Relative Advantage of Instructional Software
When I can find software to use in class, everybody benefits. Obviously it means I don’t have to lecture that day, other than to explain how to use the software. Chances are the students will be more interested, especially if the software is fun to use. Unfortunately some of what I have had students use is less than ideal. For example, I had students do a webquest to learn about doing protein gels. I could have lectured, but it seemed better for them to see the animations. For this particular webquest, I gave them questions and links to various websites where they can find the answers. I learned that if I were to do this again, I may have to put the link to the website adjacent to the question it answers. As much as students like using computers, they don’t necessarily like to use them for research, or to find an answer that can’t be easily found in a Google search or a wiki.
To teach students how to analyze data by using software that gives them the opportunity to read graphs or the results of an experiment, is not as good as having them do it hands-on in the classroom, but it is better than them not getting any experience with the information. Unfortunately many of the virtual labs I have used with students are either so difficult that it takes me hours to figure them out, like Gizmos, or they are just point, click, and drag exercises that they actually end out being a waste of time. Until my abilities with creating software or using software to create lab scenarios gets better, I am afraid that if I use software with the kids, it is going to be written by somebody else.
Interested in what our textbook has to say, I started skimming through it. Sadly on page 77, they say, “Today, after more than 30 years of development and experimentation, there is less talk of computers replacing teachers…” which is actually an optimistic perspective. What is sad about it, is that from my experiences in the last 4 years, it is not true. Computers and scripted curriculum are replacing teachers. There are companies who are making lots of money by replacing the teachers that used to be in the classroom by replacing them with virtual teachers. These virtual teachers will often have a load of 200 students per day from whatever states they have a credential to teach in. While I realize this post is supposed to be about how educational software and technology tools help the classroom teacher, I feel the need to point out the disparity that exists between a classroom teacher and a virtual teacher. Software IS replacing the classroom teacher. I know this because I taught kids in Delaware who did not have a classroom teacher. The software and I replaced whoever should have been the classroom teacher when the school was restructured. For my Pennsylvania kids, I was their teacher, even though I never met them in person, and live 2000 miles away. I did not actually ever teach them anything. I tried to tutor them if they would stay focused enough during a tutoring session to let me explain things to them, but even then, I had some kids who were not used to the idea of being responsible for their learning. This is not at all what I meant this blog post to turn out as so I will curtail my digression on how bad virtual schools are at this point, but I do want to point out that in my presentation of tutorials, drill and practice, and other categories of instructional software, this is not the same software being used in virtual schools. The software links I am presenting for this post are stuff that I either used when I was in the classroom, or would use should I ever get back in a classroom. (The later seeming further and further away from possibility, but you never know. So far using a wheelchair rocks using a walker, and if I upgrade to a power wheelchair, who knows what my limits will be?)
Robolyer and Doerling point out on page 78 that “instructional software packages are developed for the sole purpose of supporting instruction and/or learning.” It is important they differentiate between technology that is merely a tool, technology that is replacing the teacher, and technology that supports the teacher. Granted, they are not acquiescing that software is replacing teachers, but trust me, it is. They go on to elaborate which types of software can allow for directed and / or constructivist approaches. Naturally, as the students are given more control of the software environment, the more constructivist it can be. For example, having students build a website gives them more freedom than merely doing a webquest where they go hunting for answers to questions. (I have had students do both.) I see a parallel between paper and equipment lessons and computer software ones. The tutorials and drill and kill are like the worksheets or notes I used to print out on paper for the kids to use. Simulations are like cookbook labs. Problem solving scenarios are like inquiry based labs. At the moment, I don’t have a parallel for instructional games, unless doing a Jeopardy review or having kids make board games qualifies as an instructional game.
