Friday FunPost – Using Games and Virtual Reality to Teach Compassion

Today’s Friday FunPost is less “ha ha” funny and more of a thoughtful, potentially inspiring type of fun. I’m chaperoning our Freshman Retreat today and in a more reflective space than on most Friday afternoons.

The other morning this word and reflection arrived in my inbox from the good brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist:

Suffering

“The prevailing reason why Jesus did what he did and said what he said was his compassion for others. Compassion, which literally means “to suffer with” another person. Compassion is not just to observe suffering, but actually entering the suffering of another.” -Br. Curtis Almquist

I shared this with my students that day as another reminder of how compassion is one of the core values essential for one who follows Jesus the Christ. We’ve been talking a lot about compassion and empathy lately in class. This essential conversation, accompanied by prayer, is a clear antidote to the widespread fear, scapegoating, nativism, racism, and generalized hostility in our social and political conversations these days.

Today I read about two tech facilitated ways to help others grow in compassion and empathy. First, Tech Crunch offers a solid overview of how Virtual Reality is expanding classroom learning in a variety of ways. After describing how VR has been and continues to be used for mainly for simulations – especially scientific and historical ones – the author suggests this creative and constructive usage:

Perhaps the most utopian application of this technology will be seen in terms of bridging cultures and fostering understanding among young students, as it will soon be possible for a third-grade class in the U.S. to participate in a virtual trip with a third-grade class in India or Mexico.

This may sound simplistic and minor, but I think it’s only a beginning of how we will soon be able to leverage VR for a wide variety of educational outcomes. We often assume that we can only use VR from our own exclusive perspective to explore myriad locations, time periods, simulations, etc. After all, everything I see with my eye-brain connection is filtered through only my own reality. The true power of VR is that it will allow me to see what the world looks like from others’ perspectives. And if the simulation is created with thoughtful skill this could engender greater empathy in me.

For example, what if the VR headset caused me to see all writing as a dyslexic person does every day? Or maybe it could show me the hallucinations and “voices” that plague a schizophrenic in his or her daily life. At the very least, it will allow us to take on the persona of someone quite different than ourselves and see, first-hand, the world through their eyes.

Even before VR becomes widely available in our classrooms, a growing genre of video games exist which allow us to experience life from a different perspective. In an article glibly titled “Video Game Psych 101:Empathy Games” we learn how:

Biofeedback video games feed off players’ physiological responses, impacting gameplay in new and interesting ways. But what happens when developers create games designed to evoke a specific emotional or psychological response?

Empathy games attempt to answer that question. These video games aspire to enhance a player’s understanding of an outside perspective, particularly those pertaining to real-world struggles and inequalities, through interactive experiences.

This genre includes the groundbreaking game from a few years ago – Dsy4ia. While this particular simulation engenders empathy towards a specific life experience, this type of game could be created to illustrate any number of situations. And, combined with the increasing power of VR, the possibilities for tech facilitated education for compassion and empathy is limited only by our imaginations.

 

Google Now and Google Search Tips

Scrolling back through recent posts, I see that it’s been awhile since I’ve shared about nuts and bolts technology which can make life better for educators – inside or outside of the classroom.

So, here’s a quick post about cool and useful ways to utilize Google tools.

First, how often do you use Google Now on your phone, tablet or Chromebook? I don’t look at the “cards” or use the voice activated search (the “OK Google”) as often as I could. But now, having discovered this amazing list of functions, I’ll surely use it with greater frequency.

If you don’t have time to click and view the list, you can take the shortcut the author suggests:

If you’re too lazy to scroll this list, you can also access a list of voice commands on your phone by tapping the mic and saying “show me what you got”.

And, thanks to Time magazine for this list of “11 Google Tricks Which Will Change the Way You Search”

BTW: The Google Image above is not from my Google Now, although I wish I was in San Francisco today!

50 Small Things to Make a Perfect Day w/#51- Use Interesting Weather Apps

What makes a perfect day for an educator like me (and you too?) – A SNOW DAY (sort of)!

