination, karma, and the cycle of rebirth. It’s still played at religious festivals in India. In a strange twist of irony and colonialism, you’ve probably played this game too. In the United States it’s known as Chutes and Ladders, and is decidedly less religious.
The use of games as educational tools is probably just as old. In Rome, budding young aristocrats played Ludus latrunculorum—the game of brigands—to teach military tactics. Early forms of chess like shatranj and chauranga were battle simulation games; theybecame part of courtly education in medieval Persia. Go, the 2,500 year old abstract Chinese strategy board game, was adopted as one of the “four cultivated arts.” Mastery of Go was considered a necessary part of becoming an accomplished scholar.
More modern applications of games and play in education can be partially attributed to the diaspora of kindergarten teachers from the Prussian Empire. This occurred in the aftermath of the March Revolution of 1848, when Frederick William IV was reinstated as Emperor of Prussia by a coalition of aristocrats and generals. Irritated at having been offered a crown “disgraced by the stink of revolution,” William IV set about reversing all the achievements of the revolutionaries and anyone vaguely associated with them. This included a movement of educational reformers, disciples of the early childhood pedagogue Friedrich Fröbel, who had been trained by him in a new educational philosophy of play. According to Fröbel, the “work” of children was found in games, and broader learning through exploration, dance, and song. Instead of rote memorization and recitation, Fröbel’s students observed butterflies and bees, cared for pets, and planted gardens. But most importantly, a fair amount of time and space had to be given over to unstructured play in dedicated play spaces. For Fröbel, it was especially critical that very young children be given time to be creative and playful. Fröbel called his school kindergarten. William IV called it socialism and banned it nationwide.
Kindergarten teachers fled to the United States where they established some of the first early childhood education centers with purpose-built playgrounds. They arrived just as Massachusetts and Connecticut were setting up “common schools” based on, ironically, Prussia’s age-graded, compulsory school system (which is very similar to the current school system in the United States). Kindergarten and play-as-pedagogy integrated with common schools and spread across the country.
In the 21st century, it’s commonly accepted that play and structured games are crucial elements of childhood learning, development, and psychological well-being. But does this translate to the current trend of educational video games, gamified curricula, and gamified apps or platforms?
That’s much more complicated.
The way that video games impart their lessons is a matter of some debate. In Gamification as Behavioral Psychology, the psychologist Conor Linehan and his co-authors argue that games function along behaviorist lines through conditioning and reinforcement. Games, and the somewhat controversial ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) interventions for autism are structurally similar. Games, much like ABA, include specific, measurable goals, intensive repetition, rewards, and feedback. Patients, like players, are required to pass a stringent test. If they fail, they repeat the program. “The process would be familiar to any player familiar with the use of ‘boss fight’ as a test of in-game skills,” Linehan and his co-authors write. Carefully-designed games and gamified platforms can train students in a variety of areas, linking fields of knowledge in a reinforcing process called scaffolding. Each lesson builds and chains to the lessons before, allowing for complex learning.
Other scholars argue that this doesn’t go far enough. Literary and educational theorist James Paul Gee describes video games as “worlds in which variables interact through time.” Players learn to succeed by mastering hidden rules and meeting unspoken criteria. Through exploring the contours of these systems–by trying, failing, and succeeding–players learn how to win within the parameters of the game. Game designer and new media professor Ian Bogost calls this “procedural rhetoric”: persuasion through rules-based interactions rather than text, imagery, or spoken word. The boundaries of the system create a space that one explores by playing. For example, Monopoly can only be won by crushing your opponents into bankruptcy, but presents many options for doing so. The system itself teaches you how the system works. Characters within the game–including player avatars–encourage emotional investment and identification (in a rhetorical sense) with the game. In structuring the experience of the player around certain logics, a game make claims about how the world works.
Professor Dargan Frierson of the University of Washington is a climate scientist and one of the founders of EarthGames, a student-driven ecology game studio. Students in his studio carefully craft games in which the mechanics reinforce the central message. In one notable example, players pilot a ray of light out of the atmosphere. As CO2 builds up, the task becomes more and more difficult. The players directly experience the greenhouse effect. Frierson explained that his project is a way to reach people who aren’t persuaded by conventional environmental messages. “You can experience really difficult problems through games. You can fail many times before you succeed,” he told me. Frierson claims this technique instills a kind of optimism in players; it helps them believe that environmental issues have solutions.
Game designer John Krajewski agreed. “Games,” he said in an interview with me, “are so good at giving you a reason to care.” Krajewski is the lead designer behind Eco,an ecology simulation game currently in early access release. (Players can play it, but it isn’t finished.) He describes Eco as “tragedy of the commons: the game.” In Eco, players build a society and literally craft their own laws against the backdrop of a simulated ecosystem with finite resources. You can drive animals and plants to extinction through pollution, habitat loss, and overhunting. There are no monsters, only other players. Krajewski says he hopes the game will be used in schools to teach students about the environment.
But without careful design, this can easily backfire. “You have to take in mind who is designing it,” explained Brian Cross, a game designer and sociologist at Webster University. Designers have biases like everyone else, and these biases will be encoded into games, educational or otherwise.
Take SimCity for example, a longstanding game series about urban planning. Players build cities by placing infrastructure, and control land use through zoning. Buildings might or might not grow in zoned areas. The virtual residents might thrive or languish in poverty. The play of SimCity emerges from observing how your virtual citizens behave and responding to their needs. By meeting the demands of the city’s residents, the player is able to “build the city of their dreams.”
SimCity is often deployed in an educational context, integrated in some higher-ed and K-12 curricula. And it’s by far the most visible “face” of urban planning. Copies of SimCity were preloaded on computers bound for India during the One Laptop Per Child program, a techno-optimistic initiative to solve rural education deficits by giving every child a computer. An educational version of SimCity called SimCityEDU leads children through a series of challenges like planning school bus routes, “increasing jobs,” or reducing air pollution.
But only certain kinds of cities are possible in SimCity and its successors. The city of your dreams must be car-centric, modernist, and usually grid-based. Vehicles in SimCity conveniently don’t emit pollution, or even need parking: When cars reach their destinations they simply disappear.
The disappearing cars of the simulated city are a way to make the game more accessible by preventing eternal gridlock. But they also elide many of the most heated debates in real-life urban planning. Parking spaces are battlegrounds, and drivers fight for them against more bike or pedestrian-friendly infrastructure. Students playing the base game or the educational version of SimCity are presented with an environment where cars are neutral, unproblematic, and essential, rather than a deliberate policy choice.
