Friday, February 24, 2017

The Link between Games and Learning

            Personally, I have been playing video games since I was around 10 or 11 years old.  Growing up with games titles such as Call of Duty, Clash of Clans, and Sims, I have experienced some of the most popular games of my generation. This experience has allowed me to see the positives and negatives of gaming; through my mathematics education major, I was introduced to the concept of learning through digital games. This has intrigued me and has led me to explore the benefits of gaming in a classroom setting. 
           Being a junior in college, I am just now starting to get into my major. I have gotten past most of my generals and now am working on filling my own ‘toolbox’ for my teaching career. When I first started looking into this concept of learning through gaming I was on board immediately, but as I thought about my motivation toward this subject, I had to step back and ask myself, "what positives would this bring to the classroom?" As a result of my fascination, I had to do some research. I had an idea of how games engage learning by ways of problem-solving, but I wanted to dig deeper. In light of a school assignment, I found a couple articles written by Matthew Lynch and his view of games in schools. One looked at gamification in schools and it pointed out a few positives to implementing games such as an increase in student motivation and engagement. Immediately, this is not a good enough reason to implement games but he followed up this idea with a stat that I found relevant, “Moreover, (because of technology) recent research has suggested that the attention span in humans has decreased from around 12 to 8 seconds.” As a result of our societal change, teachers have to work harder at keeping their student’s focused on the curriculum. Games could have a place here after all, but what aspects of those games can, or better yet, should be implemented in teaching students? 
            In another article, How to Gamify Your Classroom, Lynch goes into a few aspects that could be implemented into normal classrooms without the need for technology. He explained that there are a few idea’s within every game such as infinite play or respawns, points/achievements, and also a bonus system. One of the issues with gaming in class is that not everyone has the right technology to do it. But these ideas are casual and allow students to progress at their own paces without even needing technology. I, personally, was really fascinated by the infinite play section that he outlined. He described the positives of this through a situation. In a typical classroom, a teacher calls on a student to see if they know the answer; if they get it wrong, the teacher can call on someone else for the right answer. In a gameplay type classroom, the first student would get multiple chances to get an answer right and understand why he/she got it wrong immediately. It would be related to immediate feedback which is a big help for students and their motivation, especially in Mathematics. With this knowledge, I find it hard not to be in favor of this type of classroom. I see it as a very rewarding place for all students and adding this tool to my toolbox seems very helpful. With technology, this can even be exercised further through simulations. Technology has a neat way of integrating a person into the game and allows them to feel like they have a part to play in the game. That being said and the rise of virtual reality gaming, the concept of learning through games will likely become more popular.
This concept of gamified classrooms is not new. There are many math games out there for students and teachers, and the fact that technology is just an option makes this idea so much more useful. I also wanted to take it a step further. What if we could not only implement games into learning but make learning fun through games? This isn’t a new idea either, but it got me thinking about the games I like and if there are concepts in them that I could use to create a new atmosphere in my future math classroom. First off, I have played many different types of games, from combat orientated games to racing games, and even role playing games. Each type of game has its own unique attraction. For example, Call of Duty is a well-known franchise, and in short, it is known for fast-paced gameplay and motivating ranking systems. Then you have racing games, which highlight fast paced gameplay and competition. There are also role-playing games which allow yourself to make personal decisions about where the game will go, and it immerses you into a world that you control.
Gaming companies know how to attract large audiences to their games as well. Lynch explains, “It’s no secret that people of all ages and backgrounds enjoy video games. In fact, over 3 billion hours a week are dedicated to playing video games worldwide.” As to continue this conversation of a gamified classroom, what is it about games that cause this attraction and how can we use it in our classrooms for the future?

Taylor Davis

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why Is Homework a Thing?

            My entire high school career was very difficult. I was a three-sport athlete, a student in advanced classes, and involved in other extra-curricular activities, and worked a part-time job. It was a rare occasion when I would have free time because of the amount of homework that I had been assigned in my 7 classes. Many times I would lose sleep or be forced to do homework on bus rides in order to finish it. Even now as a full time college student who works, I still face the same challenge as I did in high school: finding time for homework. Now when I step back and watch others go through the same struggles, including my younger sister, it makes me wonder, why do teachers give students homework?
            All types of students in various stages of schooling go through the same thing. As an example, middle school students having time with their family is affected by homework. Parents of middle school students feel that they do not get quality time with their children. Let's say a parent gets home at 5:00 pm, and by the time they make supper and shower it is already 6:30. Now they have to spend the next hour or multiple hours watching and helping their children do homework. Then it is bedtime and the family has spent no quality time together. They could have used the time spent for homework talking about their days and bonding as a family. As a middle school student, is that homework really necessary? Should families lose time together because homework takes all of their children’s free time? Family time and social interaction are important parts of children’s lives. They need these to feel loved and be a part of something. So I come back to the same question: why do students have homework?
            The easy answer is practice. It helps makes progress in the subject if you just practice. But it makes me really wonder how much are students really getting out of that homework and what is it costing them in order to finish it. I have seen multiple students not have time to finish homework, so they just copy another student's assignment. The student who cheated gained nothing from this assignment. I have also witnessed and heard of students who stay up all hours of the night in order to finish their homework. Then this student shows up to school the next day exhausted and unable to be fully engaged in the classroom in order to learn new material for the homework that they will be getting that night. It can be a domino effect for students.
            As a future educator, a former middle school and high school student, and a current college student, I struggle continuously with the idea of homework. Why do we have to do something that is stressful and can take up a ton of time? Time is very important to students as they have very busy schedules when they have extracurricular activities or a job they have to get to.  I feel as a future teacher I do not want to see my students stressed out because of homework, or because they are up until 3:00 am trying to complete assignment. I also do not want my students to lose precious time with their families, friends, and even themselves. I feel that there has to be some way a teacher can help fix this or at least have a healthy balance.
And from a future teacher perspective, I can see how homework is beneficial in helping teachers have insight of how students are doing. It can help teachers see the weak area and help their students understand where they are going wrong. Homework is useful if there is immediate feedback, and helpful strategies are provided on how to fix mistakes. I think that this can be done though, with a little less homework and more in-class work. 
After reading multiple articles, it has shown me that homework has both positive and negative on students. Some show how student may get bored or frustrated with the subject and just quit. While others show how homework can help achieve academic success.
After reading this, it shows that too much homework is a bad thing, yet how too little may set students back in class. As a future educator, I know I will struggle to find the happy medium that benefits all students. I think that realizing what students are actually going through will help me. I think more educators need to realize the things students are doing and how busy their lives can be. Overwhelming students with homework is not benefiting the teachers or students. I think the best way to find out if you are assigning too much homework is to communicate with your students, take their responses seriously, and make adjustments if needed. Make sure that they are not stressing over the little things in your class like homework, because in reality it is more important for them to understand the concept than to finish their homework.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Do I have what it takes to be a teacher?

