Reflection on Observation

I am completing my observation hours in an 11th grade American Government class.  In my observations at Cleveland Heights High School, students have plenty of interaction with technology, but very little structured interaction with each other.  In the time that I spent in my classroom, the students did not have any chance to collaborate.  Of course the students still talk and interact with each other informally, but they do not have structured time together.  They messed with each other, talked about events that were relevant to their lives, and generally chatted as they did their work.  Not all of this interaction was harmless, though.  In a couple of instances, I witnessed students cheating by talking during a quiz or letting another student copy their work.

Students in the classroom that I observed used technology on a regular basis.  In Cleveland Heights, each classroom has a cart of laptops for students to use while they are in that classroom.  The teacher takes full advantage of these laptops, as much of their class time is spent on them.  Students take quizzes on a site called Socrative.  Socrative allows the teacher to get immediate results on each individual students, as well as whole class results.  This allows him to see how the class did, and what questions the students as a class struggled with.  This tool helps him to see where students need more help or if he needs to reteach a section.  As a review, the students also competed by playing a game of Kahoot!.  This game is a fun way for students to go over important content, and it allows students to compete against each other to earn points and come in first place.  This game is fairly successful at engaging students in the content, but its one downfall might be the fact that it values speed and quick answers rather than true understanding.  I also found it interesting that students had access to not only a physical textbook, but also an online textbook and some tools that came along with it.  For example, students completed a “matrix” about the Bill of Rights in which they were asked to answer questions to complete each section of a table.  One issue that pops up frequently when students use technology is cheating, and it reared its ugly head as the students completed their “matrix.”  One student was able to go onto Google and find a rubric to the assignment and simply copy the answers.  In this situation, the teacher caught her and she was forced to redo the assignment.  The teacher informed me, though, that this was not the first time a student had been able to find answers online and exploit them.  Although technology was very much involved in this classroom, most, if not all of it, was still based upon the written word.  There were not many instances of different types of media being utilized.

As far as their own outside technology use, virtually all of the students are active in some way on social media.  Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok especially.  These apps all use aspects of multimedia entertainment.  These networks allow students to gain skills working with pictures, videos, and other types of media.

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Video Game Exploration Attempt #2: The Oregon Trail

Due to the many shortcomings of the “Community in Crisis” game that I originally played, I decided to explore a different game.  The game that I chose was a staple of early education and classroom computer use for myself and millions of other students across the country: The Oregon Trail.  This game allows the player to take part in the Westward expansion of the United States as they take themselves and their caravan on a 2,000 mile journey west.  The player has three choices to start the game: play as a banker, a carpenter, or a farmer.  The game is easiest as a banker because they begin the game with the most money, the farmer being the most difficult and starting with the least amount.oregon trail 1

This is a cool feature because it shows the actual advantages and disadvantages of socioeconomic status in this journey.  In addition, it gives students options that are easier and more difficult.  This fits with Gee’s cycles of expertise, which means that players work to master a certain skill or knowledge area through trial and error.  Then, they are presented with more difficult tasks.  To start the game, the player goes to the store to stock up on supplies for their journey.  Though the player does not know this, these are the best prices they will see throughout the game.  As you go through the journey, there are large distances covered without encountering another place to shop for supplies.  Also, the cost of the supplies increases significantly the further along you travel, making pre-planning essential to a successful trip.  oregon trail 2

One thing that makes this game exciting is the fact that it is unpredictable and there is no rewind button.  Sometimes, the player can be doing everything right, but things can still go wrong.  For example, when I played as the banker, two of my passengers died of diseases, despite them being better clothed and fed than my passengers when I played as a carpenter, who survived.  This aspect might be frustrating to gamers, but it highlights an important aspect of the Oregon Trail in real life, that it was dangerous no matter who you were or how much money you had.oregon trail 4

This game, though, is not perfect.  While it does shed light on some of the aspects of the Oregon Trail, it does not quite capture the hardships that were involved.  The people who chose to brave the trip west faced constant struggles for survival.  Also, the game does not recognize the role of Native Americans and slaves along the trail.

Overall, I think that this game is a great tool for students to learn about westward expansion in America.  It is engaging to play, and it offers a look into how perilous and difficult the journey was.  It gives the player plenty of opportunity to make their own decisions and learn through interaction.  This game is also fun to play multiple times, as you can play it time and time again with different outcomes every time.  This game has limitations, as do pretty much all games, but I think it is a useful classroom tool.

My Experience With “Community in Crisis”: Gaming Post 1

For this assignment, I wanted to find an interesting game that related to social studies in some fashion.  In order to find this game, I used one on the sources recommended by the Mindshift Guide.  This source, which the Mindshift Guide called Graphite(it is now called Common Sense), uses teacher feedback to create a list of academic games and other digital tools for the classroom.  Using this website, I found a game that was supposed to be related to government and civics called, “Community in Crisis.”