Other elements of SimCity are more troubling. Worker sims have no permanent homes. They cycle endlessly between whatever businesses or dwellings have available slots. Homeless sims are created when a house becomes “abandoned” due to falling property values. These sims lose their identity, gender, and “citizenship” within the game. They wander aimlessly between public spaces and abandoned buildings, eating garbage on their way. They cannot be helped, only removed through stringent trash collection and bus depots out of town. Race, social mobility, real estate speculation, and community aren’t simulated at all. Omissions like this aren’t just matters of design. Their absence from the game is a statement of its own.
You might assume SimCity isn’t a deliberate political project, just one that happens to be built on the particular presumptions and expectations held by the sort of white-collar designers employed by Maxis and later EA. However, in the case of SimCity,the ideological roots go much deeper to the spotty sociology of the anti-Great Society polemic Urban Dynamics, written by MIT computer scientist Jay Forrester. Urban Dynamics outlines an argument against taxation and social services, claiming that governments could better address poverty by catering to the needs of business. Forrester made these arguments in 1969, supporting them with then-state-of-the-art computer models. Will Wright, the original designer of SimCity,was inspired by Urban Dynamics and used parts of it to build his game. This isn’t something the game tells players. Players cannot adjust these inbuilt assumptions; they cannot interact with the model itself. They can only play in the margins of the inputs and outputs while the black box remains inaccessible.
“The interactivity of a game,” writes games scholar Paolo Pedercini, “should not be mistaken with the freedom to try things out and see what works.” No matter how unbiased or apolitical games may claim to be, every game has a rhetorical scope.
Professor Rebecca Reynolds of Rutgers University, who studies the application of games in computer science and digital literacy, told me that this shouldn’t necessarily be interpreted as a limitation of the medium, but of our creativity. “The game is only as good as the teacher’s creative and imaginative curriculum development,“ Reynolds explained, citing a need for teachers to design lesson plans with educational games as a component, not the focus of, learning. She stressed the need for careful research in this area. “We have to know what’s beyond the hype.”
Reynold’s own work has shown that using gamified learning systems can overcome race, sex, and economic gaps in computer science and math learning. These gamified systems aren’t actually games at all. They are digital learning management platforms that guide students through a curriculum while providing positive reinforcement through points, badges, and upgrades for in-system avatars. Systems like this aren’t games as such, but use the trappings of games to keep students “engaged.”
“On a classroom level it can work and it works great,” said Caleb Stokes, a high school teacher and game designer. Stokes is the designer of Red Markets, a role-playing game about the horrors of capitalism. He uses games in his classroom in rural Missouri, and has seen positive results in his students’ information recall, teamwork, and participation. By demonstrating basic principles of game design and game mechanics, he says his students have come to understand systemic thinking and probability.
But game design thinking goes beyond individual lesson plans. “The gamified semester shows a lot of value,” he continued, comparing it to traditional grading where you start at 100% and grades go down over the semester. In a gamified semester, grades function like achievements or experience points. Students start from zero and slowly “level up.” “It’s a lot better in terms of incentive,” Stokes said, “but it’s hard to do.” Functionally, you have to design the whole semester before the kids show up.
That’s actually the model of the New York public middle-high school Quest to Learn (Q2L).The entire school is modeled on game design thinking. Every piece of the curriculum is framed as a “mission.” Teachers work closely with game designers to build a curriculum that meets New York State standards. The school has shown some success in terms of standardized testing results, but it’s still early days for the school. It’s only been operating since 2009.
In many ways both Quest to Learn and self-motivated game pedagogues like Caleb Stokes are anomalies. Stokes, like most teachers using game design in their classrooms, are doing it on their own time to help their own kids. That’s not something every teacher has the time, expertise, resources, or passion to pursue. And unlike many public schools, Quest to Learn is an experiment supported in part by the MacArthur Foundation and staffed with dedicated believers. There isn’t any data showing how many teachers use game design in their lesson plans, but there’s only one Quest to Learn-style school. Both situations are the exception, not the rule.
Gamification in the classroom typically takes the form of “learning management systems.” These are technology platforms like Google Classroom, Apple’s Schoolwork, ClassDojo, Classcraft, or Kahoot!, all built to be easily applied to any school. These platforms wrap educational activities in a friendly, entertaining, video game-like skin, or feature game plugins. Some are more game-like than others. Schoolwork and Google Classroom are essentially mini social networks for individual classes with real-time grades and feedback. Kahoot! is a mobile quiz-game app that “brings the urgency of a quiz game show to the classroom”. ClassDojo is a giant leaderboard where teachers can issue points or demerits for disciplinary reasons. Classcraft is a fantasy-themed “behavior and learning management role playing game” that’s structured like a free-to-play mobile game. Students earn “powers” (like eating in class) for good behavior. Bad behavior is represented as “damage” to the character. Teachers function like game masters in Dungeons and Dragons. Many of these apps can connect with students’ phones or tablets; some, like ClassDojo, publicly shame kids with parent-accessible leaderboards. Good and bad behavior are displayed for every student and parent to see.
“They are a fun facade that legitimize methods of surveillance,” argues Rowan Tulloch, a games studies professor from Macquarie University. He claims that apps like these serve the interests of institutions and capital more than those of students. By monitoring students, the apps try to quantify the qualitative experience of education and serve as proxies for administrators to discipline the unruly. Administrators aren’t evil (necessarily), they’re responding to the demands of an increasingly austere, test-heavy educational ecosystem. As a result, gamified apps are not systems that allow genuine self-empowerment or exploration; their purpose is to discipline workers or students into their roles within the institution. Students must play by someone else’s rules, or be punished.
This isn’t the first time adults have tried to control children by dominating games and play. In the first decades of the 20th century, progressive reformers and the child-saving movement adopted playgrounds as part of a suite of social reforms that also included labor laws and a separate juvenile justice system. At the same time, American cities grew rapidly, taking in immigrants from Europe and Latin America, African-Americans moving northward in the Great Migration, and rural Americans seeking jobs as agriculture mechanized. Consequently, the population of urban children swelled. Working-class children playing in the streets were a nuisance to traffic, and an object of racist and classist fretting.
The Child Savers demanded that philanthropists and city government set aside land for play.
They argued that playgrounds would bolster education, cognitive development, and produce good citizens. Reformers in Cleveland railed against “spare time” for children as a source of delinquency. Children could not be trusted to their own devices. Playgrounds should not just be built, but also staffed and supervised. Adults should lead the children in play and, in so doing, assimilate them into white American culture. More than that, play had to be engineered, optimized, and useful. According to technology historian Carroll Pursell, these reformers had a vision of shaping savage immigrant children into docile workers using the principles of “scientific management.” In the words of one reformer: “We want a play factory; we want it to run at top speed on schedule[sic] time with the best machinery and skilled operatives.”
