New Monthly Twitter Chat: #LegendaryChat

If you are on Twitter and you like game based learning (GBL), you’re in for a treat. Starting on Monday, April 2nd at 8pm ET, we’re launching our monthly Twitter chat, #LegendaryChat!

Taking over the Twitter account that night will be Legendary ambassador Amanda Glover (she’s also on Twitter and has her own EdTech blog). Get in on the conversation simply by using the hashtag #LegendaryChat.

For the inaugural #LegendaryChat, our topic will be Intro to Game-Based Learning. This chat is ideal for educators from all over the GBL spectrum, from classroom gaming experts to interested teachers who have never used game-based learning at all.

Participants will learn:

  • The benefits of bringing GBL to the classroom
  • Challenges faced by teachers who use GBL, and how to overcome them
  • Strategies for making GBL as effective as possible for students

In the meantime, there are tons of other education-related Twitter chats you can check out! Here are some of our favorites:

Ongoing chats:

  • #scichat: Exactly what it sounds like. Chat with other educators about all things science!
  • #elemchat: Anything and everything related to elementary education! This one is new for us, since we’ve just released our first few games for grades 3-5.

Legends of Learning participates in the #XPLAP Twitter chat.

Weekly chats:

  • #XPLAP: Stands for Explore Like a Pirate. Yep, that’s a thing. Tuesdays at 10pm ET.
  • #games4ed: A Twitter chat all about gaming in education! Thursdays at 8pm ET (though we like to check out this hashtag all week long).

Do you have another Twitter chat that you love? Let us know in the comments section.

Save the date and spread the word about #LegendaryChat on Monday, April 2nd. We can’t wait to see you online! And don’t forget to follow us at @legendlearning.

Missing: One Million STEM Workers

The 74 wrote recently that America will fall one million STEM workers short of its needed workforce by 2022. Think about that, one million potential jobs await today’s students.

That’s an astounding number. The solutions to date are missing the mark, say authors Blair Blackwell and Talia Milgrom-Elcott. Rather than focusing on today’s primary and middle school students and encouraging degrees in science, most STEM programs today focus on retraining existing workforce members.

The 74 article focuses on an initiative called 100k in 10, an effort to train 100,000 “excellent” STEM-savvy teachers. Solutions lock in on partners who execute training and grand challenges. But what grabbed our attention was an article that posed the counterpoint, “It seems like no one is asking classroom teachers what would be most helpful.”

In our experience, the science teachers we work with want to engage students and make STEM an exciting topic for them. Creating one million STEM Workers may be a question of the chicken versus the egg: Is it the science teacher or the tools? More often than not, building a stronger STEM curriculum requires training, resources, and time.

STEM Workers or STEM Warriors?

Super Student
This young man feels like a super hero in his science class. Super Student

Inspiring children to enjoy science requires more than the promise of a job. We think that telling students they can get a high paying job if they focus on science won’t be enough. It’s like telling someone they can have perfect teeth if they brush and floss their teeth twice a day.

We agree with the increasingly prevalent philosophies that educators need to 1) make science and STEM fun as a whole and 2) connect it to students’ everyday lives. Children will gravitate to STEM careers when they see it as a means to accomplish their dreams. Then they will become impassioned STEM warriors, rather than someone simply looking for a job.

Making science fun for students remains one of our greatest hopes inside Legends of Learning. If we can provide that spark for a student in a classroom, then we think we’ve achieved our purpose.

The Great STEM Education Challenge

This young lady engages with science through games. Rensselaer Middle School Science Student

The challenge remains increasing science’s appeal to students on their terms. That’s why we’re dedicated to creating a meaningful game-based learning experience for students. This provides a powerful resource for teachers who are looking to inject a little more fun into students’ lives.

There are countless science teachers across America who feel the same way. They work hard to inspire students every day. Their efforts extend well beyond the classroom, too. Science teachers scour the Internet looking for new exercises in their spare time. They actively seek out extra training. They engage with their peers online and at events to learn from others’ experiences.

