Thursday, March 27, 2014

GUEST POST: Team Tournaments HS Gamification Using Class Dojo

This is a guest post from Mrs. Marynn Dause, an English teacher at King George High School in King George, Virginia, who is using Class Dojo to gamify her class. I'm fascinated with gamification and using Edmodo to gamify my Odyssey unit, but Mrs. Dause's approach has got me thinking. Using Class Dojo, her method is something we all can learn from and with Class Dojo's BIG ANNOUNCEMENT, staying in contact with parents and students just got easier. Learning can and should be fun!

This year, I’ve experimented with what feels like a vast array of educational technology and strategies.  My goal was simple: find one or two things that work and stick with them.  The trouble is, there’s such a smorgasbord of awesome teaching tools and techniques that I couldn’t “just have one!”  I have, however, limited the scope of my in-class application down to a few favorites, and two of those are gamification and a lovely app called ClassDojo.  This free classroom management tool allows teachers to easily track student behaviors and actions in real-time from any web-enabled device, and it got me thinking: how can I use this data to create positive reinforcement in my classroom?  Could data translate to gamification?  Yes, I thought, it could!  So, the Team Tournament was born.

The Tournament is, at heart, a fairly simple process.  Students form teams, and then earn classroom rewards for good behavior, teamwork, and productivity.  It’s an age-old model that I’ve used without tech enhancement for several years.  With the addition of ClassDojo, though, the positive reinforcement model takes on a new sense of immediacy for students.  Here’s how I’ve used it in my elective Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature course for upperclassmen this semester:

Running a Tournament

1.   Form Teams: During the first three days of class, students get to know one another and then form teams.  Teams then work together to create a coat of arms and to write a manifesto. (We used the ones from Veronica Roth’s Divergent series as examples.)  The completed team “shields” and manifestos are attached to a bulletin board at the front of the room.    

IMG_20140320_163118_255.jpg  IMG_20140326_092633_958.jpg  IMG_20140326_092711_696.jpg

2.   Earn Points and Set a Goal: Teams begin earning points in the tournament by correctly completing warm up challenges like word puzzles, critical thinking challenges, and the like.  Students are made aware of the tournament prize: the top ranking team at the end of 9 weeks will receive a pizza party which they may choose to share with one of their allies, if they wish.

3.   Use ClassDojo: At the end of the first week, I introduce ClassDojo.  Students are permitted to log on and change their avatars to suit their tastes, and we play around with the program to see and hear what earning and losing points sounds like.

4.   Utilize competition/positive peer pressure: From the second week onward, I enter points in ClassDojo while students work on in-class assignments and projects.  Every other day or so, I display the “points board” so that students may see how many points they (and their teammates) have earned.  This usually leads to some good-natured nagging from team leaders and members, who push each other to do better and earn more points without any instruction from me to do so.

5.   Total points: At the end of each week, I total the points earned by the members of each team and award stickers to represent the progress made that week.  In the screenshot below, for example, the members of a student team called “Tiza” have earned a combined total of 24 points.  With stickers representing 5 points each, that’s 4 stickers plus 4 tick marks on the team’s shield.  

When students come to class on Fridays, they know that all of the team shield totals will be up to date, and that gets them extraordinarily excited for…

6.   Head to Head Challenges: This is our chance to be silly together, as well as incredibly competitive.  On Fridays, the team that is in the lead challenges one other team to a head to head competition.  The rules for our class are that each team must send up one representative (sometimes I let them send up two, or call for help from a team they choose as an ally that week), and no student may compete in a Head to Head two weeks in a row.  Head to Heads are worth anywhere from 10-30 tournament points for the winning competitors’ teams.  Also, the teams never have any idea what the challenge will be.  I try to switch back and forth between mental and physical challenges, so one week might be a Jeopardy or Family Feud-style contest, while the next week might be thumb wrestling, hula hooping, or a staring contest.  We play games from Whose Line Is It, Anyway? and do silly stunts from Jimmy Kimmell Live.  The kids LOVE it, and I really think that it is the Head to Heads, more than the promised pizza party, that keeps them engaged with earning points on Dojo during the week.  Of course, you could make your Head to Head challenges address specifically academic content; I would still suggest adding a large dose of “silly” or “game” to those curriculum-driven contests, though.  Students of all ages will go a mile in exchange for an inch of teacher-encouraged silly or fun time.  (Just make sure they go the mile before rewarding them with the inch!)

7.   Ultimate Reward:  At the end of the nine weeks, I do follow through with my promise of a pizza party during lunch for the winning team and their chosen ally.  Limiting the number of students who are directly rewarded maintains the competitive drive for the rest of the semester (we reboot the tournament in the middle of the semester with new teams and different types of challenges), and it also saves me a good bit of cash.  The key, though, is to manufacture the amount of points available to be earned each week and especially the number of points earned in Head to Heads so that every team has a fair shot and winning up until the very last few weeks of the tournament.  Students will always know exactly who’s in the lead, but it helps keep them interested in the competition if they know that there will be a chance for them to “rebound” and catch up on Fridays.

