Category: Educational Technology

Screenshot from MinecraftEDU Tutorial World

Incorporating Games Into Classroom Assessments

In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the specific application of using games to help students with executive functioning issues. However, Games are engaging for all students and can help all students learn course content and life skills.  

Students can learn skills and techniques for planning through digital games like strategy games, simulation games, and role-playing games. In these games, they learn skills such as predicting game events and switching between short- and long-term goals. They learn to prepare for an event by stocking up items in inventory, and they learn from their mistakes (Kulman, 2014).

Games like Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet and coding apps like Scratch help to support planning skills through fun and interactive means. Students need “foresight, planning, dividing the plan into steps, and then actually producing the work,” (Kulman, 2014, p. 118) to be successful.

I have some experience using and teaching coding applications like Scratch, Scratch Jr., Tynker, and Hopscotch. And I live in a house with teenagers, some of whom went through pretty long and obsessive Minecraft phases. But until this week, I had not personally spent any time in Minecraft myself.

That said, my first experience in going through the MSU College of Education’s hosted tutorial world was interesting. When I went to the library to work on my homework, I took my 15-year-old expert son with me. I am so glad I did.

In this video, I walk through parts of the MinecraftEDU Tutorial World and narrate my walkthrough with some information about my experience and how I see Minecraft in my teaching context.

My Difficulty / Challenge

I experienced several difficulties as I went explored in the MinecraftEDU Tutorial World. Two of them are particularly worth noting.

First, I had a difficult time making a long jump over a bridge that had fence pieces on each side. I did not screencast that scene and cannot remember exactly where it was. What I remember is that my son had to help me. He initially made the jump for me but I stubbornly insisted on doing it myself which took ten more minutes of frustrating falling and running up the hill on my part and lots of head shaking on his part. Really, he was a very patient teacher and once I got across that bridge on my own, I was thrilled.

Second, I had a hard time figuring out what to do in the Dig and Build zone. There were “Dig” and “Build” signs in bold all over the place but I could not actually dig anywhere. Finally, I did what my own kids would have done: I read the Wiki, where I finally figured out that all the players before me had dug the ground and built stairs out. So I followed those stairs out.

Relating My MinecraftEDU Experience to My Background

I think I had the difficulty with the jump because I did not grow up playing video games. I have owned a few systems and playing games has been a fun activity during short bursts in my life but I have not logged a lot of hours. So when I got to that jump, I just did not have the experience. I probably could have let my son play me through but I am stubborn and tried again and again. In the end, it was worth it.

My second difficulty resulted from the busyness of my life. I was probably one of the last students to explore the tutorial world and all the digging and building had already been done. The “Dig” and “Build” signs didn’t apply to me because I was just too late.

Minecraft as an Assessment Tool

Two of the criteria in my Rubric 4.0 are based on Universal Design for Learning (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014).

Allowing students to use games like Minecraft as an assessment tool can potentially meet both of them. Minecraft could allow for multiple means of representation (criterion 6) and multiple means of action and expression (criterion 10).

When students can demonstrate learning through Minecraft (multiple means of action and expression), they are engaged and motivated. Teachers like John Miller say that when he had students create in Minecraft, they were so completely engaged they filled his classroom at lunch every day and groaned at the end of class when he had to turn off the server (Gallagher, 2014).

My Teaching and Minecraft

Minecraft could definitely have a place in my classroom. In my current role as a STEM teacher, I am typically on a pretty tight time frame. I am responsible for delivering specific content to many students. However, I could think of some general ways to use Minecraft now:

  1. As a way to introduce content to my students
  2. As an ending enrichment activity to early finishers
  3. To support the Tynker lessons I teach in fourth-grade. Minecraft and Tynker have partnered up to let students do Tynker coding in a Minecraft environment (https://www.tynker.com/minecraft/featured).

These are general ideas but I look forward to developing more specific ones in time.