Empowering science teachers to succeed remains the challenge. This challenge varies greatly from district to district, school to school, as noted by the 100k in 10 project. But providing universally accessible tools via the Internet can help level the playing field.

7 Go-To Sites for Discovering Science Resources

Teachers are constantly searching for new science resources and content to diversify their lessons and engage students. Surfing the Internet is a great way to find what you’re looking for, but the Internet is a big place. That’s why some teachers spend as much as five to seven hours a week browsing for content.

If you are looking for more than games, jumpstart your search here. These seven sites can help make it a little narrower.

1) Share My Lesson

Share My Lesson is a fantastic database of science resources, featuring lessons from early childhood through high school. As the name implies, teachers log on and share their own lessons and resources. To date, those total more than 420,000, including more than 11,000 for middle school science alone! They’re all free, and searchable by grade and standards.

2) Teachers Pay Teachers

You’ve probably heard of Teachers Pay Teachers by now. Much like Share My Lesson, TpT hosts lessons crowdsourced from educators. Boasting an even bigger library of more than 2.8m resources, some free and some paid, it’s a fantastic tool for bringing together the genius of teachers everywhere. When you’re searching, you can sort by grade, subject, resource type, and price, or check out the trending topics on their homepage.

Teachers Pay Teachers hosts science resources for teachers everywhere.

3) University of Cincinnati Libraries

The UC Libraries STEM Education page links to a bunch of juicy STEM content across the web. These include science websites, lesson plan libraries, student research databases, educational videos, curriculum resources, and much more. Dig in to this wealth of material, vetted by a major research university.

4) Getting Smart “Smart Lists”

If you don’t know Getting Smart, you should. They publish articles about every education topic from policy to personalized learning. Their “Smart Lists” blog series features resource lists with different themes every month. Find lists of education blogs & newsletters, parent resources & homework help, music & art, and more. Start by checking out this STEM & Maker Resources list from September.

Getting Smart hosts tons of science content, including Smart Lists which feature great science resources.

5) Teaching Ideas

Teaching Ideas is a British site that lists an eye-popping amount of resources for teachers. Along with science, teachers can find inspiration for English, “maths” 😉 , computing, art, music, history, PE, you name it — so go ahead and share it with your non-science colleagues! If you’re looking for lesson plans, projects, videos, games, it’s all here, with a search functionality and many levels of filtering.

6) Tes

Tes is an education giant, claiming “the world’s largest online community of teachers” with almost 8 million registered users. Like Share My Lesson and TpT, Tes hosts a marketplace where teachers can share all kinds of resources, free and paid, from pre-K through high school. Their marketplace also features a bunch of discussion forums, as well as resources for exploring the teacher job market (focused on the UK). They also publish a magazine, and publish tons of education-related news. Talk about a go-to education site!

Tes has thousands of science resources, from lesson plans to news articles.

7) Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative

Out of the University of British Columbia, CWSEI mainly focuses on research related to science pedagogy in higher education. However, their site lists a wide variety of resources, including tools that can be used in the classroom, but also a plethora of reference books and articles for everything you want to learn about education. The Initiative’s stated goal is to build “a more scientifically literate populace… able to make wise decisions, informed by scientific understanding, about other complex issues” — a mission we can all get behind!

If you’re looking for new science resources, this list is a good place to start. These websites complement the depth and breadth of the thousands of science games and assessment items teachers find on the Legends of Learning platform.

Young STEM Visionaries Share their Inspiration

This November’s STEM Visions Contest featured submissions from teachers across the country, from California to Oklahoma to Massachusetts. All of the entries demonstrated how much these legendary science teachers inspire their students on a daily basis.

The contest was an overarching STEM activity for students. Teachers launched playlists of Legends of Learning science games in class, then asked how students could see themselves pursuing a career in STEM fields. Entries were posted on Facebook (and some on Google Docs).

Students wowed us with their visions for the future. The most popular ideas for future STEM careers were in the fields of veterinary science, astronomy, marine biology, and engineering.

The Winners

With so many thoughtful, creative entries, it was difficult to select the winners. Ultimately, after much deliberation, we had a winning submission: Kimberly King from Green Fields School (Tucson, AZ)! Kimberly submitted 21 students’ STEM visions, showcasing an impressive array of ideas they have for how to impact the world in their future careers. View her entire album of submissions here.

