Emerging Technology #4: What2Learn

Play this game on the what2learn site

I know that I blogged about a learning game website for my last post, but I came across this site while looking for ideas in teaching vocabulary and absolutely had a blast while playing here.  What2Learn is a website that allows the teacher to make much more interactive games for students.  For the one I made (see above) the students navigate through a maze in the first person perspective, trying to find computers to answer questions which I wrote.  Students can also fight zombies, collect cows, or save space monkeys, in addition to a number of other random but enticing scenarios. They are just the type of goofy games my high school students like, though I can adjust their difficulty with my own questions, so while they’re chasing clownfish through a reef, they can be answering questions about metaphors or characterization or even Dante’s Inferno, if I so choose.

But the best part of this website isn’t the fun games or that I can feel cool for having my questions in a game reminiscent of the old Doom games (sans the violence), it’s that my students sign in and play, and I can see their scores on every game.  A few minutes left in the computer lab?  Have them play and see where their deficiencies are in vocab and in fighting zombies.  It’s win-win.  We can find out if they are picking up the vocabulary and if we can rely on them during a zombie uprising.

There are 4 drawbacks I see in this site, however.

1. All of the games are multiple choice, fill in the blank, or hangman style.  It’s understandable considering the format of the games, but as an English teacher, I don’t rely too heavily on these in the classroom.  Then again, I do still have creative control over the types of answers and how difficult I make them.

2. All the games have time limits that cannot be adjusted.  Saves students from playing FOREVER, but doesn’t allow for students who just need a little more time.

3. You cannot adjust the number of questions.  My students had 20 vocabulary words, but I can only put 8 into the game above, so I had to pick and choose the ones I thought might be most difficult.

3. They cannot be played offline.

With those exceptions accepted, this site provides fun review games that I would post on my wiki beside the flipcards for their vocabulary (see last post).  It could also be fun for students to create their own games and post them on their wikipages or blogs (depending on which you use in your classroom).

Emerging Technology 3: ClassTools.net

Click here for full screen version

Classtools.net is a nifty little website I found at the beginning of this semester that allows educators to create flash games for students to use.  It includes 17 templates for work from, hundreds of examples, and even explanations of how each could be used effectively in the classroom.  You can create venn diagrams and have students move the characteristics into the appropriate spot, sort examples between categories with the Dustbin Game.  The Target Diagram can be used to take a key question or big idea and break it down into small parts for analysis.  Or, you can take information students should already know and create a review video game similar to the old arcade games of the 80’s and 90’s.  Need a little levity?  While students are looking for information, run the countdown tool so it plays the theme from “Mission Impossible” (2 mins, 30 secs)  or the “Pink Panther” theme (2 mins 28 secs).  Better yet, upload your own song and use it as a timer.

Fortunately, teachers aren’t the only ones doing the work here.  Students can fill out the templates as well to create action plans or outlines for papers.  After having students become experts on a topic and teach the class, why not have them create a review as well?

This website is great for teachers for several reasons.  First, if you think flash is just a brief, sudden burst of light, it’s okay.  You can still do this.  All you need to provide are questions and answers.  The input is as simple as copying and pasting into a big white box.  Second, you can retrieve the HTML code to embed your tool directly into your wiki or website, so students can access it without going anywhere else (a definite plus for those of us trying to get students to view the site as a tool to be utilized, not just something that fills up space on the syllabus).  And if this isn’t an option (or if you have no idea what I just said), you can download your flash game and play it off your hard drive.    And finally, it’s just plain fun.  The first time I played a timer, my kids laughed and danced their way around the room on their Portrait Walk. True, some kids may focus more on the game than on the material, but the way the games are set up, they have to learn it to be competitive.  (List high scores once and see what happens.)

There are some downsides.  First, the embed is not always pretty.  In fact, it doesn’t look as good on this blog as it does on my class wiki.  (Can you even see it up there?)  Second, the flash is actually saved to a third-party website, so while there won’t be advertisements, if the network is ever down (a common problem in my district), you can’t play the game if you haven’t downloaded it.   Additionally, I’m not sure if the problem was on my end or their end, but once in a while when I try to access the website, I can only actually load about half the pages.

Overall, ClassTools.net is a fun little tool that, used effectively, can supplement a lesson in the classroom or provide fun review for students outside the classroom.  I would not use it as a primary lesson tool and would definitely suggest keeping a backup plan in stock just in case things don’t go as planned.  But then again, I think that’s about par for the educational course.

Click here for full screen version