Thursday, December 22, 2016

Educational games - How can I find the best games without having to wade through everything?

I've just completed the MITx: 11.127x: Design and Development of Games for Learning through the edx platform and one of the fabulously helpful things that we learnt about was how to quickly go through the best educational games that are available online.

So, here goes. The following list are the sites I would highly recommend to anyone interested in exploring their options around games in the classroom.


  • Playful Learning is sponsored by The Learning Network and is based in Massachussetts. Its aim is to connect innovative teachers (focusing on intermediate or middle school level, although these choices can quite easily be adapted to a range of levels) nationally who are focusing on the implementation of games in their classroom. Under their "LEARN" category, they have their top picks, organised by: Maths; Social Studies; Science; and English/Language Arts. Highly recommended. They have been selective, so you will be able to quickly see 3-6 games that are highly recommended for the specific curriculum area... and they have started collating some of the pedagogical rationale behind the selection, design of curriculum and implementation of games in the classroom (including an interview with a mathematician =)).
  • The Institute of Play is focused on preparing students for the new global environment through games, game-design and cooperative play. They have developed fantastic games such as GameStar Mechanic (which has free and premium access levels), although all of their projects are here (including things such as print and play games that teach maths and socratic thinking, quest schools and more).
  • Educade has free access once you've registered (which is very pain-free and quick) to a range of lesson plans that can be filtered by subject, year level, tool type (game, app, hands on making/DIY, digital making, website, role-play, augmented reality, simulations, embodied learning and video) and platform. A fabulous range of resources that save a lot of time when you are starting to plan.
  • Common sense education is a group that focuses on digital citizenship. This site is free to register. The three main games are: Digital Passport, Digital Compass and Digital Bytes. There are also sections exploring teaching strategies, Professional Development and an extensive searchable collection of rated apps, ordered by curriculum area, essential skills and some have lesson plans. There is a clear indication whether they are referring to a free or paid resource. As the site is undergoing maintenance at the time of writing this post, I haven't included links to these sections, but I find it an incredibly useful site.
  • Teach with Portals focuses on the game Portal (which is available for free on Steam to educators - http://theportalwiki.com/wiki/Portal_2_-_Educational_Version. The educational version consists of singleplayer mode and the puzzlemaker). There is a range of lesson plans and also a blog that has some very interesting links to webinars and thinking around games in education.
  • MineCraft EDU is a comprehensive site in terms of preparing you as an educator. It starts from downloading the app, as an educator, admin or student. There is a starter kit, a range of training materials, a collection of lesson plans from primary (elementary) through to secondary level, and a collection of starter worlds for use in the classroom.
  • Lure of the Labyrinth is a narrative game that has a series of puzzles with a maths and algebra focus. Highly engaging - the portal for educators steps teachers through the different options, a walkthrough of the game, FAQs, video support, lesson plans, explanations of the math in each puzzle and more.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Everlasting Darkness by Connie Wing (one of my students from EduKingdom)


Darkness, infinite darkness

surrounded me.

I took a step forward

wandering around to see if someone was here,

with me.

I took another step,

and another

The only sound that filled the area

was my footsteps.

I was strolling in an isolated place

Alone.

And finally, in front of me.

A Hill.

I saw a fuzzy figure of something

Or should I say.

‘Someone’?

It was a man,

a strange man.

Tall

really tall.

And he

he was wearing a bright blue necklace.

Shiny.

And mysterious.

The man

was he

waving at me?

“I’m here to get you, Elena.”

***

I found myself sitting on the bed, breathing heavily. I touched my face carefully with two fingers.

I tried to be calm and turned my head to the digital-clock beside my bed.

06:44 AM.

Something was wrong

I shook my head a few times to be sure that I was awake and jumped down from the bed, stepped into the bathroom and washed myself, and finally walked towards the kitchen.

Something was totally wrong

I quickly made breakfast and sat down in front of the television, switching to the news.

[HeyElena]

The house echoed the sound of my swallowing and biting.

I put my hand in my pocket

and slowly brought out a thing.

A shiny thing.

The bright blue necklace.

[ElenaElena.]

It was found in my pocket this morning,

but it wasn’t there last night.

I turned my head

to stare at the calendar.

04/04/4444.

What a miserable day.

*In chinese the number ‘4’ was pronounced as the chinese character of ‘death’.

***

“Yo Elena, what’s up?”

It was Emily, Elena’s best friend and the only person in the world who Elena trusted.

“Hey ElenaAre you okay? You don’t seem alright?”

Emily was very sensitive with people around her, especially Elena.

[Don’t you dare to tell herElena.?]

“ELENA!!!!!!”

Elena saw something waving in front of her eyes. It was Emily’s hand.

