Teach Super

We live in a society that idolizes super heroes. Everyone wants to be super, and teachers are no different: They can teach super. An elementary school teacher’s impact on a child surpasses almost anyone else in their life, other than parents and close relatives.

Do you know how important you are to your students?

By sparking curiosity and interest in a subject like science, you can build the foundation for a future career and lifelong passion. But it takes more than just an attentive teacher; it requires making STEM fun and playful.

Just last December, Getting Smart magazine noted how important it is to make science a fun activity. “Implementing a STEM curriculum during the early elementary grades which combines play with direct instruction can lead to long-term interest in these subjects,” writes Tracy Derrell. Maintaining interest from elementary and through middle school requires engagement.

That’s where teaching super comes into play.

The Need for Super Teachers

Teachers can be super by engaging students in science lessons.

The need for super teachers is real. Only 34% of 4th grade students achieved a score of “At or Above Proficient” on the science portion of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The United States needs its youth to take on STEM careers. The country is currently reliant on foreign workers to fulfill its STEM workforce.

So how does an educator make science fun and playful?

For starters, you can make a game of it. That goes well beyond Legends of Learning’s elementary suite of games. There are many ways to make content accessible to students.

For example, consider these eight fun resources we found to help teachers preparing science students for tests. Or find a different way to make science more interesting and applicable to students’ real lives. There are hundreds of such activities across the Internet.

When You Teach Super

Two Legendary science teachers at FETC in Florida.

Experienced teachers know success often bubbles up as singular breakthrough events that occur during the long march of a school year. Teaching can become a slog, particularly in the winter months when the days are short and the work is long.

But then there’s that student who suddenly comes alive. Or that class that really gets into a lesson. Maybe a former student comes back to visit or reaches out and thanks you for providing that spark.

Consider how these two students fell in love with science as a result of witnessing the total solar eclipse last summer. The experience infused them with a new excitement for science.

So, Legend, every day is a great day to teach super.

Let us know how we can support you.

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.

Finding the Riches in Game-Based Learning

Using GBL to maximize enrichment benefits in the classroom

By Caitlin Unterman, 8th Grade Science Teacher, Forest Middle School (VA)

Most in the education world believe that enrichment is the most important goal of a classroom. Teachers focus on creating opportunities that simultaneously enrich and engage students. However, many fail to recognize what is actually enrichment, and what is simply reinforcement.

Enrichment, by definition, is “the act of making someone wealthier.” I like to think this is wealth in the form of knowledge. Do a simple Google search and you find another definition of enrichment: “improving or enhancing the quality or value of something”.

Both definitions apply to our classrooms. And there is no better way to enhance the value of “something” than by adding what kids love best: games.

Another simple Google search can find you the EdTech definition of game-based learning: “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world.”

Put enrichment and game-based learning together by definition, and you would get “Generally, game based learning is designed to balance subject matter with gameplay and the ability of the player to retain and apply said subject matter to the real world, while improving or enhancing the quality or value of education.” As an 8th grade Earth Science teacher, that sounds pretty sweet.

Importance of Enrichment in All Content Areas

Like the majority of teachers, my enrichment efforts are based on data. Strands of weakness and complex learning concepts take priority as I work to innovate and plan creative units to convey the concepts better. Try teaching radiometric dating and half-life curves to a bunch of 8th graders who were put into a High School Credit science class… That is quite a challenge.

Game-based learning has become the Aleve to my headache in that regard. Students are far more interested in their phones than any piece of paper I hand out. So, I moved towards digital learning.

Using the game-based learning platform Legends of Learning, I created a pre-test playlist on geologic time, added an assessment pack at the end, and downloaded my students’ performance data. After highlighting the weaker strands (subcategories within the topic), I made a new playlist. I taught the concepts per usual, emphasizing the weaknesses shown in the pre-test playlist data, and then launched the playlist again after my normal teaching lessons. (For an example of how to track student performance, check out the Hall of Knowledge here.)

An enrichment playlist covering geologic time.

Much to my surprise, weak strands were no longer categorized as “weak”, moreso, “improving”. Take a look at the Vanderbilt study conducted in partnership with Legends of Learning, and it speaks for itself. Weak strands can become enhanced strands through game-based learning enrichment.

How to Implement Games to Target Weak Strands

Some may think, “All of this is great, but where do I start?” Game-based enrichment isn’t something you just wake up and decide to implement one day.

