Board Games and Technology

 

 

Creating a board game in a technology course? How do board games and technology relate? 

First of all, working with technology involves following instructions to obtain accurate results. Certain steps have to be taken to reach a goal.

Creating a board game helps a student work with structure. He must solve a problem to reach a goal. Those instructions must be clear and precise.

Last year I did this activity online with the students.

This year we’re in person so I made some adjustments. Students had to create a board game based on the themes of their personal blogs that were created on the WordPress platform. These themes vary according to the students’ interests. Fashion, cosmetics, sports, cameras, Arduino, anime, digital art, medicine, and crime investigations are just a few. The game could be completely original or one already in existence which could be modified.

The instructions were relatively simple. Each student had to create a game using recyclable materials, prepare a model using Google Drawings, and draw up a set of instructions. Then they would present the game to their fellow classmates and ask volunteers to play the game. 

Results? I was pleasantly surprised by their creativity. Some were very detailed.

My aim was to emphasize the importance of preparing and following instructions through something as simple as a board game. This Is important when working with technology. Mistakes can be costly and in some cases deadly.

I expect students to take this into consideration when they pursue further studies and go on to professions where accuracy is essential.  Only time will tell! ~~LMMolina

Podcasting and Blogging for 2022

I just recorded and uploaded my podcast episode #54 for Season 2. With this episode I conclude the year 2021. I’m looking forward to podcasting in 2022.  I have new projects in mind. I plan to involve the students more in the new semester. They got a kick out of one of the activities in which they had to listen and compare two versions of Bram Stoker’s “The Judge’s House.”  One version was a fully narrated one of the story; the other was a radio drama.  In groups of three, they discussed and recorded their conversations. These were uploaded to their Google Drives. I then took their audio files and uploaded them to my podcast as one episode. They enjoyed the task and so did I!

When dealing with a second language, it’s important to give the students as much practice as possible with both listening and speaking skills. This will be an essential part of my teaching for next semester and I plan to use my podcast for that purpose. It’s an innovative tactic that I’ll employ to get them to actively participate in their learning.

Students will also be blogging more. Their EduBlog posts will include narratives in both forms: writing and speaking (audio files).

Hopefully, it will be a fun experience for all. ~~LMMolina

 

Literature in the Lego World

Lego Bricks and Literature: An “unexplored” option?

Is Lego just for kids? Can we use these well-known bricks for an English literature unit? Why not? All one has to do is look through the endless Lego sets based on fairy tales and best-selling series (Harry Potter to name just one.)

In the 11th grade English course we are discussing Gothic literature and the students have been assigned different tasks related to the topic. They did research and came up with Gothic-related themes to present to their classmates. They also designed posters and made up their own ghost stories in the style of Mary Shelly. But I thought, why not use Lego bricks to design a castle or a fortress to defend the inhabitants from the likes of Count Dracula?

Since my supply of bricks was limited, I gave the students specific dimensions. It had to be a micro castle or fortress.  They came up with some interesting designs. Now each student has to describe his project and explain how it would prevent Count Dracula from entering the structure. Which one do you think might achieve that goal? ~~LMMolina

Note: About 2 years ago I wrote a post on the use of Lego in education. You may check it out by clicking here.

Clubs and Organizations: The Lifeline of a School

As we return to in-person classes, I cannot stress enough how essential clubs, societies and other school organizations are to a school community. Where else can students of varying grade levels get together and share similar interests? And where else can students show and develop leadership skills?

School clubs provide an outlet for students outside the classroom. Where a classroom may be confining, a club lets a student explore interests beyond the academic while developing social skills with peers.

Not all schools can cater to every student’s interests. The lack of teachers willing to sacrifice their time as advisers is a factor that cannot be ignored. A willingness to satisfy a strong need is important. Many schools may have the personnel but might not be able to retain their services which is a real shame. Those that do have a teaching staff willing to commit to several hours during each semester are rewarded with happy students.  Happy students contribute to the well-being of a school.  This is something to be treasured.

The school where I teach has a small student population.  I’m proud to say that despite its size, it has 15 organizations that offer students the opportunity to participate and gain knowledge in new ways. Several of the organizations have been around for many years contributing to a desirable stability. New ones have popped up to meet the needs of those students looking for more variety. Will we come up with new clubs? Who knows? We’ll try to meet the demands of a growing school population who want to venture into new territories. ~~LMMolina

 

 

 

 

 

Summertime 2021: Relaxation and Preparation

Although as educators we try to rest and relax during the summer recess, it usually comes down to getting ready for the new school year. It can’t be helped; it’s part of our DNA!

I’ve been relaxing a bit but at the same time I’ve been doing a lot of reading which has helped me with my podcasting. While researching Gothic literature and reading mysteries with a historical background, I’ve come up with  several podcasts: a review on a story by Bram Stoker “The Judges House,” a reflection on Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, and an original mystery story.  Students will react and write a reaction to the first two. After listening to the five-episode mystery story, the students should come up with a logical ending. I’ll leave it up to the student if it’s a written or an oral ending. Should prove to be fun.