Well, I went to bed last night suspecting the possibility and woke up at 5:30 am confirming it. Lately though, here in Central Ohio, we’ve had more “calamity days” the past couple of school years due to sub-zero temps with wind chill rather than because of the more traditional – ice/snow covering the streets in the early morning.

On a day such as this, I’d much rather be either creative or lazy rather than productive. In other words, I’d rather write or read instead of grade (the 50+ freshman mid-term essays from before Christmas Break). So, I’m going to create a few posts here and also over at my personal blog too. And I have until Tuesday of next week to get those essays graded!

What makes your perfect day? One thing high on my list is echoed in this great list from Lifehack at #11 – “Take a walk in nature.” I’m hoping to do this today – so that I can meet my Fitbit goal of 10,000 steps for today. But, my WeatherUnderground iPad app tells me that it’s currently 15 degrees, but it feels like 7 degrees. Ugh – I may have to go for a walk indoors at a nearby mall instead.

BTW: Now that it may or may not feel like winter in your neck of the woods, you might want to update your weather apps. In addition to the aforementioned WeatherUnderground app, I’ve also begun enjoying on my Android phone – 1Weather (which has great widgets with it), Weather Timeline and the social-media inspired Sunnycomb 

Oh yeah, here’s the list from Lifehack:

1. Once you wake up, just stay in bed for a couple of minutes and relax.

2. Always have a book with you, we never know when boredom might decide to appear.

3. Set mood playlists on your device of choice.

4. Close your eyes and breathe deeply.

5. Smile to a stranger and see what happens!

6. Have a quick fresh shower first thing in the morning.

7. Show your love to someone else.

8. Before you go to bed, say thanks for everything you have and don’t have.

9. Connect to yourself, by using a journal: write, draw, make collages, let your mind wander.

10. On your nightstand, put something that makes you smile.

11. Take a walk in nature.

12. Do yoga.

13. Make a to-do list to help you achieve your main goal for the day. And stick to it.

14. Eat healthily and accordingly to your own taste.

15. Take an hour and do as you please.

16. Write 3 good things that happened to you and what you can do to see it happen again.

17. Put some fresh flowers in the room you spend time in the most.

18. Take a long and warm shower before going to bed.

19. Get out of the house and explore your neighborhood.

20. Sleep naked to feel sexier.

21. Boost your confidence by engaging in your favorite hobby.

22. Act crazy, put the music on loud and start dancing like there’s no tomorrow.

23. Take a 30 minute nap after lunch; as an alternative, engage in a different relaxing activity.

24. Giggle with your friends– make time for them in your day.

25. Read an inspiring quote and incorporate it into your day.

26. Declutter you life by asking “Do I really need this? Why?”.

27. Be kind anytime you can and don’t expect anything back.

28. Meditate and write down everything you’ve found out.

29. Learn something new, even if it’s just a different way of doing stuff.

30. Have some sweat and exercise. Do it mindfully by choosing an activity you enjoy.

31. Sleep a bit more if you feel tired or you’re in the middle of a situation that you can’t solve.

32. Smile. Smile. Smile. And smile some more.

33. Walk barefoot.

34. Experience flow by working at something you’re passionate about.

35. Make your surroundings a little bit better: declutter, reuse and recycle.

36. Plan a trip, even if you can’t travel right now.

37. Be aware of your emotions, but don’t control them: understand them.

38. Remember your accomplishments every time you feel like a failure.

39. Lower your expectations, little by little — most of them are unrealistic.

40. Be offline for as long as you can.

41. Enjoy the now.

42. Challenge yourself!

43. Don’t worry about your problems, but work toward a solution.

44. See everything as an opportunity to learn and grow.

45. Forgive yourself and forgive others.

46. Don’t quit: make baby steps.

47. Do your best.

48. Slow down.

49. Put everything you are into everything you do.

50. Follow your heart.

Use Flubaroo to Auto Grade and Report Student Assessment

I tried Flubaroo for the first time last week and am impressed by this FREE Chrome/Google Sheets add-on. I want to get this post up and out before my Study Hall supervision ends, so I won’t say much about my positive experience with it. I will say – it works – so try it!