Instead, consider doing some critical data analysis, at least once, before jumping right in.

The data analysis portion of the Legends of Learning platform allows you to break down each learning objective by student performance.

Teachers can download student data to track progress during enrichment activities.

From this, identify the weak strands. Your definition of “weak” may differ from mine, but usually I emphasize those showing 50% mastery or below. Think about those weak strands in terms of what I call the 3 Vs: Volume, Value, Vocabulary. Let’s break those down:

Volume

On average, how much time do you spend emphasizing a strand? One day? One week? Strands that are only the focus of one day of class may not be as crucial as larger units you spend weeks on. Take out the strands that are “one-dayers”.

Value

Are the skills presented in this weak strand going to affect later learning objectives? Place an educational value on the learning objective. Is the concept crucial or supplementary?

Vocabulary

Is the learning objective heavy on vocab? If so, take a look at the overview and curriculum for each game. Find the key vocabulary needed, pack the playlist, schedule the playlist to run over the weekend as “homework,” and collect data on Monday. You should see improvement.

View curriculum details for each game before using it for enrichment.

The key to game-based enrichment is finding the value in the innovative learning that is taking place. Don’t just plug in games that are fun and engaging. The games need to emphasize weaknesses within the content in order for enrichment to be successful.

What are your experiences with using GBL for enrichment?

GBL vs. Gamification:
What’s the Difference?

by Aaron Baum, Associate, Legends of Learning

A handful of game-related terms get thrown around the edtech sphere. Two big ones are gamification and game-based learning, or GBL, just check out their hashtags on Twitter: #GBL and #Gamification.

What exactly is the difference between gamification and GBL? Many confuse the terms, but one is not the other.

It’s an innocent mistake, one that I have made, too.

Last Spring, just before my first day at Legends of Learning, a friend asked me what exactly we do. Ill-versed in edtech buzzwords, I did my best to explain, and he said, “Oh, so you do gamification. We talk about it all the time in education consulting.”

To my uninitiated mind, “gamification” was a pithy explanation, and I wondered why the term had never come up in previous conversations with the Legends team. It turns out, gamification isn’t what we do.

Gamification in Education: What it Looks Like

To show an example of gamified learning, let’s turn to our friends at Classcraft. I met these folks at ISTE 2017 in San Antonio, and they’re great — they even wrote a blog about us! Classcraft defines the principle of gamification as “applying game principles to non-game situations.”

Basically, Classcraft is an experience, and it works like this:

Teachers deploy their own learning materials that they’ve created—think worksheets, quizzes, and videos—as different destination points within a “Quest.” Students work through these materials to advance through the Quests at their own pace. As they complete their work, they travel across a map, from one end of an island to another.

A Classcraft quest, which employs gamification rather than GBL.

This is a fun way to visualize progress, and it uses the principles of an adventure game to capture students’ interest while they learn. That’s gamification.

The learning itself is done through traditional classroom assignments, not a game. That would be a different story.

Understanding GBL

Unlike the traditional classroom assignments that persist in a gamified classroom, GBL is exactly what it sounds like: using games to introduce, enforce, or enrich learning concepts.

The idea is that learning through gameplay can be more engaging than more traditional methods like lectures, textbooks, and worksheets. When students are more engaged, their brains are more capable of absorbing new information. This makes for better subject matter retention, leading to higher test scores, as demonstrated by research.

Games are often more engaging than traditional learning tools because, of course, they’re fun. But beyond this highly unscientific assertion, how does GBL achieve higher engagement from an educational theory standpoint? GBL guru Dr. James Paul Gee attributes it in part to the principle of “Performance Before Competence.”

In his essay “Good Video Games and Good Learning,” Dr. Gee explains that students playing a game “can perform before they are competent, supported by the design of the game, the ‘smart tools’ the game offers.” This differs from more traditional learning methods, which often require students to read a text and become competent before they can start trying to perform tasks related to the new knowledge. For many students, these methods are far less effective than the “learn by doing” approach that GBL allows.

Engagement is the ticket to effective learning. Keeping that in mind, let’s look at how gamification and GBL are similar, and why so many people tend to think they’re interchangeable.

A Key Similarity

GBL and gamification are guided by the same overarching principle: morphing a traditional classroom task into a more engaging, competitive activity.

