Sunday, November 27, 2016

Educational Game

I chose to play Community in Crisis.   Community in Crisis is the second game in the Read to Lead series, which addresses engagement, literacy and career-awareness simultaneously.  According to the description, it is designed to 5th grade Common Core State Standards in Reading Informational Text, and is ideal for school-day, after school-, and summer programs.  Community in Crisis gives educators access to 40+ flexible hours of game-based learning and project-based activities. Students play the role of executive director of a community organization.

The simulation takes place in Port Douglas.  Hurricane Dante has recently damaged the town.  The staff of the community center are responsible for assisting community members in their recovery efforts.  

I was given two choices and played the Not It episode.  There are two main issues in this episode that the community center director (player of the game) has to address.  One is that no one wants to clean up the snack room.  The other is that no one wants to work with a client named Herb.  Everyone claims "not it" in both cases.  

There is not a lot of direction when you start the game.  There really isn't any.  I figured it out after a few missed clicks but 5th graders made need some direction in the beginning.  Once you get used to playing the game, it is very easy and students should be able to complete the activities independently. 

Community in Crisis works on a lot of different skills.  Some that I noted were diplomacy, writing, note taking, and problem solving.  Students must complete each task before they are allowed to move to the next item on the to-do list.  

My only complaint about CiC is that you are rarely given choices of what to do or say.  It would be very easy to click repeatedly to get through most of the simulation.  I think it would be better if students were sometimes allowed to pick the less diplomatic or appropriate response to a situation in order to see what the consequences were.  

I did like that the game gave you the option to print at the end so students could turn something in to the teacher to show that they completed the assigned activities. 

I may play a few more episodes to see if this is something I feel my 6th and 7th graders would enjoy and benefit from.  
         There’s a new client at Common Ground and nobody

Monday, November 14, 2016

Adolescent Interview

I interviewed "Freddy."  Freddy is a 13 year old male who is a self-proclaimed phone and phone company expert.  He knows the price of pretty much every phone plan from every company.  He tries to convince me to switch to T-Mobile every time I talk him.  

Freddy believes that he spends 18 hours a day on his phone but said that he turns the sound off at 10:00pm to go to sleep.  He also said that he spends about 10 hours a day making actual phone calls on his phone.  He gets home around 3 and goes to bed at 10 so his numbers are a little off.  He did insist that he talks on the phone from dinner until bedtime.  He informed me that he never ever actually turns his phone off partially because he needs the alarm on it.  

Freddy said that he is on 15 social media sites.  He was able to list 11 that he uses, including some that I've never even heard of.  He believes that social media is good to connect with friends and family that aren't local but it can also be dangerous.  He mentioned kidnapping, pedophiles, pornography, and drug sales as potential dangers.   

Freddy got his first smartphone at 11.  He thinks that kids should have smartphones by the time they turn 12 but they need to be educated to the dangers associated with phones and social media.  He stated that kids need to stop showing off online. I asked him what that meant.  He said that kids think it's cool to post nasty stuff and swear.  I questioned him a bit at this point because I've seen his facebook posts.  He admitted that maybe he needs to take his own advice.  

Freddy seems to respect the rules that his mother has set forth.  He doesn't use his phone at meals and he doesn't send anything questionable by text or social media because his mother would not be happy.  His mother doesn't, however, take his phone away as a punishment.  He said she did that once and he just switched to his ipod, tablet and laptop so it was pointless.  

Freddy wasn't very excited about teachers using social media to communicate with students.  He feels that his phone is separate from school and doesn't want his teacher interfering with that part of his life.  Freddy thinks that if a teacher is going to use social media to communicate with students that interactions should be monitored by a principal to make sure the teachers are not being inappropriate or communicating too often.  When pressed on this issue, he said that lots of people, teachers included, have trouble being appropriate on social media and he would be very concerned about some teachers communicating too often with students or communicating inappropriately.    

I asked Freddy about using technology in the classroom. He said his class has ipads, a smartboard, and one computer.  He is not a fan of the program that the ipads use and is not happy that he can't use it for other purposes.  He also believes that the classroom should have more computers, a smart tv instead of a smartboard, and ipads that have data packages and not so many programs blocked.  I asked what he would like to be able to do with the ipads.  He mentioned school wide games of Kahoot and taking pictures on field trips.

Freddy has a hard time imagining life before smart phones and social media.  He can't even imagine spending one day without his smart phone.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Orphan Sunday

What is Orphan Sunday?
Orphan Sunday is the second Sunday of November.  It's a day that the church is supposed to stand for the orphan and remember that God commanded us to care for those in need.  Now, before you stop reading because I said "the church," please know that I have very mixed feelings about that.  The church clearly is not doing enough to care for orphans and I hate the implication that only Christians care about orphans and foster children.  That certainly is not true.  Plenty of people are involved in orphan care and foster care without believing in God and plenty of Christians are not involved at all.  This blog post is not about Christians or the church.  It's about helping kids in need of families!!!  