With the Tournament Team structure in place, it’s very easy for me to motivate my students to do practically everything that is needed in class!  ClassDojo keeps track of points earned over time and provides me with neat charts that show general trends in the classroom, so I’ve been able to watch our classroom behavior and engagement patterns trend upward as the Tournament continues.  At this point in the semester, I almost never have to “write up” or punish students in these classes; a pointed look towards their team shield is usually sufficient to get their attention, and they absolutely hate hearing the “down” sound from ClassDojo when they lose a point.  It’s revolutionized my experience of classroom management, making me much more confident in myself as a “game master” and optimistic about spending time with each of these classes, and I hear the students talking in the hall about what they’re going to do today “to get more of those points.”  You might say gamification + ClassDojo + pizza = Finally enjoying the toughest part of my job.

I'd like to thank Mrs. Dause for sharing her expertise with my readers.  You, too, can connect with her on Edmodo and her website

BIG ANNOUNCEMENT from ClassDojo: App Messaging

Displaying ClassDojo_Logo-1200px.png
ClassDojo iOS and Android apps now include ClassDojo Messaging — a new feature enabling teachers and parents to easily and meaningfully communicate about student progress. Users of Class Dojo and BYOD advocates will appreciate the ease with which they can keep parents connected to the classroom. Take a look at the screenshots below showing how ClassDojo Messaging will look on a personal device. 

I'll be honest, I struggle with maintaining contact with my parents.  I do the best I can between phone calls, email and Edmodo, but unfortunately I most often initiate specific contact when something negative has occurred.  I really like that ClassDojo promotes positive interactions. ClassDojo Messaging users can blast out messages to the whole group of parents or direct message individuals, and with read-receipts there is no question that parents are looking at the messages.  I also like that it is an app I can use on my personal device so I can walk around the room and not be tethered to my computer.

I have to applaud ClassDojo for working to bridge the edtech gap between home and school, making all students, teachers, and parents, connected to learning.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

#CUE14 Pictures using Loupe Collage

I wanted a creative way to compile and share my pictures from my recent trip with Curriculet to CUE 2014 conference in Palm Springs, California. Searching through the Chrome Web Store, I found Loupe Collage. Similar to creating a customized word cloud in Tagxedo, Loupe Collage allows users to pull in pictures from Facebook, Google +, Drive, Dropbox, Twitter, the web, Instagram, and files (ok, everywhere) to create a collage where the shape and background can be customized. Once the collage is created, users can share it via Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Gmail, Drive, link, and embed.

I am really impressed with the ease of this tool. I grabbed all my pictures from CUE and pulled in those that others took and shared with me to create the collage below.  It took me just a few minutes to create!  While I love social photography, I do get overwhelmed trying to manage the photos, and while I have automatic backup of my pictures via Facebook and Google +, I don't often do much with the pictures after they are backed up. Using Loupe Collage, I can create a collage for each special event and share it with my colleagues, friends and family who were also there. To see each image, simply hover over it to enlarge.

Rather appropriate, this is my 100th blog post.  While I write about edtech tools and activities, what is more important are the people and enriching experiences. Edtech is more so about fostering connections than the tool itself. The technology brings us all together: friends, colleagues, companies,  we are all digital compatriots. Thank you all for reading, sharing, and collaborating.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

#CUE14 People Pictures

I need a smartphone with a better front camera, and I need to perfect my selfie-taking skills, because I am HORRIBLE! With that being said, I had such a blast at #CUE14 and seeing all of my favorite California Twitter folks and hanging out in Curriculet's booth telling EVERYONE who passed how much I LOVE my favorite digital reading tool of all time! Dude, seriously.  #NoHyperbole 



All of the #cue14 gang (except @jstevens009@ls_karl @sampatue @crystalkirch @KtBkr4 @bennettscience @thomasson_engl
— Cheryl Morris (@guster4lovers) March 22, 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Using Curriculet for Short Reading Texts & PARCC Prep

My all time favorite tool for digital reading is Curriculet because of its versatility and ease of use (oh, and the price: FREE!). I can assign novels, poems, short stories, and current event articles for my students to read, and they can answer Common Core aligned questions and quizzes in the text.  Since it is web-browser based, Curriculet can be used on any device or computer which is a must for my BYOD, 1:1 one day a week with Chromebooks classroom.

Whether you are signing in with your own email, using the Edmodo app, or signing in with Google, accessing your Curriculet is simple. Go to the website and log in or in Edmodo, launch the Curriculet app.

While Curriculet can be used in the Language Arts classroom for flipping reading instruction of novels, any subject area teacher can use Curriculet for implementing Common Core aligned reading of short texts.

Since many titles, especially in the current event section, are ready to use curriculets with questions and annotations already in embedded, I don't have to spend extra prep time creating them. I can just assign and let my students read! No matter the subject area, there is no easier tool for implementing reading instruction in your class. My students are reading more, more often, and I can see their progress and performance.