Take for example the Interactions in Ecosystems learning objective on our site. It is home to ten mini-games, ranging in length from 5-25 minutes. Each game interweaves specific science concepts — in this case, how ecosystems work, as delineated by the NGSS — into the gameplay.

Deep Sea Adventure, a game-based learning (GBL) tool in the Interactions in Ecosystems learning objective.

In “Deep Sea Adventure,” you start out as a tiny shrimp, eating plankton and avoiding predators, ultimately growing into a fish, a jellyfish, a turtle, and a shark. In “EcoKingdoms: Interactions,” your role is park manager, making decisions to balance the flora, fauna, and finances that are crucial to the park’s operation.

Other GBL experiences feature competition amongst students. They compete with one another and motivate each other to perform at a higher level in the game. Some learning games even have leaderboards so students can compete against players all over the world.

Have you ever tried to get small children to help clean up their toys after making a mess? One effective strategy is to say “I bet I can clean up more toys than you… ready, go!” Nine times out of ten, the child will go whizzing around their bedroom trying to beat you in the new “clean-up game” you just created. That is gamification at work.

Competition is a motivator, and can make any task — whether cleaning the playroom or learning science — a lot more fun. So if GBL and gamification share this core similarity, why is the distinction so important?

A venn diagram comparing gamification and game-based learning (GBL).

Gamification alters significant structural aspects of the learning experience, breaking from the norms of lectures and worksheets. Teachers gamify their classrooms for a fresh new approach to a complex concept.

GBL is a component that can be flexibly plugged into a traditional classroom, interchanged for other tasks like worksheets, without altering the way the classroom runs overall.

Next time you talk tech in the teacher’s lounge, see if your colleagues know the difference. Let them know you’re not playing around!

Top 10 Most Popular Science Topics in January

With the first month of 2018 wrapping up, let’s check out the top 10 most popular science topics on the Legends of Learning site in January:

1. Effects of Temperature and Pressure on State

An ice skating rink shows the effects of temperature and pressure on state, freezing water into ice.
 

Summary of concepts covered (8 games): A substance’s state of matter is an extrinsic property, meaning it can be changed by its environment. Physical conditions like temperature and pressure affect state of matter. Both temperature and pressure can be measured, and state changes can be observed.

2. Atoms and Elements

The periodic table holds all of the atoms and elements.
 

Summary of concepts covered (10 games + 1 PhET simulation): Everything in the universe is made up of atoms. Atoms are the smallest units of matter, and the different types of atoms make up different elements. They can exist on their own, or bonded together in molecules.

3. Parts of the Cell

Learn about cell structure with parts of the cell science games.
 

Summary of concepts covered (9 games): Cells contain specialized structures, called organelles, that perform specific functions. Prokaryotic cells, like bacteria, do not have many organelles, while eukaryotic cells have defined organelles. All cells have a semi-permeable cell membrane that lets them absorb nutrients and get rid of waste. Nuclei, mitochondria, ribosomes, rough and smooth ER, the Golgi apparatus, and lysosomes are all covered!

4. The Sun, Moon, and Stars: Patterns of Apparent Motion

Due to Earth's rotation, the sun, moon, and stars appear in different places in the sky each day. Here, the apparent motion of the stars results in a unique glow across the night sky.
 

Summary of concepts covered (8 games): From day to day, the sun and stars will not appear in the exact same part of the sky due to the Earth’s revolution around the sun. These patterns of apparent motion allow us to predict where the Sun, Moon, and stars are at any given time, using drawings, 3D models, and computer models.

5. Role of Sunlight and Gravity in the Water Cycle

Waterfalls and the role of sunlight and gravity in the water cycle.
 

Summary of concepts covered (8 games): On Earth, water can exist as a liquid, a solid (ice), or a gas (water vapor). It changes between these states of matter when it gains or loses energy. In the water cycle, this energy comes from sunlight. While sunlight is the energy source, the greatest force propelling the water cycle is gravity. Gravity is the force of attraction between two objects, and Earth’s gravity pulls matter downward, toward its center. It pulls precipitation down from clouds and pulls water downhill.

6. Conservation of Matter in Chemical Reactions

In chemical reactions, there is a conservation of matter.
 