“Ahsorry Emily, II was thinking about thethescience fair tomorrow.”

Elena lied. She didn’t want Emily to get worried about her.

[Good for youElena.]

“Oh yeah! The science fair! I haven’t started yet!!” Emily shouted, “Ugh, no, no, noMs Li is going to kill me!! I don’t even know what I should do for my topic

Elena wasn’t listening. She was thinking about the nightmare, the necklace andthe man.

[I can seeconfusion appearing in your mind.]

“Sorry Emily!! I think I forgot something!!”

Elena waved at Emily and ran to one of the buildings beside her.

“Eh? But

[ ]

“Stop hiding and come out! I know you’re here!!”

[ ]

“I’ve got your necklace but I don’t get the point of you giving it to me.”

[ ]

“Come on

[You’ll need some sleepElena.]

***

The darkness

again.

The hill

again.

The nightmare

again.

But

where is the man?

Why

am I wearing the necklace?

Why

am I standing on the hill?

Why

am I waving to a girl?

And why

am I smiling?

Samsara...

A short story by Winnie Shen (one of my students from Edu-Kingdom College)

Tick, tack.

A tear dropped across a young girl's face and seeped into the dark soil. She touched the trunk of a tall tree and whimpered: “ Gin, I am missing you again. Don’t leave me alone…I need you. ”

That summer night led to the endless sadness.

This happened 15 years ago, when 7-year-old Mayo was still a primary school student.

The air was filled with humid and congealed warmth. The sooty cicadas were singing and chirping ceaselessly on the sycamore tree. The incandescent sunlight shone through the lavender chiffon curtain onto Mayo’s tender face. She rubbed her drowsy eyes for a while and yawned, stretching her arms with great ease.

It was summer vacation. Every summer Mayo would stay at her grandpa’s cottage far from the bustling city centre. After having a nap, she quickly dressed and put on her tiny sandals without even checking their color. Mayo couldn’t wait to see her special friend—Gin, the fairy fox who lives in the deep forest.

Mayo ran agilely all the way down towards the field with excitement. The little flushing stream of bubbling crystal clear water wet her white dress, leaving the unique summer imprint on her body. The luxuriant foliage tree leaves floated with the wind and sent off a hearty laugh as if they were greeting her. Once again, Mayo stood in front of this forest.

She still remembered clearly the first time when she got lost in the deep forest during her random bush walk. At that time, Mayo was too scared to move even a bit and she could feel some mysterious spirits were coming along upon her. She attempted to cry out and shout but something blocked her throat so that she couldn’t even make any noise. Mayo could feel herself being devoured by the horrible darkness. There was only noisy silence in her world, and gradually, she lost consciousness.

Mayo had a messy and disordered dream, she subtly perceived she was surrounded by a large golden fireball that had a surprisingly comfortable temperature. Now wondering how long the time had flowed on for, she finally woke up. A boy whose face was covered with a smiling fox mask came into her sight. He looked like a human, except that he had a pair of fluffy ears and a silver brushy tail.

“ Ahh…my arm hurts! What happened…and…where am I ? ” Bella had too many questions to ask. She hesitated for a while, and then looked the guy up and down carefully. “ Who are you? ”

The human-like boy did not reply. He kept staring at the sunset patiently. Mayo couldn’t tell what he was thinking about or what kind of facial expression he had, or even, what he looked like. However, she noticed that there was some slightly golden rays illuminating from the two eye holes of the fox mask, feeling so familiar. Mayo stood up. S市he was curious of the hairy tail and tried to grab that big toy.

“ Don’t touch me. ” The boy avoided Mayo’s hand swiftly and jumped aside. His silver hair gently hung down over his shoulder.

“Are you the person who saved me? ”

“ Are you a goblin? ”

“ Where do you live? ”

…….

“ You may consider the person was me. ” He answered softly. “Now, quickly go home and stay with your family. Never come to this forest again. It’s a dangerous place and you humans are not allowed to enter in.”

“ I know it was you! You saved my life. May I come and bring you a gift to thank you? ” Mayo said in a delightful voice.

“ You need to forget about everything including me. I will show you the right way home.” The fox mask smiled at her.

“Wait! You haven’t answered my questions! Please! At least tell me your name! ” Mayo was unable to contain her emotion any longer.

The boy disappeared.

“ My name is, Gin— ” his voice haunted around Mayo’s head, setting off the mere ripples, deeply down to her innermost.

“ Gin, Mr Gin…” For the moment Mayo was still immersed in the conversation and recalling hard her miraculous experience, she discovered herself standing right in front of her Grandpa’s cottage.