“Scientific management” was, essentially, just micromanagement and work speed-up practices elevated to a science. Managers would follow their employees around with stopwatches, haranguing them for inefficient movements or resting. This practice, based on the work of Frederick Winslow Taylor, is also known as Taylorism. From the turn of the century until the 1920s, Taylorists were in charge of the playground, directing working-class children in sex-segregated, systematized play. As one might imagine, the children didn’t take to this, and either avoided playgrounds or ignored the shouts of supervisors. One 1915 survey from Hartford, Connecticut showed that only 4% of children tolerated the Taylorist playgrounds. The practice persisted until wartime austerity killed the public appetite for employing adults whose job it was to force children to exercise and also to maintain park equipment.
The digital gamification of school can be understood as a similar movement, capturing and domesticating the play instinct in schools. But unlike the Taylorist playgrounds of the turn of the century, gamification in schools is driven by austerity, not halted by it. Also, it doesn’t only target kids. Teachers are in the crosshairs as well. Gamified apps and ed tech more broadly are parts of the race to privatize schools, control curricula, and deprofessionalize teachers.
“When your school is under-resourced, the fast solution is to put a computer in front of kids,” said Merrie Najimy, President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. She explained that cash-strapped schools are driven to maximize class sizes, and in some cases, this leads to computer-based instruction, complete with game-like skill challenges for the kids. Such a system, Najimy explains, turns teachers into proctors and troubleshooters, task-workers and mechanical turks, rather than the guides and facilitators of childhood education. This is the pipedream of educational “reformers” like Bill Gates or former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan: a few teachers reaching thousands of classrooms over the internet, while schoolchildren are supervised locally by apps and proctors. “It’s the dissolution of the brick and mortar classroom,” she says.
This isn’t a lost battle. In an ironic twist for ed tech companies, austerity also makes it difficult for struggling districts to buy computers and stable wifi. The decentralized structure of the U.S. public school system coupled with bureaucratic and difficult procurement policies make mass adoption of any single tech platform difficult. The nonprofit Institute of Play and its spinoff game studio GlassLab–both funded by the Gates Foundation–closed their doors recently due to financial issues. The most successful players in the market, like Google, Kahoot!, and ClassDojo, have offered free software directly to teachers. It’s a distribution model not unlike that of social media: free services with hidden costs and unclear monetization schemes. Teachers’ unions are now all the more necessary; through organizing, unions can expose the hidden costs of these technologies.
“It’s our responsibility to stand up. To reclaim technology for use in ways that keep public schools public,” Najimy said.
Games, which have been with us since the dawn of time, can easily be used in ways that aren’t dystopian, no matter what kind of technology they employ. Teachers like Caleb Stokes or Professor Frierson demonstrate that using games as a point of discussion or as an exercise in design can work well in some educational contexts. Using games as team-building exercises–or as projects to provoke thinking about the nature of systems–can be very beneficial. Carefully-structured play exercises, such as those done at Quest to Learn, can also be useful tools for teaching. What doesn’t work is expecting a game or app to perform the act of teaching on our behalf. We cannot outsource the work of teaching to SimCity. We cannot expect an app to fix our educational ills. Games are limited. They are maps, not places; tools, not teachers. If we’re going to use them we need to make sure we aren’t being played.
Illustration by Tyler Rubenfeld
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pop up in outlets like Wired and Techcrunch. reversing all the achievements of the revolutionaries and anyone vaguely associated with them. students observed butterflies and bees, cared for pets, and planted gardens. . Classcraft is a fantasy-themed “behavior and learning management role playing.
On average, we've seen that students tend to earn about 1.5 level's worth of experience per month (for a class that lasts a year). The following chart gives you a general idea of how much XP students should receive:
Week (standard, 4-week month)
Day (standard, 5-day week)
Naturally, these results can vary. For example, after only two months, some students may be level 2 while others are already level 4. It can also depend on your evaluation system and when you deliver grades. If you hand out evaluations and grades irregularly, students will earn XP at an irregular rate. By the end of most courses, we've observed that the majority of students end up somewhere between levels 10 and 13.
The level required to “max out” a character is 18, but few students, or none at all, will reach that level. If any student reaches level 18, you could find a way to highlight their achievement such as by creating a custom certificate for them.
For that reason, we strongly recommend that you find a creative way to reward winners.
You can learn more about awarding XPhere.
I believe that you are understanding correctly. Every pet has a specific set of achievements a student must accomplish in order to "unlock" them. This being said, they cannot be directly purchased by teachers or even by us.
In regards to your next question, Yes; there is a way to work around this in your case. What I would do is let the students pick the pets they want, followed by starting that specific mission for that pet and having you assist them in completing the tasks. These tasks are, for example, gain 40 GP in one day. Once they start the mission, you can then give them that 40 GP, where it will then take 24 hours for the game to update on that particular mission "checkpoint". You would likely need to do this for the 2-3 checkpoints it takes to unlock a pet.
What's nice about this is that you can still use this to your advantage to get good behavior. Although you might not require them to do exactly what the mission says, in the event that it's harder or even impossible to do without internet, you could still ask them to show other forms of good behavior to complete their pet unlocking objective.
Hope that helps, Corinne! Please let me know if you have any other questions or if there's anything else at all I can help you with.
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chers And Experts
Innovative Practices From Tea
Issue 11 Innovate My School www.innovatemyschool.com
learning on a quest twinterview with
Sugata Mitra 5 Apps taking 2015 education by storm Lifehacks for teachers
The Innovation Magazine For Teachers
Whole Curriculum Subject Resource - involving ICT
Best Paid for ICT/ App Product
Primary Resource - involving ICT
Supplier of the Year: ÂŁ1m-10m turnover
Early Years Resource - involving ICT
contents Innovation update
5 apps for 2015
Twinterview: Sugata Mitra
Class = room
Focus on: Archery
Lifehacks for teachers
“Successful technology projects in schools almost always rest on the quality of leadership and implementation (including training), and almost never on the quality of the technology.”