 

For winning the contest, Kimberly will receive a $1000 grant on DonorsChoose.org, along with a full-year license for her school to use Legends of Learning!

Four more of the most impressive submissions were selected as runners-up. View their submissions by clicking the links below:

Veronica Hennessey, Simonds Elementary (San José, CA)
Joy Johnson, Lewis and Clarke Middle School (Jefferson City, MO)
Denise Galiano, Cedar Hill Preparatory School (Somerset,NJ)
Scott Beiter, Rensselaer Middle School (Rensselaer, NY)

Congratulations to our winner, Kimberly, our runners-up, Veronica, Joy, Denise, and Scott, and all of the amazing educators who entered the contest! More importantly, thank you to all of these teachers for investing in the future by inspiring their students every single day.

Legends of Learning On Instagram and Pinterest

Many of our ambassadors and friends in the education community have followed Legends of Learning on Facebook and Twitter over the past year, but complained about our lack of presence on Instagram and Pinterest. Well, those days are over!!!

You can now follow us on Instagram and Pinterest, too!

Our Instagram page will feature photo spotlights of our ambassadors, LoL staff, industry events, and case studies, as well as highlighting each of our 90 middle school science learning objectives and updates about our gaming platform.

We will also “regram” legendary posts from our followers, and may even give some teacher ambassadors the opportunity to temporarily take over the page!

On Pinterest, we have boards for Earth and Space Science, Physical Science, Life Science, as well as special topics like NGSS, last month’s total solar eclipse, and awesome inspiration from teachers.

Teachers are some of the best users on Pinterest, “pinning” everything from science labs to art projects to actual bulletin boards. The site provides an easy way to bookmark and spread bright ideas, improving classrooms everywhere.

We are excited to grow our engagement with the education community! The internet is an incredible asset, with the power to not only host resources like Legends of Learning games, but also to share valuable insights and ideas so teachers and students can reap the benefits. Join us in our mission to spread the best of education.

Follow Legends of Learning:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LegendsofLearning/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/legendlearning
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/legendsoflearning/
Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/legendsoflearning/

Five Questions Answered About Legends of Learning Playlists

This year, wow your class with game based learning by creating the perfect Legends of Learning playlist. Much like a DJ, teachers have the ability to deploy their “set list” of games and assessment questions to students. But playlists can do much more than that.

To illustrate the power of this feature, we decided to answer teachers’ five most frequently asked questions.

1.  How can I make sure I’m selecting the right games for my student playlists?

Selecting the right games based on student interest or academic level is easy with the detailed game modal window. Simply click on any game from within the learning objective screen and the game modal window displays a game overview, teacher ratings, curriculum suggestions, and the option to play the game yourself. When you’ve determined which games are the right fit, click the “Create a Playlist” button and drag the games into your new playlist.

Game Modal Window

Create a Playlist

2. How do I customize my playlists?

There are several ways to customize playlists for your students. First, name each playlist and add it to your saved playlists section for future use. Next, try dragging games into your playlist and then moving the games around by clicking and dragging. Finally, use the time slider to shorten or lengthen the amount of time students can play.

Customizable Playlist: Name It, Rearrange It, Time It

3. How do I launch my playlists to students?

When you launch playlists to your students, you give them an engaging gameplay experience while following their progress in real time on your live teacher dashboard. You can even launch different games to different student groups and create a personalized gaming experience while ensuring they all master the same content.

To get started, locate the dropdown menu under each playlist, which gives you the option to launch to everyone or to a specific group. To create a class or group, navigate to the students page and click the “+” button next to the word “class”. Type in the name of your class or group and press save. You can then click the dropdown next to each student and add them to their group.

Click the back button on your browser to return to your playlist. The names of your classes and groups will appear in the dropdown menu at the bottom of the playlist. When you launch your playlist to a specific group, only the students in that group will have access to the playlist.

