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Untitled-1.pngGenCon Adventures, part II


[Part I]

Before I left for GenCon, I asked the community here if they had any questions. I received two. Here is what I learned.


Question One: LMS (asked by julesfischy)


TEXT: I want to know what tools teachers are using to support them and gaming in the classroom. Are digital components compatible with their learning management system (LMS) or are they using a system or tool separate from their LMS?

No one I spoke with had a system of explicit integration. The answers typically fell into one of two camps. In the first camp were the people who talked about how they used tools from their LMS to support gaming. In the far larger second camp were the people who discussed how used games to gather information about their students.

“If you can’t assess the game when you’re done, you shouldn’t play it.” ~Sean Malloy


Ideally, the mechanics of a game will be the skills a teacher wants their students to learn (e.g., a virtual stock market game in a finance class). The next tier down are the games with arbitrary mechanics that require analysis to answer questions. Both of these game types will capture more information than teachers need. Teachers should avoid all games that use an arbitrary mechanic just to answer questions (e.g., jeopardy).


To really leverage games, teachers need also to set learning goals that align the games with their overall classroom goals and standards. Teachers may treat games like projects and grade each stage. Or, teachers may photograph and screenshot student work and write short narratives that document each student’s growth and learning.


Teachers can then log the grades and narratives in their LMS.


Question Two: Science Games (asked by glen_w)


TEXT: This summer, I purchased Eco Fluxx. This interesting card game includes many of the ecological relationships found on Earth. The game changes each time it is played. I’d be interested in similar games that have accurate science and are fun to play.

For this question, the presenters I spoke with provided me with links, game titles, and other resources to share with you. I hope this list is helpful!

ECOnauts (environmental science, online)

Swarm! The Honey Bee Game (bees, board)

Portal and Portal 2 (physics, online/console)

Splendor (probability functions, resource management, board)

EdGamer Science Games (misc, online)

BrainPop! (misc, online)

Project Neuron (misc, online and board)

Explore Learning (simulations, online)

PhET Simulations (simulations, online)

While at GenCon, I also collected ideas from others for board and card games that could work in a classroom. I mentioned Pandemic and Timeline in the original thread, but have listed them here as well to be complete.

Pandemic (cooperative board game in which players work together to stop a pandemic)

Pandemic Contagion (competitive card game in which players play as a disease trying to wipe out humanity)

Timeline (sorting card game; for science check out their animal facts and discoveries sets)



Evolution (board game that models evolution and competition among species for limited food resources)

Robot Turtles (board game that teaches basic coding; ages 4 and up)

Compounded (board game that involves building chemical compounds)

Here is an idea to help manage Chromebooks in the classroom and to give students clear expectations for the use of Chromebooks (or other devices) upon the start of your class.

Here is what you need:

A red, yellow and green circle or square and a clip to hang the color of your choice for the day.  When preparing for the lesson, make a note on how you would like to begin class.

Here is a poster to display showing the expectations for each color:

Click here to get your own copy of this poster. 

This idea came directly from our high school staff and we plan to try this method out to start the new school year.  Giving students clear direction at the start of class will help to alleviate any issues with students being distracted or consumed with their device when beginning class.

If you have an idea of for Chromebook management that you are willing to share, I'd love to hear about it.

This Chat with Deb demonstrates three Chrome Apps to use for the Beginning of the School Year.

My World - Student Interest Inventory

Connected Mind - Mind Mapping Tool

Pic Monkey - Photo Editing Tool


For additional ideas check out this slide show:



Do you have a favorite app for the beginning of the school year?  I'd love to hear about it.


Thank you to Intel's Teachers Engage for sponsoring this post.

Untitled-1.pngGames, Learning, and GenCon


Earlier this year, I attended a workshop devoted to incorporating games into the classroom. The presenter, a very enthusiastic gentleman, spent the entire time discussing various online tools and showed some examples of how he’d used them. I left the session with a list of websites to check out and little else.


This is, I’ve learned, a typical session. The problem is that this is not what I needed. I know how to look up tools online; Google and I are great friends when it comes to searching. What I need are guidelines, best practices, and ideas.


Then I attended GenCon.


GenCon ( is a four-day analog gaming (e.g., tabletop, board games, and card games) convention held over the first weekend in August each year. The convention is the largest analog gaming convention in North America and had a unique attendance this year of 61,423 people. That is a lot of people descending on Indianapolis, IN for four days each year to network with other gamers, writers, and enthusiasts.


Self-described as “the best four days in gaming,” GenCon actually kicks off with a special fifth day that only educators, librarians, retailers, and members of the press may attend. This “Trade Day” ( offers a full slate of seminars and workshops devoted to education and how retailers can support educators. The day ends with a special demo session during which retailers show off the games they think educators could use, explain the rules, and give the educators an opportunity to try the games out.