References

Gallagher, C. [Colin Gallagher]. (2014, February 19). Minecraft Minechat Episode 23: John Miller [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ev0R_xzMEo&feature=youtu.be

Kulman, R. (2014). Playing smarter in a digital world: A guide to choosing and using popular video games and apps to improve executive functioning in children and teens. Plantation FL, FL: Specialty Press, Inc.

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST.

 

Second Iteration of a Formative Assessment for Fifth Grade

In my fifth grade classes, students actively work in small groups to build, modify, and program a robot to move autonomously (with minimal human intervention). They use technology and navigate social learning situations to solve a problem that is anchored in the real world.

This module is challenging but using “focused questions, feedback, and diagnostic assessment” (Wiggins & McTighe,2005, p. 46) helps to uncover misunderstandings, questions and assumptions my students have. In turn, this informs my instruction and helps students learn more, avoid forgetfulness, and transfer what they know to other situations.

To plan for and reflect on one of the formative assessments within this fifth-grade robotics module, I have developed Formative Assessment Design Version 2.0. My prior iteration is Formative Assessment Design Version 1.0, which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.

References

Wiggins, G.P. & McTighe, J. (2005). Understanding by design. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from http://p2047-ezproxy.msu.edu.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/login?url=https://search-ebscohost-com.proxy1.cl.msu.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=e000xna&AN=133964&scope=site

 

A Critical Review of Course Management Systems for Assessments

Online learning is becoming more and more common in our schools. It can include a wide range of courses from fully online courses to those that include an online component with face-to-face instruction.

Course Management Systems

To help facilitate online instruction, teachers may benefit from using a Course Management System (CMS) that allows them to organize and manage course content, assessments, students, and records. These can range from websites to all-inclusive, commercial systems.

As a teacher of science, engineering, and technology, my elementary school classes often include a digital component. In the last year, I have regularly used Canvas and Seesaw. When I was a middle school art teacher I used Google Classroom to facilitate assignments and record keeping.

Critical Review of CMSs

When I was tasked with critically reviewing the assessment features of three CMSs for my current K-5 technology teacher position, I decided to review Canvas, Google Classroom, and Edmodo. Although I have not used Edmodo as a teacher in the past, I have used it as a parent.

I also included Seesaw as a fourth option. While it may not technically be considered a CMS, Seesaw has been a great help to me in getting online content to my young students and collecting assignments back from them. Because I was curious about how it would compare to the full CMSs I was reviewing, I added it as a fourth system to review.

In comparing these CMSs, I used criteria that were provided to me, as well as four other criteria that I consider to be important in a CMS. I scored each criterion with a 1 for yes or 0 for no, so that I could easily compare the features of the CMSs.

My Results

Based on the results of my critical review, Canvas is the most robust system that can be tailored to provide easy access, even for young students. In the free version of Canvas, teachers have the option of building courses from scratch to gain unlimited access to the system (in terms of time and number of classes). I have scratch-built and customized existing courses in Canvas before and would be able to do this, but it may be a limiting factor for other teachers who prefer an out-of-the-box CMS package.

For the purposes of creating assessments in CEP813, I will use Canvas, which scored the most points in my critical review. Although I previously created a hybrid art course in Canvas for CEP820, I still want to further explore the full-featured assessment and tracking capabilities that Canvas provides.

Images

Wordle Cloud for Drexler (2010)” by Chris Jobling is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 (as header image)

Assessment Rubric 4.0: Including Technology and Universal Design for Learning

Over the past six weeks, I have been developing and revising a rubric by which to assess other assessments. Here are links to previous iterations and the blog posts that I wrote about them:

This week’s final iteration is Rubric 4.0, which I have updated to include criteria specifying the importance of a technology component in assessment and Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Universal Design for Learning stresses the importance of providing multiple means of engagement, representation, and action and expression to make education accessible for all students (Meyer, Rose, & Gordon, 2014).

