Monday, July 18, 2016

Gamify Exercise

Last night I spent two hours Pokemon hunting on the campus of Texas State University with my children. We were not the only ones. Students were everywhere!

My son was a first generation Pokemon fan having played the video games, collected the cards, and watched the cartoon when he was young. He knew everything about the app Pokemon Go and added a few interesting thoughts. Despite the crazy things you see reported online about the game, Pokemon Go has done some great things:

  • People are going outside and walking/riding/running to collect Pokemon, visit PokeStops, battle, and incubate eggs, etc. Case in point, my high school age daughters walked more than two miles hunting for Pokemon while they usually don't want to get out of bed.
  • People are exploring their surroundings. I had no idea there were so many significant features to Texas State University. Each one was a PokeStop where I collected things, but also explored areas of campus I had not visited before.
  • Pokemon is connecting generations. Many first generation players are now parents. Those parents are introducing the game to their children through this app.
  • Pokemon is connecting families. My only experience with Pokemon was as the mom of a player until now. I was surprised to find that all three of my kids (21, 16, & 14) were playing the game and wanted to spend two hours in the heat walking around a college campus. Together!
So the idea of gamifying education is not a new one. And neither is gamifying exercise. 

Just last year, Laura Hearnsberger (@hearnsberger), who is the Coordinator of Innovative Programs for San Marcos CISD, presented a session for PE teachers in New Braunfels ISD on creating scavenger hunts with the Klikaklu app on the student iPads. While a teacher created scavenger hunt might be less sophisticated than an app like Pokemon Go, it would allow teachers to customize the exercise or route they want the students to use. 

Or why not create a PBL that combines local History with exercise and make a walking scavenger hunt with certain mileage that takes the user past local historical sites with added information created by student historians. (I thought about this during a trip to New Orleans this summer. What a cool way to explore the French Quarter!) The possibilities are endless!

Meanwhile, I am off! Gotta catch 'em all!

Sunday, July 10, 2016

What We Can Learn From "Hamilton" About Social Media

Several tragedies have happened this summer in our nation. As I read the media coverage of these events, I have noticed that many news outlets are going to social media for their stories. Whether they are printing the tweets of users with strong opinions or passing judgements on victims based on their posts (and posts of those connected to them), Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have become the primary sources for information.

I have spent quite a few hours in the car this summer. My soundtrack on these road trips has been the musical Hamilton.  Listening to the powerful words of Lin-Manuel Miranda, I am reminded of a pivotal time in the founding of our nation when words had amazing power. Alexander Hamilton was known for his writings and sharing of ideas. However, if you really listen to the lyrics of the songs from Hamilton, you can learn a few things about how to use social media today.

1. "Talk less, smile more." - Although this line is attributed to Aaron Burr in the musical, it is a great lesson for all of us. Oversharing is not always a good thing. People are entitled to their opinions, but those opinions do not have to be published for the world to see. Many times it is best to keep things to yourself.

2. "I'm erasing myself from the narrative." - Eliza Hamilton sings these words after the revelation of the Maria Reynolds affair. She is referring to historians not deserving to know her feelings. Some things should be kept private. And many times you need to check your social media narrative and erase things that send the wrong message.

3. "Who tells your story?" - Throughout the show, Hamilton is obsessed with his contribution and the legacy he leaves behind. In the closing song, the company asks "Who tells your story?" And you have to wonder the legacy you are leaving behind. If your story is based solely on what you post on social media, is it a true picture of who you are, what you believe, and what you have accomplished. Does it tell your story in a truthful and honest way?

Ask yourself, "If I died today, what legacy am I leaving through my social media posts?"

Thursday, July 7, 2016

History, Hamilton and Hip-Hop

At the end of the school year, a student came to the library asking for a book on John Laurens. She told me she had been listening to the music from Hamilton and was interested in this historical figure. We couldn't find a book, but used the Gale databases to find some information about him.

This week I have been road tripping and decided to listen to the soundtrack from Hamilton for myself. I was amazed! On my first trip stop, I spent hours researching the facts revealed in the songs. The opening song alone, "Alexander Hamilton", offers a succinct summary of the life of Hamilton in a mix of rap and hip-hop style. Below is a video of the show's creator Lin-Manuel Miranda performing an early version of the song:

A famous person project is a classic research project assigned by many teachers. The research  is usually turned in via a poster, report, or PowerPoint. How boring! And old-school!!

Have those students create a rap like Lin-Manuel Miranda. Or a spoken word poem. Or a monologue. Collaborate with your English teachers to write the text. Plan a "Bringing History to Life" night and have the students perform and share their work. Invite the local newspaper or television station. Video these performances and share them on YouTube for others to see. Transform your students' learning from a paper project of regurgitated facts to a living testament to a person who contributed to the story of humanity.

Get inspired by Hamilton and make history live and breathe in your classroom.