Summary of concepts covered (10 games): During a chemical reaction, atoms are rearranged, but they are not created or destroyed. The substances entering the reaction are called reactants, and the resulting substances, with new chemical formulas, are called products.

7. Temperature, Thermal Energy, and Particle Motion

Water particle motion changes from liquid to gas as a result of changing thermal energy.
 

Summary of concepts covered (9 games): Temperature measures the average kinetic energy of the particles in a substance. Thermal energy measures the total kinetic energy of the particles in a substance. The greater the motion of particles, the higher a substance’s temperature and thermal energy.

8. Weathering and Erosion

Weathering and erosion are the main culprits for forming beautiful canyons.
 

Summary of concepts covered (9 games): Aside from plate tectonics, moving water (including ice) causes the most significant change to the earth’s surface. Weathering (including physical and chemical) is the process of breaking down rock that is not moving. Erosion is when water actually transports rock and sediment from one place to another.

9. Sound Waves

Sound waves are longitudinal mechanical waves that can travel through solids, liquids, or gases.
 

Summary of concepts covered (10 games): Waves are disturbances that transfer energy from one place to another. Sound waves are a type of mechanical, longitudinal wave. Longitudinal waves cause matter to contract and expand, known as compression and rarefaction. Matter vibrates as sound passes through it.

10. Gene Mutations

Albino snakes have gene mutations in its DNA.
 

Summary of concepts covered (10 games): DNA contains the genetic blueprint of all living things. It comes in double helix-shaped strands, which look like twisted ladders. The ladders’ rungs are made up of two kinds of nucleotide pairs: adenine and thymine, and cytosine and guanine. During cell division, DNA replicates itself, but it sometimes makes errors. Most of these errors are fixed during the process, but the ones that aren’t may become gene mutations.

What will be the top 10 in February? Sign in and play to have your say!

Legendary Season of Giving

We’ve made it to December, the Legendary Season of Giving! While you’re giving your students the gift of engaging science games in the classroom, there may be additional teachers out there who have yet to discover Legends of Learning. Since it is the season of giving, we decided to add to the fun and offer gifts for teachers who refer us.

Between now and December 31, when you refer other science teachers and they start using Legends of Learning*, you’ll receive the following gifts:

Give the gift of science games, and Captain Kinetic and the Legends will give you gifts!

  • 1 Referral – Gift: Dean Silencio Pez Head (Pez included!)
  • 3 Referrals – Gift: LoL T-shirt & Cape set
  • 5 Referrals – Gift: Two tickets to Star Wars: The Last Jedi (or a movie of your choice)
  • Plus, don’t forget, you also earn 1000 coins for every referral! That’s good for 1000 science games for your students to play.

Give your colleagues the gift of game-based learning and celebrate the Legendary Season of Giving! There’s no better way to liven up a classroom at the end of the calendar year. Start making referrals today! (Not sure how? Find out in the Hall of Knowledge.)

Celebrate the Legendary Season of Giving and give the gift of game-based learning.
*In order to qualify for a gift, referred teachers need to log in and launch a playlist on Legends of Learning by December 31.

Test Prep Webinar:
How Richard White
Makes the Most of Science Games

On November 29, STEM Certified leader Richard White delivered a Legends of Learning test prep webinar. Richard is a teacher leader at Griffin Middle School in Cobb County, Georgia, where he has worked for the past 6 years.

With December quickly approaching, many teachers will enter a review period for end-of-year testing. Richard’s webinar provides helpful tips for Legends of Learning teachers to use games for test prep as well as for enrichment, and offers tactics to deploy science games as an engagement technique for distracted students.

View Richard’s test prep webinar and associated PowerPoint presentation below:

Test Prep Webinar Video

Link to the full video of Richard White's Legends of Learning test prep webinar.

Test Prep PowerPoint Presentation

Link to the PowerPoint presentation recapping Richard White's Legends of Learning test prep webinar.

About Richard White

Test prep webinar host Richard White and his family.

Richard is passionate about teaching and learning, and believes that there is some way to reach every student that he encounters. He has presented professionally at several local conferences, and is responsible for helping to train new teachers at Griffin. Richard joined the Legends of Learning platform in November of last year as an ambassador, and began testing games with his students as soon as they were rolled out. He has also presented on LoL at local conferences.