What is the Orphan Crisis?
Here are some stats that I took from The Orphan Foundation.  Statistics can be twisted and there is a lot of discussion about how many orphans there really are.  How many of those are true orphans and how many are social orphans?  However, no matter how you look at it, the stats aren't good and the futures of children without families are bleak.
*There are 143,000,000 orphans in the world.
*There are an additional 20,000,000 “displaced children” in the world.
*The combined count of these categories makes the orphan population the 7th largest nation on the planet – slightly larger than the population of Russia.
*In Eastern Europe, less than 50% of the orphan population will live to see their 20th birthdays.
*In Eastern Europe, of the orphans that survive their 20th birthdays, 50% will end up in organized crime, drugs, or prostitution.
*In Africa, homeless children are armed and used for war.
*In Africa, there is a concerted effort to extend children’s lives beyond 5 years of age.
*In the US, 25,000 children will leave the foster care system without families.
*25% of these foster children become homeless.
*56% of these emancipated foster care children enter the unemployment ranks.
*27% of the emancipated male children in foster care end up in jail.
*30% of the emancipated females in foster care experience early parenthood.
*30,000 children in foster care are simply dropped from state care because they have run away.
*In the US, most young adults ages 18 – 24 still live at home with their parents, while approximately 25,000 children are annually released at age 18 from the foster care system without families to support them.”

Can we agree that there is a crisis both domestically and internationally?  If you still need some visual proof, check out my friend's facebook page.  She just brought home a 10 pound, 7 year old!  10 pounds!!  At 7!!!  We have a problem!

I'm just not in a position to adopt or foster.  What can I do to help?
Help foster children/families:
*Call your local agency and ask what you can do to help.  They may need someone to help with paperwork.  (Most caseworkers are overworked and underpaid.  They'd probably love to have someone help them out with office tasks.)  They may need Christmas gifts or clothes.  They might need someone to go into a group home and give the kids good hair cuts.  You'll never know what they need if you don't ask.
*Check in with a foster family if you know one.  See what you can do to help them out.  Offer to bring them dinner when a new child moves in.  Offer to take their other kids out for a day/evening so they can spend some time with the new child.  Offer to collect clothes or supplies for their new child.
 *Offer to teach an older foster child a skill or trade.  The fate of foster children who age out of the system are not good.  Give them a leg up and maybe a job!
*Donate.  The Dave Thomas Foundation is probably the most well know organization that helps foster children become part of a permanent family.  Together We Rise provides duffle bags to children in foster care so they don't have to move their meager possessions in garbage bags.  I'm sure there are many others as well.

Help orphanages:  (Most of my examples come from Foundation For His Ministry in Mexico since I used to work for them and know that they are reputable.  I'm sure you can google and find similar programs in orphanages all over the world.)
*Helping orphanages can be tricky.  There are lots of mixed feelings about the benefits/harm that comes from outsiders visiting orphanages.  While we all want to help and "love on" children, that may not be the best way to help.  (That's another whole post for another day.)  If you do decide to visit an orphanage, please make sure you do so with a reputable organization that works in the area and knows the culture.  There are also lots of opportunities to use the skills you possess to support those who are permanently working in an orphanage.  Teams of skilled laborers, medical professionals and other skills are often accepted for specific projects.
*You can also help orphanages financially.
     *Sponsor a child.
     *Sponsor a permanent staff member.
     *Support a specific project.
     *Consider finding an Alternative Giving program that allows you to make donations to       charities instead of purchasing Christmas presents.
     *Consider having a contest at your child's school, children's church program, or club            to raise funds for an orphanage.

Help orphans:
*Through Reece's Rainbow, it's possible to help specific orphans.  RR raises grants for waiting children who are seeking their families.  The cost of adoption is huge.  Sometimes, knowing that some of the money has already been raised will help a family step forward and take the leap of faith to adopt.  Right now I'm working to raise Andre's adoption grant to lighten the financial burden for his future family. Some adoption agencies have similar programs.

Help adopting families:
*Adoption is incredibly expensive.  You can make tax-deductible donations to individual adopting families through Reece's Rainbow, AdoptTogether and several other organizations.There are also a lot of adoption fundraisers on sites like GoFundMe but those families aren't verified and donations aren't tax deductible.
*Support family fund raisers.  If you can't afford to support them, share them.  You never know who might be looking to buy some hand knit scarves or Avon.
*If you want to make sure that your money is going to carefully vetted families, donate to a reputable grant organization like Show Hope.
*Call an adopting family and check in.  The process is hard and exhausting and sometimes isolating.  Call and let them know you were thinking about them and their child.