References

Meyer, A., Rose, D.H., & Gordon, D. (2014). Universal design for learning: Theory and practice. Wakefield, MA: CAST.

Creating a Formative Assessment for Fifth Grade

Formative assessment, assessment for learning that occurs during a unit of instruction, is dynamic assessment. It gives teachers the opportunity to find out what students are able to do on their own or with adult help and guidance (Shepard, 2000).

By making students’ thinking visible and open to examination, it can reveal what a student understands and what misconceptions they hold (Trumbull & Lash, 2013). It also provides opportunities for scaffolding steps between one activity and the next, for each individual student (Shepard, 2000).

Guided by Rubric 3.0, my third iteration of a rubric to assess other assessments, I have created the first draft of a formative assessment. Formative Assessment Design Version 1.0 is meant to be used during a fifth-grade robotics module that I teach. During a typical school year, I teach this module four or five times, so I look forward to revising this formative assessment over time to make it the best it can be.

References

Shepard, L. (2000). The role of assessment in a learning culture. Educational Researcher, 29(7), 4-14.

Trumbull, E. & Lash, A. (2013). Understanding formative assessment: Insights from learning theory and measurement theory. San Francisco: WestEd. Retrieved from www.wested.org/online_pubs/resource1307.pdf

 

Beautifully Questioning My Teaching Practice

As I prepared to do this, my final project for my three summer classes, I was stuck. These classes have been exhilarating, challenging, and rewarding. Sometimes there were tears, both frustrated and proud.

Today I created something wonderful and hoped that the excitement from that would fuel me through this post. It didn’t. The hard part is that after so many weeks of pushing myself so hard, my brain was stuck.

So I looked at Twitter, read some news, looked at the ceiling. Nothing. One of

First-graders love coding using ScratchJr

my objectives for the assignment was to apply Warren Berger’s Why, What If, and How questioning methodology from A More Beautiful Question (Berger, 2016) to my own practice. So I eventually, begrudgingly started with that.

I began with creating a list of Why questions related to my teaching. I teach Project Lead The Way (PLTW) to students K-5 in two schools. I teach engineering concepts to all my students and coding to all my students except my kindergarteners.

Unsticking the Lid

As soon as I started asking questions, my imagination took flight. As Frances Peavey once said, a good question is like “a lever used to pry open the stuck lid on a paint can,” (Berger, 2016, p. 15). That was it! I simply needed to start asking questions and I was unstuck, just like the lid of the paint can.

As Berger suggests, I started by asking Why questions. If we’re paying attention, we ask Why when we encounter a suboptimal situation (Berger, 2016). Although I love my job and most of my students enjoy my classes, there are some who just don’t. Those students led me to ask:

Why?
  • Why do some students keep asking if they’re doing the problem “right”?
  • Why do some of my students think they can’t code?
  • Why do some of my students refuse to participate?
What If?

As I considered my Why questions, I focused on the fact that “Integrating coding into classes is being perceived by many as a way to stimulate computational and creative thinking,” (Johnson, Becker, Estrada, Freeman, 2015, p.21). Therefore, I decided to address the question: Why do some of my students think they can’t code?

The ScratchJr coding environment is user-friendly for young students, but still offers the opportunity to learn computational thinking.

Pondering this question, I realized that my first and second-grade students have great confidence when it comes to coding. It is my third through fifth-grade students who are more likely to struggle.

With my Why question in my mind, I began to ask What If. During this time of creative, wide open questioning, I asked What If questions to help me consider possibilities for change (Berger, 2016).

  • What if I let my older students start with ScratchJr (typically only first and second graders use ScratchJr)?
  • What if I made time for Hour of Code or other warm-up activities before starting on our unit together?
  • What if I ran an after school coding club?
  • What if I work more closely with the media specialist to coordinate coding lessons?
How?

Asking How is about focusing on making progress toward a solution, about deciding which ideas to pursue (Berger, 2016). One of the great conundrums of my schedule is that I never seem to have enough time.

