The Amazing Race

IMG_0751Differentiation and Schoology and Gamification…OH MY!!! You have probably heard almost all of these words, but when you put them all together, you have some very powerful tools in your hands! You may ask yourself, “Why gamification?” My response is, “Why not?” Don’t get me wrong; there were definitely feelings of wanting to quit and visions of throwing my computer across the room while creating my very first classroom game. I had been using Schoology for a little over 2 years and I could see what I had done the previous semester just staring at me, screaming, “Just use me!” Despite the temptation to simply reuse, I persevered and created my game.

After using numerous apps on the iPads, I was trying to decide what I should do next.

One of our District Instructional Technology Specialists, Phillip Loomis (@teachloomis), was coming in to talk to me about lesson plans to wrap up the semester. When he arrived, I talked about how I wanted to do something with “completion rules” on Schoology. As we talked more I started thinking that the concept of “The Amazing Race” would work well. We talked about creating different routes for students around the building and asking them to accomplish different tasks involving balancing equations. I decided I would  have them come back to my room about half way through the race and ask them to create a video before they went back out to do more tasks. I planned for the race to take two class periods.

After the initial idea, I started brainstorming tasks to complete and formulating clues that would take my students around the building. When students got to a location, they would have to take a picture of everyone in their group, also known as a “groupie.” Every student was equipped with their iPads and they all had to complete the race, eliminating the possibility of one person doing all the work.  When you use completion rules in Schoology, you can set it up so that students must complete items in a specific order and items won’t unlock until they have met the requirement that you have set for each specific task. This was very beneficial as it didn’t allow students to create their own path during the game.

Another feature of Schoology that made this game possible was grading groups. You can set as many grading groups as you would like and this feature can also help you differentiate in your classroom. After creating the grading groups of the preselected teams, I was able to assign the grading groups to each of their route’s assignments and then students would only be able to see the route that they were assigned to. Since I was using “completion rules”, this would show one folder as a “Must Complete” folder to every student and that would tell them what team they were on.

Once all of the routes, tasks, grading groups and info cards were made, it was time to see this game in action. I was pretty nervous about creating my first game like this, but amazingly it turned out great and I think that it was something that the majority of my students will remember doing in my class for quite a while. The apps that were used to create and play this game were Schoology, Explain Everything, Pic Collage, Classkick, and Notability.

Phillip had mentioned early on that he thought I would like doing gamification lessons. I was hesitant at first, but eventually I came around and I am so glad I did!  All I can think of now is how am I going to do my next game!  In fact, my students are currently playing Survivor during our speed and acceleration unit.  If this is something that you are thinking about doing in your classrooms, don’t get discouraged, it will all come together.  There are high rewards for both you and your students and it is something that your students will remember for a long time.  Not only has gamification helped my students with balancing equations, it has also taught them how to collaborate with each other and use teamwork to accomplish goals.

Written by Nicole Burns | @janssenburns


Digitized VS Blended

“My teacher hands us a worksheet, opens up her computer and sits there. We use the online book and fill out the worksheet. It’s so boring.”

Stories like these make me cringe. So often students experience a digitized assignment rather than a blended learning experience while they are at school. What is the difference between digitized and blended? Let’s look at an example.

Digitzed or blended_

Simply taking the physical world and making it available in the digital world is not best practice and is not a blended learning experience. In a blended learning environment, there is a clear path for students to access materials and collaborate in an online space. This blended learning workflow enables students to have choice in the pace, path, place, and time of the learning since the materials are available online, anytime. Blended learning occurs when teachers implement blended classroom models, such as a station rotation model, and design the learning environment that engages students in online and face to face learning activities that are directly tied to the curriculum.

A four station rotation can look like this:


When we start our classroom coaching in our iPad Academy, we begin with developing a blended learning workflow. Once students and teachers know how to push and pull content to the iPad, we introduce the in-class flip.  The in-class flip duplicates the teacher and allows them to strategically repurpose class time. Teachers create short video lessons (less than ten minutes in length), share them in Schoology, and teach students the expectations of how to view and learn from a video lesson. The goal of the repurposed class time is to create conditions for every student to learn.