Educate 1-to-1, p.31
If you would like to advertise in this magazine, please email [email protected], phone 01244 312 720 or visit www.innovatemyschool.com/magazine. www.innovatemyschool.com
The buzz of anticipation is starting to fill the corridors as exam season draws ever closer, so we hope that this edition of the magazine will not only inspire your teaching for the months ahead, but also provide enlightenment from the added pressures that the summer term can bring. Turn to page 11 for our primary school expert’s top 5 apps taking the industry by storm and some great tips to save you time and effort in planning. On page 14, teacher and author Matthew Farber discusses the development of gamification in schools and how it can enhance the learning experience for pupils and teachers alike. We’re delighted to welcome TED prize winner Sugata Mitra to the Twinterview. Hailed as one of the educational greats of our time, Sugata’s Hole in the Wall experiment shows that children can learn from each other. The project inspired Indian Diplomat Vikas Swarup to write his first novel, which then later became the movie Slumdog Millionaire.You can read Sugata’s exclusive interview on page 18. I’ll leave you with this wonderful saying that one of my primary school teacher friends said to me the other day. “Every problem offers new possibilities for something wonderful to happen.” Have a wonderful summer term from everyone at Innovate My School and we look forward to welcoming you back in September. Until then – keep up the inspiration!
Rachel Johnson Editor, Innovate My School Magazine 3
Investing The Pounds in PE
Multimillion pound government boost to improve PE in primary schools is supported with new online advisory resource.
healthy habit for life. Our PE and sport premium is helping to transform PE lessons and enabling schools to hire extra coaches, buy new equipment and run free afterschool classes.”
A new sport coach website has been set up to help primary schools to recruit, train and The PE and sport premium, introduced develop new starters and manage their PE in 2013, goes directly to primary school funding budgets. headteachers so that they can decide how best to use it to provide PE and As we know, the £450 million of Olympicsporting activities for pupils. According legacy PE and sports premium funding is to the government, 9 out of 10 schools already driving up sport participation in have already improved the quality of their schools, but it’s hoped the launch of this PE lessons as a result of the funding, and state-funded website will only enhance more than 90% reported improvements in things further and allow heads to make children’s health, behaviour and lifestyle. targeted decisions on how their funding should be best spent. So far, headteachers have used the funding The Coaching in Schools portal will provide to recruit extra specialist PE teachers and train up staff, as well as buying new advice for heads on how to recruit and equipment and offering a wider selection of use coaches effectively to get the best out sports clubs. The statistics show two-thirds of the cash. It’s a free source of objective of schools have used the funding to bring in advice on everything headteachers and PE new sports coaches. co-ordinators need to recruit and deploy coaches to support their staff, effectively and sustainably. Children and families minister Edward Timpson said that the PE and sport premium had already helped to transform school sport. “We want all primary school children to play and enjoy sport, so they keep up the 4
John Driscoll, executive director of Sports Coach UK, said: “We’re pleased that the majority of primary schools are using specialist sports coaches to support their teachers in the delivery of PE and sport. We know that identifying, recruiting and deploying the right coach is a tough task.” Innovatemyschool
THE FUTURE OF TECHNOLOGY IS IN THE MIND With 3D printing continuing to dominate technology headlines, and an ever-growing presence within the mainstream education system, itâ€™s no surprise that the latest articles about printed bionics only open up the innovative possibilities to explore the avenue in the curriculum over the coming years even further.
the technology moves forward. If this can be achieved in a bedroom now, imagine how our classroom sessions could look over the next few years. Will pupils be printing components for the car garage down the road, or manufacturing parts to fix the school plumbing system? Will schools be able to sell printed goods for money and make lessons into profit-making businesses alongside the learning?
Just this week I was reading an article about how revolutionary mind-controlled bionics could one day potentially end mental disabilities. What a statement. It never ceases to amaze me how incredible technological advances can be. Of course, while this may not be able to be replicated in classrooms (yet!) the influx of stories about 3D printed prosthetics being designed and printed in bedrooms paves the way for more costeffective prosthetic solutions to anyone, as
Itâ€™s incredibly interesting, not only for children being able to feel part of the technological world around them, but also for pupils to be able to touch and feel what the top professors around the world have access to (on a much smaller scale, for obvious reasons).
In this world where 3D printing is becoming commonplace, the confines of possibilities in classes lie with budgets now rather This ground-breaking technology is making than a physical barrier to such innovative its way into classrooms at a time when technology. The UK Government agrees, most schools have at least some similar actively trying to get academics and devices to support teaching and learning. companies to work more closely together On top of this, the lifesaving possibilities that to drive forward this pioneering new have emerged from such technology are industry. The future is printed, but where it changing the way our entire world works. will take education is very exciting indeed.
3D printing has ushered in a new dawn of technology, and I canâ€™t wait to see where it leads next. 5
Preserving zambian heritage through digital reading Storytelling innovation brings young people in Zambia their own timeless stories by integrating them onto mobile phones. A mobile storytelling project will bring reading to Zambian children who donâ€™t usually have access to books at home, and will offer the chance to expand their reading and knowledge of local affairs. Makhalidwe Wathu raises awareness about the importance of early grade literacy, and encourages a culture of mother-tongue storytelling and reading. Itâ€™s hoped that the added time spent reading with family members will create a stronger support system for young students to continue practicing their reading skills outside of school.
In Zambia, limited access to reading materials, especially in local languages, has inhibited some childrenâ€™s ability to master foundational literacy skills. With so few mother-tongue books and materials at home, parents and community members rarely find ways to support children in reading outside of school. As a result, a number of children do not have adequate opportunities to practice reading. The South African Consortium for Monitoring Education Quality noted in 2010 that only 27.4 percent of sixth graders could read at a basic competency level. Although literacy is low in Zambia, rates of mobile phone usage are quite high. Makhalidwe Wathu capitalises on this mobile technology to create and disseminate recreational mother tongue reading materials to families with early grade children in Zambia in a way that is community-based and scalable. Innovatemyschool
The project, which means “our way of staying” in the local Chinyanja language, will use crowd sourcing to collect local stories, folktales and original content from community members in Zambia and the diaspora using cell phones, voice messages and a web-based submission form. From this story bank, 54 selections will be edited to be language and age appropriate and sent via SMS to primary school students, which will increase their reading ability and improve communication skills.
in 2010 only 27.4 percent of sixth graders could read at a basic competency level. www.innovatemyschool.com
Creative Associates International co-founder and CEO Charito Kruvant, who also runs the project, told us: “Where children’s books are rare, it follows that literacy is low. But we can look beyond these old limitations and innovate to bring reading to children and to communities. That’s what Makhalidwe Wathu is doing.” The project has won recognition from the U.S Agency for International Development as part of the USAID’s All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development project.
News written by: Rachel Louise Johnson Editor of Innovate My School Magazine [email protected]
Fast, effective introductions to cutting-edge innovation To find out more about our live event that comes to you, watch the video at:
Straight to Teaching
Grow Your Own Qualified Teachers Straight to Teaching is a unique development programme designed to help existing school staff gain QualiďŹ ed Teacher Status (QTS ) while they continue to work in school. Programmes are tailored to each participant based on their existing knowledge, and use a blend of online and in-school development to help them achieve QTS. For more information visit our website or call us on 0800 088 6126 and mention Innovate My School.