In chapter 3, Robolyer and Doerling give advice on how to select good examples of software in each category. In addition they elaborate the pros and cons of each type. Many teachers scoff at having any rote memorization types of drill and kill, whether it is a worksheet or a computer program. It is comforting to see that I am not the only one who finds value in having students practice specific types of problems repeatedly. I am currently tutoring an algebra 2 student, and while preparing for her winter final, it became pretty chaotic with so many different problems to figure out. One thing I started to notice, however, is that what was becoming more important than getting the right answer, was learning how to evaluate the situation to determine which technique best solves each problem. We may never recognize we are factoring a binomial in the real world, but learning how to be calm while sorting through our resources and evaluating them is a skill both my student and I will benefit from knowing.
Tutorials are my favorite type of programs to create because I love learning how to use Articulate Storyline. I took the BSU class on Flash, and it was pretty much a nightmare. I used Articulate’s free 30 day download for two classes, and became hooked. Fortunately I have significant support from my husband and family, so I was able to purchase Storyline. Flash will integrate with Storyline so I may do some flying numbers in Flash to bring in to a Storyline project, but otherwise I think I am stuck on doing the “explanation screen” way of trying to help students with various science topics. I have not created many tutorials, but you are welcome to see what I have done at www.getzguides.com. For my students who were enrolled in virtual classes because they were at a treatment center, my guides were a way they could get additional support for the classes if a live tutor was not available. Robolyer and Doerling point this out on page 88, tutorials are useful for instruction when no teachers are available. You may be surprised by how many students are taking classes that don’t have a readily available teacher. It is for these students I write my tutorials.
I am a huge fan of physics simulations. Even making apps with Corona or other simple programs lets you use physics. Even though I did not figure out how to make an app by coding in lua for one of my BSU classes, I did come to appreciate how physics can easily be integrated into simple software programs. As much as I am addicted to Minecraft, it is odd how they only have physics apply to two types of blocks. Then again, because they suspend the laws of physics, students can easily make three dimensional representations of objects when building in creative mode. Redstone mimics electronics and minecarts can travel based on gravity, so Minecraft is not completely void of physics. The redstone and use of minecarts on trails can give kids an opportunity to participate in something a teacher created, therefore making it a simulation or game, or they can create their own situations which would fall into the problem solving category.
I am torn when it comes to digital dissection because I know I truly learned more about animals by dissecting them, than if I had just gone through a point and click way of learning body parts. I wonder, though, how necessary it is to kill so many animals just for tenth grade dissections. Our book quotes from studies that showed digital vs physical manipulation does not seem to matter in terms of what information students retain (Roblyer & Doerling, 2013, p.91). For many teachers, the benefits of no set-up or clean-up, less costly equipment once the software is acquired, unless its license has to be renewed annually, and less supervision needed during the class period, outweigh the negative perception that what the students are doing is not actually real. The American Chemical Society (ACS), and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) have come out against virtual labs. Even the College Board will not accept credits in classes where students did a virtual equivalent of a lab. (Robyler & Doerling, 2013, p. 93). This means students will be doing PCR and running agarose gels for their AP biology lab, instead of imagining the bands migrating through the gel.
The last two categories, Instructional Game Software and Problem-Solving Software, are more difficult for me to see in the science context. The book recognizes Geometer’s Sketchpad, which is a very good program. It helps make geometry more spatially available. They also mention Spore as a game for studying evolution. I can’t comment on Spore because I’ve never played it. I do have to say, though, that I did an internship for a nanotech company in Emeryville, and the folks who created Spore were either on our floor or above us. It was interesting to ride in the elevator with them. But I digress, once again…
You may notice in my presentation , instructional games and problem solving software have very few entries. Hopefully I will be able to add more links after I post my blog. Fortunately the book treats the last two categories like it did the first three by giving example scenarios, and pro/con lists. One possible con that struck me was the idea of having to choose software that can handle limited physical dexterity (Robyler & Doerling, 2013, p. 95). I don’t think many students like having me in class because I can find faults easily in student work, and I will mention it. It is not to be mean; I’m actually trying to be helpful. People who don’t have disabilities really have no clue what it is like to have some. Just ask me about how ludicrous some of the ADA adaptations are where I live, and I’d be glad to tell you how we need people with the disability to create the adaptive physical changes, or in the case of my classes, adaptive software. We used Minecraft as a game, and as a way to do problem solving when I took EDTECH 531. In 531, we created an example of how to use one of three software packages as an educational tool, and there were some lessons I could not physically do because of the way they were designed. I did not have the manual dexterity to click and drag fast enough. If you know how to contact me, and you want me to evaluate any website or program you create for its difficulty with my limitations, just ask. I happily volunteer my eyes, hands, and defective brain as a testing environment.