Pairing the in-class flip with the blended learning station rotation model affords the teacher the ability to work with small groups of students every day as they rotate through the stations. The station rotation workflow enables the teacher to personalize the stations and provide opportunities for student creation and choice in how they want to demonstrate mastery of a concept.  When students have choice over how they can work with the material and learn the concepts, they begin to look at their own formative data, set their own learning goals, and work with the content in a variety of ways that help them learn best and gain deeper meaning of the concepts.

When students learn in a blended learning classroom, engagement increases because students have more control over the time, pace, place and path of their learning. Blended learning models break the old cycles of sit and get, lecture based instruction and transform it to an engaging student focused environment.

To see the blended learning station rotation model in action, take a minute to listen to our iPad Academy high school social studies teacher, Sara Fjell, talk about what learning looks like in her 1:1 blended classroom.

Video of Mrs. Fjell

Written by Ann Feldmann

BPS BlendED Teacher Spotlight

Spotlight (1)

Our Bellevue Public Schools #ipadacademy teachers are a talented and innovative group of educators. We are grateful for their time, enthusiasm, and positivity as they transform their classrooms with blended learning strategies and personalize learning for their students. This series is a way to celebrate them and share their wisdom on blended learning. The resources, advice, and passion from these educators is something we need to capture and share. These trailblazers are helping to lead the way in creating a change in teaching and learning. This blog series will give you a chance to meet and learn from these inspirational educators! 

IMG_4969Brittany Braasch 3rd Grade Teacher-Bellevue Elementary

Before I had technology I ….. and now as a 1:1 blended classroom I …….
“Before I had technology I was more of a “traditional” teacher–my classroom was set up in rows or groups, and everyone was facing the front of the classroom. Now as a 1:1 blended classroom, I have flexible seating and there is no “front” of the classroom. The kids are working everywhere in the room and making so much growth!”

What are you proud of in your blended learning classroom?
“The students–they are so proud of themselves and really take ownership for the things they create.”

Learning workflows and favorite apps for your blended classroom
Schoology workflow, favorite apps–Stick Around, MobyMax, Keynote, Popplet

1:1 iPad Classroom/ Blended Learning Advice
“Take it slow! Don’t try to do everything at once–start with one thing at a time and let the kids become comfortable with that one skill before moving on to the next.”

Connect with Brittany: Twitter: @BrittanyBraasch

Gina Stukenholtz, Math and History Teacher-Lewis and Clark Middle SchoolScreen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.43.30 AM

Before I had technology I ….. and now as a 1:1 blended classroom I …….
Before I had technology I….
–spent too much time carrying around papers.
–took too long giving feedback- it might be a few days after kids turned in work.
–Did not use formative assessments and feedback to change my instruction instantly.  It was more like playing catch up after we had moved on.
–I was not as connected to other educators, and missed out on golden opportunities to steal great ideas from great educators.
–I, unintentionally, had a fixed mindset, technology has pushed me full-force into a growth mindset.
–I embrace failure and a can-do attitude in front of kids.  We try things, change things, fix things, and are a LOT MORE flexible with learning and growth.
–We all accept feedback more openly. We learn to embrace the power of sharing and learning from each other. We help each other BE BETTER TOGETHER.

What are you proud of in your blended learning classroom?
“I am proud of the constant growth and change in my classroom. We rarely do things the same year after year. The level of engagement with the curriculum has skyrocketed.”

Learning workflows and favorite apps for your blended classroom
Classkick, videos created in Explain Everything and uploaded to YouTube, and shared in Schoology, Nearpod, SeeSaw, Kahoot, Notability. Those are my go-to’s!

1:1 iPad Classroom/ Blended Learning Advice
“Embrace the challenge! It is not easy, nor will it go perfectly the first time through. Work through the issues, stay connected with people who have trod the path before you. Be OK with not being the expert anymore–allow kids to show you that they know more than you–it is a humbling, awesome experience. Use technology to teach kids skill they will need for a lifetime-being able to share knowledge, giving and accepting constructive feedback to one another, help each other BE BETTER. The world needs more of this.”