I co-teach, pushing materials into each classroom, typically for a couple of weeks at a time. When I’m in a class I have so much to do to complete a module. Also, I don’t want to waste any of the classroom teacher’s time. Therefore, I carefully avoid straying from my lesson plans. The problem is that some of my students simply need more. So I asked How…

  • How can I find time to let some students practice coding more outside of class?
    • After school
    • During lunch
    • On my prep hour
    • During other periods in the school day with a PLTW iPad
    • During other periods in the school day using another device

This practice could be with ScratchJr or with the app they’ll use during PLTW. It could even be a different app, as long as they get the opportunity to practice the computational thinking they need to improve their coding skills and gain confidence.

Next Steps

Prior to completing this assignment, I had vaguely considered this issue in the past but hadn’t gotten much past that. By taking the time to do this questioning process, I feel like I’ve taken my first steps toward solving a complex problem in my practice. My next step will be to talk to my classroom teachers to figure out how we can work together on behalf of our students.

References

Berger, W. (2016). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Johnson, L., Becker, S. A., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC horizon report: 2015 K-12 edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

Images

All images in this blog post were created by Sarah Van Loo.

Curiosity Never Grows Old

Since I was little, I have loved to draw. I enjoyed everything about it. I wanted to learn how to make animated movies but never did. Now as an art teacher and technology teacher, I have access to great technologies that can help me. In fact, I spent last year teaching K-5 students coding in ScratchJr, Hopscotch, and Tynker.

This summer I decided to take what I already know about coding from those applications and do what I’ve always wanted to do: make an animated movie. I created this animation using Scratch.

I drew all the sprites, customized the background, and did it. It’s only one minute long, but I am so proud of myself and I’m thrilled with the result. I am delighted to share that movie here:

Images

All images and videos in this blog post were created by Sarah Van Loo.

Questioning the Wicked Problem of Teaching Complex Thinking

Each year The New Media Consortium reports on key trends, significant challenges, and important developments in the field of educational technology. Among the significant challenges of 2015 was teaching complex thinking (Johnson, Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015). The problem itself is complex enough that we could refer to it as a “wicked problem.” According to Koehler and Mishra, these are described as problems that “have incomplete, changing and contradictory requirements” (as cited in Week 4 – Learn, 2017).

“Rodin’s The Thinker” by Andrew Horne, retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15582363, is licensed under Public Domain.

Because of the changing nature of wicked problems, it is impossible to come up with a perfect solution. Instead, my team Laura Allen, Guadalupe Bryan, Alex Gorton, and I worked to investigate and try to offer a “best bad idea”  in response to the problem of teaching complex thinking (as cited in Week 4 – Learn, 2017).

We approached this wicked problem from the perspective of A More Beautiful Question. We hoped to ask “an ambitious yet actionable question that can begin to shift the way we perceive or think about something – and that might serve as a catalyst for change” (Berger, 2016, p. 8).  Although our problem is unsolvable, we can still be a catalyst for change – if we know what to do.

Using the method presented in A More Beautiful Question, we asked Why, What If, and How. The most challenging aspect of this approach was giving time and thoughtful consideration to each phase in order to ask good questions. Berger points out that we’re deluged with answers, but “to get to our answers, we must formulate and work through the questions ourselves” (Berger, 2016, p. 3).

In our shared planning document, we brainstormed and took notes. Together, we asked 55 Why questions. When we ask Why, it helps to approach the problem from an inquisitive, almost childlike perspective. This led to our beautiful, driving question:

How are teachers addressing the complex thinking skills necessary for students to become productive and innovative 21st-century learners?

I needed to give our complex problem the consideration it deserved. Before moving on to the What If phase, I crafted this infographic about the complexity of our problem:

After arriving at our driving question, we responded by asking What If. When we ask What If, we use creative, divergent thinking to expand the possibilities to explore.