Launch to Everyone

Create Your Class

Launch to a Class/Group

4. How do I know students will be asked questions during game play?

Assessment packs are valuable if you are playing games that are activity based and contain few questions. Click on the assessment icon next to the game list to add assessment packs to your playlist.

You can control the number of questions in each assessment—from 1 to 99—by clicking the arrows. Then, click and drag to place the assessment pack before, between, or after the games. Use multiple assessment packs and create a pre-test/post-test to gauge student mastery.

Assessment Pack Icon

Assessment Pack as Pre-Test/Post-Test

5. How do my students sign in and start playing?

Students sign in to your playlist by navigating to login.legendsoflearning.com and clicking the students icon. Students are then prompted to enter your teacher launch code, located in the upper right hand corner of your playlist.

Teacher Launch Code

 

Students sign up using their first name and last initial, or sign in with their previously created username.

Student Login Page

Once you launch your playlist, each student’s dot appears in your live teacher dashboard. Individual student answers to game and assessment pack questions are recorded inside student dots.

Live Dashboard with Student Signed In

Legends of Learning strongly values the feedback of teachers and welcomes any questions you have on our playlist feature. Login today to create your perfect playlist. Have a great summer and happy gaming!

Five Reasons Teachers Should Use Playlists for Game-Based Learning

The new playlist feature from Legends of Learning gives teachers the ability to deliver engaging middle school science games while closely monitoring student achievement and growth. Here are five reasons to use playlists in your class this coming year:

1) Real Time Data Dashboard – The live teacher dashboard displays student progress in real time. Each student has a dot that moves along the playlist and shows their answers to the questions from the games.

Once the playlist is over, the data is automatically stored in your account. Since every playlist is saved, you can see how student and class performance improves over time.


2) Differentiated Playlists – Creating multiple playlists allows your classroom to divide into cohorts based on academic performance and play the games most appropriate for their academic level. For example, you can create three different playlists for your advanced, proficient, and basic students, or even create a unique playlist for every student in the class. Unlimited playlist creation makes personalizing content easy.

3) Total Teacher Control – Three features give you control of the gaming experience:

  • Playlist length – You can set the timer for 3-60 minutes of game play. If you want to shorten the playlist in live mode, click the stop button and every student’s game will end.
  • Dot Color – Dots turn red if your students stop playing and wander into a different tab. This makes it easy for you to know who is actively engaged in game play.
  • Pause Button – In live mode you can pause all students simultaneously. This ensures you have every student’s attention while you teach.

4) Student Voice – If you offer students Free Play, they can choose which games to play within the current lesson’s learning objective. There are two ways to deploy Free Play:

1) Launch a playlist with extra time built in after the games are completed. When the students finish their assigned games, they can pick which games to play with any remaining class time.

2) Free Play occurs when you launch an “empty” playlist with no games in it. In that case, students can choose whichever games they want throughout the time period.

Free Play Option 1

Free Play Option 2

5) Scheduling Playlists – This soon-to-be deployed feature will allow you to schedule a playlist to deploy automatically at any time. For example, on Monday you could set a playlist to launch on Tuesday at 2:00 p.m., or on Friday you could set a playlist to launch at 2:00 p.m. and end Sunday night at 7:00 p.m.

This feature lets teachers deploy playlists for homework, or provide substitute teachers playlists as an assignment.

As you think about ways to introduce game based learning in your classroom this coming year, consider using playlists from Legends of Learning. With all the features playlists offer, you can be confident that fun will translate into real academic growth. Sign up and start creating your playlists today!

16 Ways to Study the Total Solar Eclipse in Your Classroom

On August 21, 2017, we’ll see something the country has not seen in 38 years: a total solar eclipse. The day will excite students and science teachers alike. The below resources introduce students to eclipses, both lunar and solar, and prepare them for the solar eclipse.

These 16 resources compliment the Legends of Learning series of eclipse games and lesson plan that can be found in the Eclipses and Seasons Learning Objective.  Legends of Learning published a lesson plan for this Learning Objective, too, and on July 10 will offer two of its games — “Walter’s Travels” and “Bubble Eclipse” — publicly on its Alpha Games page as a public service.

