Voxer Enables Virtual Collaboration
Voxer is an application I use in my classroom to incorporate verbal collaboration. Voxer is a walkie-talkie type app where teachers can assign students to groups, pose questions, and have students verbally discuss the questions with a virtual audience. When Voxer is being used by students, they are switching between verbal and written communication. Most groups will verbally respond to questions and other students' will type their answers. Voxer is a great application for connecting students virtually with students their own age with limited bandwidth use.
Partner Labs are investigatons that require more than one student in the group. These labs require my students to work together to come up with a solution to a problem or to conduct an experiment. Some of my favorite activities to do with my students are The Virtual Thinking Project (PBL), and the Solar Oven and Cooler design projects. These projects require students to work collaboratively together, often in the lab, to engineer solutions to problems or to perform experiments.
Classcraft is team-based, role-play gamification tool that I use for classroom management. It focuses students to self-manage their learning, stay on task, and positively collaborate with their peers. When students are seen positively collaborating, working hard, or helping another student, they earn "experience points" (XP), which allow them to "level-up" and gain "powers" (ability to buy privileges in class). However, if they are distracting other students, not following classroom rules, or negatively impacting the learning of themselves or peers they are deducted health points (HP). If they lose all of their HP, they "fail in battle," which means that a random student-generated consequence is then assigned to the student. The fall in battle causes each student on that individual's team to lose HP and face greater risk of also falling in battle. The sequence continues until either all teammates fall to battle or someone on the team has enough HP to survive. Besides HP, students earn 4 action points (AP) every day. Action points allow students to purchase privileges if they have "learned" a power. The AP allow students to ask the Game Master if a question is correct on a quiz, to automatically advance within a level, or to "teleport" to their locker or the bathroom. AP, HP, and XP can all be impacted by the "Daily Event." The Daily Event is a random event that impacts the game in a positive or negative manner. For instance, the event may give the person with the least experience points 200 XP in the game or it may deduct 15 HP from a random player. We never know what will happen, which is what makes the game so interesting to most students. After using the game for nearly two school years, I have seen my students interacting more positively with one another and accomplishing more in class. It has been an awesome addition to our classroom culture and very easy to implement!
Grade Contracts are a strategy I use to assess my students' progress towards mastery of defined sets of content and skill objectives and to provide feedback on their development at the end of each level in my blended learning class. Students review the mastery requirements for each level and decide whether they will pursue an "A," "B," "C," or "D" contract; in so doing, they understand and commit to what they must know and be able to do in order to earn the letter grade of the contracts they have chosen. Grade Contracts eliminate the superficiality of number grades on individual assignments and focus my students' attention on authentic demonstrations of mastery over time. This strategy also empowers my students to challenge themselves and to monitor and take responsibility for their own learning, which is an essential mindset shift in my largely self-paced class.