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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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Pixel Press Floors: draw a video game on paper, snap a picture and play it!

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Foreign Language, Fun & Games, Geography, Government, History, iPod, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Spelling, Teacher Resources, Technology, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 18-06-2014

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What it is: Pixel Press Floors is a seriously magical (currently free) app that brings a child’s imagination to life. With the Pixel Press Floors creation platform, students can literally dream up and draw their own video game without any coding. Students draw their ideas out on paper, and the Floors app turns the drawing into an actual video game that can be played. Print out the special paper so that the app can recognize the shapes “glyphs” that are drawn, or use the in app drawing tools. The drawing is instantly turned into a game that can be tested, designed, played, and even published to the “Arcade” where others can play it.

How to integrate Pixel Press Floors into learning: The first step of creation is to download the Pixel Press Floors app on the iPad. Next, go to projectpixelpress.com to download and print the free sketch guide. Students draw up the game of their dreams and then take a picture of what they drew from the Pixel Press Floors app.

The glyphs (shapes) that students draw are magically transformed into game play objects. After glyphs have been created, students can apply a design to the element, test it, and play it. Within the app, students can create games with:

  • Run and jump game play (Mario-style)
  • Create with 14 creator glyphs: terrain, moving blocks, ladders, portals, monkey bars, power-ups, coins, super coins, falling blocks, spikes, exploding blocks, start and end positions, pits and fireballs, keys.
  • Two original themes to get the creativity jump-started: “Save the Parents” and “Fiddleheads: Stones of Eden”
  • Publishing and sharing in the Arcade

Pixel Press Floors is a fantastic “maker space” element to add to your classroom. This app is perfect for prototyping ideas, design thinking (ideation and prototyping), teamwork and collaboration, and to build creativity. In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.

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. Video game creation 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!

Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary! Draw your own video games- no coding necessary!

Students can create games that help them build skills. Instead of simply playing those drill/skill games on other websites/apps, they can create their own! This is visual notes 3.0. Instead of simply practicing math facts, students can create a customized game to help them learn and remember those facts! This type of game is perfect for creating games to practice: math facts, spelling, vocabulary, foreign languages, letter recognition, geography, history facts, etc.

Instead of passively playing games in their free time, students can create their own! The blend of the hand-drawn and technology is seamless and brilliant. Kids will have such fun creating their own games and bringing their imagination to life.

Tips: Game Star Mechanic would be an outstanding place to start, here kids can learn the thinking process behind designing their own video games.

Are you using Pixel Press Floors in your classroom? Leave a comment below and share the ways that you use it with students!

Rodan + Fields Consultant

Comments (2)

Hi Kelly! I posted about this last week, and one of the most fascinating things I’ve seen shared is the use of the Comic Life app to make a graphic novel out of the game. http://goo.gl/ZhPQHK Great app-smashing and integration of technology with writing!

LOVE that idea Terri! That is fantastic!!

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