This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >
You read that correctly: Zombie-Based Learning. When I started learning about it, my inner geek squealed with joy. I’ve always loved zombies. I’ve watched all the movies and even read the original Walking Dead Comics before it became a hit series in the classroom.
One Teacher’s Curriculum
Geography has always been a learning target for social studies teachers, and David Hunter, who teaches at Bellevue, Washington’s Big Picture School, decided to create a curriculum using Kickstarter as its funding source. He sought to make geography relevant through engaging scenarios and stories with a zombie theme tying it all together. The whole curriculum is standards-based and includes over 70 lessons where students must “consider how to duck the undead invasion, secure their supplies and, eventually, rebuild society” through a variety of activities, worksheets and discussions.
Mr. Hunter’s story was featured on an NPR affiliate if you would like to read more. In addition, he has made available one of the comics he created which serve as the textbook for the curriculum. Mr. Hunter created this work in order to engage students, and I believe we can use the topic of zombies to explore further curriculum areas.
English and Language Arts
While much of the world of zombies is portrayed in comics and films, ELA teachers can use these various texts to engage students in learning important reading standards. Even the Common Core calls for reading a variety of texts and comparing and contrasting those texts (such as a film and a comic). These stories feature compelling, complex characters under extreme situations that many of us can identify with. Students could analyze the various features of the comic/graphic novel genre, or engage in character analysis. Consider using these zombie-based materials as scaffolding for more complex texts.
Many in the zombie community (did I just write that?) believe that people become zombies due to a virus, and many of the films and literature echo this as a possible method of transmission. This being the case, students could investigate the subject of viruses and bacteria using zombies as the disease being passed. They might come up with scientific methods for eradicating the disease or simply mitigating its effect. They might even hypothesize the biology behind zombies. Again, the topic of zombies is an entry point to engage students in learning significant content.
Related to the science component of zombies, many diseases increase at an exponential rate. Students could analyze different population centers and predict its spread using exponential functions. They could determine when everyone is infected and map the spread using the math data they calculate, or even explore rate of decay. Students could also investigate what happens when a certain number of people are vaccinated to help prevent the spread.
These are some ideas I have either implemented as part of a PBL project or believe might be a good entry point for zombie-based learning across the curriculum. What are your ideas for zombie-based learning to teach content and 21st century skills? (And if anyone could instructionally integrate Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, that would be awesome!)
This post originally appeared on The Whole Child blog, an ASCD initiative to call on educators, policymakers, business leaders, families, and community members to work together on a whole child approach to education. View Original >
Creating a safe and supportive learning environment is a critical to a whole child approach to education. Usually when we reflect and work on implementing the Whole Child Tenets in our schools, we forgot one critical component in making them manifest: the students. Students are as important as actors in creating a safe school as teachers. They can be actors in helping to create a safe learning environment, and project-based learning (PBL) projects can be a way in which we harness that service and target learning in the content areas. Here are some project ideas I have done, or have seen other school educators create.
School Norms: Often we create norms for students, or co-create them at the beginning of the year. However, you can take this up a notch and have a class or even a grade level create school norms where they address the needs of all stakeholders, including other students, parents, teachers, and even community members. Here students engage in in-depth research for an authentic reason, and engage in revision and reflection to make sure the norms created meet the needs of the entire school community.
Guns And Schools: This is obviously a controversial topic, but what better way to engage students than controversy? Through debatable driving questions, students create written products as well as digital media projects to examine the issue. They conduct in-depth research to support their ideas and present the information to a city council or the superintendent to ensure authenticity. Students also rely on community experts like police officers and lawmakers to make sure their work is accurate and well-developed.
Safety Audit: Instead of focusing on safety in just one project, allow students to evaluate the safety of the school and make recommendations. Students can create surveys, analyze data, and also research important related information. This prevents “death by presentation,” where all the presentations are the same and therefore bore the audience. In addition, it allows for student voice in topics that interest them and in their opinions and recommendations.
