Educational Quote of the Week

 

“By seeking and blundering we learn.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

ClassRealm Complications: Paper Cuts

Hello ClassRealm fans,

While looking back over some of my blog posts I noticed that I always focus on the positive aspects of ClassRealm. I mean, it IS a completely perfect system, right? Right?! RIGHT?!? Wrong. I guess when it comes to promoting ClassRealm I usually want to focus on the good parts. It’s not exactly hard to see why one might do that. I feel it’s only right to occasionally go over some of the issues I have with ClassRealm. Welcome to the first installment of… ClassRealm Complications!

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Complication – Keeping Track of Data

There are so many different aspects to ClassRealm that keeping track of all the levels, XP, rewards, profiles, and individual achievements is an immense hassle. The biggest issue is keeping track of all the papers involved. Every story and book overview written has to be read and recored in the Achievement Log. Each achievement is worth a certain number of XP, which have to be recorded on the Level Sheet. Once a student has so many XP they level up. Once the class has so many levels they earn a reward. As you can imagine it becomes hard to keep track of it all. It’s frustrating to grab my keys at the end of a long day and walk towards the door only to remember that I haven’t logged all my ClassRealm information for the day. I don’t always remember either. Things come up, or I have to make it to my coaching job and the ClassRealm paper work piles up. People ask me why I don’t just put everything in a spread sheet, but that’s just one more step to worry about. ClassRealm is a wonderful system and it works well as long as you can stay on top of it. But can you? As a teacher with dozens of other things to worry about, ClassRealm shouldn’t be the hassle it is when done on paper.

Solution

Now this problem can (and will) be solved with one simple fix – an online interface. A student could submit a story for review on the ClassRealm site or a ClassRealm app and it would send it right to me, the teacher. I could read it, deem it worthy and the computer would log it away. The site would award the student an achievement, XP, levels and inform me of their reward (if there was one). As much as I love paper, as a material, I’ll be filled with joy the day ClassRealm goes paperless. The potential for our system skyrockets with the use of technology and that thing people call “the interweb”. Now we just have to get an interface made. Easier said then done, eh? Until that time I’ll be staying a little later then I’d prefer, making sure all the levels add up, making sure every students gets the XP and achievements they deserve.

Work in Progress

Hello ClassRealm fans!
We’ve been pretty quiet lately, haven’t we? Well, I’m here to tell you that things are still coming along slowly, but we are planning on taking some big steps in the right direction this coming spring. We haven’t died or given up on our wonderful idea, we’re simply plotting. Running the numbers. Working out the kinks. Tenting our fingers and nodding at each other knowingly.

We know how you feel if you are/were excited about ClassRealm. You want it now! Why is it not ready yet?! WHAT IN THE WORLD COULD YOU POSSIBLY BE DOING?!?

I assure you we are working hard on getting the online interface up and running, but it’s no easy task. Just reamin calm and know that ClassRealm is going to be functional in the future. We just don’t want to disappoint, so we’re taking our time. Doing it right.

Fear not!

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.

Meet the Team – Courtny

Hello ClassRealm friends!

My name is Courtny Cotten and I’d like to introduce myself as the co-founder and Lead Designer of the Classrealm party. I’m not necessarily the main character, but think of me as the Luigi to Ben’s Mario, the Tails to his Sonic. In short, we’re a team ready to kick butt and take names!

I’ve worked for nearly a decade in the technology and web space, gaining a variety of experience in a number of industries. I graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a Major in Visual Communication Design and an emphasis in Human Computer Interaction. Over the course of my career I’ve had the opportunity to work with multi-billion-dollar behemoths to small start-ups. I have extensive knowledge in executing best in class user experiences for a variety of technology platforms and business sectors. When Ben first came to me with the idea of ClassRealm, I dedicated myself to the cause and have rallied behind him since. It is now my job to ensure that the integrity and quality of the ClassRealm project is maintained while we strive to get release one launched.

Courtny Cotten

As many of you are waiting in anticipation for the release of ClassRealm, I thought it only fair that we shed a little bit of light into the direction that ClassRealm is taking following our failed Kickstarter.

While we don’t want to release too many details just yet, we are working diligently to provide a closed beta to a select number of our followers starting in late December and early January. Our primary focus is on building a platform which educators can leverage to provide a more accessible and encouraging experience for mastering content in the classroom. Our first release target is a “core-rule” system with an administrative backend for teachers to log into and track all of the achievements and experience points attached to your class rosters. This is not a simply task, however, as teachers around the globe are hoping to leverage the system and have requested a large amount of flexibility in determining exactly how their classroom is setup. We’re also accessing analytic reporting so that teachers have the ability to improve classroom material based on data collected in regards to achievement levels and experience.

As our journey has continued, we’ve received a number of feature requests, feedback, and wish lists from you, our fans! We’re excited to receive input from those around the world and it is our hope we can deliver a product that is not only enjoyable for students, but is easy for teachers to integrate into their already busy teaching schedules. I encourage anyone interested in learning more about our technical plans for CR, or in becoming an early beta tester, to reach out to me via email!

 

Interesting facts about Courtny

– He loves playing Disc Golf

– He has a girls name, a joke endured since grade school

– He is a former collegiate Track & Field hurdler

– Has a wife named Sam (Samantha :D)

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.

Free For All!