Unlike the workshop I attended earlier this year, the three sessions I attended at GenCon emphasized how to select games for your classroom and the best ways to implement them. This post will give a quick breakdown of the three sessions I attended. Then, next week, I will post the responses I received regarding LMS use and science games.

Session One: Finding a Place for Gaming, Modifying Curriculum
Kathleen Mercury (@mmmmmmmercury) and Tina Vo (


I slipped into the first session of my day a couple minutes late. Each seat in the room was filled, so I found a chair along the back wall with several others who had arrived too late to snag a spot at a table. Mercury and Vo were passionate and moved quickly through a presentation that focused on designing educational games that are fun and engaging, without sacrificing learning. Vo is a Ph.D student at the University of Nebraska and brought experience working with Project Neuron (, a group that designs curricular materials for middle and high school science. Mercury is a classroom teacher who, in addition to her regular classes, teaches a course on game design.


This session emphasized the importance of making games meaningful and provided both a rubric for teachers to use when considering a game and guidelines for making a game more meaningful for students and the classroom. I highly recommend checking out their slide presentation and resources here:


According to Mercury and Vo, a meaningful game is

  • Epistemically-based
    • Students must think logically, have foresight, and/or design
  • Content-based
    • The game helps reach a learning objective.
    • The game adds a different point-of-view or new insight.


That said, just because a game is meaningful doesn’t mean teachers can’t misuse it by using the game as a time-filler or by not integrating the game with the curriculum. They advised that teachers discuss each game and its purpose with students.


  • Before playing the game, teachers should explain how the game models or simulates reality and how it fits into the curriculum. The explanation should explicitly align each element of the game with the real world or classroom.
  • After playing the game, teachers should discuss with students how well the game modeled reality, what was or wasn’t accurate, and ways to adapt the game and make it more accurate or fitting for the classroom.


Mercury recommended getting feedback from students using WINQ questions.


WINQ Feedback Questions

  1. What worked?
  2. What needs to be improved?
  3. What new ideas do you have?
  4. What questions do you have?


Again, go check out Mercury’s website. She has a lot more resources and ideas up there to share, including the rubric I mentioned before:

Session Two: Roleplaying in the Classroom
Sean Malloy (


Sean Malloy is a math and music teacher at the Stuart County Day School of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls school. He also runs their Model UN team. When the session started, Malloy asked everyone to think of their favorite historical figure. Then he had us turn to the person beside us and hold a short conversation in character. In the discussion that followed, Malloy highlighted the need for parameters: a clear set of rules and a goal/objective.


Then he asked us to think of our favorite author, turn back to our partner(s) and hold a quick book discussion—in character—of Romeo and Juliet. This activity ran more smoothly, but in the discussion that followed the audience suggested additional parameters, such as limiting the authors to those no longer living, giving prep time, and narrowing the discussion to a particular area of or question about the play. The rules made the game and increased engagement.


Malloy suggested looking to the rules for Fiasco and Once Upon a Time for inspiration for quicker games and to the Model U.N. for longer, more intensive games. That emphasis on parameters, however, was secondary to the main idea: the power of roleplay in the classroom. Malloy argued that when teachers engage students in roleplay, they improve engagement and deeper thinking.

“Give someone an alternate personality and they’re in it with you for the duration.”

According to Malloy, roleplay increases engagement because it gives students a safe platform for discussion and gives them the opportunity to be creative.


When students take on another persona, they can express ideas without worrying that their classmates will think those ideas are their own. The students are safe behind the masks of their characters. When students feel safe from negative reactions, they are more likely to contribute to a discussion.


Roleplay also gives students a character to build and explore. Even when the character in question in a real person, the student decides which parts of the person’s life to research and how to embody the person and express his or her point-of-view. If students make up their own characters, perhaps creating fictional people who belong to a nonfictional organization or occupation, they have free reign figuring out who their character is. Then, they also have the additional analysis step when roleplaying of deciding how those various factors affect their actions. For example, someone with a family might approach a situation differently than someone who did not.


One of the most important things, Malloy said, is to make sure every character has a name. For example, a student isn’t a nameless anatomy student in the 1800s debating the ethics of the resurrectionists; he is Matthew Barker, son of a surgeon who wants to outshine his father’s accomplishments.

“Every time we take an action in a classroom, we’re hoping the students, in reaction, will do what we want.”

Malloy asserted that roleplay has the power to engage students and encourage them to deeper levels of research and understanding. Roleplay, he argued, requires and encourages focus, problem-solving, risk-taking, abstracting, listening, planning, and empathy.


