Sunday, October 21, 2012

Word Games and Education

The name of Trivial Pursuit says it all. It's not educationally significant.  But, can we use games for significant educational purposes. The answer is YES. Yes we can!

Lets look at word games as an area.They can be used to build phonemic awareness, phonics sckills, word study skills, and a lot more!

Game that teach Phonemic Awareness:  Hink Pink,  For those of you who don’t know what a Hig Pig is, it’s a word game that asks you to solve a riddle. The answers are two rhyming one-syllable words.
There’s no order or score keeping and it’s easy to play:
Simply announce your hig pig clues to the other players as quickly as you can make them up. When someone guesses an answer, they shout it out. For example: “What is a hig pig for an overweight feline? Answer: a fat cat.”  There are also higgy piggies where the answers are two words, each with two syllables. For example: “What do you call a crab-like creature involved in organized crime? A mobster lobster!” (My daughter made that one up!)  
Phonics Games - Her'es a good list!  Phonics can help a person recognize more words, improve spelling, increase reading speed and comprehension, improve writing skills, help with pronunciation, and improve vocabulary. While a learner may still have to memorize the pronunciation and spelling of some words, he or she will be able to sound out many more on his/her own.   Flash games are a great way for one to get started learning phonics!
Word Unscramble is a popular word game that is a variation on other word games such as text twists, jumbles and anagrams. Word Unscramble game. Since Word Unscramble is one of VocabularySpellingCity's free online games, you may also play Word Unscramble with your own word lists or use any of the thousands of existing lists on our site.
VocabularySpellingCity also has a game called Sentence Unscramble where players unscramble words to form sentences. Becoming a good word unscrambler really helps improve one's skills at other word games like Jumble™, Boggle™, Scrabble™, and Words with Friends™, as well as word search puzzles.

Review more on Vocabulary Games List.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

High School - Can it be done at home?

It turns out that even high school can be homeschooled. How? Intrigued? There's a whole online community of students and parents talking about how to homeschool highschool. And what to do afterwards for college or to prepare for a career.

One of their fun ideas is a weekly 30 second video clip with a homeschool highschool question of the week to discuss.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Hottest Product Category at ISTE 2012!

I'm launching a new theme for this blog: mobile education.  My focus is on the creating and marketing of it.  I was just at the ISTE 2012 conference in San Diego. My observation is that the hot new product on the floor was....(drum roll please).....Ipad covers and protection devices. There must have been a dozen booths selling covers and protectors and what not. One booth had little rubber balls that go on each corner of the IPAD and protects them when they fall.

Here's what amuses me. Actually, it make me cry.  The schools were apparently acquiring these covers in bulk. Some were $5 per Ipad, some were $25.  But, when I talk to them about educational content for their Ipads, they all answered the same way:

This year we are only using free Apps. THIS YEAR WE ARE ONLY USING FREE APPS!  Great, instead of having a team of people slaving over educational content, I should be importing rubber balls with slits in them to put onto the corners of Ipads at $20 per shot.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Teaching Phonics, Phonemic & Elkonin Boxes

Elkonin boxes can be used to teach phonemic awareness.
What are they?

Elkonin boxes are worksheets with have a spot to physically segment  words into phonemes.  
 So, using the word "phonemes" as an example, students would be asked to put it into its five sounds or phonemes by having a horizontal triangle split into five spaces.

f O - n E m
More later on how to deal with digraphs, long and short vowels, syllables, spacing, and methodology.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Three college level courses that I'd like to take


In making kids online education, these materials would be good.  But alas, I might have neither the time nor the background.  Still, here I am bookmarking them!!!

Computer Science
Game Theory

Natural Language Processing

Human-Computer Interaction
Here's my latest game design. I think it could be better, especially the scoring.