Students must have a good ear to listen to the podcast episodes in a language that is not in their native tongue.  At the same time, they should be able to write short essays in reaction to what they hear. Good communication skills always begin with proper listening.

It takes time but as a literary buff, I love to read and write. Every language arts teacher should be willing to do so. If you can produce your own content, it’s more fun.  The creative juices begin to flow and stimulate the little gray matter between the ears.  It’s so worth it! Happy reading and writing while relaxing! ~~LMMolina

Looking Back to Plan Ahead

Summer time is a time for relaxation and recharging batteries. It’s also a time to reflect on the practices that worked out and those that did not, especially during this past pandemic year. Distance learning turned out to be a balancing act.  As teachers we juggled many tactics trying to focus on the ultimate goal: successful learning.

Which strategies eventually worked out and which fell through?  Which ones could be reused for the new school year? The choice is obvious. Those that can be adapted to any scenario, virtual or in-person, are the ones to consider. One thing that definitely worked for me was to let the students determine what they could handle and how best they could handle it.  It was less stressful for all concerned. Adding stress to an already demanding school year was not the answer.

When wrapping up the discussion on the classic To Kill a Mockingbird, I divided the class into groups of three. I let each group select a scene from the last chapters to present to the rest of the class. The instructions were simple: select a scene and deliver it in any format. The presentations were varied and included the following: a comic strip, a radio talk show, an animation, a video, and even a podcast!  One thing was important: dialogue. Since my students are not native speakers of the English language, I needed to hear them speak.  I did not expect perfect pronunciation. I only expected them to be able to read aloud and meaningfully. The experience would provide an enriching experience and foster a deeper knowledge of the work.  Suffice it to say, I was pleased with the results.

These are the kinds of activities I will repeat and reinforce next year. They’re activities the students enjoy doing. I want them to have a say in how they will learn while I determine more or less what they will learn, keeping in mind the standards for their grade level.

What this very unusual school year has taught us is this: learning is (and always has been) in our own hands. We should choose wisely what and how we learn. The choices we make now will carry us into a future full of exciting and endless possibilities. So what choices will you make? ~~LMMolina

 

First Podcast for 2021

It’s only fitting that my first podcast for the year 2021 should be labeled #21.  I plan to continue this podcasting endeavor that I started during a pandemic, not only for my English courses but for my own literary pursuits. My plans are to get the students more involved in my podcasts. It would be an excellent way to get them to converse in the English language. Some students prefer audio over video.

I could also explore the possibility of getting some colleagues involved. Who knows? Any option which includes a social interaction can be added to make the experience entertaining and enlightening. This year should be one to continue innovating in the virtual world.

Happy New Year to all! May the year 2021 be fruitful in all aspects of our lives. ~~LMMolina

Podcast Episode #21

Teaching during COVID-19

I might have thought that teaching during these times wouldn’t be so complicated but after 10 weeks, I have some serious doubts.

So many issues have surfaced. First of all, the students have had connection issues. Often they have to leave a Google Meet and rejoin the session because their WiFi signal may be weak. Sometimes the cameras won’t turn on or the microphones malfunction. So many issues when working online!

When it’s not a tech issue it’s something else. I’ve been entertained with some stories that could turn into best sellers in the publishing business.

 

Do some of these sound familiar?

 

“I have to help my grandfather with the groceries. Be right back!”

“Teach’ I just spilled my breakfast cereal. I’m off to get some napkins.”

“If you see me twice in the same Meet, it’s because I’m using my cellphone as a microphone and the camera on my laptop to join the session.”

“Did you ask us to look for an object in the yard? Um, right now, I’m in an apartment in Philadelphia and it’s kind of cold.” (Student should be in a warm-weather location.)

“When I get back in the evenings, I’ll turn in my work.” (Found out this student was at Disney World with the family.)

“Can’t connect right now, I’m driving my mom home. She just got out of the hospital. She had surgery and can’t drive.”

“I have to go out with my grandma.  She needs someone to help her get around the mall. I’ll connect as soon as I return.”

“Couldn’t connect, Dad wanted me to paint my room.”

” Sorry…can’t hear you! Someone is using a weed whacker in the neighbor’s yard.”

 

Just the other day, a colleague saw one of her students getting her nails done at a beauty salon as she attended the session!

 

And then there are those who often leave their accounts open so they don’t have to bother to log on again. But what happens when they get a new device? Ah, there’s the rub! They didn’t write down the credentials and therefore, can’t  access their school account!

These are just a few choice items but you get the idea of how trying online teaching and learning can be.

 

I’ve decided to ignore some of these issues. They’re not worth fussing over.