Websites

 

Interactive Media

  • Eclipse2017.org App. Go mobile with the Eclipse2017 app. With it, students will learn about eclipses and how to find the best location to watch “totality” occur. (Available on iOS and Android)
  • Eclipses and Seasons. Encourage engagement and solidify learning objectives with Legends of Learning’s seven games about eclipses and seasons. If wishing to cross into other science subjects, look at the “The Sun, Moon, and Stars: Patterns of Apparent Motion” games, as well as “Our Solar System.”
  • JavaScript Solar Eclipse Explorer. Eclipses are historical events, and this web-based calculator provides data not only on past eclipses but also future ones.
  • NASA’s Extremely Accurate Map for August’s Total Solar Eclipse. Use this tool to combine geography and science. Students can use the tool to identify the best states for solar-eclipse watching on August 21, 2017.
  • SpaceMath. Show students how mathematics applies to real-world scientific studies with this in-depth resource from NASA. The page features numerous math activities designed to present eclipses and astronomy in a “different light.”
  • THE GREAT AMERICAN ECLIPSE. With this resource, your classroom can watch the total solar eclipse in real time. Discover’s Science Channel will cover the eclipse as it happens, then follow up with a one-hour special during primetime.
  • Total Solar Eclipse Animation. Prepare students for the eclipse launch date with PBS NOVA’s animation. For additional classroom resources, check out PBS’ toolkit, webinar, and videos.

Classroom Activities

  • Build a Sun Funnel. Spend the first few weeks of August with a collaborative science project, the Sun Funnel. While inexpensive, the funnel takes some time and expertise to build, so you may want to practice building one at home before introducing the project to the classroom. For simpler versions of the concept, consider using the Exploratorium’s instructions for building a pinhole camera from a UPS shipping container or SPACE’s shoebox concept.
  • Create an Eclipse in the Classroom. Styrofoam and cardboard possess magical properties, becoming anything from molecules and atoms to planetary systems. Follow the guide to help students create Earth-Moon-Sun systems and explore how solar and lunar eclipses work.
  • Exploring the Solar System: Solar Eclipse. This instructional tool uses an inflatable Earth to teach students three curriculum-based learning objectives. Provided by the National Informal STEM Education (NISE) Network, the tool includes resources for English- and Spanish-speaking students.
  • How to Film or Photograph the 2017 Solar Eclipse Like a Pro. Unite the arts and sciences with SPACE’s instructions on how to film or photograph the solar eclipse. Warning: This resource features some advanced photography and film techniques, so you’ll either want to use it with advanced photography students or adapt the methods to your particular classroom.
  • Yardstick Eclipse Activity. This classroom activity from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) caters to the older crowd that may be less than pleased with cardboard and Styrofoam projects. You can create the activity from scratch or purchase a pre-made kit for $35.00.

Other Resources

 

Have you taught about lunar and solar eclipses before? What are your favorite lesson plans, activities, or resources? Share your thoughts in the comments or start a thread in the community forum.

Five Reasons You Should Teach with Games

Adults love games. Kids love games. Both groups of people work in classrooms. So why aren’t classrooms filled with game based learning?

Some teachers have resisted gaming because they see it as a chance for students to goof off rather than focusing. In their minds, games do not truly teach content and thus do not provide educational value.

Over the past few years, learning games have evolved to include content of real value. Meaningful learning games are now easily accessible for teachers. Legends of Learning offers 900 science curricula games for middle school.

Take it from this teacher. Game based learning is not only fun for students it makes teaching easier.

Five Reasons to Use Games in Your Classroom

Teacher showing child tablet

1. Students Love Games – Most students already spend free time playing games online with friends, watching other gamers play on YouTube, and bragging to each other about who’s the best gamer.

Introducing games into your class is a natural extension of what your students already like. With so many games available that teach content, its the perfect fit for your classroom.

2. One on One Time with Students – Imagine getting to walk around a room of 30 students and having meaningful one on one conversations with each of them. Because students are so engaged, off-task behavior with game play is minimal, in turn giving you time to work with the students who need your help most.