That’s right, I’m starting a ClassRealm fight club where I pit students against each other and… wait. That’s not it. No, I just wanted to let everyone know that we are going to try to make our ClassRealm online interface free (that includes any potential apps). During our Kickstarter we tacked on a price tag, but  I think that was to make ClassRealm look like a better backer reward. It’s kinda hard to say, “Give us money and we’ll give you something you could have gotten for free anyway!”

So, no monthly fees. No one time fee. Free. It may not pan out that way in the very end, but I promise we will try to make it as inexpensive as possible. I don’t see why we couldn’t do it. That being said, once the interface is out and about for teachers to use we will likely be accepting donations.

Educational tools shouldn’t be expensive. I realize it takes time and money to develop them, but in the end it shouldn’t be about the profit. It should be about customizing educational needs for students. If ClassRealm inspires just one student in one classroom in some far off corner of the world to work harder then it will all be worth it.

Yes, we are still working. No, the online interface will not be out soon. As much as it pains us to work this slowly it’s something that has to happen at this pace. I promise it will be worth it in the end. Haven’t you ever read “The Tortoise and the Hare”?

New Challengers Approach!

Ah. Smell that? It’s the smell of a new school year wafting on the summer breeze. Now that I’m done making you guess smells I feel it’s only fair to give you a new ClassRealm update. As I am a teacher first and blogger second I will try my darndest to update you fine folks who read this blog (all seven of you) on a regular basis. As I mentioned, a new school year is upon us and with new school years come new students. As a young teacher without many years of experience I haven’t dealt with every kind of student yet, but let me tell you – this year’s class is WAY different from last year’s.

Here’s the good part. They love ClassRealm. I introduced them to the system during the second week of school and they are having a blast. The one aspect that really seems to be driving their frenzy for XP and achievements is the new team mentality I have instilled in my paper system. Last year ts was every student’s dream to beat the others and become top dog. This year it’s all about reaching the goal together and sharing in the journey. Student’s literally applaud others for gaining levels and earning achievements. Fantastic stuff!

The two students I have dubbed “Level Trackers” keep a close eye on the combined level of the classroom and are constantly updating the other students on their advancements. Though XP was a big deal last year, it has taken an even more commanding lead with this particular class. Achievements are more like surprises this time around, which is actually a nice change.

Last year my students latched on to the writing achievement and piled on story after story. I was sure this would be the case again, but the achievement of choice this year appears to be the “Book Worm”. Students are reading constantly! It’s wonderful. Today one of my students asked if she could take home some of the ClassRealm Book Overview sheets to fill out over the holiday weekend and I told her to pick some up on her way out. But she couldn’t. Because the stack I had left there had been used up. Best. Problem. Ever.

 

Check back soon for more ClassRealm updates!

Bertoli out.

Back on Track!

Hey everyone! Guess what? I’m still alive! I’m terribly sorry that I haven’t updated the ClassRealm blog in such a long time, but things have been rather hectic what with me getting married here in two weeks.

This post is a reminder: We are not dead. Though our Kickstarter did fail we have regrouped and we’re back on track (see above). Unfortunately our main coder has been under a lot of stress at his day job to get projects done and hasn’t had much time to put towards ClassRealm. For this reason I have been working on the classroom end of ClassRealm, though not much online integration has occurred at this point in time. A beta for the online system may not make an appearance until early 2013, but we are trying to speed up the process as much as humanly possible. We are currently in talks with the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology to take on some of the coding and design work load. This would be phenomenal and we’ll keep every updated on our potential relationship with this outstanding institution.

For now just sit tight and know that we are working to get things accomplished. ClassRealm is still going strong. We just need to take baby steps to get it up and running.

– Ben

A Winner is You! Competition in the Classroom

Kids love winning. Then again, who doesn’t? Winning is a great feeling even if there was nothing on the line. I can win a game of pick up basketball and ride that sense of accomplishment all day. It’s even better if the game wasn’t a complete blow out. That means I defeated a worthy opponent! What a wonderful feeling! Then again, if I lost it’s no big deal. It was just a game of basketball after all.

One day whist playing Mario Kart Wii online I saw that I was up against a player who’s level was at 9999. Maxed out! My only thought was that he was one of the best or most dedicated Mario Kart players in the world. I beat him. Skidded past him at the finish line after he was taken down by a blue shell. I was elated! I took pictures! I called my parents (ok, I didn’t do that). Point being, I got nothing out of that race except some experience points and self satisfaction.

Students want this feeling in the classroom. They love to compete with their friends and see who can out do one another. I’m not really talking about grades. Although many students compare grades during the school week it’s not something they really brag about. Getting an A on your science test isn’t as cool as hit that game winning shot in double over time. ClassRealm is still going strong in my classroom and the aspect of competition hit a dizzying high this week. My three top level students decided they were going to out write, out read, out participate, and out help each other. In other words they were pushing themselves to be the top in the class, level wise. My other students caught on instantly and began pushing themselves as well. What do they get for all this hard work they are putting in? Tallies on a sheet. Levels that won’t matter in a months time. What they don’t realize is that this competition is motivating them to do better, to do more. They may go on to 7th grade and forget all about ClassRealm (I hope not…), but one of those papers they wrote, one of those books they read, one of those times they participated to earn an experience point may prove beneficial. That’s the kind of competition you want in school. One with an outcome that seems menial later on, but pushes students to improve. The best part is that they’re all winners, they just don’t know it.