There’s an urgency here at my school for a replacement for the auto-scoring and auto-recording tool embedded within our LMS – Buzz. Our former system – BrainHoney got an attractive, generally user-friendlier upgrade over the summer. BUT, the assessment piece, which some colleagues and I used a lot is essentially non-functional now. Hence, this solution.

While Flubaroo, does swift work scoring assessment and you can have it email and/or print results, you do still need to record the grades into your grade book program. And, I discovered this the hard way – most personal Gmail accounts allow only 100 outbound emails a day. So, if you have more than 100 students on a Flubaroo driven assessment, you’ll have to wait to email results to some of them.

So, here’s the link to this helpful post featuring new functionality on Flubaroo and this is the overview video featured at the link:

 

Two Simple Mindful Meditation Exercises for Teachers

It’s Monday noon and yes, I didn’t get to a Sun(Fun)day Night post yesterday. It wasn’t much of a fun day for me, but rather an extremely full day into the night. Our midterm exams are next week and I was working all day on review guides and then on revising the two exams themselves.

Yes, I felt stressed and yes, I did practice some of the mindfulness meditation techniques that I’ve blogged about here and here and here.

I post this link from The Guardian as it is geared specifically to teachers. Faculty and staff at my school will recognize these simple, yet effective techniques as we’ve been using them to start faculty meetings. And we used them as recently as this morning when our deacon used the PA system to guide the entire student body through a 10 min exercise related to Advent and the Holy Family.

As the stress level this time of year gets ratcheted up for you – whether you have midterms before Christmas or not – I hope this article and the exercises contained within help make your season merrier and brighter.

The Conversation – What Makes Haunted Houses Creepy and What Motivates Students?

Yes, those are two very different questions in the title of this post. I put them together here because they are both thoughtful, scholarly yet accessible recent articles at the remarkable site The Conversation.

I’ve written about The Conversation previously and the more I read it the more I’m impressed by the quality and especially the timeliness of the articles published by it. According to the home page, the mission of the site is for “academics and researchers [to] work with journalists to provide evidence-based, ethical and responsible information.”

The article entitled “Evolutionary Psychology Explains Why Haunted Houses Creep Us Out” answers the question: If I’m a reasonable, mature adult, why do I get the tar scared out of me if I visit a place like Ohio’s Haunted Hootchie? According to Frank T. McAndrew, Psychology professor at Knox College:

From a psychological point of view, the standard features of haunted houses trigger feelings of dread because they push buttons in our brains that evolved long before houses even existed. These alarm buttons warn us of potential danger and motivate us to proceed with caution.

McAndrew then describes the human “agent detection” mechanisms which provoke the creeping sense of anxiety and dread we feel when we are in haunted houses – real or made-up.

Another anxiety-producing question for teachers is: How do I motivate my students? Turns out, according to another excellent article at The Conversation, it isn’t money. You can read the details of the study the author conducted. Basically, his team wanted to see what would get a sample of 300 fifth to eighth graders in an urban district to attend free, after-school tutoring sessions. The study discovered:

 We found that the students who were offered up to $100 for regular attendance were no more likely to attend sessions than if they were offered nothing at all.

In other words, money made no difference.

Alternatively, when students received a certificate of recognition for attending tutoring sessions regularly, the differences were dramatic. The students in the certificate group attended 42.5% more of their allotted tutoring hours than those assigned to the control group.

Take a look at the article itself to discover the full conclusions and the suggested actions for teachers and policy-makers to implement. After reading this, I think I’ll go and find those Google Doc certificate templates…

70 Practical Things Teachers Should Know

Yes, another list.  I promise the next post here won’t be a list (but I can’t promise this for the post after that…).

Again, another great post from the veteran educators at Te@chThought.  This list is a good refresher for us experienced folks and likely a great primer for the rookies.

