Legends of Learning is looking for elementary school ambassadors. Grades 3-5 teachers who are willing to review our science for Life, Earth and Space, and Physical sciences. Ambassadors who sign up by February 12 will get early access to games.
This is your opportunity to shape the Legends of Learning platform and games from the ground floor. When you sign up for our community, let your voice be heard and make a difference not only in your classroom, but for educators across America!
Impact how kids learn through games and join forces with like-minded heroes to review and strengthen the Legends of Learning platform and the individual games. Your input helps improve our collective offering.
We reward teachers who are active in our network. Participation in our community garners you access to challenges where you can earn more credits to continue playing. You can also earn some crazy rewards, too. Not that a hero needs more motivation, but those whose exploits are truly legendary will receive t-shirts, Pez heads, or other Legends of Learning swag.
So what are you waiting for, Legend? Sign up today, and help make game based learning even better in our community today!
P.S. Interested teachers who are looking for a little lighter interaction with Legendary peers can join our private Facebook group, The Hall of Legends.
The article marks the inevitable use of AI and bots in the classroom. The education AI movement extends beyond the edtech sector and includes some of the industry’s biggest content providers, like McGraw-Hill.
Uses for AI extend across diverse subjects and tasks. Whether it’s assessments or grading or recommending next levels of content, AI can help a teacher make smart decisions about how to guide a student and/or a classroom.
Of course, the EdTech Magazine article closes with an almost mandatory, semi-comforting phrase: “We will always need teachers and human interaction in the classroom. Anything else does not compute.”
But if that’s the case, how does AI work with a teacher in the classroom?
With tests in more than 1000 classrooms, the program aims to save elementary school teachers time through formative assessment, lesson planning, and other actions. In essence, Teacher Advisor is the digital equivalent of a teaching assistant.
We like AI teaching tools like this because we know how overburdened teachers are, particularly public school teachers. Whether they have 30 students in elementary school or 120 in high school, personalizing lessons for individual students or small cohorts is challenging.
That is particularly true not just with class and non-class hours, but also during personal time. Teachers are spending as much as five to seven hours per week just looking for new and interesting content. Then they have to assess, integrate, and launch this content. Not to mention their actual grading and teaching work.
If we consider any relief or assistance to be useful, AI can make a teacher’s life much more reasonable.
But can it replace a teacher? Isn’t that the great fear?
The Diamond Age AI Lesson
Neal Stephenson’s cyberpunk classic The Diamond Age picks up this very subject. In the book, three young girls are all given the same nanotech primer to help them learn and understand subjects as well as life skills.
How does the AI primer work out for these girls? As you might expect, it works very differently for each individual student.
In fact, it doesn’t matter that the AI alters itself to meet the students’ needs. The students are unique and make different decisions based on their perspective.
While educational, the primer cannot coach the girls well or help them change their life perspective. In some ways, The Diamond Age illustrates the failure of technology to influence our humanity.
In the end, teaching is more than imparting knowledge upon students. A teacher delivers a very real human perspective, either intentionally or through abstract experience. When given the time to focus, teachers perceive a students’ needs, needs that may not be expressed through performance data.
This human interaction may never be replicated by AI. Perhaps this is why we will always need a teacher’s perspective.
What do you think?
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.
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?
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
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.
Test Preparation: Make it Legendary
We’re just about halfway through the fall term, which means one thing: test preparation. I’m sure you can already hear your students groaning.
There is good news for your students! One of the most popular ways to use Legends of Learning is to review content before a test. Building a playlist of games and assessment questions is like creating an animated study guide: you choose the content for students to review, and they see it in action. Meanwhile, realtime analytics let you evaluate how well they understand the material.
Let’s take a look at an example. Say you’re preparing for an upcoming test on photosynthesis.
Once you’ve started a new playlist draft within the Photosynthesis Learning Objective, click on a game and review its “Game Curriculum” tab before dragging it. That way you can quickly vet which ones best highlight your concepts of focus.