“ He must be the spirit of the forest. I wish he could be there next time I visit.” Mayo kept her fingers crossed. “ My lord, let me meet him again. ”

The next day, Mayo went alone to the deep forest. She made some delicious pancakes and wrapped them into a handkerchief. She was eager to meet Gin again and she devoutly hoped Gin would appreciate her handmade desserts. Gin was like magic, strangely attracting to her. There, Gin suddenly came into her sight unprepared, gripping a smooth tree branch.

“ Hold this and follow me. Do not get lost. And be careful not to touch me in any which way. If I made a body contact with a human,” Gin paused,“I would disappear forever. ”

“ Sure! ” Mayo cried out happily. “ Thank you, Gin. Thank you for waiting for me. I thought you would be away and I would never find you again. ”

“ As you wish. I will stay. Come with me, I will show you something.”

The two shadows moved quietly under the emerald and unimaginable world. The unknown creatures were slowly crawling on one side of the road, heading towards nowhere. Gin used the stick as his hand and led Mayo to see the wonders in the magical forest for fun. Mayo was deeply impressed by this place full of impossibility and almost cried out.

“ Aren’t you afraid of me? ” Gin crooned.

“ What do you mean? You are not scary at all.”

This is the beginning of the story between Mayo and Gin, human and spirit. From that time, Mayo couldn’t help but look forward to the summer vacation as well as to think about Gin. As soon as the holiday came, she would first go to the small cottage and tell Gin what had happened at school or in the family, how the teacher treated her, how many friends she had made and so on. She could spend a whole week talking about that trivial stuff. And every time, Gin would watch her quietly and only commented after she had finished her long speech. These days were tranquil and peaceful that later Mayo wished to stay forever in that moment of time.

“I won’t meet you tomorrow… the school is going to start. I will see you next year.” Mayo said regretfully. She sat on the rock and had a big bite of the golden pancake with chocolate and hazelnut jam. The refreshing water continuously washed her pretty feet. She was no longer a child. She understood how to make herself more beautiful and paid attention to the dressing as well.

“I will wait for you. I promise.” A melting and magnetic voice flowed over.

“I wish I could give you a hug. I wish I could always be with you.”

“So do I…but sorry, I can’t.”

“That’s alright, I understand.” Mayo replied with a big smile. “It doesn't matter if I can’t touch or hug you, it only matters whether I can still see you and talk to you. Thank you for accompanying with me this summer, Gin.”

The forest contained the most hidden secrets and preserved the best memories of Mayo’s childhood. Day after day, year after year. Nobody ever knew, nobody ever came. The flowers blossomed and wilted, the trees grew taller, the stream elongated and the new replaced the old. Mayo’s body shape also changed slightly with each passing day. She became a graceful girl.The only thing that didn’t change at all was the cloister that only belonged to Mayo and Gin.

Mayo firmly believed they could maintain the relationship till the end of the world. That was because they knew they were in each other’s hearts long since. But nothing was everlasting. The fate, that of the death of a mermaid, happened to Gin unexpectedly.

Finally when Gin had no choice but to return to the spirit world, he told Mayo it was time to go.

“Thanks Mayo, I enjoyed our time being together. You gave me happiness but I have to leave now and I wish you a nice future. You are not a child any longer. You need to find your own friends, make up your own choices and decide your own future.” Gin told her calmly.

“No…no. You said that you will live in this forest forever! You cannot go like that!” Mayo shouted aloud but she suddenly found that Gin was disappearing. She burst into tears.

“Don’t cry, Mayo. You should have understood that I wasn’t a human. This is my ending and you know, there is a barrier between human and spirit. This is the rule. You can’t break the rule.”

Gin was not surprised to watch the demise of his hands, turning into little epoptic fireflies and slowly disappearing in the summer night. He suddenly grinned, he said towards Mayo excitedly: “Come on Mayo! I can finally give you a hug! Be brave!”

Gin turned into countless pieces, even the last bit of little fireflies vanished from her hand, nothing was left except the fox mask. Mayo’s embracement was palely hollow. She kept that position, for a long, long time……

Although Gin did not exist in the human world, the summer afterwards needed to arrive. Mayo stayed at her Grandpa’s cottage as usual. She carried a basket of pancakes and sat in front of the rocky road of the forest alone, waiting for the boy with silver hair that would never appear again.

Mayo leaned on the tree. She broke into tears but laughed at the same time, feeling relieved. She held the fox mask and recalled the invaluable time spent with Gin. Beside her ear, it seemed to be the last voice of Gin, remaining so true. The wind from the forest blew up her white one piece. She smiled and left.

“And now, I’m just not surprised when people leave. I’m actually more surprised when they stay since everyone is going to leave me eventually, sooner or later. So I have to stay strong, to work hard and to live alone. My life needs to carry on because I know Gin is somewhere in the world watching me and providing me with strength and encouragement. He will stay with me forever, like he promised.”