“Community in Crisis” is a simulation-type game in which the player takes on the role of a Community Center Director.  In the game, your Community Center has been robbed.  One thing that I noticed right away was that there was no tutorial or real instructions for the game.  It was not clear what your objective was or how to navigate the game.  Luckily, I have some experience with similar games, and I knew that if you scrolled over the objects on the screen, you would be able to click on some of them.  For example, the player can click on the computer and see if the director has any messages.  They can also click on employees to initiate a dialogue with them.  Within the dialogue, the player sometimes has multiple options for responses, but most times, there is only one option, as shown in the picture below.  I found that this made the game slightly less interesting because there was less opportunity for students to make their own choices.game screenshot 1

As you enter different rooms, you interact with different people and information to learn about the circumstances of the robbery and the possible security measures that you can begin to enforce.

Another aspect of the game was helping one of your employees craft a presentation about volunteering.  This game is designed to do two things: show the importance and value of volunteering and help students with ELA skills.  In this portion of the game, you fill in sections of the presentation by selecting the best of several options.  You are then asked to write a short letter that uses specific evidence.  This portion does a good job of offering practice of important ELA skills.  game screenshot 2

By exploring and talking to the different employees, the player progresses and completes several tasks.  Finally, after gathering all the pertinent information, the player must make a decision based on the information gathered throughout the game.  The response that the game wants you to have is to have one of your employees run a sign-in sheet for all the guests of the Community Center.

game screenshot 3

I was not the biggest fan of this game.  In my opinion, it did not offer enough opportunities for the player to make decisions.  It guides the player down a specific and, frankly, uninteresting path.  Another issue I had was that it was supposed to be a civics-focused game, but it had very little to do with civics.  It did discuss issues of privacy(one option was to put in security cameras) and vaguely police brutality(another option was to hire a security guard, but your employee said that would make people uncomfortable), as well as touching on volunteering.  Overall, though, it was not very informative or fun to play.

My question is this: Can simulations be fun to play, or are they just a different way of incorporating information?  Base your answer on your experience with simulation-type games.

Intro to Me

My name is Jacob Fritsch and I am from Pittsburgh, PA.  I am very involved in Campus Ministry at JCU.  I am also a student liaison for CSSA and a tour guide.  Additionally, I am the president of JCU’s Respect for Life Club and a member of the track and field team.

For me to feel comfortable taking risks in the classroom, there must be an environment that can tolerate differing opinions.  Students should be able to express their opinions and debate without hostility or judgment.

One article that I have found influential in my view of education is “Writing and Argumentation in History Education” (Nokes, De La Paz 2018).  This article discusses the importance of argumentation in education.  Argumentation increases a student’s ability to USE the information they learn.  It helps them analyze and develop critical thinking skills.  One of the most important things about learning, to me, is learning for a purpose.  Argumentation makes the information that students learn relevant.

Are we going to learn about the technology we could use or the way to integrate technology into the classroom?

Power and Control in American Education

No Child Left Behind is a heavily debated piece of legislation.  Instituted to “balance federal and state power,” and to create standards for school performance levels, this legislation had unintended negative effects on the school system(Spring 253).    These unintended consequences include an entrenchment of the poverty cycle and increased pressure on everyone in the school system.  Because of this, No Child Left Behind’s ultimate impact is negative.

No Child Left Behind gives much more power to both the state and federal government.  In order to receive federal aid, states much have a certain amount of involvement in local schools.  This takes power away from local school boards and administrations.  There are many more requirements that effect how the school is run on a day-to-day basis.  This leads to the standardized state tests that are now a normal part of the American education experience.  For me, growing up in Pennsylvania, this meant taking the PSSAs every year up until high school.  Every year teachers would prepare us specifically for these tests, giving us practice tests and worksheets to make sure we were ready.  This leads me to my next point, the increased pressure on school systems created by standardized testing.

Standardized testing-based aid puts pressure on three groups: administrators, teachers, and students.  Administrators are well aware of the fact that the results of these tests determine how much funding they will receive, directly impacting their ability to run the school as they would like.  They pass this pressure onto their teachers.  Teachers are told to produce good results or lose their job.  Finally, students feel this pressure, too.  They are pressured by their teachers to do well.  Also, they must pass these tests if they wish to move up a grade or graduate on time(depending on the test).

When schools fail to perform on these tests, they lose crucial funding.  Urban schools and those with high student poverty rates tend to do worse on these tests.  Then, with less funding things only get worse.  The less funding they get, the worse they do on tests, and the less funding they receive for the next year.  It is a vicious process that reinforces the poverty cycle.

For these reasons, the No Child Left Behind legislation does more harm than it does good.