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Gamestar Mechanic: Teaching game design in the classroom

What it is: I just love when I get lost in a bunny trail of links…you know the kind, you go hunting for something specific and click on something that looks interesting which leads you to a browser of 25 tabs open.  I had one of these serendipitous link moments today that lead me to Gamestar Mechanic.  Gamestar Mechanic is both a game and an online community that teaches kids how to design their own digital games.  In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.  The free version of Gamestar Mechanic is available with unlimited use for teachers who want to use it with their students.  This account option comes with 1 teacher login and 40 student logins.  A premium account offers some additional classroom goodies including: class management, the ability for students to incorporate their own custom artwork, live professional training webinars, tools for tracking student activity and assessing progress, the option of having a “walled” school community, and more. As a teacher you will find sample lessons for using Gamestar Mechanic, an introductory step-by-step guide, and a full learning guide.  Teachers can even play a short quest to learn more about how to use Gamestar Mechanic in the classroom to teach core subjects. How to integrate Gamestar Mechanic into the classroom:  There is so much to learn from digital games.  As a player, students learn to think strategically, persist through failure and experience epic wins that can translate to what they do and are willing to try out in real life.  As a designer students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, digital art and aesthetics, and storytelling and writing.  Students love being able to bring their creations and ideas to life in the form of a game.  Gamestar Mechanic could be the key to unlocking the storytelling genius in your reluctant writers.  It has been my experience that a student faced with a blank paper and a writing assignment can be daunting.  Introduce the idea of designing their own game and suddenly a storyline pours forth.  It is pretty neat to watch! Gamestar Mechanic makes it easy for all teachers to incorporate game design into the classroom and weave it into the core subjects being taught.  You don’t have to be a tech-superstar, just create an account, read through the getting started guide and enlist the help of a student who’s passion is game design.  This type of designing and thinking is wonderful because it lays the ground work for so much other STEM thinking.  It nicely blends disciplines and helps students recognize the overlap in the learning that they do. Students can each create a game of their own in a lab setting where every student has a computer.  If you are limited on your computer options for students, create a game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can create games that incorporate other learning or research they are doing to help teach future classes or younger students.  At Anastasis, we have Crave Classes.  These are classes that the student gets to choose based on personal passions.  In the one or two computer classroom, give your students time for a Crave class where they work on Gamestar Mechanic.  Other students can follow their areas of passion…almost in a center type of a set up. Tips:  There are a variety of pricing and package options for classrooms.  If your students are really enjoying the game design process, it might be worth taking a look at the premium options available. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Gamestar Mechanic in  your classroom!

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Shelfari

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 20-05-2008

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What it is: Shelfari is a virtual bookshelf that you create to show off books that you have read and recommend. It is a Web 2.0 site that allows you to connect with students, other teachers, and parents around books. Shelfari is a great way to discover new titles, discuss books, start an online book club, and show others what you are reading. You can show off your Shelfari bookshelf on your blog, classroom website, or other social networking site of choice. Really cool!

How to integrate Shelfari into the classroom: As summer break approaches, we teachers start thinking about how far we have come during the school year with our students. We also dread that they will be on their own for the summer and may or may not be reading. Shelfari would be an excellent resource to create today and introduce your students and parents to before summer break. Build a bookshelf of age-appropriate reading for your students. Post the bookshelf on your classroom website and encourage students to continue reading with you over the summer. Because Shelfari allows for you to create online book clubs and discussions, students can keep their reading and comprehension skills in tip top shape with you! Shelfari is also an excellent resource for parents who may feel overwhelmed when they enter a library with their child. They often aren’t sure of their child’s reading level and age-appropriate books. With Shelfari, they can visit your shelf before the trip to the library for some great suggestions. Shelfari is also ideal throughout the school year as a place for you and your students to connect over reading…reading is so much more fun when you have someone to share and discuss what you are reading with! Students can create their own bookshelves to show off what they are reading. Teacher to teacher book clubs on Shelfari are also a lot of fun! Connect with other staff members over books that you are reading (they can be school related or not.) Maybe in place of the traditional book report, students start a discussion on Shelfari about their reading. Where have you been all my life Shelfari? :)

Tips: Use Shelfari in conjunction with Book Adventure for some real reading fun!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Shelfari in your classroom.

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