In addition, the digital literacy and navigation skills they are using while reading with Curriculet helps prepare my students for the PARCC testing that is coming (ugh.).  While the visual design is different, the skills the students need for being able to navigate through the digital PARCC tests can be practiced using Curriculet.

I can get my students acclimated to digital reading and writing without stressing them out.  By increasing the frequency with which we read online, the students will perform better because they are more comfortable with the technology. I can also scaffold the process and increase the difficulty level of the texts so that when they get to difficult passages and questions on the PARCC they won't shut down, but instead use the strategies I have taught them for breaking down the text and finding the answer.  While I am not in favor of testing or teaching to a test, I can unobtrusively prepare my students by getting them reading more often with Curriculet.

I can't stop stop talking about Curriculet (seriously), and if you swing by the Curriculet booth at CUE 2014 (PLEASE DO!!!), I will personally show you how Curriculet has transformed my classroom and revitalized my reading instruction. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Flying thru Social Learning Theory

My life-time flying experience is fairly limited: senior trip to Disney in high school,  a 1 once a year training trip to Ft. Lauderdale with my college swim team, a vacation to California 15 years ago when I first started teaching, another vacation 13 years ago to the Dominican Republic, an Edmodo-sponsored trip to Edmodocon last August, and now, a trip to CUE 2014 in California sponspored by Curriculet. Having always flown with someone else, most recently Liz Calderwood, I always followed the lead of others. This time there is no one with me, and I have to rely on all that I learned from LIz and figure out what to do based on what I see everyone else doing.  This is social learning in action.

I’m not a herd animal, but I am always watching what others do. I am fiercely independent (rather appropriate considering my birthday) and I rarely like being told what to do (just ask my husband), so this experience of flying on my own is an experience in social learning: I must follow the rules and protocols of the airline business or I will not reach my destination, and the only way to know the rules and protocols is to follow the leads of others.

Thinking about prestige-bias as an adult learning in a new environment, I was selective with who I modeled. As a professional adult on a business trip, I was not going to model my behavior after young children, but instead those who looked like they were also business travellers. As I boarded the shuttle bus from the parking lot to the terminal falling in behind the woman in front of me and watching her place her bags, I first realized what I was doing: I was observing her behavior and mimicking it.  After disembarking and entering the terminal, I used what I remembered from my last trip with Liz to locate a check-in kiosk and confirm my flight--recalling retained information.  Then as I stood in the security line, I craned my neck to observe the scanning procedures: what needs to be in the bin, where do my shoes go, what can stay in the bag.

There is the stress of making sure I perform well-- while I can make some mistakes, if I don’t pass this “test,” I will not be able to continue on my journey--exactly aligning with the threshold guardians of the Hero’s Journey motif (not that I’m calling myself a hero-- oh no!). The Hero’s Journey motif is a journey of transformation and growth, and through the process of the journey the main character evolves. In my case, I’m evolving from an inexperienced traveller to a capable frequent flyer.

Speaking of social learning, I am documenting my trip for the folks back home-- my family and friends will know I’m safe by my myriad of Facebook posts and Tweets, and my students will feel my virtual  presence in the classroom as I share my travelogue on Edmodo. So not only am I demonstrating social learning, but I’m also letting others learn socially from me.

Sitting in the airport, I make the most of the free wifi
and stay in touch with my students on Edmodo.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Curriculet & Edmodo: #BetterTogether

This week Curriculet announced the release of an Edmodo app version that allows teachers and students to use Curriculet using their Edmodo credentials and classlists. The app is a portal or gateway and opens Curriculet inside Edmodo. I am ecstatic about this announcement!

I've been using Curriculet (previously known as Gobstopper) for two years now, and I can't say enough good things about it! Get me started talking and I can't stop! But my one tinsy, itsy-bitty complaint--which has nothing to do with Curriculet per say-- is that my students continually forget their username and password. While Google log-in is also available for Curriculet on the web, there is at least one student who struggles with remembering his/her log-in information. Trust me; I've taught them naming conventions for passwords, but there is always one. Now that Curriculet can be used inside Edmodo there is one less log-in for students to deal with.  I wish more web tools would partner with Edmodo for app creation, because not having to worry about logging in is so valuable for students to continue using a digital tool.

Also, class creation on my end of things is seamless with the Edmodo app. The classes or groups I have created in Edmodo will automatically be created in Curriculet with just a few clicks of adding the app to my groups. Click on this link to learn more about adding an Edmodo app to your group, and click on this link to learn more about launching an app in Edmodo.

Here is a behind the scenes look of my classes using Curriculet:

While Curriculet may seem geared towards the English Literature classroom, it can also be used to support reading informational and fictional texts in History, Science, and World Language classes. I bet you could even find texts to use in Math! Please let me know if you do! Take a look at the screencast Edmodo Support Ambassador Mr. Jose Angel made for Spanish-speaking users.

If you are wondering, why bother to use Curriculet or thinking that the traditional way of teaching and reading a text works. Take a look at this inforgraphic.  When reading Romeo & Juliet, Curriculet saves me 50 hours worth of administrative tasks.  Imagine freeing up 50 hours of your time!