All posts in R.E.F

Ouya? Oh Yeah!

Not long ago a Kickstarter emerged for a console called Ouya (rhymes with Boo-yah!). Ouya is essentially a hackable, android based, home console. It’s also very cheap ($99!) compared to most other current gen home consoles, which retail anywhere from $200 to $350 (give or take). Needless to say it was a Kickstarter sensation, raising over eight million dollars. Slightly more than the ClassRealm Kickstarter pulled in…

The best part about Ouya is that just about anyone can design a game or app for it. The potential is staggering. As the ClassRealm team researched Ouya we had a collective thought – Why don’t we try to bring ClassRealm to Ouya? We could put ClassRealm, which is based on video games, on an ACTUAL video game console. We would be silly not to try, right?

Here are some ways that we feel Ouya could help ClassRealm (and vice versa):

1. Desirable Presentation

If you gave an elementary student the option of playing a game on the computer or playing a game on a home console which do you think they’d pick? If you said home console, you win! Home consoles represent the ultimate focus on gaming (and Netflix) for kids. If I had a console in my classroom I’d have to fend students off with a pointy stick to stop them from fooling with it. I’m sure I would be asked every day if they could play it, especially during indoor recess.

2. Data

The Ouya would be a great place for students to see their data displayed. Want to check your current level or how much XP you earned in math class today? Jump on the Ouya. Sure, you could just go online, but the Ouya is on your TV! Now your mom HAS to see what an amazing Frost Wizard you are. Imagine if a student was playing another game on the Ouya and a notification popped up saying their classmate just earned 100 XP in the ClassRealm. They would certainly be more interested in getting on the ClassRealm app and reviewing for that test tomorrow.

3. Review

Though ClassRealm is being built first and formost as an interactive tracking system for teachers, students and parents, we also want to add actual gaming elements to the mix in the near future. Every friday my students participate in Random Encounter Friday, a game where they battle each other to answer review questions the fastest via whiteboards. It would be a lot more convenient to hand the students a controller and have the console dole out questions. Heck, the console could even randomly pick the students or groups who will be battling! Not only that, but students could review during down time at home or as a fun way to recall information for an important test.

4. Affordability

Ouya is cheap, price wise I mean. Convincing the school board or the principal to let you use one in your class is a much easier sell then say, a smart board. Or say they don’t go for it, $100 out of your own pocket to help your students isn’t going to break the bank (even on a teacher’s salary).

5. Exposure 

Let’s say Ouya takes off and ClassRealm is onboard. ClassRealm gets more exposure and gains more of a fan base from gamers, educators and the general public. Let’s say ClassRealm takes off and people see how teachers are using the Ouya in classrooms to help students learn and grow. Ouya gets more exposure and gains more of a fan base from the world of education. It’s a win-win situation.

So yes, ClassRealm isn’t technically a game… yet. It’s simply a system that makes school more fun for all those involved. We are taking small steps in the right direction (did I mention we have no funding at the moment?), but we would love to see ClassRealm show up on the Ouya in the future. Maybe we’ll be lucky enough to get a dev kit for free via their #myouyagame contest on Twitter. If not, we’ll have one showing up this spring which we can fiddle with. It’s just nice to know that the possibility is there.

Hero Mode

If you’ve ever beaten The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (go do it now if you haven’t) you know that the game offers up a “Hero Mode” when you have completed the initial game. In Hero Mode enemies do twice the damage and hearts are harder to find. Besides these two aspects the game is the pretty much the exact same.

I’m dealing with Hero Mode right now. In 6th grade.

Last year was a challenge, as it was my first year of teaching, but I got through it and I often look back fondly. This year is… it’s… much more difficult. Many of my students have academic and behavioral issues inside and outside the classroom and the fallout hasn’t been pretty. Office referrals, parent conferences, and signing of the “Blunder Binder” seem to be daily events. I could vent more, but it’s not my place to aire these issues online, so let’s just say there are times that I want to break down and cry because of how this school year is going.

And yet, through all this, my students still love ClassRealm. The bad ones, the good ones, the brilliant ones – they all want XP. They all wants levels! My class about had a conniption when I told them we weren’t going to have Random Encounter Friday this week (we have Friday off for Fall Break). It’s weird, because as much as I love ClassRealm, to me it doesn’t come before any subject, any test, or any student. To my students though, it’s one of their top priorities. I think half of them only show up in the morning because they could get some XP for finishing our daily “Math Minute”. I won’t lie, I’ve been slacking on ClassRealm. With the school year going like it is I’ve had less time then ever to commit to keeping every single level and achievement up to date. It gets done, just not as quickly as I’d like.

Some time here in the next few centuries my buddy Courtny will get our online interface ironed out. Maybe that will help. Until then I’ll just have to keep pushing forward with ClassRealm leading the way.

I may be taking twice the damage, but I’m not going to back down. Hearts may be hard to find, but I’m not going to stop looking. Bring it on.

Beware of Tall Grass

Ah, math. It was always my least favorite subject in school. No matter the grade, no matter the equation, I always loathed it. Ironically enough I now teach math to 60 different students every weekday. The tables have certainly turned and math has become one of my favorite subjects. It’s funny how things turn out that way. One day you’re a student struggling to comprehend a concept and the next you’re a teacher whose role is to explain it.

Today was Friday and that means a lot to students. It’s the last day before Spring Break, the last day before the weekend, but it’s also Random Encounter Friday. R.E.F is a way of reviewing past lessons and current curriculum with some added flair. My students can’t get enough.

R.E.F is optional of course. I have students who want to “battle” the problems and each other put their names in a fuzzy Domo hat and I pick them out. Their are seven rounds, each featuring a different problem and two new participants. If you win your round you get bonus XP (maybe three or four) and if you lose you still gain an XP point for putting up a good fight. If neither students gets it right I call on the crowd, who are also working the problem.

Math equations are the most popular because they can last a while and give students a good challenge. For example – today one of the questions was finding the area of triangle. Many of my students forget that one has to halve the base number before solving (or the final number, if you like), so it was a great review. All the students enjoy it throughly, especially because of the exciting music that plays when battles begin. Usually I go with original Pokemon Red/Blue battle music, but today I went with some Final Fantasy 7 tunes. One student exclaimed, “This music is so epic! I feel like I could take on anyone right now.”

I’m not the only one who is having success with Random Encounter Friday. Fellow teacher Morrigan wrote me this.

Hi there – I teach a period of 6-8th mild/moderate disabilities special ed class for reading intervention and we’re doing a version of this that I’ve tweaked for our class right now! Random Encounter Friday has turned into a great review strategy – the students earn attack opportunities by answering questions correctly. They unlock achievements by doing things in their other classes – keeping their grades up, completing special assignments, having no missing work. I have one student who is emotionally disturbed and he will do just about anything to keep it together in his classes so he can earn achievements in my class. Thank you for the idea!

I’m honored that ClassRealm is having an effect on students I don’t even come in contact with. It’s a tremendously good feeling. Give R.E.F a try and see how your students react. You may not have XP to give, but you’ll find that many students just want a fun way to review.