When we discussed Romeo and Juliet in our groups, we could not simply say what we thought of the play. Instead, we had to think—what would my author say about Romeo and Juliet? What would they even notice? We must consider that other point-of-view and use it as a lens to examine the text.


For the exercise I chose an author I’d loved as a kid and still enjoy: Sherwood Smith. I remembered an essay she’d written about settings and decided that she would pay attention to how the play creates a sense of place. Then I had to think through Romeo and Juliet for things she would have noticed and liked related to that. After that, I had to share this point-of-view with my group members and react to what they pointed out, still using my Sherwood Smith persona. That’s a lot of quick analysis for a five minute exercise.


Malloy pointed out that a teacher could assign roles to students, allowing the teacher to effectively pre-select the opinions in the room and shape the debate. He recommended giving students time to research or create their characters and shared a story of one of his students. The student was neither poor nor exceptional, but became very passionate about the character she received for a semester—a Hawaiian congressman. By the end of the semester, she was an expert on this man. She kept track of his voting record and even had a photo of him in her locker. Creating a character, writing as him in her essays, and portraying him in class debates excited this student in ways other class activities had not.

Where to use roleplay

While roleplay is an easy fit within literature and history courses, Malloy asserted that math and science worked just as easily. He suggested having students portray famous mathematicians and discuss the best way to solve a problem. A student portraying Pythagoras (or a group of students portraying his followers) might have to think through some interesting problem-solving. Or ask the students to portray scientists and ask them to evaluate innovations or form think tanks to create proposals competing for government contracts.

Session Three: Playful Learning, part 2: What Games are the Best Tools for your Classroom?
Zack Gilbert (@EdGamer)


Zach Gilbert is a sixth grade social studies teacher and the host of the EdGamer podcast ( In these podcasts Gilbert discusses using games in learning and engages with experts on relevant topics. This session did provide some organizing principles and rules, but focused more heavily on adapting specific games. I did not attend part 1 during which Gilbert discussed the research behind gamification, its use in various fields, and the justification for using games to facilitate and support learning. The slide decks for both presentations are on Gilbert’s site (


The two key points Gilbert emphasized before sharing three good games for the classroom were the 7 principles and his three rules.

The 7 Essential Principles of Innovative Learning

  1. Learners at the center.
  2. The social nature of learning.
  3. Emotions are integral to learning.
  4. Recognize individual differences.
  5. Stretching all students.
  6. Assessment for learning.
  7. Building horizontal connections.


Gilbert’s three rules for selecting games for use in your classroom are the following:

  1. Use games you enjoy.
  2. Play and know the game before you play it with your students.
  3. Have students help (e.g., making suggestions for games or blending games and learning, reviewing games, giving a game demo for classmates).


I recommend looking through his slide deck for how he has incorporated Civilization, Timeline, and Kahoot into his classroom. In addition to his website (, Gilbert shared his Symbaloo ( as resources.

In Conclusion…

So, those are my session notes. Next week I’ll post the answers I received regarding the questions you asked.


In the meantime, however, what are some ways you’ve used games in your classrooms?


Do you think you’ll incorporate any of these ideas into your practice? If so, how so?

Check out Part II of my GenCon Adventures Here!


STEM Snacks: EcoFluxx

Posted by glen_w Aug 14, 2015

EcoFluxx_Box_3D.jpgThis summer, I was given a new game “EcoFluxx.” What a FUN game to play. I love how it relates to science. EcoFluxx is an interesting cooperative and competitive game. The rule needed to win constantly changes. Unlike other Fluxx games, there are only three “Creeper” cards. General rules prevent winning while holding a “Creeper” card. This is the only Fluxx game I’ve played where it is possible to win with cards you have played in conjunction with cards another player has played. I have mentioned the game to the other science teachers at my school. We are going to try and determine how we might use the game with our science students.


As I considered the “fun” and reality of the game, I wondered about other “fun” educational games.

  • Which games do your students find fun that help teach content in your classroom?
  • What game have you heard about that you would like to use in with students?


Image Source:


Tuesday August 26th @ 6:00 pm CDT. (Please note NEW Time) Special Note: All who attend the webinar and complete the webinar survey will receive an August Webinar Badge.


Webinar Recording


Have you ever wondered what is needed to start your school year off digitally? Do you ponder what teachers and students are doing with devices in their classrooms? Have you ever daydreamed about flipping your classroom? What projects are your students creating? How do you communicate with both parents or students? Do you use Remind with your students? Are you an Edmodo user or a Google Classroom user? What are the pros and cons of each?