Connect with Gina: Twitter: @ginastuk

BPS BlendED Teacher Spotlight

Spotlight (1)

Our Bellevue Public Schools #ipadacademy teachers are a talented and innovative group of educators. We are grateful for their time, enthusiasm, and positivity as they transform their classrooms with blended learning strategies and personalize learning for their students. This series is a way to celebrate them and share their wisdom on blended learning. The resources, advice, and passion from these educators is something we need to capture and share. These trailblazers are helping to lead the way in creating a change in teaching and learning. This blog series will give you a chance to meet and learn from these inspirational educators! 


Angelica Musil, Spanish-Bellevue East High School

Before I had technology I ….. and now as a 1:1 blended classroom I …….
”Before I had technology most of my instruction was teacher led. Now the learning is more student led and students can work on several of the activities at their own pace.”

What are you proud of in your blended learning classroom?
“The amount of technology I am implementing and how much I have grown as an educator.”

Learning workflows and favorite apps for your blended classroom
Schoology, Notability, GarageBand, Super Slide videos, online assessments

1:1 iPad Classroom/ Blended Learning Advice
“Just dive in. You don’t have to know everything to get started. Don’t be shy about contacting your tech trainer. They are great and are always willing to help.”

Connect with Angelica: Twitter: @artamusil

Sharae Geldes, 4th Grade Teacher-Two Springs Elementary
Before I had technology I ….. and now as a 1:1 blended classroom I …….
“Before I had technology I was teaching the same lesson to all of my students with occasional differentiation and now as a 1:1 blended classroom I’m able to differentiate my lessons easily and give my students learning that fits their needs immediately.”

What are you proud of in your blended learning classroom?
“I love that my students are able to interact with their learning by creating, explaining and sharing what they’ve learned. My students don’t have a lot of “down time” because there is always something new for them to learn or create.”

Learning workflows and favorite apps for your blended classroom
I enjoy creating math lessons using Explain Everything or Nearpod. The students like showing evidence of their learning using PicCollage or Clips and sharing their work on SeeSaw.

1:1 iPad Classroom/ Blended Learning Advice
“Be flexible. Know that there will be days things won’t work the way you had planned but be willing to try again. Twitter is your friend!  There are so many ideas being shared on Twitter….use them!!  With that being said, tweet! This is something I struggle with because I’m usually so engaged with my students during a lesson and when it’s over, the first thought that comes to mind is dang! I didn’t get any pictures…that would have been a good thing to put on Twitter.  I’m still trying to be better at this!”

Connect with Sharae: Twitter: @SGeldes

Opening Game for the BPS BlendED Professional Learning Season

We officially kicked off our BPS BlendED Professional Learning Season with our two day refresher training for 20 teachers! This marks the beginning of our journey to a 1:1 over the next four years.  I felt like a little girl the night before Christmas. All night long I kept waking up with a jolt of excitement. Is it time? Is it time? Is this really happening?

As soon as we said “Welcome to iPad Academy” the twenty teachers burst into applause. This was the highly anticipated time when they became a 1:1 iPad classroom. Armed with a classroom set of iPads, our newest iPad Academy members were ready to investigate the driving question, “What is blended learning?”.  Our team of five iPad coaches each took a group into the field to find the answers in our very own BPS classrooms. Teachers used the Camera and Notes apps to capture evidence of blended learning. In the evening, they used the Clips app to reflect on their field experience and share their creations in a discussion board in Schoology.

As I watched our teachers passionately sharing with their fellow teachers how they use iPads and blended learning strategies to transform their classroom, tears welled in my eyes and a shiver ran through me. Our teachers rocked it!  What a gift for our teachers to learn from one another! Teachers had a rare opportunity to observe, question, and experience a blended learning culture from our own professionals in our own district. Our new iPad Academy teachers were amazed to see and feel the blended learning culture as they moved from elementary to middle school, to high school classrooms.