In 531, I was incredibly impressed with how Minecraft (MC) can be used to simulate many social studies situations. I thought of a few ways it could be used with science, and I plan to make quests in 3dGameLab that have students use Minecraft to look at some science concepts. I feel like Minecraft is predictable enough that you can act like a scientist, and evaluate the game in survival mode as if one is going through the scientific method. I wish I qualified for minecraftedu so I could create scenarios that have students go mining for organic and inorganic resources. I can do that with regular MC, but it will be much more difficult to control student access to specific areas, and to protect blocks. The possible lessons in Second Life are also amazing, but from what little I’ve experienced, they are not on the level of games or problem solving. I can see World of Warcraft being used for problem solving because that is what you have to do continuously- the first problem being how to play the doggone game. I felt that way with Minecraft, too. I think any of these software programs that are easily intimidating at first are actually really good tools for students to learn resilience, endurance, and perseverance. I was a MC misfit when I first started playing it. I later became addicted to it. The book makes a distinction between doing problem solving software activities merely for the sake of learning how to problem solve. (Robyler & Doerling, 2013, p. 97). I can totally see using software for that purpose, at least until someone figures out how to create something that can be open ended enough for students to be able to make mistakes and therefore be able to learn from them
One thing that should be in any of the interactive software games is a chance for failure. When click and drag scenarios are too predictable, students won’t be challenged and will complete the activity because they are required to, and not necessarily because they are enjoying what they want to learn. We need to be careful, though, to not build in failures that students will take too strongly or too personally. I still don’t know where I am going to fit into education in my next stages. I’m hoping it will involve creating quest based courses in 3dGameLab that other teachers will want to use. If I can figure out how to turn a quest or a course into how to problem solve something in science, other than an easily predictable physics or genetics lab, I will be ecstatic.
Roblyer, M. D., & Doering, A. H. (2013). Integrating educational technology into teaching [6th edition].
There are two parts to the end of term lesson. Both parts are done in Minecraft.
Part 1: Obstacle course
Long story…I sat in the Minecraftedu class that was held in Canvas. In week 3 I learned that there is practically no way I will be able to use the “edu” version because I am not attached to an institution. But I can still get ideas from teachers who do use the edu perks. Our server is not a Minecraftedu server, but I was still able to put in a lot of nifty things.
When I watched this video, a YouTube video link, , I knew I found part of what I wanted to do with this project. What impressed me the most is he is doing this with second graders. How awesome is that?!? I used some of his ideas and added a few of my own.
This next video is an example of what you’ll be doing in our lesson. I highly recommend you watch the video I made before class because I don’t plan on taking part of our 30 minutes to talk. I want you to have the time to play and explore. Overview of obstacle course. I do not have all the same nifty features that Minecraft Teachr used but there are reasons. Skip over part 2 if you want to hear about what I tried that did not work, which really was not that much. Continue on to Part 2 if you want to read about the Scavenger Hunt.
Part 2: Scavenger Hunt
Each person will be transported to a biome of his/her choice. Please sign up before class at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Bl6-RfO0h_QPgYT-qQV2JA6LJfHK0edIBQUYCfkZgRs/edit?usp=sharing so that things are less chaotic in class.
Everybody will be sent to a different location so that you are not all trying to find the same items in the same geographic location.
Part of my obsession with MC is finding objects or just seeing what happens when I use a shovel to knock something down or shears to trim a tree. I am fascinated with the variety of results that come from actions. You may have read my idea about testing hypotheses, and I think this fascination stems from the part where I was (and still am) hypothesizing what will happen if I…
There are two branches you can go with the Scavenger Hunt: organic or (inorganic and tools).