Help prevent children from becoming social orphans:  (Social orphans are those that have one or more living parents who are not involved in their care.  Usually this is due to extreme poverty, disability or addiction.)  Adoption is a plan B for children.  It is born of loss and should be a last resort.  Above all, we should be working to keep children with their biological families and their culture if at all possible.  Here are some organizations that are working to do that.  I'm sure there are many more.
Eternal Anchor - Working in Baja California Mexico.  They have established a day care/school for children with disabilities.  This gives their families training and allows the children to continue to live with their biological families instead of being placed in a children's home or orphanage.
Mission to Ukraine - Working in Ukraine.  They work with families of children with disabilities.  They provide training and education to help families raise their children with disabilities.  They also provide summer camp experiences to kids.
Compassion International - Compassion works all over the world.  They work through a sponsorship model but it's so much more.  They work with the entire family and community to affect long term change.  Their goal is to develop leaders in their own community and culture,

What can you do to help?  Everyone should consider opening their home to a child in need.  If you can't open your home, at least consider opening your heart and helping somehow.  This problem isn't going away.  It's in our backyards and it's around the world.  What will you do to help?

If you are interested in adoption, foster care, or Safe Families, please let me know and I will hook you up with resources, families, and agencies.  I love to talk about adoption.  Encouraging and helping families in their journey is one of my favorite things to do.  

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Video Games in Education - Annotated Bibliography

I teach middle school boys.  They often come to school exhausted.  They've either stayed up all night playing a game or gotten up early to do it.  Students who don't talk to each other in class will play video games and chat at night.  They count down the days until a new game comes out.  The newest game system is at the top of all of their Christmas lists.  If they don't get it at Christmas, they hope that they will get it with mom's tax return.  They live and breathe for these games.  Nothing at school means nearly as much to them as those games.  

I wanted to look further into the idea of using video games in the classroom to see if there was some way I could harness that interest and obsession to help them learn in the school setting.  Right now, we use video games as a reward for good behavior and completed work.  Is there a way to use it for more than that?  Can they be used in an actual productive manner?  

Annotated Bibliography

Annetta, L. A.  Video games in education:  Why they should be used and how they are being 

         used.  (2008).  Theory Into Practice, 47, 229-239.  Retrieved from   

         This article explores why video games should be used in the classroom setting for all ages.  It 

         gives a solid rationale for it as well as telling about educators who have successful integrated 

         video games across all grade levels.  This article provides a logical assessment of the necessity 

         of video games in education.  

Annetta, L. Murray, M. R., Laird, S. G., Bohr, S. C., & Park, J. C.  Serious games;  Incorporating 

         video games in the classroom.  (2006).  Educause Review,  Retrieved from 


          This article reports on a class taken by graduate students that incorporated avatars and role-

          playing.  They took this class in an attempt to understand how to engage the Net Generation in 

          the classroom setting.  This article is helpful because it gives a real life example of using second 

          life games for educational purposes in an academic setting.  

Gee, J. P.  What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy.  (2003).  ACM Computers 

          in Entertainment, 1, 20.  Retrieved from
         This article focuses on how video games are created and the educational value that video  

         games inherently possess.  The article argues that good video games must be able to be 

         learned while also being long and challenging.  This article helps prove that today's students can 

         focus on tasks that are difficult for a long period of time if they are motivated to do so.  

Kirriemuir, J.  Use of computer and video games in the classroom.  Retrieved from  

         This paper reports on how and why teachers are using computer and video games for learning 

         in their classrooms.  It also examines the reasons why teachers may not use computer and video 

         games  and the roadblocks they have encountered when trying to do so.  This paper is a good 

         source for both successes and obstacles in implementing video games in the classroom setting.  

Lee, J., Luchini, K., Michael, B., Norris, C., & Soloway, E.  (2004).  More than just fun and games: 

         Assessing the value of educational video games in the classroom.  CHI 2004, 1375-1378.   

         Retrieved from


Squire, K.  Changing the game:  What happens when video games enter the classroom.  (2005). 

           Innovate Journal of Online Education, 1.  Retrieved from 


          This paper details the use of Civilization III in a high school classroom.  It studies both students 

          who were successful using it as a learning experience and those that were not.  The author 

          investigates why some classroom structures do not lend themselves to video game usage  It's a 

          helpful article because it shows the positives and negatives of using video games in the 

         classroom based on a real experience.  

Squire, K.  Video games in education.  Retrieved from 

          This paper explores the history of video games in education.  It stresses the potential cognitive 

          benefits of game playing in the classroom setting.   It's a helpful paper because it explores the 

          history, present, and future of video games in educational settings.