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.

 

Lists and More Lists of Apps and Tools for Teachers and Students

As promised, here’s the big post with lots and lots of lists.  I know that during this busy time of year, neither you nor I will be able to play around with more than a few of the resources accessed through these links.  Heck, you might not even be able to do more now than just read this introduction!

Please bookmark this post (and this blog in general) and return here again and again to explore a list or two.  If I can discover one or two blockbuster (or even just pretty good) apps or sites (Kahoot is an awesome one that I discovered via a list) every month or so, than I feel like perusing lists a few minutes a week is time well spent!

Note: Image above is from this link: Two Great Periodic Tables on Educational iPad Apps

6 New Ed Tech Tools for Teachers

Free Digital Formative Assessment Tools

50 Web Tools and Mobile Apps for Showcasing Student Work

21 Grab and Go Teaching Tools for Your Classroom

Free Teacher Tested Tools to Try in Your Classroom

Four Top Websites for Teaching and Learning (Tackk; PearDeck; SoundTrap; Appsbar)

Twenty Popular Apps and Web Tools Made by Students

20 Cool Tools for Creating Info Graphics

Another Great Tool for Creating Buzzfeed Style Quizzes

Literacy in the Digital Age: 5 Effective Writing Tools

Two Useful Game-Based Learning Tools for Teachers (Brainrush; ClassXP)

Some of the Best Web Tools and Mobile Apps for Taking Students on Virtual Field Trips

A List of Useful Resources on Teaching Information and Digital Literacy

A Collection of the Best Web Tools and Apps for Creating Educational Screencasts

Eleven Great Digital Homework Helpers for Your Kids

Six Must-Have Apps for Teachers’ Back to School Tool Kits

Here is a Collection of New Web Tools and Apps for Teachers

Excellent Story Writing Apps for Students

15 Free Apps for Classroom Management

Four Useful Tools for Creating Non-Traditional Quizzes

Teacher Recommended: 50 Favorite Classroom Apps

Excellent Strategy Games to Teach Kids Logical Thinking

A Collection of the Some of the Essential Web Tools for Teachers

(Part 1): Forty Educational Websites for Your Summer 2015 Toolkit

(Part 2): Forty Educational Websites for Your Summer 2015 Toolkit

(Part 3): Forty Educational Websites for Your Summer 2015 Toolkit

(Part 4): Forty Educational Websites for Your Summer 2015 Toolkit

9 Ways to Get Your Grammar Game On – A Playlist

July’s “Best Lists” – There are 1,459 of Them!

4 Good iPad Apps for Seamlessly Managing Students’ Assignments

The 37 Best Websites to Learn Something New

55 Best Free Educational Apps for the iPad

A New Collection of Educational Web Tools for Teachers

Two More Tools for Making On-line Learning Games (eQuiz Show, Teachers-Direct)

Top 25 Tech Tools for Teachers 2015

23 Tools for Students to Publish What They Learn

Lets Present! 21 Digital Poster Tools and Tips

15 Apps to Change Your Brain

Safe, Student Tested Tools to Use in Class

Best Note-Taking Apps

Educator Recommended Tools to Enhance Your Visuals

These 44 Apps Will Make You More Productive

11 Apps That Will Make You Smarter

Some Great Educational Resources From National Geographic

4 Important Apps for a Paperless Classroom (Showbie, Teacher Toolkit, Socrative Teacher, NearPod)

Top 4 Presentation Tools for Teachers (Prezi, Haiku Deck, ThinkLink, Glogster)

10 On-line Tools to Engage Students in the Studying Process

7 Free Tools for Anyone Who Wants to Become a Better Writer

10 New Educational Web Tools for Teachers and Educators

10 On-Line Tools to Upgrade Students’ Writing Skills

21 Essential Data Visualization Tools

Some Good Educational Web Tools Recommended by Teachers for Teachers

5 Great Apps Students Can Use to Display Their Learning

10 Great Classroom Management Apps for Teachers

6 of the Best iPad Apps for Digital Storytelling

7 Great iPad Apps for Digital Whiteboarding

Special thanks to Educational Technology and Mobile Learning as many of these links were from that excellent site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

19 Back to School Classroom Ideas

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t put a tremendous amount of effort into creating decorations or art in my classroom.  I do believe in having art – especially student created art – on the walls and elsewhere in the room.  Having attractive, inspiring and thought-provoking images for my students to view goes a long way in creating the vibe and spirit of my classroom.

