Ideas for Digital Citizenship PBL Projects


This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >



More and more, we’re hearing the term “Digital Citizenship.” I think we should simply call it “Citizenship.”

In our increasingly connected world, what it means to be a citizen is contextualized by more than just our countries and communities; we are global citizens. Part of being a citizen these days is manifested in what we do digitally, and because of that, I will adhere to the term “Digital Citizenship” — for now. I hear parents, teachers and community members talking about their concerns over their children’s online behavior, and rightfully so. I believe it is our job as educators to teach and assess Digital Citizenship, and I also believe PBL is a great way to target this objective in an engaging and authentic way.

Target the NETS
The ISTE Student NETS #5 is itself called Digital Citizenship. As you build a PBL project, look at the quality indicators articulated below. If you want, unpack the standard more to include other quality indicators. These will help you in creating clear targets that students will understand and can achieve. From these learning targets, you and the students can create rubrics which can be used as reflective tools, and ultimately assess a final product in a PBL project. The more students understand and use these tools, the more they will internalize the language and understand what it means to be a digital citizen.

Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.
a. Advocate and practice safe, legal and responsible use of information and technology.
b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning and productivity.
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
d. Exhibit leadership for digital citizenship.

Create an Authentic Purpose
This is a key piece. Start by asking yourself who needs this information and would find it useful. This will lead to an authentic audience. From there, what is your purpose? In the ISTE NETS excerpt above, there are many examples such as advocacy and exhibiting. But beyond that, students can create awareness, solve a problem, design a program and more. This authentic purpose will help you focus the inquiry and create a driving question that is purpose-driven and in student-friendly language.

Target Content Area Standards
A Digital Citizenship PBL project is an excellent opportunity to partner with the teachers of other content areas to teach and assess multiple standards. If you are the technology teacher, you can use this opening to build in some ELA reading and writing standards. To make sure it fits and that you are picking products that will assess the standards, read my blog on Integration Strategies for PBL. While the content for the PBL project is Digital Citizenship, other content standards can be built in, especially those that are skill-based. Students can write guides for the school or even advocacy letters. In addition, students might analyze related data, or engage in social studies research.

A PBL project can be an intentional and meaningful place to engage students in understanding digital citizenship. It can target learning in multiple subjects and help arm our students with the skills to make the right choices in our increasingly digital world. What Digital Citizenship PBL project ideas do you have? Share and collaborate.

Free Tools to Incorporate Game-Based Learning


This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >



As I work with teachers to implement game-based learning (GBL), they are always looking for any free tools that exist. While some are willing to pay for iPad game apps or using the Kinect, these tools often cost money. Luckily, there are many tools out there that are free and that teachers could use in the classroom as soon as tomorrow. Some of these tools are not only the games themselves, but also lesson plans and ideas for using the game in the classroom. Here are some of my favorite free GBL tools.

Many of us know of iCivics, founded by former Chief Justice Sandra Day O’Conner to improve civics education. New games have been added over the past year. “We The Jury,” for example, lets you decide a tough case for the Supreme Court. All the games come with curriculum materials to support classroom use. Not only do these units suggest activities grounded in the games, but they include other instructional tools as well. The game units are also searchable by content in the civics curriculum, from civil rights to foundations of government.

Math is the focus of Manga High. Here you’ll find games that teach in a variety of math arenas, from shapes to algebra. In fact, you can search specifically for those games. If you pick algebra, you can search by learning target. This is a great way to ensure that you are picking a game that really focuses on a skill you need students to learn.

BrainPop has an excellent selection of games to teach a variety of subjects. In addition to the regular BrainPop games, there are also K-3 BrainPop Jr. games and BrainPop Games for ELL. While I might classify some of these as activities rather than games, there are plenty of resources here to teach everything from health to science. Some of the games overlap with MangaHigh and iCivics, but it’s a great site that can serve as a “warehouse” for games. In addition, there are often lesson ideas and even quizzes that could serve as useful formative assessments. (Although I might argue that if students beat the game, then isn’t that an assessment?)

Teach With Portals
I challenge anyone to play Portal and not feel engaged. Many teachers have submitted lessons or are using lessons from Teach With Portals. Here you can find lessons that target everything from Plot Structure to Gravity. Now, while Portal itself is a game that you have to buy, you can get Portal with Steam For Schools, which is a free tool to download Portal and another new game, Universe Sandbox — a universe simulator!

These are just a few of my favorite GBL tools that I have used and played. There are also some tools out there that are offered at reduced costs such as Minecraft Edu, and even licenses for Premium Games at Filament Games, for example. Regardless, let us remember that these are tools to start the process. As you use them, ask yourself the question that I use when picking games for the classroom: “Is it a good game?” This is a subject for another blog, but it is a great driving question to consider as you implement game-based learning.