Organic is everything dealing with trees, flowers, mushrooms, plants, or live beings without killing them, like shearing wool from sheep. If you get flowers and can dye the wool, that would count as a separate item than fresh wool from the sheep. What I learned from the MCedu class, or maybe in the training videos, is that we don’t really want to encourage kids to kill animals. Likewise, we don’t use monsters in the beginning. There will not be monsters in our version, so if you are planning on being able to gather monster parts or skeltons, that won’t be an option. There may still be spider webs (organic), but no spiders.
Each different flower is an item. A purple tulip is not the same as a pink tulip. Collect at least 1 of each and put it in your chest. Lilacs and roses are separate items. Daisies and sunflowers are different items. Two sunflowers, however, are still one item. There are, however, two types of mushrooms: the brown ones and the red ones. If this does not make sense and you want more clarification, please let me know.
Inorganic and tools:
Inorganic items are all of the ores. Technically coal is organic, but for this exercise, it will be treated as an ore and will fall in the inorganic category. After all, is coal a renewable resource? Tools are included here because tools are better with inorganic items. It just made sense to have you collect ores, and make as many tools as you can from them. Even though a gold shovel may be not very useful in a game, it will count as one item and a wood shovel will be counted as a separate item. We’re ignoring wood as an organic asset at the moment, and are focusing on the inorganic or functional side of mining. Yes, you may count tools made of wood as one inorganic item. So a wooden axe is one item, a wooden shovel is one item, a wooden pickaxe is another item (so far that is 3 items). After finding cobblestone, an axe made with stone is 1 item, a stone shovel is another item (we’re up to 5 different items). If this does not make sense, just ask.
- You do not have to collect more than one of an item to represent it. You may need to chop down several trees, but in your chest for display, you only have to have one block of the item to represent it.
- So we don’t go crazy, you will have 24 hours to complete this task. I am putting a time limit on it because there may be other people who want to do a MC activity and there are a limited number of servers students can use through BSU. I may start checking chests at 6 pm Thursday, Boise time. (5 pm Pacific, 8 pm Eastern)
- Put your items in a chest. I will not be able to see your inventory. I put a double chest at each destination. If you need a larger one, you will have to chop down a tree for the wood. If you make it larger, put it with the double chest I made.
- Make sure I know which site you transported to. If you did not sign up on the location sheet before class, be sure to put your name on the sheet before I check chests. If there is no name near a location, I will not be checking those chests.
- Please indicate if you want to be a part of the scavenger hunt contest or not. If I can create a badge or award and can figure out how to get it registered with our class, then I (or Dr. H) will be issuing badges or awards based on how diverse your organic or inorganic portfolio is.
What’s the point?
Understanding how organic and inorganic items exist can be tricky, especially since we use wood in so many items. Even though I am not including tools in the organic side, technically tools made out of wood would be organic.
Doing this type of expedition could lead to a discussion about renewable and non-renewable resources. What did students find as they mined? If they were to wait a year and let the area repopulate, what would mining in that area be like? Would the iron ore return? Would the trees regrow?
The concept of biomes is still taught in biology classes. Perhaps instead of a contest, students could compare the organic items found in specific biomes. Notch actually did a good job of trying to get biomes to match their description. I did not grab the coordinates for a savannah, but there is also a savannah biome. The tiaga looks like a tiaga, and the forests have a different name than “deciduous” forest. I like how UCMP decided biome classifications, http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/glossary/gloss5/biome/. It turns out that MC has those 5 designations, too: aquatic, deserts, forests, grasslands, and tundra. (The frozen lands are like tundra.)
Even though this differentiation (organic vs inorganic) may seem very simple and not worth the time it would take to do the scavenger hunt, there may be other ways to use this activity to teach about organic or inorganic items, or the idea of scarcity. If you have ideas on how you can adapt this lesson to meet a teaching expectation, please share it with me.
Resources I looked at and may have used
Obviously the Minecraft Teachr video, . Please note, YouTube gave me the wrong URL twice. This should be linked to part 2 of his introductory video. I have no idea why it sent me to other videos done by this person, but that is what was happening when I tried to put links in here.