3. Curricula Games Mean Learning – Games are effective because students have so much fun playing the games they don’t even think about whether learning is taking place. When students are engaged, they learn significantly more content and remember more of what they learned. This leads to higher test scores and more confidence taking on complex tasks in the classroom.

4. Struggling Students Feel Included – When students struggle, they often stay quiet or act out. Because games are fun and teach content without shame, struggling students engage and learn at their own pace.

It’s common to see organic conversations about content crop up during class. Students who never raise hands show eagerness to participate. Games remind you that all students want to learn, they just need the right vehicle.

5. Personalized Learning – Games let students take control of what they learn. Students teach themselves new material or review existing knowledge via engaging gameplay. Teachers facilitate learning, gently guiding students through game play, and helping them think critically about decision points. This is the 21st century classroom.

As you consider your lesson plans for the school year, imagine the possibilities games offer as an everyday part of your instruction. Simply put, game based learning can transform your classroom. Want proof? Try Legends of Learning science games for three weeks and watch student achievement take off in your classroom.

Aryah Fradkin is Manager of Teacher Outreach and Engagement for Legends of Learning. Prior to joining the Legends, he taught middle school for six years in Baltimore City Public Schools.

Six Tips for Shaking Up Summer Learning This Year

Excerpted from How to Prevent Summer Learning Loss and Close Achievement Gaps. Download it today.

By the end of May, everyone is ready for a break from the school routine. Students stop responding to the usual content delivery methods, and as a result, summer learning loss sets in.

So change up your methods.

Develop summer courses that meet learning needs and curriculum standards while providing fun and engagement. Fun and engagement can take many forms, from project based learning to field trips to digital gaming. For example, Legends of Learning science games provide an interactive learning experience for students with questions aligned to curriculum standards. The teaching methods vary but should be aligned with your district’s overarching academic goals.

To help you get started, here are six quick tips to add a little variety to your summer learning programs.

Six Tips For Your Summer Learning Experience

1) Focus on Individualized, Personalized Instruction. Limiting summer class size allows teachers and students to interact one-on-one more often. As a result, relationships develop; students are encouraged to learn and grow; and teachers guide students toward classroom lessons and activities that fit the individual student’s learning level and style.

2) Take Kids on Field Trips. Teachers demonstrate learning is fun through field trips. Such trips can occur within the community and range from the zoo to a local bottling company. If funds are tight, supplement off-campus field trips with digital ones. Google and Discovery, for example, offer digital field trips that take place in the Sahara, Antarctica, and other locations.

3) Invite Speakers to the School Campus. Students see how curriculum lessons translate to life skills when people talk about their day-to-day work. Teachers could invite civic leaders, parents, and other people into the classroom to talk about their work experiences and background. Microsoft also provides experts for the classroom via Skype. Kids can hear from environmentalists, coastal engineers, and other pioneers in the arts and sciences.

4) Turn Facts into Skills with Hands-On Projects. Students learn what they live, so teachers should find ways to turn basic concepts into practical skills. Some schools facilitate this idea with community projects, such as a garden or recycling center. Some schools, though, involve students in activities like building a greenhouse or small-scale wind farm. Others take their students to community partners where they participate in activities and projects.

5) Keep Kids Engaged Inside and Outside the Classroom with Digital Games. Kids like games. Teachers often do, too. Edgames offer chances to connect with students on their level. Kids play online games all the time, so giving them games that facilitate learning and subject mastery is a no-brainer. Plus, edgames typically allow teachers and district administrators to monitor student progress and, depending on the implementation, keep budget costs low.

6) Test New Teaching Models and Classroom Layouts. Summer provides a perfect time to pilot new teaching models, methods, and classroom layouts, says Gary Huggins, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. Explore blended learning models, edgames platforms, and other ways to engage students and build digital literacy skills. Assess impact at the end of the summer and expand what works into an official instructional approach.

No matter which method(s) you employ, remember that students are drawn in by new experiences. If you surprise them each day with even a small tweak to your instructional methods you will see a huge increase in student engagement. Try Legends of Learning science games and you will see some very excited looks on students faces. Have a great summer and shake it up!

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