Around this time, we surveyed other educators in our professional learning networks (PLNs) about our wicked problem. Based on the results of the survey and on the What If questions we asked, our team singled out one What If question:

What if students had more freedom/choice in developing their complex thinking skills?

With our survey results in and our What If question settled on, we investigated current research around the question of How. We researched four current educational trends around student choice: project-based learning, genius hour, authentic inquiry, and student choice in assessments.

Check out our ThingLink below to see our group’s presentation of this entire process. We describe our methods, survey and results, and practical ways to introduce student choice in a 21st-century classroom. Don’t miss our references in the lower left if you want to learn even more. (If your browser doesn’t allow you to click on all the links, go directly to the ThingLink site.)

 



Reflections

Collaborative teamwork is a 21st-century skill that our group used to great effect. Even though we were never all in the same room for this, apps like Zoom, text messaging, Google Docs, and email helped us undertake this complex project.

The process was challenging at times, but the results were worth it. I am excited to try out some of our suggestions in my own class this fall.

References

Berger, W. (2016). A more beautiful question: The power of inquiry to spark breakthrough ideas. New York: Bloomsbury.

Johnson, L., Becker, S. A., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC horizon report: 2015 K-12 edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

Week 4 – Learn. (2017, July 22). Retrieved from http://www.msuedtechsandbox.com/MAETely1-2017/week-4-wicked-problems/week-4-learn/

Images

Unless otherwise captioned, all images and videos in this blog post were created by Sarah Van Loo or the students of MAET Year 1.

STEAM Power for the 21st-Century

Today’s workforce requires graduates with 21st-century skills of collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking, as well as entrepreneurship and innovation. These skills are needed in both the private and public sectors, but many of today’s graduates don’t have them (Jolly, 2016).

Today’s graduates are not qualified to fill many tech positions in the public and private sectors.

Hoping to solve this problem, a new movement focuses on educating students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Yet even with continuing unemployment, many tech companies are still unable to find graduates with the 21-century skills they need (Jolly, 2016).

STEAM: Today’s Answer to STEM?

We need innovators and creative thinkers to help transform our economy. In the 20th-century, that transformation came about through science and technology. In this century it’s art and design that are poised to help facilitate that change (“STEM to STEAM”, n.d.).

This understanding has fostered the STEAM education movement, which adds art, design, and the humanities to the four STEM subjects (Johnson Becker, Estrada, & Freeman, 2015).

Why STEAM?

Hierarchy of Education Subjects, Based on Robinson, 2006

Teachers and administrators face increasing pressure from policymakers to meet benchmarks in proficiency and growth. The result is more time spent practicing test taking skills and less time spent in student-centered, inquiry-driven lessons. This narrow-minded focus on testing leads to narrow-minded thinking. The result? “Young Americans are being educated out of creativity” (Pomeroy, 2012).

We need creative students, though. Creativity is closely related to divergent thinking, the kind of right-brained thinking that leads to fresh ideas and new perspectives (Connor, Karmokar, & Whittington, 2015). When coupled with convergent thinking, the partnership produces the kind of innovation we are seeking (Maeda, 2012).

Creativity, “the process of coming up with original ideas that have value,” is now “as important in education as literacy” (Robinson, 2006). Unfortunately, the hierarchy in education places math and languages in a position of importance above the arts. This hierarchy denies

the importance of the disciplines coming together. Yet where the different disciplines come together, like in STEAM education, is where creativity flourishes (Robinson, 2006).

Where Is STEAM’s Place if We’re Prepping for the Test?

Research shows that students who have a background in arts do better on standardized tests (Johnson et al., 2015). They are also leaders in entrepreneurship and inventing. Michigan State University researchers studied a group of MSU Honors College graduates. Those with arts exposure were more likely graduate from a STEM program and to own businesses or patents (Lawton, Schweitzer, LaMore, Roraback, & Root-Bernstein, 2013).