How to work with water:
How to control minecarts:
I tried using switches to activate the redstone powered rails, but I could not get them to work. I ultimately decided to have the rails permanently turned on and powered to help the cart speed down the track. I wanted to have switches control the starting point because the minecarts would just spontaneously start rolling down the track. It did not matter if I was using a powered rail or a regular one- the carts liked to roll. I found this site: http://www.minecraftforum.net/forums/minecraft-discussion/discussion/135427-how-to-start-your-cart-even-with-minecart-boosters
The restraint idea came from that website and it is the only thing I have found to stop the Minecart from spontaneously rolling down the track. This is why the track needs to be reset if more than one person wants to visit the same place. Then again, you could just run down the track, but where’s the fun with that?
How to teleport
This took a couple days of looking at things- I found ideas from building my own transporter, which I tried to do only to learn that the 9 square crafting table I was using was not designed to make certain objects (maybe because it is version 1.7.10?). I eventually came across these websites:
This one told me how to acquire command blocks: http://minecraft.gamepedia.com/Command_block
I had no problems acquiring the command blocks. The first time I tried to program them, they did not work so Dr. H. had to make some changes to the server. Please do not change the commands in the command blocks. I am hoping that feature is turned off when the world is open to students, but in case that gets overlooked, please don’ t mess with the locations.
Fortunately there are many helpful people who have answered questions about teleporting:
If you have any questions about how I figured out how to do something, just ask. I may have lost track of some of my bookmarked sites.
This video focuses on the objects I created.
At first I made a huge dome and then started filling it with objects. The switching from in and outside the dome was starting to drive me crazy so I deleted the dome and made the rest of the objects I wanted inside the dome.
I enjoyed playing with the skewing of objects, but had more fun decorating them. At first I was using library images, which were amazing. Then I found the “local” option. So I resized some of my images and put them on different objects because I was curious how they would be displayed. I think the cylinder is my favorite.
After I had all the objects I wanted to create, I made another dome and positioned it over the objects, but still had the hollow cylinder (don’t know the real name of it) sticking through the dome. This was fun. I have no idea how people manage large builds or do things like the Smithsonian did.
This is a quest I really want to do because it should help me not only figure out how to maneuver better in SL, but it should help me see how SL can be used for classroom situations.
I first tried NOAA, but is no longer in service. I then went to the International Space Station. Along the way I stopped off at the Smithsonian’s Dia de los muertos, which was absolutely amazing and beautiful.
I get to answer:
1.what you find engaging, what do you do, see, or experience there?
At first I was bored, but once I remembered I could get places by flying, it became more interesting. I did not figure out how to fly in a rocket, though. I looked for where the rockets or the shuttle may be launching, but all of the objects I found were static. There was one display you can walk in and it was nifty because you could see inside the cockpit (for lack of a better word) of a shuttle (?). I liked how they tried to illustrate the distance of planets from the sun. They had the distances marked off which reminded me that Sac State has the same type of thing on campus. They have marked of distances to represent a scale drawing of how far planets are from each other- the same thing was on the ground in the International Space Station area. There are a couple things I found odd, they kept saying they were not funded by NASA, but they seemed happy to use NASA images. All NASA images are free b/c they are a gov’t agency, but it just seemed odd that they were asking for donations because this was not a NASA project. Another thing I found odd was the sign from the Exploratorium, which is a local science museum for me. I am pretty sure the Exploratorium did not make this website area.
2. what looks visually appealing, why?
Seeing the various rockets is interesting. They are displayed well so you can see the difference in sizes. The cherry blossom trees blooming in front of the school are pretty. The roses look similar to Minecraft roses.
3. what elements of the builds would you like to learn to create yourself?
I need to learn everything about the builds. How to mess with texture. How to add words to signs or the title of the building. I still need to learn how to walk around without getting motion sick. I want to learn how to walk smoothly through scenes. I like the science room, with the Geiger counter and all, but I have no clue what I was supposed to do with it. Apparently they bought the desk because it thought I wanted to buy it.