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Durham Trinity School on tackling the storage space challenge Durham Trinity School looks after around 180 students with special educational needs, aged between 2 and 19 years. The school uses Arena’s mstore software to manage finance, HR and pupil records in electronic format. Business Manager, Alison Jefferson, explains: “Within the next year we will be managing all of our documents entirely in electronic format and this will make our move into new premises much easier. The new building will have much less storage space and this was the main motive for reducing our reliance on paper and our document archive. Clearing our filing cabinets has already created enough space to accommodate a new staff member and we are really happy with the way mstore is transforming the way we work with documents.
Allison Jefferson, Business Manager, Durham Trinity School
Arena is very familiar with the legal obligations surrounding records management in schools and we were confident from the start that they could help us to achieve our goals whilst remaining compliant with all of the rules. mstore was fast and easy to install and it works with our existing IT systems and software, including SIMS. We didn’t need to replace anything or learn how to use an entirely new system and the software is really straightforward to use. We can save and retrieve files quickly and safeguarding is enforced more easily too. Everyone has their own login details and access rights - so sensitive documents are protected and we can audit user activity if we need to. Arena Group specialises in print, copy and digital document management. We support hundreds of schools across the UK in reducing costs, simplifying compliance, improving efficiencies and operating ‘greener’.
For more information contact Arena on:
0844 863 8000 www.arenagroup.net
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5 apps for 2015
5 apps taking 2015 education by storm Amy Kingsley is a self-confessed iPad aficionado and a passionate primary school innovator based in Manchester. Writing exclusively for Innovate My School, she shares her top five apps to enhance teaching and learning in her classroom.
1. Explain Everything
I often use Explain Everything to set independent tasks for pupils.There’s a letter formation tutorial for example, which models how to form each letter before inviting children to practise.The end result can be saved as evidence for assessment purposes. The computing curriculum requires children to learn how to manipulate and edit images. During our topic on WW1, my pupils used the picture cropping tool within Explain Everything to create their own Cottingley Fairy style images.
Without a doubt my signature app, I have used Explain Everything in a number of ways. It is ideal for editing and improving pupils’ written work. By simply taking a 2. iMovie photo of the child’s work, I record myself reading it iMovie, which is free for iPad out, using the cursor tool to M or n and iPhone, is a fantastic app for fo i n a c ti o encourage children to read along creating professional movie trailers with me, and the pen and shape tool to and longer movies. The app offers a variety annotate positive features of their work. of movie trailer genres to choose from and enables you to add photos, short videos and In my Year 1 class, I have used Explain Everything to support children with re-reading text. KS2 pupils enjoy using the app to create their writing. Below is an example of where one their own movie trailers. Below is an example of what a Year 5 pupil achieved. of my pupils has used the voice recorder to re-read her work and, as an extension activity, picked out the exclamation marks used. I have also used the app to produce many lesson ‘hooks’.The full movie option is both www.innovatemyschool.com
5 apps for 2015 KS1 and KS2 friendly. My Year 1 pupils are able to add photos from the camera roll and, in supported groups, record themselves re-telling stories.
3. Book Creator Recently voted Best Educational App at the Bett awards, Book Creator lends itself to KS1 and 2 pupils alike. Pupils can easily create their own iBooks by adding photos, videos, text, audio recordings and editing the layout of their books.The audio tool is perfect for younger pupils to consolidate their learning and the books can be exported as an iBook or as a video for publishing to YouTube and class blogs. My Year 5 pupils used Book Creator as part of their Romeo and Juliet topic, adding descriptive language using the text tool and short Lego animations made previously using the free iMotion app.
5. Morfo Booth Morfo is a hilarious app, perfect for bringing characters (animal or human, fictional or real) to life! Simply upload a photo from the camera roll, set the position of the facial features and record your message.The pitch of your voice can be changed in order to hide your real identity! Nobody suspected a thing when I informed my Year 1 class that, following a break in and porridge theft at school, Goldilocks had been arrested and interviewed by police! I created the following video using Morfo and used iMovie to sequence the clips, adding CCTV footage, voiceovers, music and text.
I hope you can have as much fun integrating these apps into your lessons as I do with mine.
4. Tellagami Tellagami is a fun app, enabling children to style a character and record short videos using their own voices or adding text and choosing from a bank of character voices.The background can be changed so your character can be anywhere in the world. In the following video, I used Tellagami to introduce Year 1 to a theme day on Brazil during last year’s World Cup.Tellagami only allows you to create short clips, so I recorded a number of videos and sequenced them using iMovie, as shown here:
Unsurprisingly, children love using the app to create their own ‘gami’. 12
Article written by: Amy Kingsley Class Teacher and English Subject Leader at Russell Scott Primary School, Manchester
@MissKingsley85 [email protected] Literacy blog: http://misskingsley1314.russellscottblogs.net Class blog: http://2014year1.russellscottblogs.net
Gamification: Learning on a Quest Education author Matthew Farber takes us on a journey of how software is shaping the digital classroom. In the business world, gamification has become something of a buzzword. The idea is to take elements from digital games and add it to enhance a customer’s experience. On consumer websites and mobile applications, this can mean digital badges, leaderboards to track scores, levels to unlock, and other reward mechanisms. Beyond shopping, gamification is now nearly synonymous with fitness tracking devices. Wearable fitness devices can track a user’s steps and heart rate. Badges are usually awarded for milestones. What’s more, fitness trackers also have social media plug-ins, thus generating a spirit of competitive fun with friends. Gamification to a game designer has, of course, different connotations. Badges and 14
leaderboards are just a part of a game’s interconnected system. Stripping out parts of a whole and then adding them to online shopping portals or wearable device applications does not turn everyone’s online world into a game. Trappings of gamification can occur when it is the focal point of an activity. In other words, gamification mechanics should be in the background, enhancing game-like activities. Tracking your own progress with such devices should be a journey, not just a series of rewards. Similarly, gamification in education should be used as a tool to help deliver personalised learning. For example, Khan Academy gives each learner his or her own dashboard to track the badges unlocked for each instructional video viewed. Gamification mechanics can include more than Innovatemyschool
gamification points and badges. In my practice, I have students create talking, digital avatars with Voki Classroom. Voki is intuitive and easy to use. Simply design and customise your character, type in the text you want it to say (or record your voice), and then press play. Voki avatars are game-like and can be an effective presentation tool. The final result can be easily embedded on a website or blog. Other engaging gamification mechanics for the classroom include Easter eggs, which are hidden items left for students to find. When I use Easter eggs, I acknowledge my student’s discovery with a digital badge.
