Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wii update - New Year, New Games!

WordJong is a game that is a mix of Scrabble and Mahjong. I played the game with all the classes. In 7th grade we played four teams of three. There were 4 team captains in each group. The captains held the Wii-motes and worked the game board. The team members helped their captains find and create the words. We played in Party mode and the screen is divided into four quadrants. It was nice because the teams hand would only become solid in their quadrant so they always knew they were in the right space on the board. You can choose to play 8, 12, or 20 rounds in the Party mode (we chose 12 rounds).

Each team is given tiles that are stacked on each other. Each tile has a letter on it. So you can see some of the tiles but they are underneath other tiles so they can not be used yet. The object is to make the longest word possible with the tiles you have access to. Each time you remove a tile and use it to spell a word, additional tiles become available. You can also hold down the A button and shake the Wii-mote back and forth to receive additional tiles. However, when you do this you cover up some tiles that were on the board and accessible before the shake! Each round brings up the quadrants and tiles and each team tries to make their best word. Once one team completes a word (you set your word by hitting the B button on the Wii-mote) a timer appears in the middle of the screen and begins counting down from 45 seconds. Each of the remaining teams has this amount of time to make the best word they can. I like this element because it moves the game along and adds a little bit of tension to the game play. Players pull the tiles into spaces in order to spell their words. Once a tile is placed, you can remove it as long as the B button was not pushed. Once all teams have set their final words OR time runs out, you are taken to a screen which shows each team, the word they spelled, the points they were awarded for their word, and their current place (1st to 4th) in the competition. This also adds a little fuel to the fire as each round they get updates as to the current score. Each round is played the same way until the last round (12th for us) when a final winner is announced. There are special wild tiles or power-ups earned for various reasons (not sure what the reasoning behind when and why). These wild tiles are located under the team’s name in their quadrant. Some of them are really cool and the students love to use them and target teams or turn some tiles into ice tiles the other teams cannot use. Sometimes the wild tiles help their team and sometimes they hinder others.

Overall, I think this game is great and it is easy to play with a large group of students at one time. The 7th graders played all together and I split the 6th and 8th graders into two sessions. Teams of 2 or 3 work best I found. This game held all students’ attention and moved quickly. I also found students working towards trying to put together longer more complicated words to increase their score (showing some learning!). I also think this game creates a nice competition for the group while also providing a bonding experience for teams. Plus, the music in the background is great and relaxing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

passwords, passwords, and more passwords

Well, the first thing I need to do is apologize to anybody who is still reading this blog. I know that it has been a long time since my last post! I have plenty of excuses, and 1 or 2 of them are pretty good (or at the very least honest) but I am just going to say that this is the first time I have had both the time and the idea at the same time so I could create a new post. I am going to make an effort to keep posting; with at least 1 new program a week in my future posts as well as some updates from past posts including new Wii posts coming soon! Welcome back!!
As we begin our 8th week of the school year, I am now just about ready for the school year to begin! As is the norm, it takes a few weeks to get everything up and running and working the way I want once all the students come back and start taxing all the equipment! We have several software packages which are causing some issues (not the least of which is the Ubuntu and NComputing combo - another upcoming post) but we are working through them as best we can. Special thanks goes out to all the teachers who are working hard to use the technology in their classrooms!

So as the students are using all of the different software packages in their classrooms or throughout the school, we are finding out that they are starting to rack up the passwords. They have passwords to log on to the computer, to log into their Google accounts, to use our Scholastic programs, to use our online Math program, our in house Math program, our Moodle program, the local newspaper site, as well as several other websites that require a generic login. I know that there are other passwords that I am forgetting as well. We try to make them the same (or at least similar) for easy remembering and some of our younger students write them down (I know that isn't secure but it has to be done). I also know that there are different programs which allow you to create 1 secure password and then put in all the others so the computer remembers them(Roboform is one that I am familiar with). They aren't supposed to share their passwords with anyone (I always tell them that if they have to share their passwords with someone, they can share it with their pet - as long as it isn't a talking bird or the Bush's Baked Beans dog) and they do a pretty good job of keeping them secret. But, it just is a lot of crazy words and phrases that they have to keep track of. It also means a lot of resetting on my part when they are forgotten!
Does anybody have a program or a process for keeping their students' passwords in order? I would love to hear any suggestions that work for others.