Screen Shot 2017-09-04 at 5.17.33 PM

Returning to the training room, we took them for a deeper dive into blended learning over the next two days where they learned the secret sauce to transforming their classrooms.
Tomorrow, 450 iPads will be in 450 students’ hands in these 20 new classrooms. Teaching and learning as they have know it will be forever changed as blended learning strategies are implemented right away. Along with the iPads, they will also have one of the five of us as their iPad coach for nine weeks. I am beyond thrilled for every single one of them. Our district is doing it right. Our teachers and students are empowered with the right equipment, training, and coaching support to race down the field. On the way to a touchdown, there are a lots of plays and many first downs. Each day they are all moving the ball down the field and the touchdown will happen for each of them in their own time.

I am grateful for the right people in the right place at the right time to make this happen. It is a result of a relentless desire to transform teaching and learning and the leadership and support of an incredible staff, administrative team, school board, and community. 

Written by Ann Feldmann


Ready or Not, Here We Go!

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Chinese Proverb

As students are returning to school, I have seen a number of tweets and blog posts asking the burning question, “I have iPads, how do I get started?”

That is exactly what we have been doing these last two weeks! Our teachers started back to school on last Monday and our students started last Thursday. Needless to say, we have been very busy helping everyone start the year. Let’s take a peek at our first steps in our iPad Academy up and running.

First, we started with our teacher leaders. We have one iPad Academy teacher in each building who is paid extra duty pay to be the building contact for blended learning with the iPads. We are lucky to spend a full day with them before school starts so they can support teachers in their buildings and provide pre-school inservice to staff. We had a packed day including time to learn about the following:

  • Clips App
  • Apple Classroom App
  • Apple TV configuration
  • Schoology
  • Shared Model
  • App Management
  • Change Management

You may be wondering what is the shared model?

The shared model allows students to log in and out of the iPad and only see their content, similar to logging in and out of a computer. Each student logs in by touching their course, their name, and entering a 4 digit code. Now, personal information such as photos and documents is private for each student. Our secondary teachers are overjoyed to have the shared model in place to streamline student workflow and solve the issue of students accidentally deleting a project that didn’t belong to them. We will be using the shared model until we are completely 1:1 in four years. All you need to run the shared model is a new iPad that is 32 gig or larger and JAMF.

Additionally, we have been traveling around the district visiting all 21 buildings giving our 60 iPad Academy teachers a hand with anything and everything iPad from signing in to Apple TVs, using the classroom app, and setting up iPad charging stations. At the same time, we delivered a green screen and 5 mesh shelves to every media center to be used for teacher check out for creation stations in their classrooms.

Day 1 and 2 with the Students

We begin integrating curriculum by starting with just one subject (elementary) or one class (secondary) and one app. We focus on digital workflow, so students can learn how to access curriculum materials and share work with their teachers, classmates, and parents.

Here are four of our core apps we use for workflow and how our teachers are using them in the first two days of school:

  1. Seesaw is a powerful app for sharing student work, creating reflection videos, and sharing student work with parents. Monica Evon (@mrsevon1), 4th grade teacher and Bellevue Elementary, started the year off with students creating short reflection videos and sharing them in Seesaw.
  2.  Classkick is an app that allows teachers to provide slides to students which can includes links. In addition, as students write, teachers can watch in real-time, jump to students slides, and provide them written or audio feedback as they work. Kelly Benne (@mrsbenne), 2nd grade teacher at Fairview, had her second graders using Classkick for a math lesson which included a teacher created video. She used her teacher iPad for instruction and giving real time feedback to students as they worked on their math lesson.

  3. Nearpod is a great app to use at the beginning of the year because it has free icebreakers you can download and use. These are fun, interactive, and the head fake is that they learn how to use Nearpod too! That could be fun for the first day with the iPads. Carrie Buresh (@CarrieBuresh), 3rd grade teacher, created a Nearpod lesson for the first reading unit which included introducing new vocabulary. Students drew their vocabulary words and submitted them in Nearpod. Next, Buresh shared out several examples to every student using the screen share feature in Nearpod.
  4. Many students also signed in to Schoology, our learning management system. Students access their course materials in Schoology from K-12.