VSC WordFind is a fun way to study your spelling and vocabulary words while searching for new words. How many words can you make using the letters in each word on your list? The more words you find and the faster you find them, the higher your score will be! You may even be ranked on the high score table!
WordFind Instructions: The box on the left of this word game tells you how many words you need to find (in addition to your spelling/vocabulary word) in order to advance. To create words, click and drag the letters into the boxes. Once you have created a new word, click the Submit button. To shuffle the letters, click the round button with the arrows. To clear the boxes, click the Clear button. If you need a hint to figure out some words, click the Hint button. Click Hint Type to alternate between definitions and sentences.
Once you have found enough words to advance, you can click on the Next button to move forward and start your word search all over again with the next word. You can also continue finding words until you have found all possible words to boost your score. As an extra challenge, see if you can find any anagrams for your words! Anagrams are words that are formed by using all of the letters in a given word, but in a different order - like "vase" and "save".

To play with colors.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

The Ipad, Flash, and whats good for education

When Steve Jobs, years ago, declared the Iphone would not run Flash, he claimed that it was to protect users from a mediocre user experience. It would run slow and sloppy. We believed him.

However, I just watched my site,, run on an Android phone, the Nook (Android) tablet, the Chrome book, and a set of other tablets.  It plays great. 

My conclusion: Apple refuses to run Flash not for any valid concern over quality of user experience but as a business tactic to force developers and publishers to go through the Apple App store and give Apple 30% and control.

I don't understand why the school systems are agreeing to this.  They should make, as a condition of buying tablets, that they are open systems and run Flash. 

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Kids' Global Citizen Class

At dinner this week, my daughter asked me if the adults were into Kony 2012.  I admitted that I had never heard about Kony 2012. It turns out the effort was introduced to them through their global citizen class at school.

This morning, I saw Kony 2012 on Facebook and so I took half an hour to watch a very powerful video. My initial impetus was just to keep up with youth culture.  But by the end of it, I was thinking about my overall priorities and how I might make some adjustments in my life.  If you haven't watched Kony  yet, you should. I am sixty millionth viewer, more or less.  You should be the next one.

Being a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) who lived in West Africa for over two years, I feel more of a connection than those of you who might never have left the country, I was in Cameroon which is just two countries over to the northwest from Uganda.

I have read and contributed to such causes before. In the last few years, I've backed 
Wendy of Books for Cameroon
Books for Cameroon
Books for Cameroon - From Wendy, the Peace Corps Volunteer who organized the Books for Cameroon Project:
Wendy wrote about her time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Cameroon... I began teaching English at the 4-room primary school by my house. Through my interaction with the children, I realized they can't read, at all. Even at a 5th grade level, many of the kids can't read. And then I realized most of these kids have never even seen a story book in their life. I thought how differently my childhood and life would be if my mom hadn't dropped me off at the library during her errands and busy afternoons.
Most of us take the ability to read for granted. But being here allow me to see the harsh reality that in fact, a lot of people have trouble reading. Even the adults in my business classes. While they can read, they can't read at ease. Hardly anyone in village ever read for leisure. I wanted to change this, and I thought it would be the easiest to begin at the schools. Bring books into the country, and then provide training so people know what a library is and how to utilize it.
I never imagined that I would be building 30 libraries…
Grassroot SoccerGrassroot Soccer: Founded by former professional soccer players in 2002, Grassroot Soccer (GRS) trains African soccer stars, coaches, teachers, and peer educators in the world’s most HIV-affected countries to deliver an interactive HIV prevention and life skills curriculum to youth.

Thinking more broadly, I'm  I'm embarrassed to admit how little I've done in this area in the last decade. I use to be involved lending support and writing letters to help focus attention.  I let my Amnesty International and ACLU memberships lapse many years awhile ago. I wonder if they are still the best civil rights advocates in the world. 

 I have  done some reading on these topics in the last few years and I think after having finished those books, I made a point of passing them on and contributing to their recommended charities. I'd recommend two books:

Sold. By Patricia McCormick. This novel documents how a girl ends up as a sex slave in Calcutta. She, like the boy soldier slave in A Long Way Gone, is rescued by American aid worker.