Is it a Good Game? 3 Tips for Evaluating Great Educational Games


This post originally appeared on the BrainPop Community, an organization that creates animated, curricular content that engages students, supports educators, and bolsters achievement. BrainPOP is also home to GameUp™, a free educational games portal for the classroom.View Original >



I love using games in the classroom, and I love supporting teachers in their implementation. As I continue this work, both in terms of advocacy and implementation, there remains a critical question that will either support games for learning, or undermine it. Is it a good game? I constantly watch the twittersphere and get emails from colleagues, game companies, and the like about “games.” Whether it’s “20 Games to Support ELL Students,” or “The 5 New Best Games for the iPad,” it can be daunting to even know where to start using games in the classroom.

I’ve got news for you. What people claim to be games, may in fact not be games at all. Or, even worse, they may bad games! Perhaps they are just digital activities or apps, and that is fine, but let’s not claim one to be a game when it is not. While there are many ways to distinguish a good game from an activity, consider these three to start:

Is it Edutainment? – Jeopardy is a prime example. Jeopardy is a fun activity, where you are almost fooled into learning because the game is fun. In general, “Edutainment” is based on this idea of “fooling,” in that we learn or must know something, but the learning isn’t really connected to a real engaging purpose. Furthermore, is recalling the answer to a question “learning?” Seems to me more like testing.

Does it have an engaging story? – A good game has a story that we immerse ourselves in. While this story might be epic like Final Fantasy, it can also be short and sweet. Within this story is an engaging character or role that we invest in as a player. We take on the role of an engineer, an adventurer, a virus, a shop owner, and many more in games. These authentic roles coupled with a purposeful story or scenario creates the engagement to play.

Is there application of knowledge? – If the game is simply asking you to recall facts and figures, they it may not be the best game. There is a time and place for this this type of learning, but good games require us to do more with the facts and skills we learn. The game helps us learn these ideas, but requires deeper thinking and learning! Just as we demand deeper thinking and learning in our curriculum and instruction at school, a good game should do the same.

Games Support Multiple Learning Styles


This post originally appeared on Edutopia, a site created by the George Lucas Educational Foundation, dedicated to improving the K-12 learning process by using digital media to document, disseminate, and advocate for innovative, replicable strategies that prepare students. View Original >


When we talk about “games,” that term covers a huge range. From video games to board games, from Kinect to pencil-and-paper games, all of these can contribute to student learning. There are many reasons why games can and do teach, but interestingly, they actually access the multiple learning styles we already know about. This infographic can help you review the different learning styles if you need to. We can align them to games to further justify how we might use games in the classroom.

Visual Learners
This is probably the most obvious way in which games align to a learning style. Digital games leverage visuals as integral to the process. However, it’s not just about the polish and creative artwork of a game. Games use visuals to create problems that players want to solve. These visuals give clues toward the solutions. The visual learner playing Portal, for example, must use visual-spatial learning to effectively navigate the game. Players are interacting with the visuals of the game. Instead of simply showing passive visuals, games immerse the learner in a visual experience.

Kinesthetic Learners
Some games get us physically moving, either through whole bodies or “hands-on” experience. The Kinect is prime example of games that require a lot of kinesthetic experience. (I addressed this in a previous blog.) There are also some physical games that don’t require a video game system, and even these help to engage kinesthetic learners in the learning process.

Auditory Learners
Some digital games have voice-overs and audio directions, but even more old school, when we play games together, we often coach each other or give pointers. For example, when I was playing the game Pandemic with my family and friends, I was required to collaborate by talking with other players. I collaborated to learn the instructions and also to strategize with my team to win the game. Now, while this game may not be considered a serious game that teaches content, it does teach collaboration, a critical 21st century skill. In addition, digital games have sounds, music and other auditory elements that give hints and clues for players to incorporate while playing. Consider having students collaborate to learn and play other educational games, as well as analyze other auditory components of games.

Read/Write Learner
Some consider this to be a learning style as well. When students play World of Warcraft, they are constantly reading and writing: reading engaging stories of characters and quest directions; typing strategies for raids and writing background stories for characters. Most games include reading as a critical learning modality to be successful, but many games also leverage writing for communication or even answer purposes. Games can engage the read/write learner.

Now, not every game accesses all of the learning styles concurrently or evenly, but many games can access more than one. As you pick games to use in your classroom, consider your students’ abilities through learning profiles cards (such as those offered by the Schultz Center), and use the games to scaffold learning that meets the unique needs of the children you teach.