Digital Citizenship: School safety isn’t just at the brick-and-mortar facility, it’s also in the digital world. Even if you do not teach at a blended or online school, students need the skills to be safe online, and this type of PBL project can help them do that. Students create awareness around the issue or even give recommendations to other students about their “digital footprints.” Students have access to choice in products that show their learning, but more importantly have an authentic audience to receive it. From websites to letters, there is an opportunity for students to help each other and their community create safe digital learning spaces.
There are many more school safety projects out there, but these are just some of my favorites. Feel free to take these ideas and use them in the classroom. Now is the time for students to be active in not only examining the topic of safety, but creating safe schools themselves. PBL can be the key to that work!
Posted by Andrew K. Miller on Sep 5, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments
This post originally appeared on MindShift a site dedicated to replacing familiar classroom tools and changing the way we learn. MindShift explores the future of learning in all its dimensions – covering cultural and technology trends, groundbreaking research, education policy and more. View Original >
GameDesk, an organization that’s developing a variety of game-based learning initiatives, is venturing into new terrain with the opening of a new school and the development of new digital tools, with millions of dollars in funding from both the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AT&T.
The PlayMaker School, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will open in Los Angeles on September 7, with 60 students in 6th grade, and will operate as a “school within a school” at New Roads, an independent middle school.
Like Quest to Learn, the game-based school in New York, PlayMaker will incorporate principles of game-based learning into the entire instructional model, but with an additional focus on making and discovering. The goal is to engage students in both high-tech and low-tech games and modular, instructional activities. Individual students will work with an “Adventure Map” that will guide them to choose their own path, allowing for students to control how they learn and when they learn it. These modules will be not only individual tasks, but will also include group work. In a unit on kinetic and potential energy, for example, students will watch videos, play games, create digital roller-coasters, and create real-life models.
With ongoing formative assessments tied not only to the Common Core, but also practical digital skills, collaboration, critical thinking, and social emotion learning principles, the focus is meant to go beyond traditional schooling goals. Instruction will focus on providing context for the content, whereby students understand the relevance of what they’re learning. Teachers will play the roles of questioners, facilitators, and reflective agents.
More information will soon be released about the specifics of the program.
Lucien Vattel, the executive director of GameDesk, said he wants to scale the company’s tools and learning models to schools and other groups across the country. To that end, the company received $3.8 million from AT&T to fund two new initiatives: a learning laboratory called Learning Center, which will include a “classroom of the future” where new digital tools will be developed, tested, evaluated, and aligned with academic standards; and free access to an online portal of digital learning content, as well as support for teachers to learn how to integrate it.
“We see this as being a clearing house for all the best work in this space and we want the entire education community to contribute content to the site, from the professional developer, to the educator in Kansas, to the creative and tenacious parents and kids at home,” Vattel said.
As part of the professional development for the PlayMaker School, GameDesk also initiated a collaborative called DreamLab focused on not only creating many of the GameDesk’s projects, but also how to implement and sustain them. Instead of simply creating and implementing, however, they design in collaboration with student and teachers, to ensure that real needs are being met well.
Although still in its infancy as a component of GameDesk’s work, DreamLab hopes to provide professional development for teachers on site. In addition, they hope to build a portal where teachers can collaborate on lesson design and share their ideas for implementing the games in the classroom. In the past months as they prepared for the new school opening, new teachers received intensive professional development, learned to design games, played games, and understood the pedagogical principles around using games for learning.
GAMES IN STEM
GameDesk is also creating and collaborating on games that target the Common Core standards. Mathmaker, which GameDesk created, is focused on having students take on the roles of engineers to learn math concepts. This game, as well as others, is directed at amplifying STEM curriculum, and is being piloting and used in large urban high schools.
GameDesk also uses another math-focused game called Motion Math In-Class, created by the team at Stanford University Learning, Design and Technology Program, which is part of its math curriculum. This interactive iPad app helps students learn fractions, proportions and percentages.
Another unique game is Dojo, which uses play and biometrics to work on emotion regulation (not to be confused with Class Dojo, which helps teachers with classroom management). So far, it has been used successfully with diverse populations and even youth within or exiting the juvenile justice system. Players experience real-life challenges that test their emotions, but also gives them strategies and feedback on how to overcome these challenges.
More to come, as GameDesk continues to grow.