The discussion questions here are great for asking your students, whether for individual or group review. They challenge your students to think critically about the topic by situating games in the proper educational context, leading to a rich, engaging experience in the days before a test. Many teachers who use Legends of Learning love discussing these questions with a group of students. When students collaborate and get excited about learning through games, knowledge retention increases.
Placing assessment questions before and after gameplay give you great insight into how well your students comprehend the material. In this example, Ms. Rose and Photosynthesis! discusses the conditions necessary for photosynthesis to occur in plant cells. By comparing your students’ pre and post game answers, you immediately see how much further review students’ need on this concept.
Assessment question analytics are broken into both individual and class-wide data, so the scale of concept comprehension is apparent. If it appears from the post game questions that the entire class is struggling with the conditions surrounding photosynthesis, you have the ability to pause everyone’s games and discuss points of confusion. Class time is more efficient with your instruction becoming more targeted to the concepts that need more review.
The view below further illustrates this test prep tactic. In this example, only 30% of the students have correctly answered a question about where the energy for life on earth comes from, so you know to emphasize that concept more in future review.
After a playlist ends, all of its question data is automatically saved. Teachers use this feature to examine which topics individual students struggle with and curate upcoming review to meet their individual needs. Completed playlists can easily be cloned and adjusted to build upon past review. For optimizing individualized test preparation, teachers love to create multiple tracks within a playlist.
As an example, if one group of students has a solid grasp on the material, assign them to a track that only contains a couple of games and assessment items and leaves more time for free play of games within the learning objective. For other groups that need additional reinforcement, build tracks that include more directed games and assessments.
Playlists are a powerful, flexible tool for any stage of review. Use Legends of Learning for superpowered test preparation and watch as student performance improves by leaps and bounds.
Log in and take a fresh approach to science reviewing!
Four Legends of Learning Case Studies
We recently published four Legends of Learning case studies from schools and projects across the country. Whether in the classroom with schools in Mississippi, New York, and Virginia, or our special eclipse case study with Cobb County, Georgia, these short videos offer insights on how Legends of Learning can work for classes.
Forest Middle School Students Play Games, Master Content
Forest Middle School students play games and review incredible amounts of content in short periods of time. Hear what teacher Caitlin Unterman and principal Scott Simmons experienced with students playing Legends of Learning games.
Gulfport Middle School Engages with Legendary Games
See how students in this Gulfport, Mississippi Title 1 school engage with Legends of Learning games! Our ambassador Lisianna Wilson shares her unique insights about deploying games in her classroom.
Kristen Crain on Empowering Cobb County Students to Watch the Eclipse
Forty-four middle school students from the Cobb County School District in Georgia joined Legends of Learning on August 21 on a field trip to Clemson, S.C. Kristen, one of the teachers on the trip, discusses how the experience went, including how Legends of Learning games helped prepare the students.
Legendary Learning Gameplay in Rensselaer, NY
We had the great pleasure of visiting Rensselaer Middle School, and talking with Scott Beiter about Legends of Learning in the classroom. See how the games, which include teacher and student ratings, are supporting a strong, interactive learning ecosystem.
Weather Prediction Lesson Plan
The ongoing Harvey recovery along the Gulf Coast and the equally scary Hurricane Irma bearing down on the Caribbean are likely generating conversations in your science classes. That’s why we’ve decided to share our lesson plan for the Weather Prediction learning objective. The accompanying learning objective has eight games in total, so check them out.
The students will take notes in their science journal on the different types of air masses and fronts described in the two videos.
The teacher will ask the following questions to prompt discussion from the class:
a) Do you ever watch the weather report on the news?
b) What kind of information does the reporter show?
c) What is the weather today? Tell me your guess for the temperature and the likelihood of rain.
Explore: 10 minutes
Students will sign in to Legends of Learning and enter the teacher code.
Teacher will launch Playlist 1.
