Monday, November 30, 2009

Getting Girls Engaged in Digital-Game Design

Do middle school students spend too much time playing digital games?  If so, is there any value in what they are doing within those games?  There is a push to have all students, especially girls, to be more interested in STEM fields of study (science, technoloyg, engineering and math).  During the middle school years it's important to expose students to STEM careers as these students begin thinking about future careers and the classes they will need to take in high school. 

Girls and boys approach computers from different perspectives - boys enjoy being competitive and girls typically enjoy interacting with the characters and the environment of the game.  To meet this need "requires a much more sophisticated technology that has only been possible in recent years to create those kinds of games", according to Cornelia Brunner, the deputy director of the Center for Children and Technology at the Newton, Mass.-based Education Development Center.

Karen Peterson, the executive director of the Lynwood, Wash.-based Puget Sound Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology, states, “The gaming industry understands that they need to attract girls and women. Games and the virtual world can be a really great hook for getting girls excited about STEM careers.”

How can teachers differentiate their instruction to better meet the diverse interests of boys and girls?

  1. Collaborative groups encourage girls to be leaders during instructional time.
  2. Provide a more face-to-face nurturing environment rather than a shoulder-to-shoulder environment found in a coed or boys' room.
  3. Consider comfortable seating - bean bag chairs or sofas.
  4. Challenge girls as much as the boys.
  5. Include the context surrounding the curriculum - who, what, why, when, where.
  6. Tie the lesson to real world situations.
  7. Encourage girls to ask questions in class.
  8. Provide opportunities for role-playing within the curriclum.
  9. Create a learning environment of openness and and understanding to encourage girls to take risks and be more willing to answer questions.
Strategies for Boys from
  1. Move around the room - front to back and side to side.
  2. Teach with a strong, loud, tone of voice.
  3. Frequently interrupt the lesson to directly ask questions of students.
  4. Provide clear instructions.
  5. Find non-fiction literature with strong main characters.
  6. Provide opportunitites to move and be flexible within the classroom.
  7. Use games or models to engage them in a serious conference.
  8. Use team competitions in academics.
  9. Remember that feeling-based questions are uncomfortable for boys.
To read the entire article please go to Digital Directions and read Getting Girls Engaged in Digital-Game Design.

To learn more about companies and schools who are making games for girls check out:
Universe Quest from the Hands On University Project

Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab

Her Interactive

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

ED: Blended Learning Helps Boost Achievement

How is online instruction transforming education today? There are online learning programs that provide credit recovery, enrichment opportunities and core curriculum classes for students. Online learning also provides an alternative for students who do not like the traditional school environment.

A study conducted by SRI International found that online learning at the post-secondary level was more effective than face-to-face classes. Researchers also found that “blended learning needs to be more effective than conventional face-to-face instruction to justify the additional time and costs it entails.” The researchers also found that when students were given control of their interaction with the online environment and when students were prompted to reflect on what they learned, this did enhance the online learning outcomes.

Susan Patrick, president and CEO of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning states, “the advantage of online or blended learning over face-to-face instruction alone ‘is the combination of rich student-teacher-peer communication and interactions that are both asynchronous and synchronous, better utilizing the precious resource of time during, and outside, the school day to maximize learning--and personalize it in a way never before possible.’”

Why does this blended model work best? The blended model possesses the factors that exemplify good teaching because of the, “increased interactions between students and teachers, increased depth of rigor and exploration into content, customized learning to meet the students exactly where they are in learning the lessons, better use of data to inform instruction, and providing additional student support to help personalize instruction by the teacher” according to Patrick.

To learn more about blended learning visit the International Association for K-12 Online Learning at

To read the entire ED: Blended Learning Helps Boost Achievement article please go to:

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

E-Learning’s Gender Factor

We all know it’s important to differentiate instruction to better meet the needs of all students but how can this be done in an online environment Do we need to consider how to differentiate online learning environments for gender?

This month in Digital Directions Michelle R. Davis looks at how to differentiate instruction and increase relevance to gain kids’ interest and desire to learn. One research study in 2005 concluded that when given a choice girls chose to work collaboratively and were interested in partnerships on computers while boys wanted to work individually and wanted to compete. Girls in middle grades used the computer more for socialization and working on homework while boys played games and looked for entertainment.

Kelly King, the co-author of Strategies for Teaching Boys and Girls: Elementary Level states that online courses for boys should include games, simulations, videos, be competitive with information presented in small chunks spread throughout the lesson. An online course for girls would include more information at the start of the lesson and collaboration would be stressed.

But not all boys are competitive and not all girls want to collaborate with other girls. So how can online courses meet the needs of all students? The key is customizing and differentiating instruction. Students today want to customize their music and TV viewing so students should be given a variety of ways to experience online classes and a variety of subject matters to learn, making sure all students are exposed to common core knowledge, according to Tom Carroll.

So as we look for ways to provide more digital content within the curriculum let’s look for ways to customize the digital content to make the learning environment successful for all students.

To read the entire article please go to Digital Directions: