It’s always important to remember that our students listening skills are in need of constant development. I’m a huge fan of Listenwise and Flocabulary, but I recently came across the app, Leela Kids. The app is full of podcasts organized by age group. These podcasts are organized by age group and by category.
Here at Hoodlum Central, we believe in Design Thinking. We integrate it into most things we do and it’s been pretty fruitful both in our day jobs and in our business practices.
No matter which flavor of Design Thinking one subscribes to, ideation is essential. You can’t prototype anything if you don’t have a smorgasbord of ideas to play with. While Webs and I generally do this with the Googles, I recently came across a tool I hope to use during my 9-5 hustle. Pitchcard seems like a promising tool to use in a classroom looking to encourage designing.
Pitchcard allows you to ideate publicly if you wish. You title your idea, choose a color, and then write a brief (200 word) description, which I think is awesome. Being forced into being concise allows one to hone the “spirit” of the idea more authentically in my opinion.
Once your idea is placed on the card, you can distribute it publicly on social media or privately via email.
The feedback that your idea garners is sent to the email that was entered which hopefully allows one to refine the idea into a better concept.
If you are at a GAFE school, one could utilize this tool pretty easily. Everyone of your students would have an email address, giving them the ability to send ideas to classmates efficiently and to archive the feedback so that it could be referred to when needed. Generating feedback on ideas for projects and writing assignments just got #mosexy.
Looking for thoughts about what students learned during class? Don’t want to create a Google Form or use Exittix? This is a pretty streamlined way to gather information from your students about what they learned or struggled with during the school day.
So you want to know if your lesson was the bomb or just bombed? Send a Pitchcard to your students and allow for feedback.
Lesson Plan ideas
Send a Pitchcard to colleagues about an idea for your have for that quantum physics lesson and see what they say.
A Open Ear to the World
Say you’re a teacher with very little technology at her disposal and you’d like to use the tool. If you had a classroom email or social media setup, you could have students generate ideas that could be posted for feedback and then disseminate that feedback to students. Class project could be #mosexy if you sent a Pitchcard rather than used snail mail or limited contributions to conversations in the room.
In short, Pitchcard is a tool I hope to roll out next week during my day job. Students will be pitching video game ideas and Pitch could be a very slick way of making students feel even more empowered.
RPGs For PBL
Let’s talk about role playing games for a moment. RPGs, as they are more affectionately known by their acronym, are a combination of imagination, acting, storytelling, and math. Different players emphasize and concentrate on different aspects of RPGs, but the concept lends itself to a limitless number of universes and stories.
Why, oh why, do I not see this happening in the classroom? I think that some of the social stigma attached to a hobby like playing pen and paper RPGs is one factor. Another is surely the logistics of organizing an activity that may seem very daunting to the average teacher who may not be familiar with RPGs. I’m here to tell you that RPGs lend themselves fantastically to another acronym: PBL. PBL, or project based learning, focuses on long term lessons that may span days, weeks, or months. These are the kinds of projects that have a timetable, many successive steps to reach an end goal, and often encourage collaboration from classmates and other classrooms. All three of these characteristics sound exactly like elements of your typical role playing game. The beauty of RPGs is that you are welcome to make them as complicated or as simple as you like. Yes, there are rulebooks galore if you’re into that sort of thing, but there are also a wide variety of games that concentrate far more on the storytelling and imagination aspects, with little reliance on hard and fast rules to adhere to.
Creativity, storytelling, progressing towards a goal, and imagination all sound like qualities that teachers would do well to foster in any English, Social Studies, or History classroom project. Think about these example scenarios that would make for ideal settings in PBL RPGs:
- World War II, Poland. The German tanks can be heard rumbling closer and closer, coming directly towards your home. You’re not trained for war and your sleepy town consists of only farmers and day laborers. What do you do?
- Maya Civilization, Yucatan Peninsula. Rain hasn’t fallen in weeks. The high priest is demanding a sacrifice. Will you follow his wishes or try and find an alternative solution that doesn’t involve killing an individual?
- You are actually living through Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, as it happens. You already know how the ‘story’ ends. Can you manipulate the outcome and stop the tragedy from occurring or is fate too stubborn to bend to your will?
All of these scenarios and more can be played out with as many ‘rules’ as you want to create or with none at all. Students can be the great drivers – crowd source a list of edicts that govern how students are allowed to behave as characters. Students then vote on the top five or ten that they feel are the most fair and appropriate. In this way, everyone is rewarded for participating, playing in character, and thinking about how the rules steer the direction of the game and relate to the material studied in class.
Students are empowered to use imagination and creativity during character creation and storytelling. They use their knowledge of World War II, Mayan civilization or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to insert a personality and description that would feel right at home in that setting, with the individual student’s personal flair. One particularly knowledgeable student can act as the main storyteller (Game Master or Dungeon Master, to use the RPG vernacular) or a teacher can craft and guide the story for students. Alternatively, small groups can each have the same scenario to play out in whatever way they choose, making for a fantastic compare and contrast debriefing activity after all is said and done.
To sum up, role playing games can be anything you make of them. They can be alternative histories played out to the entertainment of the audience. They can be vast unexplored universes with untold landscapes. They can be the seemingly most mundane day of your entire existence, with a fantastical twist. The limitless possibilities of RPGs make for an unrivaled immersive experience for students. They have all the makings of one of those moments where the students exclaim, “I can’t believe I was doing this and learning the whole time!”