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Typing Olympics

This year I am teaching 3rd- 5th grade only.  My remaining time is spent helping teachers to integrate technology in their classrooms effectively and supporting our new Promethean boards.  I see my students once a week for 35 minutes.  Any of you that teach a specials class know that at least 5 minutes of class is spent getting students ready to learn after the hallway transition.  This leaves me with 30 minutes with my students.  In that 30 minutes I have to teach a lesson and give students an opportunity to practice it on the computer.  In a school year I see my students a total of 24 times (that is if we never have a snow day, or lose a day due to field trips or special events).  I love teaching my students how to use technology as a tool to help them learn.  I do not want to spend my time with them typing.  Although typing is a valuable skill for them to learn, there is SO much more than our brand new iMacs can do.  My other hang up with spending computer class focused on typing is that I still only see my students 24 times in a school year.  Even if we spent every class typing, I don’t feel like this is adequate time to really learn and build touch typing skills. My solution was to come up with a typing competition that will take one class period.  I call it the Typing Olympics.  I make a BIG deal out of this day.  We have opening ceremonies, olympic fanfare music, and even paper doves.  Students compete against each other to find out who is the fastest touch typist with the greatest accuracy in each class.  There are two gold winners, one boy and one girl.  The winners receive a gold medal in the closing ceremonies along with a break dresscode pass (these are like gold to our students!).  There are also silver and bronze winners who receive medals.  The students know that the Typing Olympics happens in the spring.  We talk in class extensively about how hard athletes like Michael Phelps have to train before the Olympics.  At this point I give students the goal to train for our Typing Olympics.  This year I decided to create a special website for the training and created a Typing Training Club.  Students can visit the site for links to websites that will help build their typing skills.  There is also a blog page where I give students suggestions about which keys to practice each week building up to the Typing Olympics.  This helps break down practice into a manageable skill each week.  We type in class one day prior to the Olympics.  The rest is up to them.  For my students, a break dress code day is enough incentive to practice typing on their own time.  Obviously, some students will take this more seriously than others.  For our situation, I think this is our best option for building touch typing skills.  I have some students who can type at 53 WPM and some at 8 WPM, but at least we have learned more during the year than just touch typing.  I suspect I would get similar results even if we used the 24 classes in the year for typing practice. What are you doing at your school to build touch typing skills?

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Playfic: create, play and remix text-based games

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 08-01-2013

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What it is: Playfic is a site that let’s users create, play and remix online text-based games.  I may have lost some of you already…but don’t leave yet! A text-based game is a genre of game that uses no graphics or sound, but instead, uses text to tell a story in an interactive world.  Think of a choose your own adventure tech-style.  Students can create a story that others can interact with by directing the story using words and phrases.  As an example, the story might be about a forest, describing what you can see East, West, North and South.  The player would type in a direction “East”, hit the return key, and the story progresses.  You can try out a sample text-based game here.

How to integrate Playfic into the classroom: Playfic has all kinds of good stuff for classrooms.  To create a story, students must first learn a little bit of coding.  Tutorials are included on the Playfic site, and are easy enough to get your students up and running in no time.  There is even a link to an Inform 7 (coding language) recipe book that will have your students dreaming up new scenarios and actively researching how to make them come to life.  Students can create games for each other while strengthening their writing and grammar skills.  This is wonderful for fictitious writing, but could also be used for students to explore “what ifs” in history and science.  Students can take a moment in time and dream up what might have been different about the world if the event hadn’t happened the way that it had.  As they are researching and learning about the actual event, they will also be analyzing why the event is important and critically thinking about it’s impact on the world we live in.  Similarly, students could explore a science experiment, hypothesizing what will happen and the different outcomes that might occur.

Teachers could create these choose your own adventure stories for students for new learning or review of a topic.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story using sight word vocabulary that prompted practice with the sight words?

I know a handful of students who really struggle with writing…it is PAINFUL.  These students are brilliant. They have great ideas to share. One of the students I have in mind came up to me today and said, “over break I taught myself Lua (programming language).”  Students like these will be all over this type of writing.  What a cool way to engage them and excite them about the writing process in a new way.

One of the things that I really like about Playfic is that it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and thought to create this type of story.  For some students the planning/organizing portion of writing is a real struggle.  This site would be so useful in teaching students the importance of those steps.  I also love that it will have them researching and looking up solutions for how to make their ideas come to life.  Just like we do every day in the “real world.”

Tips: The Inform 7 Recipe book can be found here. 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Playfic in your classroom.

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