Students will complete Forecaster as the teacher assists students as needed.
Stopping game play to address the questions asked in the game may be needed.
Explain: 20 minutes
1) Student will be given the Weather Map Practice handout. Teacher should also display the map on a projector/Smartboard so that the students are able to see the colors on the map.
2) Student will answer the following questions:a) What kind of weather conditions do you think are associated with the blue line with triangles on it?
Cold Frontb) Based on your observations, which states and regions may be having severe weather on this day? Give your reasons why.
Oklahoma, Arizona, California; all of those states contain an ‘L”’(which designates a low pressure system) which typically is accompanied by stormy weather. BONUS: Newfoundland (not a state; however it contains an ‘L’)c) What kind of weather would you expect where the warm and cold fronts meet in western Canada? Why? Clear to partly cloudy. Where warm and cold fronts meet is called a stationary front, and weather along a stationary front is typically calm.
3) Teacher will discuss the answers to the handout with the students.
3) The students will describe the national weather on that day by analyzing the “Today’s Forecast” tab. They will do the same for the next two days by clicking on the tabs “Tomorrow’s Forecast” and “Day 3 Forecast”, respectively.
a) Students will write their weather forecast for each in their science journal.
4) Students will then try to forecast what the weather will be on Day 4.
a) Students will write their weather prediction in their science journal.
5) Using the “Today’s Forecast” Map, students will make a hypothesis what the weather will be like in their home town/city for the next three days.
a) Students will write their predictions in their science journal.
6) Teacher will discuss student predictions as a whole class.
7) Teach will display the The NOAA National Weather Service Just for Kids page and will check the accuracy of their forecasts by entering their city name or zip code in the “Customize your Weather.gov” section on the top left of the screen.
8) If time allows, students may proceed to the Weather Information Display icon and make their own weather maps by customizing the parameters displayed.
Evaluate: 20 minutes
1) Launch Playlist 2 for students.
2) Students will play Sunshine City and be assessed on their ability to answer the questions provided in the game correctly.
3) Teacher will analyze student results to determine what concepts need to be a focus for reteaching.
Study: Students Win When Teachers Deploy Learning Games
Earlier this morning, Legends of Learning issued a press release about the Vanderbilt University study “Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula.” The following is a version of this research.
In the largest study of its kind, researchers found students boosted their test scores by the equivalent of over half a letter grade in three weeks when their teachers used digital games in the classroom. The new research, published by Journal of the Learning Sciences, demonstrates the benefits of game-based learning for students when compared to students who had no access to such games.
The research found students in the classes with the games outperformed their peers on essay and multiple choice questions. It also found:
Engagement increased. Teachers reported dramatic increases in engagement among students who learned with the games.
Teachers enthused. Ninety-two percent of teachers who used the education games said they would like to use similar games again because of the impact on student performance and engagement.
Researcher and co-author Douglas Clark, professor, Vanderbilt University’s College of Education and Human Development, says, “The results highlight the potential of digital games for enhancing instruction, particularly in light of the teachers strongly positive experiences and interest in continuing to use games like these in the future. This study is important because it is based on data collected with a large set of games used by teachers in extended curricula across multiple school districts.”
Two of his co-authors, Dr. Vadim Polikov, a research scientist, and Aryah Fradkin, a former teacher, tapped into the results to launch Legends of Learning. The online platform is now home to thousands of curriculum-based education games and assessment items for middle school earth and space science, life sciences and physical science curricula. Teachers across the U.S. are using the same kind of standards-aligned games validated by the study to raise engagement and test scores. The games are available via the Legends of Learning site.
