Is It the Device or the Media?

What’s wrong with children using electronic devices? Is it the amount of time they spend on a device or the media the choose to consume during that time?

Most coverage of electronic media use among children is damning. Citing a wide variety of negative studies, many articles are quick to point out how hard it is for students to learn and function when they are spending as much as 9 hours per day on electronic entertainment.

A great article from EdSurge disputes the notion that the amount of screen time matters. Instead, author Scott Traylor challenges readers to focus on setting limits on certain kinds of screen-based activities.

For example, is learning how to code or building a new app the same as watching Teen Titans? Hardly.

The Digital Reality of Passive and Active Media

In a Marshall Mcluhan-esque analysis of digital media, Traylor breaks down content into two categories: passive and active. McLuhan called such media “cold” and “warm,” respectively (Traylor’s chart depicts the colors opposite McLuhan’s; red for passive and blue for active).

Learning games and activities, collaborative digital projects, video conversations with friends and family, and coding are all productive uses of digital media. Of course, too much social media and movie time can be detrimental.

However, it may no longer be realistic to frame the digital media argument around screen time. Consider that we are operating in an environment where students are increasingly likely to receive Chromebooks rather than textbooks when they go to school.

Screens are becoming omnipresent in life. It’s what we let children do with them that counts. The media choice itself determines whether we create an iPad zombie or a software engineer. Just a thought.

What do you think?

by Geoff Livingston, author of Welcome to the Fifth Estate, and CMO at Legends of Learning

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, 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.

Why We Launched the STEM Visions Contest

Earlier this October, we spent a brainstorming lunch thinking about all the different ways Legends of Learning can improve the way today’s students engage with science in the classroom. But what about beyond the classroom?

We came up with this fun little fall project, the STEM Visions Contest, to get students looking ahead to the future. The goal is to use science games to help engage more students in science related topics at school.

It’s so important to get young students engaged in science. As you know, the United States has a workforce shortage in STEM-related fields. Why? Because many students lack enthusiasm when it comes to studying science.

Teachers like you can help them discover the links between what they learn in science class and what they could dedicate their careers to in the future. It begins with engaging students in science topics.

We want to help teachers spark discussions about where students see themselves going, and how science will factor in to their destination.

The teachers who are most successful will win grants from DonorsChoose for their classrooms. But more on that in a minute.

How does the contest work?

The contest will be open from November 6-17. To participate, teachers will deploy games from one of our 90 middle school science learning objectives as part of the science lessons they’re currently teaching. Here are the current top 10 learning objectives on the page.

After students play the games, teachers will ask them the following questions: If they were to choose a career in science, what would it be? Why?

What impact do you hope to make?

Once students have answered these questions and had a discussion about STEM possibilities, teachers will record their answers and submit the best responses via Facebook. They will also need to tag our page in the posts and submit their post’s URL to a Google form. Once the contest is closed, our team at Legends of Learning will review every submission and choose a total of 10 winners.

Ok, so what makes it a contest?

Prizes, of course! First place will receive a $1000 grant on DonorsChoose and a one-year, full-access license to use our platform. Four runners-up will receive $250 on DonorsChoose and 3000 LoL platform coins. Five distinguished teachers will receive 1000 coins.

Introducing a little fun competition can bring out the best in all of us. We can’t wait to hear what students around the country come up with when they’re asked to envision their future careers!

For full details and rules, visit the contest homepage.

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!

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