            As a Junior Math Education Major, the fear of the future keeps making its presence known. One year from now I am supposed to be teaching the youth of our world. Am I ready? Do I really have what it takes to be a teacher?
            When I was little, I was that girl that loved to play school every day. I would set up my classroom with white boards and teach “my class” anything I could think of. Teaching back then just meant that I could doodle all over a white board and since I am the youngest in my family, it meant that I could finally be in charge! I wasn’t afraid of anything. Now when I look at teaching I find fear in everything. Will I be creative enough? Will I be able to handle a classroom? Do I know my content area enough? Will I…
            This idea of fear has been in my head for quite some time now, but recently it has changed. Recently someone reminded me that failure will happen every day of your life, but that’s okay. This particular someone is actually a group of veteran teachers. Just recently I attended the SDCTM and SDSTA conference in Huron, SD. I had the option to attend a meeting where veteran teachers gave advice about teaching to future teachers. These teachers had experience that ranged from one year to forty plus years of teaching. Each teacher had different experience, yet they all agreed on one thing. Teaching is hard. It is not something you master in four years of schooling or even 10 years. Teaching is making mistakes and learning to make yourself better because of it.
            The advice that many of these teachers spoke of, were ideas that we as new teachers will have to discover on our own. We will have to discover the best way to manage our classrooms, the best policy for discipline, how much homework to give, how to talk to parents, who to go to for advice, where to go when you just need a breather (Is there even time for a breather?), and many more. One overall fact is that we have a lot to discover, but before taking off, remember one of the best pieces of advice given: "have fun and enjoy yourself, because if you are having fun, your students will too!" This one particular piece of advice helped remind me of why I wanted to be a teacher. In order to have fun you must be willing to put the fear behind you. I have to remember that fear is only as powerful as I make it. As my high school teacher says” Not many get to experience the wonders of teaching, so enjoy it, because once you stop enjoying it, that is when it becomes a job.”
            In conclusion, I want to thank those veteran teachers that reminded me that failure happens. Whether you have one or forty years of experience, your advice is much appreciated. I know now that I do have what it takes to be a teacher. Even though I will probably fail a few too many times, I am up for the challenge and I am willing to learn.
            One year from now I will be teaching the youth of our world, and I couldn’t be more excited!
 Katie Murtha – A future mathematics teacher

Friday, February 3, 2017

Physics and Art, a perfect intersection?

                Back in my second professional semester I ran into a problem. Each of the students would have to pair off classmates of the same major for a specific project, the only problem is there is not another physics education major at SDSU. It was a pretty interesting situation, I don’t think I would have changed it for the world, but it did make the class projects a little strange. One experience that I love talking about is when I had to team up with Noelle and Lindsey, an art major and a math major, to complete a unit planning project. At first it seemed like an odd combination, but I think it turned into a pretty good lesson and unit. I’m remembering this story now because it was brought to the forefront of my memory after I attended a session on the same topic at the SDCTM and SDSTA conference.

                The session that I attended was entitled “Science Inspiring Art – Art Empowering Science!”, and it really matched up with that unit I planned with Noelle and Lindsey. The basis of the session was that a teacher could easily use astronomy to teach art and math, and at the same time teach art and math through physics. I think in a school it would be a really great interdisciplinary unit between a science teacher and an art teacher. The “lesson” started out with a bunch of terrestrial pictures and non-terrestrial pictures and having students put sticky notes with different terms. These terms could range between science and art, some from science being crater, false color and tectonic, and some art ones being color, shape and value. From there students would look at a “planet” and list its characteristics, from there they would create their own mystery planets. I really quite liked the lesson because it seemed like a better version of what Noelle, Lindsey and I thought up.

                I think the most amazing thing is that unless I was put in that situation in my second professional semester, or if I had not gone to SDCTM and SDSTA conference, it would have taken me many years to even think about and plan an interdisciplinary lesson like this. Looking back on my day at the conference, and the unit plan from a year ago, it seems like a very logical way to teach the material. Not all students will be able to catch onto the material just from a lecture or lab, and maybe the art project is what gets them to that next level in understanding physics. Or perhaps in the opposite direction it is what makes a student discover a love of art.

                I am quite glad that I have another day to look forward to at the SDCTM and SDSTA conference because I am learning quite a lot here. The spectacular thing is that there does not seem to be a session that I have gone to that does not apply in some way to my interest or future profession. There is something to be said about the quality of teachers and other programs like The Sanford Promise in South Dakota, and what an amazing support structure we have as possible future South Dakota teachers. 

Ben DeNeui - A Future Physics Teacher