Classroom Management with the Apple TV and Apple Classroom AppBuresh air played the Too Noisy app on her TV so students could see a visual of the noise level in their classroom. The Apple TVs are a fabulous addition to our Apple ecosystem. Teachers can also easily AirPlay student iPads with the Apple Classroom App too.

I’m so proud of how our teachers are leveraging the iPad to be more efficient and effective in the classroom. Check back next week and see what’s happening in #ipadacademy.

Ann Feldmann | @annfeldmann1

Melding Face to Face Instruction with Online Learning

Learning that combines face to face and online learning is a theory called blended learning. Blended learning is defined by the Clayton Christensen Institute as, a formal education program in which a student learns:

  1. at least in part through online learning, with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace;
  2. at least in part in a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home;
  3. and the modalities along each student’s learning path within a course or subject are connected to provide an integrated learning experience.”

The first step in creating the blended learning environment is to have a digital workflow. Schoology is the learning management system we use in Bellevue Public Schools which provides a consistent digital workflow for educators, students, and parents. In providing a digital workflow, teachers have the tools to design instruction that is efficient, differentiated, and private.


After being in many classrooms over the years, I know the currency of the classroom is time. Teachers are masters of time management. However, even the time efficient classrooms lose time on managing the paperwork. Handing out papers 21st century style can be done with a click of a button. To turn in assignments, students simply click submit and the work is curated and waiting for teachers to grade. Leveraging Schoology for online grading reduces the assessment feedback cycle. Students love the speedy feedback and teachers enjoy an efficient workflow with more time to invest in planning and delivering instruction.


In any given classroom, there are no two people who learn the same way at the same pace.  When courses are designed to give students control of the path and pace of their learning, differentiation occurs organically.  When students have the flexibility to interact with the material that best meets their individual learning needs, differentiation occurs and leads students to success.

One efficient blended learning strategy is called the in class flip where teachers create a short video lecture. When students access the teacher created videos, the traditional classroom workflow changes. These teacher created videos allow students the freedom to listen to a lecture at his/her own pace. This sounds like a simple concept, but this is a game changer for students. For the first time students now have the power to rewind, pause, and play their teacher delivering the content as many times as individually needed. Even better, students can control the pacing of a lecture by either decreasing or increasing the rate of speech. Many students find controlling the pacing increases their comprehension of the material and allows them to work independently at their own pace.

Another way Schoology allows teachers to differentiate is the ability to create and distribute multiple assessments so students can have the exam that meets their needs. Teachers can also allow multiple attempts on formative assessments giving students private, immediate feedback on their responses. With assessment data in hand, students can go back to course materials and continue to study and learn exactly what they need.


Do you remember the days in the classroom where you may have had a burning question, but were paralyzed to ask because you didn’t want to embarrass yourself? Or did you wish you could try a quiz again, but didn’t want anyone else to know? How about when papers were handed out and everyone could see your paper bleeding red as it was handed back to you?

When teachers leverage the assignment, assessment, and discussion features students are provided feedback privately. This happens when teachers develop their courses in Schoology and create assignments. Each assignment can be distributed to an individual, group, or the entire class. For example, one group of students may need one assignment, while another group, a different assignment. These are all pushed to students through Schoology and in such a way that Group A doesn’t know they have different materials than group B.

Another scenario that frequently occurs is the need for a student to have a test read aloud. Schoology makes this a simple workflow for both the teacher and student. For example, a teacher can make a recording of a test or quiz and record the audio in Schoology. The student accesses the audio file in Schoology which provides them the assistance they need to be successful.  

Crafting instruction that is efficient, differentiated, and private is one of the many reasons we love using Schoology as our learning management system to provide the first pillar of blended learning, a consistent digital workflow.  

Written by Ann Feldmann


Blended Learning Definitions. (n.d.). Retrieved July 30, 2017, from

The First Game: Design and Implementation

This is the third post in a collaborative blog series telling the story of three teachers, in three different classrooms using gamification to create a more meaningful and engaging learning environment. The first and second post laid the foundation as Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, and Phillip Loomis discussed their reasons for infusing gamification into their English classrooms and how they got started. Not an English teacher, no worries! These strategies can be used in any subject or grade level.