As an educator, we often ponder over these questions each year. Well, let’s find some solutions. Do you have a Digital Toolkit to kick-start your school year or to rejuvenate your teaching? What is in your Digital Backpack? What are some helpful Hints and or Solutions and most importantly, what are your Must Have’s for a successful technology infused classroom?


Between August 14 and Sept 28,  partake in our Must Haves and Helpful Solutions Digital Backpack Webinar Followup Blog and earn a Webinar Badge.


ITL_Aug.pngThe Mission Title is  Must Haves Digital Toolkit  Badge

You must complete all the actions related to this Month’s Webinar Follow-up Blog to receive the Webinar Badge.


  • Reply to this thread at least 3 times.
    • Must include an instructional resource (document, video, image, how to document, link to a website etc) in one of the replies
  • Share this thread with 3 people (Note: you must complete three separate shares, not share once with three people; see Comments, Sharing,Likes and Ways to Share Thread)
  • Bookmark this thread

With the start of another school year in the United States right around the counter, teachers plan and multi-task like crazy.  They attend meetings, professional developments and at the same time, somehow manage to put their classrooms back together. Of course, they need more than 24 hours in each day to complete these tasks. They have to dig deep down in their bag of tricks to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished. Sometimes this calls for them to transform themselves into their magical cartoon self.


What Cartoon Character are You?


  • Reveal what cartoon character you identify with the most.
    • Include the reason for your selection
    • How do you connect to your cartoon self?
    • What characteristics do you both possess?
      • Share similarities and differences between the two of you.
  • Post a picture of your Cartoon Self

    • Post the results of the Quiz
      • Debrief- what did the quiz say? 
      • Do you agree or disagree with the results?
      • Post another picture based on your quiz (your character)

bunnyatwork_small.jpgWhen reading an intriguing book, do you often envision transforming yourself into your favorite literary character?  Do you compare yourself to characters in your favorite books? What makes your favorite characters your “favorite characters”?


Help us celebrate International Literacy Day day by revealing what literary character you most identify with. International Literacy Day is celebrated every year on September 8th to raise people's awareness of and concern for literacy issues around the world.


What Literary Character are you?

  • Describe what literature character shares your personality (Post #1)
    • Include the reason for your selection
    • How do you connect to your character?
    • What characteristics do you both possess?
    • How can you use an activity like this with your students?
  • Post a picture of your Literary Character (Include this in Post #1)
  • Take the “What Literary Character Are You?  or What Literary Character Are You? Quiz? (Post #2)
    • Post the results of the Quiz
      • Debrief- what did the quiz say? 
      • Do you agree or disagree with the results?
      • Post another picture based on your quiz (optional)( The synopsis)



  • Reply to at least 4 other people : Click Reply to that Person’s Post- Not Reply to Original Post)
  • Share this thread with 3 other people
  • Bookmark this thread
  • Participate in the What Cartoon Character Are You? Blog


Participate in our Learning Pathways Thread between August 10 and October 30, 2015 and Intel Engage will help you stock your professional toolkit with an $175.000 Amazon shopping spree for items that can be used in an educational or professional setting. We ask that once items are selected, winners return to the discussion thread and share how you plan to use them.


Note: This drawing will only become active when a minimum of 10 participants respond, which means in some cases, the drawing will take place after the above mentioned date. For a complete description and eligibility of Engage community drawings, click on the Intel Bunny Person.


School supplies, meeting a new teacher or colleague, rebooting the morning routine after a relaxed couple of months, these are all part of the annual tradition U.S. students and teachers greet every August. As we think about our ever flattening-earth and the technology that enables it, more and more we can include virtual PD across a district, state, or country, or Skyping with a classroom across the world to start a new relationship that will grow over the coming months to that list. August means a lot of things in a lot of contexts, but in education it often means first and foremost, back to school!


What is your outlook for the coming school year? Are you taking on a new role? In a new job? You may have a new outlook on instruction after your state's first year with the new PARCC or Smarter Balanced assessments.

  • Tell us - what's at the top of your mind this August for back to school?


In Engage, on top of the U.S. back to school festivities, we're celebrating Global Education. We're keen on opening windows to showcase educational contexts across the globe. To that end:

  • What country's education system do you know the most about? What system do  you know the least about?
  • If you're not in the U.S., when is "back to school" for you? What is it like?


As with each month, if you participate in our Roadmap theme-based activities, you can earn a badge. If you complete all the actions related to this month's content during the month of August you'll earn the Community Roadmap Global Back to School badge and 200 community points. To do this, you need to:

  • Read this blog (hint, if you're reading this, you've already completed this step)
  • Comment below with responses to any two of the three bulleted questions in the post above.
  • Bookmark and then leave a comment to participate in our Engage and Win giveaway discussion.

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