Artistic endeavors while young helped foster the kind of innovation that creates jobs and invigorates business. “So we better think about how we support artistic capacity, as well as science and math activity, so that we have these outcomes” (Lawton et al., 2013).

My Own Experience as a STEM / STEAM Educator

My current position is that of a K-5 STEM educator. In my role, I teach Project Lead The Way, a national curriculum with the aim of helping students learn 21st-century skills.

Last year, my kindergarteners learned about pushes and pulls. Their final project was to design and build a model that would move some blocks up a ramp. When I taught this unit at my first school during the first half of the year my students were successful. They all met the design challenge.

Before I taught at my second school, though, I had some time for reflection. I made a few simple additions to my supplies for building day. I brought along some feathers, pipe cleaners, pom poms, and cutoffs from cardboard tubes. I did not tell the students what they were to be used for and the design criteria remained the same: they were to build a model that could push or pull the blocks up the ramp.

The results were fantastic! Yes, they all moved their blocks up the ramp but they became inventors in the process. One student added a “monster sprayer” to her model. A second told me, “And this is a purse; you can carry it.” One of my young engineers told me, “It has a camera, and a hand for picking up rocks, and a hammer for smashing rocks.”

Looking Forward

I feel privileged to be at the beautiful intersection of two STEAM disciplines. Trained as a Visual Arts Educator and earning a master’s in educational technology, I am in a position to infuse art into any STEM lesson that I can. If I am ever back in an art room, my goal will be to put technology into the hands of my art students. Either way, I look forward to educating tomorrow’s creative world changers.

References

Connor, A. M., Karmokar, S., & Whittington, C. (2015). From STEM to STEAM: Strategies for enhancing engineering & technology education. International Journal of Engineering Pedagogy (iJEP), 5(2), 37-47. doi:10.3991/ijep.v5i2.4458

Johnson, L., Becker, S. A., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2015). NMC horizon report: 2015 K-12 edition. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

Jolly, A. (2016, April 29). STEM vs. STEAM: Do the Arts Belong? Retrieved from http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2014/11/18/ctq-jolly-stem-vs-steam.html

Lawton, J., Schweitzer, J., LaMore, R., Roraback, E., & Root-Bernstein, R. (2013, October 22). A young Picasso or Beethoven could be the next Edison. Retrieved from http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2013/a-young-picasso-or-beethoven-could-be-the-next-edison/

Maeda, J. (2012, October 02). STEM to STEAM: Art in K-12 Is Key to Building a Strong Economy. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/stem-to-steam-strengthens-economy-john-maeda

Pomeroy, S. R. (2012, August 22). From STEM to STEAM: Science and Art Go Hand-in-Hand. Retrieved from https://www.yahoo.com/news/stem-steam-science-art-hand-hand-115600026.html

Robinson, K. (2006, February). Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity

STEM to STEAM. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://stemtosteam.org/

Images

All images and videos in this blog post were created by Sarah Van Loo.

Technology Supports for Students: Executive Functioning

Sometimes students come across our path who are late to class, missing materials, and disorganized. They cannot seem to plan their assignments and they turn their work in late. These experiences can be frustrating to teachers, but it is important to remember that they can be frustrating to the students, too! There is a cause for these behaviors. In some cases, the cause is executive functioning (EF) issues.

Planning and Organization: An Executive Function

Papers in a box, to be filed later

Executive functioning is defined as “the mental processes that serve a supervisory role in thinking and behavior. It incorporates a number of neurologically based operations that work together to direct and coordinate our efforts to achieve a goal.” (Cooper-Kahn & Foster, 2013, p. 7).  

Executive functioning includes eight core executive skills, one of which is planning and organization (Goia, Isquith, Guy, & Kenworthy, 2000). Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and nonverbal learning disability (NLD) can be significantly impacted in the skill of planning and organization (Semrud-Clikeman, Fine, & Bedsoe, 2013).