Some highlights from the Legends of Learning platform include:
Short games (5–25 minutes) that align to middle school science curriculum standards to ensure content engages and helps students succeed in their studies
An intuitive platform similar to Netflix and Amazon that makes games easy and natural to use in classrooms
A dashboard that allows teachers to observe student comprehension in real time, create game playlists for classes and individual students, and assess content mastery
A feedback loop that rewards game developers based on ratings given to their games by teachers and students, which allows the best games to rise to the top
The study was published in The Journal of the Learning Sciences (JLS), one of the top peer-reviewed academic journals for research on education and learning. JLS is ranked in the top 3 percent (5th out of 230) of all scholarly educational research journals as rated by Thomson Reuters, Journal Citation Reports®.
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
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!
Creating a Blended Learning Culture in Your School
Excerpted from Eight Steps to Successfully Implement Blended Learning in Your Classroom. Download it today.
Having technology in your classroom can be a fantastic thing. It has the potential to expose your students to a world of information, hand’s on projects and game based learning, like our middle school science games. In order to maximize your classroom experience with blended learning it is critical to have a school culture that supports technology integration.
Making the shift from traditional learning to blended learning is daunting and impacts every stakeholder in a school community, including leaders, teachers, IT staff, students, and parents. As a result, the journey from old to new, from traditional to blended, must be a shared journey—one in which all stakeholders are engaged and all voices are heard.
For a blended learning initiative to be successful long-term, decisions cannot be top down or device driven. Instead leaders must carefully consider why they want to make a shift to blended learning and how that shift will benefit members of the school community.
To get administrators and parents on board, use these two approaches.
Administrators may hesitate to invest in blended learning because of cost or lackluster results. Overcome their concerns with detailed research and data that show blended learning’s past successes and your plans to implement the teaching model in the classroom.
Administrators also want hard numbers about projected academic performance. They prefer financial documents, implementation plans, and blended learning examples. The more data and documentation you can provide, the more likely your blended learning proposal will receive approval.
Parents care about academic performance on a more personal level—everyone wants their child to succeed. They want to know how their child is performing academically, and what you’re teaching in the classroom. They also desire to learn how to help their child improve test scores and study habits.
To reach parents, talk through how blended learning will motivate their student to learn and excel, they will back the initiative. Your conversation could prompt them to become advocates on your behalf and secure support from administrators, other teachers, and peer parents.
Establishing a Blended Learning Culture in the Classroom
Blended learning can sustain a bad culture or help create a new one. Culture is especially useful — or toxic — in blended programs because blended learning goes hand in hand with giving students more control and flexibility. If students lack the processes and cultural norms to handle that agency, the shift toward a personalized environment can backfire.
As such, your blended learning culture sets the tone for classroom instruction and assignments. It fosters the right attitudes in students, inside and outside the classroom. Culture can affect parents, too, causing them to encourage, rather than frustrate, their students’ blended learning activities.
To establish culture inside the classroom, begin with clear and honest communication with your students. Set expectations for your blended learning program, whatever it encompasses—classroom projects, edgames, student teams, at-home assignments, et cetera.
Also employ “TRICK,” an acronym suggested by Esther Wojcicki and Lance Izumi, authors of “Moonshots in Education: Launching Blended Learning in the Classroom.” The acronym stands for trust, respect, independence, collaboration, and kindness. When your classroom embodies those five traits, students learn, grow scholastically and personally, and desire to help their fellow students.
Outside the classroom, you should also focus on communication, this time with parents. Just because you got their initial buy-in doesn’t mean your work is done. Let parents know how their kids are enjoying and improving thanks to your new blended learning environment.
Remember that some parents may not be familiar with digital technologies and tools, especially if you teach in a rural or underserved area. Share basic information about blended learning with these parents, and offer opportunities for them to experience it in the classroom. Showing parents how blended learning works can better convince them than a letter sent home.
Finally, aim to spread your blended learning culture across the school campus. Your own success with the initiative often sells itself, but you should talk about it, too. Sharing results and personal testimony invites other teachers to participate in blended learning and make a difference in their classrooms.
You can download the whole white paper Eight Steps to Successfully Implement Blended Learning in Your Classroom here on the Legends of Learning site.