I also use the “plug-in” type of fragrance dispensers to create olfactory feeling in my students.  I rotate the scents seasonally throughout the school year.  Not only do my students gain a scent memory of my room, but this helps counter the inevitable “funk” which develops during the times of the year when we can’t open the windows.  It’s a high value for me to have my room smell good for my students (and for me as I have to be in there all day!)

From the surprisingly robust HuffPost Education, here’s some ideas for the crafty folks out there to make your classroom more attractive and inviting.  Some of the ones on the list are clearly for younger students.  But I think many could be easily modified for older students instead.

Here’s a few of my favorites:

Classroom-1

What a cool way to inspire and challenge your students as they see the outside of your classroom door!

 

Classroom-4

A+ for engaging creativity.  C- for near copyright violation.

 

Classroom-3

I like this one for classrooms where pencils are frequently used.

 

iPads are the Worst Technology Students Will Ever Use

Since my colleagues and I began this blog last November, I’ve read quite a few articles on educational technology.  Few have remained in my thoughts as much as the one from Te@chThought entitled “Education Technology as a Matter of Principle.”

Blogger Terry Heick reminds us that using technology to facilitate learning has always been an essential part of educational methodology.  Over time, this usage inevitably evolves from lower to higher complexity and functionality. Using chalk on a blackboard progressed to writing with dry erase markers on a whiteboards and then to using virtual “pens” on SMART boards.  Every classroom at my school has an LCD projector and Apple TV which any teacher can use with his or her iPad to project “whiteboard” apps like Explain Everything. As a result, the portable SMART boards purchased only a few years ago are obsolete.  We do still occasionally use them though, along with semi-erasable markers, as “whiteboards on wheels.”

So the question isn’t “should teachers use technology in their teaching,” but rather “which forms should be used?”  And I think a related question is: “How central to the learning process in our classroom is the use of “higher” and emerging forms of educational technology?”

The sentence which stands out for me the most is when Heick observes:

iPads are the worst technology students will ever use.

Wow. How true. And how often I am so enamored and amazed by what the iPad can do that I forget this simple fact.

Heick continues:

When today’s elementary students are 40, they’ll remember iPads the way (many of us) remember cassette tapes. It will be funny that they used to hold large, heavy glass rectangles in their hands, and had to open up apps separately. And had to know which app did what. And had to “Google” information. And sometimes weren’t even connected to the internet because WiFi signals were unreliable.

My experience confirms this.  When I was in elementary school I remember playing Oregon Trail (this version and not this revised one) on a green-screen Apple IIe.  In the late 1980’s when I was in college I typed and printed my papers on an all-in-one word processor.  People who are older than me remember before there were palm sized transistor radios.

It’s hard to imagine how outdated iPads will seem in 5 or 10 years.  While there’s no shortage of predictions about what the future of consumer technology will hold, we can’t ever predict it accurately.  When I got my first Walkman in 1985 could I possibly believe that 20 years later I’d have an iPod which held a ridiculous amount of music?

My takeaway from the inevitability of the rapid and unanticipated evolution of technology is two fold.  First – Don’t get too wedded to any one particular form of hardware or software as ‘this too shall pass.”  More importantly – I should teach my students how to learn about using technology rather than simply having them learn content via technology.