Which of these items is the most true for you?  Which ones make you laugh?  Which ones make you cry? Which ones do you think are most vital for a teacher to remember?

 

70 Practical Things Every Teacher Should Know

  1. How to manage their time with military-like precision
  2. The difference between complex, rigorous, and just plain hard
  3. How to deliver instruction to students from a wide range of religious, socioeconomic, and ethnic backgrounds
  4. How to authenticate and contextualize academic content for students
  5. How to use class walls effectively
  6. How to deliver lessons and activities from units that are based on a scope and sequence or pacing guide
  7. The purpose of assessment
  8. How to fake it or pretend (that you gave the probe, watched the video, read the email, etc.)
  9. How to promote ideal behaviors in students
  10. How to get out of the students’ way
  11. That students come to school for different reasons
  12. How to collect money (and how to respond when a student doesn’t have any)
  13. How to self-direct their own professional development
  14. How to best spend the 1-2 planning periods a week they’ll actually get
  15. Where your mailbox is, and when to send attendance and to whom
  16. How to differentiate otherwise standardized content based on readiness or interest
  17. How to work with/on multiple committees, teams, and related groups
  18. How to bypass district internet filters, if only so you know how the students will do it
  19. That they’ll likely have to sponsor and support one or more extra-curricular activities
  20. How to master and maintain software for class rosters, grading, parent communication, etc.
  21. Where teaching has been, where it is, and where it’s going
  22. How to wash their hands
  23. When they’re working too hard
  24. That every student has something really, really special in them
  25. The difference between teaching, covering, and learning
  26. When to push, and when to pull back
  27. That your time with a child is just a blink of an eye in the span of their life
  28. What it means to understand something
  29. How to see students, not a class
  30. That students love the water fountain so very much
  31. When during the day to make copies, or how to go paperless
  32. How to fix a broken copier
  33. Which meetings you can skip, and which you can’t
  34. How to use technology better than the students
  35. When to say no
  36. What to do when you suspect a child is being abused at home, or bullied in school or online
  37. Who to go to for what
  38. How not to get caught sitting at your desk by the administrators
  39. How to organize and optimize digital and physical learning spaces
  40. How to organize physical and digital documents
  41. That you can’t save them all, but that can’t stop you from trying
  42. How to build a compelling classroom library (and this goes for any content area or grade level)
  43. How to balance content knowledge with knowledge of learning models, instructional strategies, and student needs and backgrounds
  44. How to really, truly evaluate assessment data
  45. How to capture a child’s imagination
  46. When a student is about to puke
  47. How to help parents and families understand and support
  48. How to motivate students like it’s your job, because it kind of is
  49. How important it is to not to get on the librarian’s bad side
  50. How to have a short memory for student mistakes
  51. How to give literacy probes and other “non-content”-based assessment
  52. How to work with resource teachers to meet IEP and 504 needs
  53. How to hide in their room so they can actually get something done
  54. What they can say, in person and online, that will get them fired
  55. How to meet IEP and 504 needs without a resource teacher
  56. How to use the best parts of their personality to craft a teacher voice and personality that works
  57. How to demonstrate leadership within team and department activities and initiatives
  58. How to keep students safe while making sure each student is heard and related to
  59. To be aware of and respond to all student medical conditions
  60. How to do the dog-and-pony show (in case they want to)
  61. Dozens of team-building exercises
  62. How to entertain students
  63. The best ways to get a busy, loud, disruptive, or otherwise inattentive classroom’s attention
  64. How to begin, end, and dismiss class
  65. How to eat fast
  66. How to coordinate and execute a field trip
  67. How to get the class to school activities (gym, assemblies, library, cafeteria, etc.) efficiently
  68. How to teach every second of every day with the awareness that a single word, gesture, or missed connection can stay with a student forever
  69. How to be accountable to students, colleagues, administrators, media, communities and other sources of what is at best, well-intentioned support and, and is in worst cases, pressure
  70. How to reflect on and refine one’s view of one’s self as a growing educator

 

15 Essential Apps for the Organized Teacher

After the general list of the previous post, here’s a list targeted specifically for teachers who want to be better organized (and that’s really all of us isn’t it?)