Planning and organization is “the ability to impose order on thoughts, tasks, play, and storage spaces,” (Cooper-Kahn, & Foster, 2013, p. 10). Students with poor planning and organization skills have difficulty breaking larger goals into smaller tasks. They also struggle to organize thoughts into a hierarchy. Their brain has a figurative filing cabinet, but they “just open the drawers and throw things in,” (p. 10). Organization of physical papers can be just as challenging.

A person with planning and organization difficulties may just open the drawer and throw the papers in there.

Consider your student who has a disorganized backpack with everything dumped into the main compartment. Call to mind the student who cannot remember to sign up to give a speech in class, despite your many reminders. Think about the student who rattles off information that doesn’t seem to you to connect to anything else that has been said in class. Those students may have issues with planning and organization.

Learning Skills Through Games

Digital technologies now permeate most areas of our lives. They are readily available at school and at home. We only need to look around at parks, restaurants, and grocery stores to see how widely available they are. Used wisely, technology can be a tool for helping students with learning needs including planning and organization.

Students can learn skills and techniques for planning through digital games like strategy games, simulation games, and role-playing games. In these games, they learn skills such as predicting game events and switching between short- and long-term goals. They learn to prepare for an event by stocking up items in inventory, and they learn from their mistakes (Kulman, 2014).

Games like Minecraft help students develop planning and organization skills. Screenshot by Aidan Van Loo

 

Games like Minecraft, Scratch, and LittleBIGPlanet help to support planning skills through fun and interactive means. Students need “foresight, planning, dividing the plan into steps, and then actually producing the work,” (Kulman, 2014, p. 118) to be successful.

App Recommendations for the School Setting

In addition to games, there are apps that can be both fun and helpful for students who need support with planning and organization. There is a direct application in the school setting as these tools can support students with the business of doing school.

Students learn planning skills through apps when they use productivity tools to set and prioritize goals and when they search through digital content using keywords (Kulman, 2014).

Two apps that support those skills are Evernote and Wunderlist. They are both powerful apps and are both on my list of regularly used tech tools for school. Either one could provide substantial support for a student. Used together, they can help students plan and prioritize commitments and organize and archive information.

Evernote provides the ability to capture lists, notes, photographs, drawings, and websites. Evernote also has excellent capabilities for archiving information. Because it is searchable, anything that is archived in Evernote can be found again.

Wunderlist is also a powerful list-making tool. The beauty of Wunderlist is that it is possible to prioritize list items with due dates, and to include subitems for each list item. Also, Wunderlist can push notifications to the students, so students who have a difficult time remembering to check a list will be automatically reminded.

With both tools, students are able to make notes and write lists in advance of a project due date. Both tools allow sharing of notes or lists with others. Both tools are available online and as a download to the student’s device. If a student discovers that an Evernote checklist would make more sense as a Wunderlist, it is easy to use Evernote Integration via Task Clone to move that list from one app to the other.

References

Cooper-Kahn, J., & Foster, M. (2013). Boosting executive skills in the classroom: A practical guide for educators. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Gioia, G. A., Isquith, P. K., Guy, S. C., & Kenworthy, L. (2000). TEST REVIEW Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function. Child Neuropsychology (Neuropsychology, Development and Cognition: Section C), 6(3), 235-238. doi:10.1076/chin.6.3.235.3152

Kulman, R. (2014). Playing smarter in a digital world: A guide to choosing and using popular video games and apps to improve executive functioning in children and teens. Plantation FL, FL: Specialty Press, Inc.

Semrud-Clikeman, M., Fine, J. G., & Bledsoe, J. (2013). Comparison among children with children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, nonverbal learning disorder and typically developing children on measures of executive functioning. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 44(2), 331-342. doi:10.1007/s10803-013-1871-2

IMAGES

Unless otherwise captioned, all images and videos in this blog post were created by Sarah Van Loo.