Let me share an example from my freshman class this Spring.  Recently I had my students pair up to create “social media” pages from the perspective of a character in Genesis.  I had them use the Tackk platform for this assignment.  Meanwhile, my colleague who teaches the other freshman Religion classes used Blendspace as the platform for a similar assignment.

I’m planning to assign my students a similar project to create a “social media” page for a Judge, King or Prophet.  Should I have them use Tackk again in order for them to develop their novice skills on that platform?  Or is there more learning potential in having them use Blendspace, even if their output will be of a beginning level?  Governed by the philosophy of teaching students how to learn about using technology, I think I’ll opt for the later and not former option.  Sure, there will be more of a learning curve for me as well, but I think learning how to pick up a new technology and use it effectively is a 21st century skill equal to the other ones on the typical lists of these skills.

As always, I’ll let you know how Blendspace works out for my students and me.

 

Eight Recommended Tools that Enhance Student Learning

Yes, I’ve already linked to a number sites with lists of apps and other ed tech items to increase student learning. What I like about this one is that it lists a number of items that I’ve never encountered.  As such, I can’t offer comments on them here yet.  I am hoping to do some exploring over Christmas Break…

Eight Recommended Tools that Enhance Student Learning

‘This’ Will Revolutionize Education – A Thoughtful Video

On a Friday afternoon, this article caught my attention so much that I had to watch the video right away.

The link to the Washington Post article about the video is here.

You can link directly to the video itself here.

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For me, the take-away, thought-provoking ideas from the video are:

“I think the reason technology hasn’t revolutionized education is something… that goes to the very heart of what education is. … It doesn’t matter what happens around the learner. We are not limited by the experiences we can give to students. What limits learning is what can happen inside the student’s head. That is where the important part of learning takes place.

So really the question is, “What experiences promote the kind of thinking that is required for learning?” Recently that research is being conducted and we are learning some pretty important stuff.

The fundamental role of a teacher is not to deliver information. It is guide the social process of learning. The job of a teacher is to inspire, to challenge, to excite their students to want to learn. Yes, they also do explain and demonstrate and show things, but fundamentally that is beside the point. The most important thing a teacher does is make every student feel like they are important, to make them feel accountable for doing the work of learning.

The foundation of education is still based on the social interaction between teacher and students. For as transformative as each new technology seems to be, like motion pictures or computers or Smart Boards, what really matters is what happens inside the learner’s head. And making a learner think seems best achieved  in a social environment with other learners and a caring teacher.”

Based upon this, some of the questions I have to ask myself as a 21st century educator are:

  • How do I choose technological tools?  Do I pick ones that make my content more engaging/entertaining for students?  Do I select tools that will ‘promote the kind of thinking that is required for learning?’
  • In my classroom, how well am I doing with the ‘social interaction’ between me and my students?  How do I evaluate how effective I am at fostering this?
  • Today, this week, this month, this school year – Did I make each of my students feel like he or she is important?  Did I make each feel accountable for doing the work of learning?

What are your thoughts on this video?

What questions does it lead you to ask yourself as an education professional?

Bikes Instead of Desks?

I’ve been thinking about the L.A. Times article I posted last week about the teacher who shadowed a couple of her students for a day.  My biggest take-away from her reflection is how little movement the students did during the day (aside from going from class to class) and how exhausting it was to sit and sit some more.

The text of this article and especially the photos, led me to wonder how this would work in my classroom – especially the last period, freshmen one where I know they have energy to burn.

Bikes Instead of Desks?

Stationary Bike Desks

In my classroom, perhaps the bikes could power the cords to charge the iPads of the students who raise their hand in class and say: “My iPad is at 2% charge.  What should I do?”  With the bikes, the answer becomes: “Pedal faster!”

 

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A Nice List of Teacher Recommended Apps and Websites

Often the best tech resources are those recommended by actual teachers.
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A Gold Mine of Free Educational Technology Resources!

This link takes you to Open Culture – an amazing resource for FREE educational materials of all types!

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Free Educational Technology Resources