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BrainNook: Virtual Learning World for Elementary Students

What it is: BrainNook is a virtual world for kids where they can develop math and English skills while playing in the free online playground.  There are over a hundred education games packed into the BrainNook virtual world, all of them are based on foundational math, English, and grammar concepts.  The math games cover concepts from single digit addition to 3D spatial visualization.  English games cover everything from building simple sentences to counting syllables.  The games are all woven into a fun virtual world that students can explore and unlock.  BrainNook also strengthens students reading, reasoning, decision-making skills, analysis, and computer literacy.  Students choose a character (alien) and name, when they enter BrainNook for the first time, they are dropped onto Earth where their spaceship has crashed. They are greeted by an earthling named Bella who teaches them how to navigate the world, and earn stars by playing games. The stars that are earned can be used to buy back spaceship parts.   Students can travel to several locations within the virtual world that are based on real-life regions of the Earth  Students learn about each region through trivia, question popups, and local artifacts. In each world students can play math and English games with other players in the safe online environment. As they build up their skills, new worlds will be unlocked and they can buy items from the local market or work on assembling their spaceship by assembling puzzles.  The games in BrainNook are scaffolded so it adjusts to students ability level as they progress.  Games can be played individually or in head-to-head competition. Because this site is geared toward elementary students, no personal information or personal messages are included in the virtual world. How to integrate BrainNook into the classroom: BrainNook is a brilliant virtual world for elementary students in first through fifth grade.  The virtual world allows students to learn and practice math and English skills at their own pace, and at their own unique level.  The games are great for building and reinforcing foundational learning skills.  Because the game progresses as students do, students could continue on in their virtual world throughout their elementary school experience.  BrainNook is ideal as a computer lab activity or in a 1 to 1 situation.  If you don’t have time to use BrainNook as a virtual world for each student, consider signing up for an account yourself that can be used as a class account.  Review the games that match up with skills students are learning in class and have the whole class play the games using an interactive whiteboard or on classroom computers as a center.  Make sure to tell parents about BrainNook, this is a fun way for students to get extra math and grammar practice at home. Tips: If students sign up for an individual account, they will need a parent’s email address validated before play.  BrainNook also has a school account option that you can learn about here. Please leave a comment and share how you are using BrainNook in your classroom.

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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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