Platforms for Educational Gamification
Edmodo is a popular learning management tool. It can also be used as a platform for a gamified classroom. Students and teachers (there is a large professional development community on Edmodo) can upload their own avatar images and interact with others in a virtual classroom. Edmodo is private and secure, too. It has the look and feel of Facebook. Social interactions can be monitored or frozen to “read-only” by the teacher. I use the “small group” feature, which enables students to work cooperatively, while I monitor. Badges can be given on Edmodo, too. The Help page features resources, including www.innovatemyschool.com
student and parent letters that review terms of digital citizenship. 3D GameLab goes even further as a fully gamified platform. Aside from badges and leaderboards, 3D GameLab offers a “quest” structure. The learning, in this case, is the journey. Students have options to fulfill different quests, which level up in challenge. Another example of game-like learning platform is ClassCraft, which takes the model of the multiplayer online game World of Warcraft, and uses it to deliver instruction. Each student earns experience points (XP) from assigned learning activities. In turn, the teacher has a dashboard to manage the analytics of the virtual classroom (3D GameLab has analytics, too.) The class plays in teams that include guilds of warriors, mages (wizards) and healers. As a result, ClassCraft turns the gamified classroom into a role-playing game. The key to gamification in education is to be sure it’s a tool to enhance the learning journey. It should never be the goal of a gamified classroom to collect badges. When properly integrated, learning can be enhanced and fun. Using a platform, like Edmodo, 3D GameLab, or ClassCraft, can round out the experience, enabling students to work in teams, all while taking ownership of their own learning..
Article written by: Matthew Farber Teacher of social studies at Valleyview Middle School and author of Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning. @MatthewFarber
DRAGON’S DEN WINNERS www.innovatemyschool.com
Sugata Mitra: School in the Cloud
As one of the most influential names in modern education, Prof Sugata Mitra has transformed over a million lives in India with his innovative Hole in the Wall experiment. The professor was awarded the prestigious $1m TED prize two years ago in recognition of his unfailing commitment to education through his School in the Cloud concept. It is our privilege to welcome Sugata to the Innovate My School Twinterview. Sugata – it’s been widely documented that your ideas are fuelling a generation of geniuses. This must make you extremely proud. It might be a problem with our definition of genius.
To what extent does the curiosity of young people drive future talent? Curiosity drives search; search drives adventure; adventure is exciting. I don’t know about talent. Is peer-to-peer teaching in schools the future? It could be one of the futures possible….
Will the hole in the wall experiment be replicated elsewhere over the next couple of years? I am sure it will be. The influence of the hole in the wall experiment on the film Slumdog Millionaire must have been a poignant moment in your life. I was a bit surprised, actually. How much does self-exploration shape learning experiences for children?
We hear a lot about innate abilities, but do teachers need to explore this more to boost achievement further? If achievement is measured by examinations as they are today, the answer is no. Is the statement that children are able to teach themselves anything even more applicable now in our technologyâ€“driven society?
Children are able to learn anything by I donâ€™t think there is any learning experience themselves if they use the Internet in that does not involve self-exploration. unsupervised groups. Not otherwise.
TWINTERVIEW Should some form of voluntary perception recording be present in every school?
How can we encourage a more connected world of education?
Yes, if the school uses its output.
By creating assessment methods that allow the use of the Internet during examinations.
Are we seeing the demise of traditional classrooms? Yes, they will change.
Passion or hard work – what creates the best environment for achieving?
Has the Internet fuelled a united or divided world?
Rational interest creates the best environment for achieving.
The Internet is our collective consciousness, it is greater than the sum of its parts.
How important to education is learning from mistakes made?
How important is collaboration in education?
It is one of the ways to learn. There are others.
Collaboration is very important for most learning, I don’t know about education.
What technology innovation should schools watch out for?
What is your favourite edtech innovation of recent years?
Invisible and undetectable access to the Internet in schools and during examinations.
The Internet. :) How has your PhD in physics shaped your education research? I learned how to design experiments and how not to form opinions without data. These helped. What advice would you give to teachers looking for lesson plan inspiration? Don’t plan. Let the plan emerge.
Twinterview with: Professor Sugata Mitra
ENGAGING THE UNENGAGED: HOW IMMERSIVE ENVIRONMENTS ARE INSPIRING RELUCTANT LEARNERS
immersive environments It’s 10.30 am and fifteen Year 2 boys are huddled inside an old army parachute dappled in green and brown light, the noises of gunfire rattling in the distance while outside they are confronted with life-size images of young soldiers in battle. Each child whispers to their partner as they write down their experiences. Which of these children are unengaged? Looking at the wonder and anticipation in all of the children’s faces as they scribble words and drawings on their paper, it’s hard to tell. And while we know each child will have different levels of engagement across different learning approaches, it reminds us that everybody has the capacity to be engaged. It’s my opinion that everybody has a skill or experience that they are good at, that they can be absorbed by, and that they can learn from, whether that exists within a traditional learning environment or elsewhere.The difficulty is often having the time to find out what that skill is, and creating a flexible enough, personalised learning environment that can cater to the individuals’ needs. Immersive spaces can’t solve the problems of the complex context or history of those children who have, rightly or wrongly, been labelled as ‘unengaged’, but they can provide a forum in which their barriers to learning can be disregarded, and their approaches to enquiry, communication and experience identified and championed. So how does this work in practice? Huddled in their enormous parachute tent, the Y2 boys at Bowlee Primary school in Middleton are www.innovatemyschool.com
immersive environments looking at a single red poppy that is trapped in a glowing white box in the middle of the tent.They are asked to write down what they think it is and how it makes them feel, looking at that poppy, hearing the gunfire and being in that space. For a school that is outstanding across the board, but where children have limited experiences and where engagement within boys’ literacy is an ongoing challenge, providing them with an opportunity to use writing to express their own feelings in their immediate surroundings was powerful. Not only did the children begin writing straight away, using vocabulary and WOW words that the teachers acknowledged was at a richer level than previous work in the classroom, but most also started working together in small groups of two or three, without direction. Taking charge of the way they learned and engaging in an experiential way encouraged them to engage more deeply. At Ormiston Horizon Academy in Stoke-onTrent, teachers create immersive experiences that blend the vocational with the theoretical, the practical with the abstract to engage pupils in maths and science. By creating experiential scenarios within their immersive environment, pupils must employ their maths knowledge to solve a series of mysteries, from working in a criminology lab to find out who murdered the Y9 maths teacher, to exploring engineering by designing and building balloon cars within the space. So what’s different? In all of these short examples, the immersive experiences created did more than just excite, provoke and enthuse. On a basic level, they permitted the pupils to travel to worlds – real or otherwise – that most had not had access to before, to experience new sensations, landscapes and scenarios in a safe space. Crucially, they were allowed to experience these environments in 24
their own time, as individuals, without being singled out. With labels disregarded, they could take ownership of their learning by using their own experiences to shape that learning, and teachers in turn could observe the different ways in which pupils processed this journey. One of the most powerful things a teacher said to me was that in their immersive space, the differences of ability between the pupils in her class became much less apparent because each child had the freedom and space to nurture their imagination independently and interpret their experience and their responses to it in a space that belonged as much to them and their peers, as to the practitioners supporting their transition through education. Article written by: Inés Soria-Donlan Training and research co-ordinator for 4D creative. www.4Dcreative.co.uk @4Dcreative @InesSoriaDonlan
class = room
Class = room How transforming traditional layouts into contemporary angled spaces can boost pupil productivity, as Lancashire secondary IT teacher Katie Rennie explains. When it comes to classroom design, any teacher will tell you it’s all about managing the space you’re given and adapting your teaching style to suit the room and your class size.