“But what does it look like inside the classroom?” – Another random quote from the majority of teachers who hear a great strategy but have no idea where to begin.

For many teachers the key to trying something new is to first see its success in another teacher’s classroom, and that is the purpose of this post. Santha, Liz, and Phillip are going to provide you with a vision of gamification by taking you inside their classrooms.


Santha Walters (@santhawalters) – 8th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

I use a four house gamification system, therefore, each gamified class becomes an opportunity for a house to pull ahead on the leaderboard in our room. Fridays are our gamification day. On that day students enter the room, sit with their housemates, and prepare to face a non-grammar challenge. Non-Grammar challenges are my way ounnamedf spicing up the curriculum and providing an alternative motivation for students who don’t care about grades. Only students who have completed the work in the grammar game can compete in the non-grammar challenges, so it’s a good incentive for them to help out their house.  

For the non-grammar challenges, we have used variations of the Minute to Win It games. For example, we’ve stacked golf balls and we’ve kept balloons afloat in the air using just one hand. This is simply a three to five minute “brain break” and team building session.  

After the non-grammar challenge is complete, I will follow one of three lesson plans. At the beginning of a unit, I will pre-test the kids to see which concepts in the unit are tripping them up. This allows me to design grammar units for the class and only spend direct instruction time on what is absolutely needed. The pre-test for the students does NOT count as a grade. It counts as “house points.” The house with the most points at the end of the day on Friday gets special privileges the next week, so again, there is a big incentive to get the work done. This also encourages students to help each other (so that their house gets more points).  

The next Friday, we will pick up the lesson where we left off. We’ll start with a non-grammar challenge and then move to either flipped lessons or direct teaching of a grammar concept. Students can earn house points during the practice and review section. Instead of doing a worksheet, students participate in games over the concept. They work in Quizizz or Socrative to try to get the high score. I also count participation in the review games as part of their house points (participation). Usually, these points are doubled because the bulk of their review happens here.

With the second step, it’s important to note that it may take more than one Friday to accomplish all the “learning” they need in order to be prepared for the formative test at the end of the unit. That’s why I use these middle lessons like shampoo–rinse and repeat.  Sometimes with more difficult concepts, we have several lesson and practice sessions to prepare for the Boss Battle—which is always the last lesson we do before changing grammar units.

During the Boss Battle, students actually put their skills against mine. I publish a test with a randomized test bank of about thirty questions. Depending on the level of the student, I then assign them a 10 or 15 question test. Students are free to practice the test all week until Friday. On Friday, they come into class and we do a non-grammar challenge. Then, I allow them some review time with their team. Finally, we either divide into houses and see who can do the test the quickest with the most accuracy OR I take on the entire class and anyone to beat me, my score and my time, get house points for their house. This is usually a really big award like 200–500 points.  

Here’s where it gets a little dicey. That boss battle (that randomized test) becomes their formative grade. However, for my SPeD population, I allow them and any student who doesn’t like their boss battle score to redo the assignment for a better grade. SPeD students are also assigned a reduced number quiz so that the formative grade adequately reflects their ability.  

This is my longest blog post.  Maybe I should try an infographic instead?


Liz Lambert (@LambertClass) – 7th/8th Grade English & Math Teacher, Lewis & Clark Middle School

The way I “gamify” my English class is pretty simple. I didn’t design my own game, but instead chose to use one already made. I modeled my grammar instruction after the board game, Pandemic. If you aren’t familiar with this game, all players work togethunnamed-1er to either all win or all lose the game. The actual game board is a picture of the world with several major cities highlighted. Each player has a specific role on a research team. The goal of the game is to contain infectious diseases before an outbreak or an epidemic occurs.