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 to Release Science Games for Grades 3-5 this Winter

New suite expands existing middle school library into elementary schools

Legends of Learning announced today it will develop more than 300 curriculum-based science games for grades 3-5. This new elementary science curricula has now become available. The new elementary school games, created by more than 100 game developers, are based on rigorous academic research conducted in partnership with Vanderbilt University.

The new Legends of Learning elementary school games will complement Legends of Learning’s existing middle school suite of more than 800 games and simulations, bringing the depth and breadth of content on the site to more than 1,300 games spanning grades 3-8. The games and platform were developed with direct input and feedback from Legends of Learning’s teacher community, resulting in a platform that is easy to use and educator friendly.

Legends of Learning’s game-based learning platform includes:

  • Short games (5-20 minutes) that align to state science curriculum standards to ensure content engages students and helps them succeed in their studies;
  • Support for many state standards including Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), TEKS (Texas), GSE (Georgia), and SOL (Virginia);
  • An intuitive platform that allows teachers to easily deploy games in class via playlists, and empowers advanced features like in-class assessments and personalized learning; and
  • A dashboard to observe student comprehension in real time and assess content mastery.

“Many districts and teachers requested elementary school science games since we launched Legends of Learning,” said Legends of Learning founder and CEO Dr. Vadim Polikov. “We are excited about the addition of grades 3-5. This will make for a comprehensive science content series that provides engagement and boosts academic performance. This unique platform and game content model builds off of research and pragmatic in-classroom experience to deliver that curricula content in a way students enjoy.”

Polikov, a research scientist, believes that research is the foundation for successful game-based learning and long-term education reform. He worked in partnership with Vanderbilt University to conduct a study “Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula,” which measured the performance of more than 1,000 students in seven states and in schools with differing student bodies, socioeconomic factors, and geographic locations. The study demonstrated with statistical significance that academic performance and engagement increase with curriculum-aligned game-based learning.

Legends of Learning is showcasing its platform and games at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) conference (Booth #945) in Houston, through November 11. For more information about Legends of Learning visit legendsoflearning.com.

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About Legends of Learning

American children need new education heroes, teachers dedicated to using new, engaging methods to teach curriculum. Legends of Learning helps educators make their classrooms fun, engaging, and productive learning environments through research-driven, curriculum-based games. We use ongoing original research to create an edgame platform filled with an epic range of lessons for stronger subject mastery and classroom engagement. All games are based on state curriculum standards. Teachers can don their masks with Legends of Learning at legendsoflearning.com.

 

Media contacts:

Stacey Finkel

ASPR

Stacey.Finkel@aspr.bz

703.304.1377

 

Geoff Livingston

Legends of Learning

geoff@legendsoflearning.com

703.859.0089

10 Steps to Launch with Legends of Learning

Congratulations! You’ve created your Legends of Learning account, and you’re ready to expand your science teaching superpowers. Here’s how to get started in just ten easy steps:

Step 1: Choose a Subject

Select Earth and Space, Life, or Physical Science.

Step 2: Choose a Learning Objective

Each subject has 26-35 different lessons, or Learning Objectives, each covering a specific science standard.

Step 3: Preview the Games

Each Learning Objective has 7-10 unique games. Click on each game to view teacher reviews, vocabulary words, and discussion questions. You can also play the games yourself, and leave your own ratings!

Step 4: Create a Playlist

Click the orange button above the games to be transported to the playlist building screen.

Step 5: Drag and Drop

Pick your games and drag them into the playlist.

Step 6: Add Assessments

Open up the “Assessments” tab, choose how many questions to include, and add them before, between, or after the games.

Step 7: Customize

Shuffle the order of games and assessments, toggle the playlist’s duration, and give your playlist a name.

Step 8: Launch!

Hit the big green button! You don’t even have to add your students ahead of time; just send them to play.legendsoflearning.com and give them your teacher code, located at the top of the playlist. (Don’t panic; the “Students” tab will not appear in your account until you’ve launched a playlist and had students join.)

Step 9: Track Student Data

Watch as students progress through the playlist, and see their answers to quiz questions in real time. If you need to stop and review mid-playlist, click the pause button.

Step 10: Download Results

All student answer data gets saved within the playlist for future reference. Download it as a CSV with the click of a button!

Boom! Your science class is now certifiably legendary. If you have any trouble with these steps, check out helpful hints on the Hall of Knowledge, or don’t hesitate to contact us at support@legendsoflearning.com.

 

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