How do I make sure they’re with me? I usually post a question in Google Classroom and have them answer through the comments section. If I feel they’re not following, I post a question on the chat and have them answer through Classroom. If they have left the video call, they will have missed the question.  It’s tricky, but it usually works.

To add a little variety, I’ll have them go find something from the house (nothing sharp!) and come back and describe it using adjectives.   I’ve had them show their pets (most have dogs) and tell how they feel when in physical contact with their furry friends.

Of course, I will show them my favorite articles from home or the classroom. The classroom item will usually make them feel like they’re right there with me.  It makes this online learning /teaching experience a little bit more bearable. We’re in this for the long haul so let’s make the best of it!

As a student or teacher, what do you do to make this experience as pleasant as possible?  ~~LMMolina

 

 

 

 

Summer Break 2020: Preparing for a Virtual Semester

Things have not improved with Covid-19.  We’re preparing for various scenarios when the new school year begins. Everything indicates we will be 100% virtual through the first trimester and maybe beyond.

Teachers (myself included) have been attending webinars to polish their online teaching skills. I will be offering a few webinars myself to help advance the training. Distance education requires quite a few adjustments to the curriculum. Assessment is just one of the many adjustments to consider.

As a principal I often have to teach courses in my area of expertise (English language arts). I’ve come up with the idea of using a podcast to get my English-language learners to listen as they read short texts (I’ve added the RSS feed as a widget in this and my English class blog). I hope to get them interested and in the course of time maybe they’ll want to do some podcasting themselves. In times of a pandemic, online activities is the way to go!

Here’s to a successful school year in any scenario. ~~LMMolina

Spring Break, Anyone?

We deserve a break, even a short one. After two weeks of online education, it’s a blessing to be “off” for a week.  All personnel especially the teaching staff, have been at it for at least 10 hours a day since this covid-19 nightmare began.  And depending on their teaching load, some have worked longer hours.

The students have been busy, too.  Some have had tech problems: a cell phone that broke, a computer that crashed, a slow or non-existent Internet connection.  Teachers were subject to these situations also.

My colleagues working at other institutions have fared more or less the same.  They’ve also had to put in long hours of working online stopping only to take short breaks.

Last night, there were still some students who were “handing in” assignments and teachers responding “received.” As of today, Saturday, April 5, 2020 quite a few students are sending in their work. “No rest for the wicked.”

Our office personnel have been busy solving payment issues related to this year and next year’s tuition. Everyone has been online to continue offering as many of the services as possible.

 

Here’s a brief  summary of the past two weeks:

 

Students

“Teacher did you get my work? I e-mailed it, just in case.  Oops, sorry, I forgot to attach it!”

“I’m waiting for my little sister to finish her work. We only have one computer and my phone doesn’t have that app.”

“Why can’t I see the video?”

“My mom is helping me out with this assignment.”

“What are we supposed to do? I don’t understand the assignment.”

“I forgot to mark DONE. Can you give me a another chance?”

“Our Internet is slow and I’m having problems sending the work I owe you.”

“Why did I get that score on my work?”

“I forgot my login account information. Could you send it to me, please?”

“Thanks for your help!”

“I still can’t log on to my account.”

 

Teachers

“If you don’t understand, you can ask me as many times as you want.”

“I’ll be sending you an assignment tomorrow.”

“Send me your work anyway you can, as long as I get it.”

“Blessings for all. Take care.”

“Are you safe?”

“Remember to mark DONE when you’re finished with the work.”

“I’ll get back to you ASAP.”

“Let me know when you’ve logged onto the class.”

“Is everybody in?”

“No, that’s not what I meant. Watch the video again.”

 

Parents

“My son is having problems connecting. Is it the app he’s using? What can I do?”

“I’m not good with technology and I can’t help my daughter with her work. ”

“Thanks for letting me know my son has not attended his virtual classes. I’ll get right on it.”

“I’d love to be invited to join the virtual class! Thanks for asking.”

“I sure appreciate what you teachers are doing!”

“I’d like to pay this month’s tuition. How do I pay online?”

 

Administrative staff

To a parent:

“Would you like an invitation to Google Classroom?”

“Is your son (daughter) having problems “attending” class? Do the teachers know? Please write to them. ”

“Check the school blog for additional information.”

“We understand the area where you reside has problems with the Internet.  Let the teachers know when it’s up and running again.”

 

To a student:

“Try cleaning up your browsing history and log on again.”

“Remove an account and add a new account.  See if that helps.”

“We’ve noticed you’re not attending classes. We don’t want you to fall behind.”

 

To a teacher:

“Take it easy. You’ll get the hang of this!”

“When e-mailing a parent, remember to copy us.”

“Thanks for getting back to a student and his parents.”

 

So we’re taking a break. We won’t go completely off line because of the current situation.  But we will take a respite of a sort.  Teachers will be teachers 24/7.

As always, stay safe and stay at home if you can!  ~~LMMolina