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Kids who didn't know Pompeii from Plymouth Rock were suddenly mapping out the borders of the early Roman Empire. His secret? Kids are not ambivalent when it comes to video games: They love them. Young boys, especially, have been pouring quarters into slots since Computer Space, the first commercial arcade video game, appeared nearly thirty-five years ago. But there's one kind of game that nobody's succeeded in making for the insatiable throngs of game groupies: a blockbuster hit for the classroom. Instead, school districts, eager to be perceived as plugged in and afraid of being penalized for low test scores, have bought into expensive drill-and-kill software -- the kind that costs a fortune and displays a silly animation of fireworks or cheering crowds for every five correct answers -- with only minimal improvements on test scores and scant evidence of long-term progress among students.


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Most administrators approach new game-software purchases with skepticism and a reluctance to spend money. Kids and their teachers, it turns out spend more time per week blowing up aliens than watching television or no surprise doing homework. Although the so-called edutainment software titles, like the Blue's Clues and Dr. Seuss series, make up a relatively small portion of the market, academics, teachers, and entrepreneurs are working to transform a couch potato pastime into a curriculum staple.

They're almost there.

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Educational entertainment

Video games can do a lot of things that traditional teaching cannot. As Squire's class showed, they can get unmotivated students fired up about -- can it be? Games can also be an effective way of reaching students who haven't responded to conventional teaching methods, and they can get gifted students to apply critical-thinking, problem-solving, and other higher-level skills to subjects they already know. It's not just especially low- or high-performing kids who benefit, says David Gibson, codirector of the SimSchool PT3 Project , a Vermont-based organization that develops a desktop game to train future teachers for the classroom.

He believes games may be the key to "stealth education," whereby all kids have such a good time that they don't realize they're also learning see "Games: Not Just Child's Play," below. So far, the data looks promising.

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In a pilot study involving three middle school classrooms in Boston, Dede found that students who played his game River City surpassed the test group in three areas: They were more motivated to do the work, performed better on postlesson tests, and tended to look to their teachers to facilitate rather than give direction. Instead of developing elaborate games for kids to play in the classroom, some pioneering teachers and researchers have found that having students design their own games is a great way to reinforce a lesson or connect it to other skills and ideas.

That was the approach Yasmin Kafai took while under a no-strings-attached grant from Nintendo to develop an educational video game in the early '90s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After interviewing game enthusiasts ranging from six-year-olds to adults about what the perfect formula might be, she began to wonder whether players might design a better game than she could. So she tried it. A Boston fourth-grade math class was provided with some basic software, designed by Kafai, and assigned the task of creating a program to teach fractions to third graders.

Kafai's goal was modest: to see if it is possible to combine a math lesson with a computer-skills lesson -- classic stealth learning. While the games themselves weren't visually outstanding, the kids who created them learned fractions and computer skills simultaneously, and they had fun creating flourishes like elaborate punishments and rewards for answers. This approach, however, puts a lot of pressure on the teacher.

Mary Karl, the coordinator for gifted and talented students at Forest Glen Elementary School, in Green Bay, Wisconsin, has her class write math games for other kids using MicroWorlds software. The student designers reinforce their knowledge of decimals and time and develop strategic and problem-solving skills.

The kids who are behind then get to reinforce their own skills by playing the game. But, says Karl, "to navigate back and forth between the math of fractions and what kids are doing on the computer requires a teacher who feels very comfortable on both levels. An off-the-shelf video game might be easier to work with. Debate regarding the value of educational entertainment and its implementation has been had for decades. For example, the use of music along with the footage of animals, such as the circumstance in which "The courtship of tarantulas was set to a tango, while the movements of two scorpions were showcased with square dance music in the background" was criticized at the time; the purpose of the music was to enhance the footage, but some people took issue with this humanization.

Additionally, without approval, some of the film crew of White Wilderness prompted unnatural behavior in lemmings that would be filmed, which then generated a negative response. Sesame Street , a television show that demonstrates the concept of edutainment, has also specifically been subject to criticism. For instance, in an article published in The Atlantic in May , John Holt criticizes the promotion of "Right Answers" in the television show without actual action being taken by the children, and also argues that it is nonsensical and perplexing to have adults convey to children that everything that is to be discovered is logical and easy to understand.

The argument that the concept of edutainment hurts the actual value of education has been prevalent as well. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the Boogie Down Productions album, see Edutainment album. See also: Entertainment in education and Social Impact Entertainment. Main article: Educational television.


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  8. Main article: Educational game. Main article: Educational toy. Main article: Entertainment in education. Archived from the original on Retrieved Perth : Murdoch University. Archived from the original PDF on Brno, Czech Republic. Archived PDF from the original on 17 August Retrieved 12 April The New York Times.

    The Story of Walt Disney. NY: Henry Holt and Co.

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    As cited in Shale, Richard Walt and the Promise of Progress City. Ayefour Publishing. The Journal of Religion and Popular Culture. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Educational Horizons. A Model for Personalized Learning.

    Active Learning Explained with 8 Real Life Examples

    Archived from the original on December 17, Retrieved November 6, Archived from the original on October 27, The New Yorker. September , vol. World Bank. Archived PDF from the original on Peabody Journal of Education. Archived from the original on 7 November Retrieved 3 November This is Axiom. Computers and Education.

    Educase Review: 1— The Atlantic.

    The Science, the Culture & the Community of K-12 classrooms - Jason Osborne - TEDxAshburn

    The Australian Women's Weekly. Retrieved 13 April PCI Media Impact. BBC Media Action. Science Friday. New York: Routledge. New-York: Routledge. Archived from the original on November 6, Dream It! When used correctly, both edutainment and entertainment games can be very effective with students and can inspire critical thinking, collaboration, and more. The basic set comes with nine 6-sided die that have different pictures on each side.

    Your goal is to create a story that stems from the images seen on the die.


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    The Metagame is a card game in which players pose arguments about culture. These cultural topics include games, films, literature, design and fashion. With ten different games and growing to play in one game deck, The Metagame can be valuable in the classroom for two reasons:. Print your own prototype here and get started! Funded by Kickstarter , WordWright is a simple one deck card game.

    In this game, participants are given different cards with various word parts: prefixes, roots, and suffixes.