control, has better circulation and enables new, more collaborative teaching methods. The IT suite I use at Southlands had a very traditional layout, with PCs set up
So of course, the opportunity to completely change your classroom opens up a world of possibility, offering the chance to create a layout that’s easier to
class = room
how space is shaping achievement in lessons on perimeter benching and a bank of desks at the back with two rows of four computers facing each other. It was a layout that Ph ot o worked, provided Cr ed it: I stood at the Inn ov aD front of the es ign classroom. S olu
The only ‘blind spot’ was four desks with screens facing away from me – I’d have to go to the back of the room to make sure pupils really were doing their work! My classroom was one of several earmarked for refurbishment as part of a large programme of works at the school, and the change in design really has impacted on my teaching and on pupils’ concentration levels. After a lot of discussion about the sort of space that would work best, we opted for a layout incorporating zig zag benching. I’m told the layout was inspired by the way phone
class = room booths at Berlin airport were designed to accommodate suitcases. Like the phone booths, the angled benching maximises space, giving students more room to work and making the classroom more manageable. One of our key priorities for the IT suite at Southlands was to accommodate more pupils. We also needed a layout which was easy for myself and the pupils to navigate. The existing classroom placed the students side-by-side, and with computers, bags and books on the tables they were often jostling for elbow room, so increasing the amount of individual space was also on our wish list. We also wanted to create a central area where the class could gather for group work and demonstrations rather than staying seated at their computers throughout lessons. Given that the classroom’s dimensions were going to stay the same, it sounded like a big ask, but the zig zag design has transformed the way the room works. With all the computer monitors now facing the same way, the classroom is much more manageable. I can stand at the back of the class and see the pupils’ screens, so it’s easier to identify if someone is making a mistake and help them. The whole class can progress more quickly, because it’s less likely someone will get left behind, become frustrated and lose focus. The ‘zig zags’ create individual workspaces, so there’s enough room for everyone. If I need to sit with a student at their desk, the design gives me space to do that without getting in anyone’s way. Building a central group working area into 28
the room has made a huge difference to my teaching style. I can lead demonstrations for small groups of students, they can sit at the tables to use theory books or I can sit at the table while they’re working on their computers and supervise things more closely.
With all the computer monitors now facing the same way, the classroom is much more manageable. The pupils’ reaction to the new layout has been overwhelmingly positive. They say they prefer this classroom because it feels like a workplace – which is great, because it changes their approach to their work and helps them to take responsibility for their studies rather than relying on being fed information. They also like the fact they can always be doing something: now they’re all facing the front I can talk them through how to set up, rather than waiting until I’ve talked them through the process.
Article written by: Katie Rennie High School, Chorley
Using social stories to teach SE
Teaching with Star Wars Overcoming the security challenges of BYOD
107 Favourite iPad Apps for Learning
Should Twitter be used in schools? How to teach internet safety in Primary
Learning with the Raspberry Pi To ďŹ‚ip or not to ďŹ‚ip the classroom? For all these articles and more, visit: www.innovatemyschool.com
Innovation and inspiration for teachers
“Successful technology projects in schools almost always rest on the quality of leadership and implementation (including training), and almost never on the quality of the technology.” Dominic Norrish
line in sight and decide to pull the trigger as quickly as possible, handing out the devices they’ve spent so long preparing for, to all and sundry.
If the team leading this project are experienced, or the school has strong support from other Mobile learning, deployed in a 1-to-1 model, schools or a network that oversees can have an enormous impact on learning their progress, this might work, on a and teaching in a range of contexts, but only physical level. There are many things that if designed and implemented well. can go wrong, lots of lessons to be learnt along the way. How problematic these are According to BESA’s 2013 report, 57% of depends a little on how well you’ve prepared. Primaries and 75% of Secondaries plan on Your bandwidth might not be up to speed; implementing a one-device-per-child strategy if you’ve given yourself room to grow then in the next few years and for all of them, the this won’t ruin the project, but if you haven’t, difference between success and failure will be then you may be undone before you’ve the quality of advice they have access to. even begun. The filtering will undoubtedly need a lot of tampering with – things that The following excerpt from the eagerly were blocked before are now unblocked anticipated Educate 1-to-1, is printed and vice versa.Your MDM (Mobile Device exclusively for our readership. The book Management) might start misbehaving when brings together five veterans of mobile having to push out such large quantities of learning in order that their overlapping apps and the groupings you thought Active expertise and experience can help other Directory would automatically create and schools. It aims to simplify, demystify and copy over don’t. All of these things and more make it just plain easier to achieve the impact can happen, but all are usually surmountable. they have seen in their institutions through the discerning application of 1-to-1. 3.2.4 Student launches – incremental or Big Bang? Getting everything in place for a 1-to-1 mobile device launch is a big task. Depending on your starting point it can takes months, maybe years of planning. Because of this, many schools get the finish www.innovatemyschool.com
Educate 1-to-1 is available at the following website: www.educate1to1.org/ book
Help all your teachers achieve IMPACT through effective innovation adoption After years of supporting the introduction of learning technologies such as Interactive whiteboards, voting response systems, mobile learning... former teachers Neil Deakin & Dewi Lloyd realised great products and great training were often not enough to result in effective adoption across a school. Following the release of their’ white paper ‘Rationale for IMPACT projects , Increasing learning outcomes through better technology adoption’ IMPACT Matters has developed Impact Workshops & Projects. Impact workshops are facilitated discussions and activities focused on establishing action and momentum with the purpose of addressing specific development priorities.