Here’s a list of the suggested apps.  For links to the various versions of them, be sure to visit the Te@chThought link above:

  1. SimplyCircle – Group Communication
  2. Google Drive
  3. YouTube
  4. Evernote Scannable
  5. Dropbox
  6. Paperless Assignments with Dropbox or Google Drive
  7. Pocket
  8. Newsify
  9. Allcal – Social planning app
  10. Remind: Safe Classroom
  11. Microsoft One Note
  12. TeacherKit
  13. Seesaw: The Learning Journal
  14. Nearpod
  15. Socrative Teacher

A Gaggle of Google, Part II

A few months ago, I posted a list of links related to the Google universe.  It happened to be the 100th post.  Now, we’re approaching 150 posts and I thought it was time to send out another, updated list of Google items.

A couple of notes.  First, I did not renew my Office 365 account when it expired a month ago.  The $70 or so they wanted for another year wasn’t worth it to me.  So, I’m planning on migrating all of my files over to the Google trio exclusively.  I mention this as I’m keeping an eye out for useful posts on Docs, Sheets, and Slides.

Next, my school does not use Google Classroom as our LMS is Buzz, built on the platform of BrainHoney.  I note this as I generally don’t look out for Classroom postings.  You may see one or two in this list, but it’s not a focus for me.

Without further ado, here’s good stuff I’ve seen recently on Google:

10 Reasons to Love Google Docs

A Collection of Some of the Best Chromebook Apps for Teachers

Must Have Chrome Apps for the New School Year

14 Essential Google Search Tips for Students

10 Back to School Tips for Teachers Using Google Docs

5 Important Chrome Tips for Teachers

PDF My Google Drive Folder

Back to School With Google Chrome: The Complete Guide

Launch Desktop Application from Google Drive Preview in Chrome

Explain Everything – On Chromebooks!

6 Google Tips – Infographic

Two Important Google Slides Updates Teachers Should Know About

5 Under Appreciated Google Tools for Teaching Social Studies

72 Google Drive Shortcuts You Should Know About

Some Great Educational Resources From Google

Google Classroom: Sharing or Submitting a Google Drive Folder

Excellent Google Sheets Tools for Assessment and Grading

12 Ways to Use Google Classroom’s Newest Features

Some Teacher Tested Notable Chromebook Apps to Use with Students

Top 90 Educational Apps for Android

Google Brings It’s 360 Degree Storytelling App to the iPhone and iPad

Here is a Great Alternative to Google Forms

A New Look for the Google Docs, Slides and Sheets Viewer on the Mobile Web

Google Apps and the Brain Friendly Classroom – Collaborative Learning

Treasure Trove of Historical Footage Now Available on YouTube

6 Most Popular Google Docs Templates for Teachers

Teacher’s Top Educational Chrome Apps for 2015-2016

3 Important Google Drive Updates Teachers Should Know About

100 Ways to Use Google Drive in the Classroom

411 on Google’s Educator Certificates

Google Forms: Using Summary of Responses Repeatedly

3 Excellent Google Sheets Tools to Enhance Workflow

A Handy Google Drive Tool for Annotating PDF’s

24 Google Docs Templates Which Will Make Your Life Easier

Top 5 Android New Aggregator Apps for Teacher

google_apps_logo-300x296

Enjoy the wide ranging list!

 

 

5 Best Times to Use Technology in Class

Before posting a list of links to many ed tech tools, I share this post as a refresher on the instructional opportunities which are enhanced via the use of technology.

This list comes from a blogger at MiddleWeb:

Technology is the right tool when:

  1. It helps students visualize concepts
  2. It allows students to be creative, innovative and personalize their work
  3. It makes work easier for students (and often teachers)
  4. It promotes collaboration, provides students with a larger audience for their work, or connects them to peers or experts in a new way
  5. It enables more students to participate, better engages them, and makes learning FUN