A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. By Ishmael Beah. This book, heavily promoted by Starbucks, tells the story of child in Rwanda who when the civil war hits, becomes a refugee and then, is forced to be a soldier. Given drugs, he fights and kills for years before being rescued by the UN and ending up in the US. Not a pretty story but very real. BTW, this kid was rescued by UNICEF. And while the UN has many many many problems, the grassroots projects that they support in many of the most needy places on earth make our world, in my view, a more humane place.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Facebook for Teachers & Students

Fort Lauderdale, FL. March 6, 2012 - VocabularySpellingCity is proud to announce support for Edmodo’s social collaboration platform and app store.
“Edmodo and VocabularySpellingCity share a belief that teachers should learn from each other and work with their students using modern technology and methods. Edmodo is the most popular implementation of social media technology focused on K12 education,” said John Edelson, the Founder and Mayor of VocabularySpellingCity.

“Edmodo is thrilled to welcome VocabSpellingCity as a featured partner in the Edmodo Store,” said Nic Borg, CEO and co-founder ofEdmodo. “As an established publisher in the education community we believe their innovative applications will be a great addition to theEdmodo platform and classrooms across the globe.”VocabularySpellingCity's mission is to facilitate vocabulary development, phonics, and writing skills through a word study tool that allows for differentiated instruction while working with vocabulary and spelling word lists. The site has been particularly useful in engaging struggling students, facilitating English language vocabulary skills with ESL students, building a school-home link, and simplifying teachers' and parents' administrative work.

The most popular learning activities are unscramblewordsearchhangman,and  crossword puzzle.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Back to the Future

I'm fresh back from a cyberlearning science conference in which games was one of the hot buzzwords. Games for education! Wouldn't it be great if we could harness the energy that goes into playing games for purposes of work and education? What's amazing to me is that people address this question as if it were new uncharted territory.

People have been playing for a long time. Playing hard. My parents warned me when I went off to college about how many of their friends at college got hooked on Bridge to the point where they practically flunked out of college.  In my case, there was soccer and then some stupid hallway version of soccer with a fluffy ball that we played a lot. I mean a lot. We dreamed up incredibly clever rules and strategies and we worked out butts off.

Today, researchers are documenting that games are intellectual, that they light up and stimulate the brain, and that after the excitement and camaraderie of competitive games, people have trouble coming back to the hum drum of daily life.  My point is that this is not new, it is an age-old phenomenon that the pure social and intellectual and adrenlin thrill of games is hard-to-match.  Of course, with computers, these games can more indepth, are available 24/7, and they freak out a lot of people....more later.....

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Girl Scout Cookies - Another Teachable Moment

I was walking through the mall this morning with my son and there were girl scouts selling Girl Scout Cookies. We went up to the booth and asked and learned the following (these are mostly the answers of a mom and daughter in a mall, they are not necessarily proper spokepeople or even right and regional differences are probable):

Q - Are they made with real girl scouts?  A - Huh?
Q - Why do you sell cookies? A - To raise funds.
Q - For what?   A - For a trip to Georgia.
Q - How much money do you make on each box (they sell for $4).  A - $0.71
Q - Do you feel that the annual stuffing of cookies into everyone's hands greatly contributes to the problem of obesity?  A - Huh? Probably not, we only sell them for three weeks.  And mostly they're all eaten in a month.
Q - Whats the quota per girl scout?  A - 200 boxes
Q - Who else makes money on the cookies? Who sells them to you? - A ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers. 
Q - What cute sounding companies. Are they really independents or just clever brand names for people like P&G, General Mills, or Nabisco? . A - Don't know.  (I looked it up and their website appears to be one of a little company but they don't say one way or another if they are independent or not).
Q - How much?  A - $4.00 a box (we took two)
Q - How many boxes of cookies get sold every year? A. Don't know. Our troop sells 2,000 boxes.
Q - Well how many igrl scout troops are there? Don't know.

I googled the question and wikipedia cites an estimate of 200 million boxes per year.  At retail, this would be $800 million.  I also saw this on the authoritative site: The $700 million Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led business in the country....

It was fun learning about the economics of the