I totally agree with the article, http://www.wired.com/2014/10/video-game-literacy/, because if there is an interest, kids (even everybody) will read. I can’t verify the reading levels they quoted in the article, but I would pretty much bet the online educational guide sites are written higher than a 4th grade reading level. The irony with me, however, is that I have been avoiding the wiki sites or anything that gives away real secrets. Yes I have consulted the crafting guides, but other than being able to make a bed, I don’t really know why I want wool. When I was building in crafting mode for my epic build, which I am still working on, wool came in handy to soak up the miniature river I created in the middle of my store, but otherwise I am not quite sure what to do with it.
I am still spending hours just mining, and am hoping it will get boring so I’ll stop. If anything, I am starting to become motivated to read about things I have not figured out on my own. Because I want to approach Minecraft as a way of experiencing the scientific method, I’m “testing” myself to see if the hypotheses I have been making are accurate. This means that I do the research by experimenting, however, a part of the scientific process includes doing research on published materials to help me understand what my data may mean. I think I am coming close to having to seek out the published data and figure out what I can do with the animals that spontaneously show up other than scare the begeebers out of them or in the case of sheep, shear their wool.
The article mentions the short stories that have been created by teenagers. I downloaded a few of them anticipating we may be asked to read them during this class. So far we have not been asked to read one, but I may now that I have learned teenagers are writing these books. That is so cool! I keep telling myself to stop being lazy and write a book about something I know, not necessarily a Minecraft story, and here there are kids 1/4 to 1/3 my age already being published. Imagine having a student who you inspired to write Minecraft novellas being able to pay for college from what she earned by selling her books online. That would make me very happy.
I know I must come off as the crankiest person on Earth at times, but I am actually quite picky with my enthusiasm and what I am asked to do. At the moment, I’m in a quest that is asking me to analyze Chapter 2 of Communities of Play by Celia Pearce. The chapter is about virtual worlds and the characters that are in them.
At first I was excited that I’d have an opportunity to read some theory to go with all the Minecrafting I’ve been doing. After all, this is a course for graduate school. Well, I had forgotten my biases when reading published works. It drives me nuts to read something written by an author who is continuously quoting her own publications. Sure, rank up that citation count, why don’t you. Are there no other people who have found data to agree with yours? Is it because what you are doing is so new and novel nobody else has figured it out like you are able to?
So, my first negative impression was because I kept hearing “Pearce” as the citation. You see, if I can get Kindle to read to me, I do. I will also read along while it talks to me, but sometimes my eyes just don’t want to work so I listen. This is not the best chapter to listen to if you don’t want to hear the same person being cited repeatedly. Now that I can be more focused with my reading, I need to rescind this impression. She does a good job of gathering several citations that go beyond her name.
My second negative impression is using the words ludisphere and paidiaic. I’ve heard the words luddite and pedantic before. Are they related to these “new” words? I actually had to run a Google search on the words so I could get a clue what they mean. As brilliant as Pearce is, I did not find a dime store explanation of these words. That is not to say it wasn’t there. It is saying I did not decipher it. Fortunately, Rob MacDougall blogged about this in May, 2010. http://www.robmacdougall.org/blog/2010/05/toys-not-games/
He defines ludus and paidia in a way that makes sense to me! Thank you Mr. MacDougall. Simply put, ludus are serious situations where when in such a situation, a sense of humor is not necessarily an asset. Paidia, on the other hand, concerns that sense of humor. If the situation is or can be frivolous, then it has paidia characteristics.
Now that I understand this part, maybe I will be able to actually do the quest I have been asked to complete.
I made a set of slides in ppt because I was going to just submit that for the quest. Unfortunately I am required to make a video. So I used 4 of the slides and what was supposed to be a 3 min video became 7 min. I’m must not psyched to make a video at the moment. Last night I made the slides thinking I’d do the recording today. Silly me, I forgot I’m a pinhead on Tuesday nights so wearing a headset to talk is less than comfortable.