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Sharp-eyed shooting Sherwood style Pupils at Wembrook Primary School in Nuneaton are celebrating after implementing archery lessons into the curriculum, as deputy head Lisa Bayliss explains. Our staff couldnâ€™t be prouder of our students this term after the introduction of archery. We decided as a school to target some of our pupil premium children to give them the opportunity to partake in a club that was
a little more unusual. After overwhelming requests from the children through the School Council, the Archery club, although in its infancy, has been a huge success already. Our headteacher Simon Pearson wanted to make sure that learners had plenty of strings to their bow (pardon the pun!) and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to offer children an activity with a difference.
News advertisement They’ve certainly taken the opportunity with full enthusiasm, with all of the staff being incredibly impressed that the spirit of Robin Hood is well and truly alive! The archery club has had a big impact on the school and children are excelling, not only in this sport, but we’re finding the excitement they’re getting from archery is filtering down to their other lessons as well and pupils are confident and progressing in other areas at a great rate. The lessons started just before Christmas, when Geoff Beston and his team from Nuneaton Archers (then The Bowmen of Charnwood) kindly gave up three Saturdays to come and support teaching the children how to correctly shoot arrows. Since the sessions at a nearby school, using real arrows, the children have continued to develop their skills in an after-school club held on Thursdays at Wembrook, and have not looked back since. Pupil Phoebe says she liked it when they had to try and shoot the balloons with the arrows on to the targets. She shot 2 balloons!
Another pupil, Olivia told me that Archery club was great because she got to see her friends on a Saturday. When she first started, she said she wasn’t very good but now she can get the arrow in gold.
The archery club has had a big impact on the school and children are excelling, not only in this sport.
It has been a joy for me to watch the children grow in confidence. They may be only 7 and 8 years old but some of the children already are showing a natural flair for archery. I am indebted to Geoff and his team for the support they have given the children over the past few weeks. The children have been so excited to learn this new skill we have a long waiting list for the club. We are hoping to take the children in the summer term to Sherwood Forest where they will be able to see where the legendary Robin Hood and his Merry Men spent his time. Article written by: Lisa Bayliss Deputy Headteacher Wembrook Primary School
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Pritt is offering primary schools around the country the opportunity to win an exciting, fun-filled arts and crafts day with Mister Maker and his friend Mr Pritt! Evenlode Primary School in Penarth together with Carrabane National School in Galway have been the two lucky winners to date – and there is still one more chance to win! At Evenlode Primary School in Penarth, Mister Maker and Mr Pritt hosted a fun Autumn-themed crafting session, making pupils into ‘Mini-Makers’ for the day. Evenlode Primary Year 3 teacher, Vanessa Parselle, commented that “the children had
Enter your school into this exclusive competition for the chance to have CBeebies Star Mister Maker and his friend Mr Pritt come to your school!
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a fantastic fun-filled day and all enjoyed the handson craft activity and especially meeting Mister Maker and Mr Pritt.” All primary schools in the UK who order Pritt products* will have received an information leaflet about how to enter the competition to win an arts and crafts session with Mr Pritt and Mister Maker. There is one more competition draw to be in with a chance to win this exclusive prize. To be in with a chance to receive a crafty visit from Mister Maker and Mr Pritt, teachers and school admin can visit www.prittworld.co.uk/teachers and enter the exclusive code on the information leaflet sent to you by Pritt. If you do not have a leaflet and your school orders products from Pritt, please contact [email protected] and we will send your unique code to you.
* Pritt Stick 43g packs of 34 sticks, 84 sticks, 100 sticks or 200 sticks only. www.innovatemyschool.com
lifehacks for teachers achers
life hacks Primary teacher and education blogger Molly Lynch lets us into simple things that make her career a lot easier.
My best ideas come to me when I’m either sleeping - and I just KNOW I’m not going to remember it when I wake up! Or when I’m in the shower. One day I’ll invent that waterproof pad of paper! My mind is constantly running. I’m thinking up new units, running through my grocery list or solving the debt crisis. So, needless to say, I like to make my life easy in as many ways as possible! This year, I’m seriously trying to streamline life. How do I make my life easier, enjoyable, and still be productive?
1. Velcro I put Velcro on the back of everything, from nametags, to posters, to bulletin boards. My favourite spot for this tool is on desktop nametags. It makes moving seats (and other goodies!) very simple and quick!
3. Popsicle sticks With so many uses, these can be a teacher’s best friend! At the beginning of the year, I write each student’s name on a lollipop stick. Throughout the day, I pull sticks to call on students to answer. These name sticks also make it easy to pair up or make groups for activities! For my fast finishers, I attach activities and ideas to keep those brains thinking. I’m also not sure how I would survive without technology! Fortunately, we live in a tech rich world and there are many ways to use devices to enhance life (and not just play games on!) I am a HUGE techie, so I absolutely love my tablet and smart phone.There’s life hacks galore!
4. Colour code your calendar To keep me organised, I use the calendar app for everything! It allows me to easily colour code my calendar for school, my blog and my personal t.
2. Dry erase markers These gems make an appearance daily in my classroom. A favourite activity for students is writing ON their desks! We can practice sight words, math problems and even perfect penmanship right on our desks! As an added bonus, dry erase markers are the only tool that will remove permanent marker from almost any surface!
5. Use a timer app to ensure you never miss anything again! In my classroom, I use the timer app ALL the time! It keeps track of specials, meetings and even reminders for calling people! I like to add emoji to fancy it up.
6. To-do list screen saver This is my favourite one! Use a photo editing app for your to-do list! You just type up what you need to do and save it as an image. Then, change your background picture! I LOVE this trick!
I hope some of these ideas will allow you to find a little more time for yourself! Article written by: Molly Lynch A primary school teacher and blogger based in California. http://www.luckytobeinfirst.com https://instagram.com/luckytobeinfirst www.facebook.com/LuckyToBeInFirst 38
Reinventing Elearning in Education
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What is the Lumici Slate?
Lumici Slate is an adaptive & responsive web application designed for students & teachers. It’s simple, intuitive, easy to use and provides you with the different layers in learning & teaching in one application. • • • • •
We provide you with the tools & content In a personalised environment With the ability to monitor performance That is relevant to you To ultimately achieve your goals
Who are Lumici?
Lumici is a learning technologies specialist that provides solutions for educational institutions through the creation of personalised web and mobile applications. The team behind Lumici have over 10 years experience in education and technology and all our applications are developed with teachers and students so you can be sure that our solutions will work for you. Our vision is to create beautiful and meaningful products and bring them to life in education.
www.innovatemyschool.com [email protected] | www.lumici.co.uk | 01332 742711 39
Innovate My School Magazine app - Coming Soon on... ts
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