So what does that look like in my class? Well, all of my students are put on “research teams.” They all have specific jobs within the group from being the team leader to being the materials collector. Each grammar unit is a major city in the world. Each team creates a flag and goes to each city (grammar unit) to contain the diseases (grammar activities). At the start of each unit, all students will take a pretest on that unit’s concepts. My district uses the LMS, Schoology, so all of my materials are loaded in my online Schoology course. If a student scores an A on the pre-test, they can immediately start on the activities tied to that unit. If a student scores less than an A, then the student will take notes on a video that contains instruction on the major concepts in the unit. I use the “flipped classroom” model with this, as it allows the students to learn at their own pace and allows me to interact with students on a more “mentor” level. When the student finishes their video notes, they have their notes signed by the team leader. Then, that student can start on the activities.

What’s the big deal about starting the activities right away? More time to collect points! Each activity that I offer students in a unit is worth a certain amount of points. The more involved an activity is, the more points it is worth! Each student works as an individual to earn as many points as they can each grammar day. These points will go to a team total. The winning team at the end of a unit will get a special prize from me (snack, special privilege, etc).

A lot of people have asked me if I make all of my grammar activities. Honestly, no! Below is a picture of what kinds of activities I offer in a unit.Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 8.59.51 AMYou will see that I do offer some traditional book pages and worksheet options, but I also offer some very creative options like creating a how-to video using a green screen or a super slide video that explains the differences in one sentence to another. It’s all about providing students with a way to marry content with creation. Choice is EVERYTHING. I also use a few other resources like No Red Ink, Kahoot, and Quizzizz. Kids love using online games/exercises, because most give them immediate feedback. Although it does take some time at the beginning of the unit to get all of my materials ready and posted, I am saving time in the end, because I have far less students needing to do retakes on tests. The initial work is absolutely worth the reward.


Phillip Loomis (@TeachLoomis) – 7th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

Designing the first game, I used a tenet from the PBL playbook in which I gave students ‘Voice and Choice.’ This first game was housed within our LMS, Schoology. There were three different paths students could choose from to reach the end of the scenario; Riding the Rapids (web-based), Across the Desert (textbook), and Climbing the Mountain (online text).  Additionally, I added a ‘Break from the Trip’ in which students could wa8cffed134ca4f139629ae75f3f87ba25_400x400tch related Kahn Academy videos. As an added option, I had the old-standard worksheets which students could complete in lieu of one assignment within their chosen path. Overall, the work was basically the same regardless of which path students chose, accept the web-based NoRedInk ( that provided a diagnostic and leveled assignments for where the students were performing, thus providing an additional albeit manageable workload.

Throughout the design process, I carefully linked the state and district standards to the conditions to reach the end of the game. While there were different paths to get to the end of the game, the finish line was the same; a district common formative. The question then, was how to make the test part of the scenario. The answer was to tie it to classroom rewards. Student groups were formed based upon their chosen path where they played competitive group review games of Kahoot! and Quizizz to compete for numerous rewards; preferred seating, music during work-time, work with a friend, and yes, even a snack! These reviews provided an energy boost the day before the formative and regained student buy-in.

Reflecting on this unit, I realized the element of ‘play’ was missing from this ‘gamified’ unit. Additionally, while I believed students would use their imaginations to see themselves as an adventurer, there wasn’t enough within the game design for the majority of students to see themselves as such. Yes, this game flopped. Having tested the gamification waters and seeing the problems firsthand, I better understood that each of the mechanics mentioned in our earlier post was crucial. Now, after a few more games since this, I would never use (or design) a game like this again. However, the missing elements could be incorporated to make this a far more enjoyable learning experience. Maybe next year…

Want to hear about our games? Look for our June post in which we summarize the games we tried, the games we want to design, and the continued list of lessons we’re learning!

Written by Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, Phillip Loomis, & Jeffrey Bernadt


Five Creation Ideas for Your Classroom

Our challenge as educators is to craft engaging learning experiences for students. When students are given opportunities to create, the ownership of the learning shifts to the student and they become the center of the educational experience. So, the question becomes, how can I provide my students opportunities to create on a regular basis? Designing lessons that include creation opportunities moves students from passive to active learners and provides students a variety of ways to show their learning. The use of technology provides new creation opportunities for students.

Passive Active
Filling out a worksheet Investigating a topic
Reading a book Writing a book
Drill and Practice Interacting and learning with/from students around the world
Taking notes Sharing work with peers where students are learning from students

What does creation look like in the classroom? Let’s take a look at how five iPad Academy teachers in Bellevue Public Schools provide opportunities for students to create with technology.

screen-shot-2017-02-08-at-2-17-01-pm1.Investigative Projects

Turn a passive lecture lesson into an active lesson filled with a classroom of creators. Brent Myers (@mrmyers1), 8th grade history teacher at Mission Middle School, redesigned his lessons on the Transcontinental Railroad and the Homestead Act. He flipped the script by giving the students a driving question for them to answer. Using resources that were both online and unplugged, students investigated the importance of these historical events and created a paper slide video to showcase their learning.

What is a super slide video? Click here to see a video on Super Slide Videos.

To see a detailed super slide lesson plan, click here

Thanks to Lisa Pack (@ilisapack) for all her work and inspiration on super slide videos.

  1.  Student Authors 

    Brittany Braasch (@brittanybraasch) and Michelle Klamm (@klammlovesmnms), 3rd grade teachers at Bellevue Elementary, have students create eBooks on Jamestown to showcase their learning. The creation of the Jamestown book fulfills an essential objective for Social Studies. The students are required to include information about leadership, reasons for settlement, geographic location, how they made their money, shelter, and interesting facts. They also have to include a personal reflection detailing their thoughts on being a child in Jamestown. Students used Popplet as a graphic organizer as they collected the information. They found their information in Schoology and the Early Jamestown app, as well as through videos that the teachers provided. The students used the Book Creator app to create the actual eBook. They used Safari and PicCollage for the pictures. As students learned the material, they used the Chatterpix app to create mini-videos to include throughout the book. It takes about three weeks of 45 minute instructional blocks to complete the project.

Here are two examples Jamestown ebooks created by 3rd graders:  Book 1    | Book 2

  1.  Creation with Green Screen Videos

Tori Parde (@TORI_Parde), 6th grade teacher at Fairview Elementary, allows students the opportunity to transport themselves and their projects to a different setting by using a green screen for student creation videos. For one of their language arts assignments focusing on communication skills, students created a movie review news segment. Students use the camera app to film, the Green Screen app by DoInk for the green screen backgrounds and layers, and iMovie to edit the finished project. Students were required to put clips from the actual motion picture trailer in their movie review segment. The only limit was the child’s imagination.

“My advice is to dive-in!” Parde said. “I see this as a way to help incite wonder in my students. I hope these experiences ignite a passion for traveling to new places, learning new things, and dreaming to be something or somewhere they never thought they could be.”

  1.  Coding

When Kathy Harms (@kathy_harms), first grade teacher at Wake Robin Elementary, described her upcoming Science Objective, EO2 Position and Motion, we asked ourselves if there was a more creative way to engage our students with this material. The objective asks students to compare relative position and motion of objects. As we discussed the lesson, we thought it would be a perfect fit for the Dash robots and Parrot minidrones.

The first day was a “show and do” format. Harms modeled how to code Dash to show the basic movements by using the Reflector app to display the iPad with a projector and showing students how to drag the coding blocks together to make Dash move. Then, students got into groups and took turns coding forward/fast. Student gathered on the rug to see a demonstration of the backward/slow blocks and returned to groups to practice. The “show and do” format was repeated four times and helped focus the students to assure they knew the directions before working independently in their groups. The other motions covered were zig zag, back and forth and round and round.

The second day students experienced a station rotation model including coding challenges with the robots. They used their science motion words of forward, backward, round and round, faster, and slower.  

“This activity took students to a new level of understanding within this objective,” Harms said. “The activities allowed students to not only learn the objective, but to transfer the learning to coding the robots. The experiential learning solidified the concept and 95% of the students earned an advanced score on the assessment, one student who earned proficient was absent Day 2. The center activities, both teacher guided and student guided, were appropriately timed so students could experience the successful completion of the activities or tasks. Applying the vocabulary as students coded or viewed Dash’s motions was a meaningful way to learn, reinforce and extend the science objective (SC2.2.2).”

Click here to see the details including videos of the lesson plan.

  1. Multimodal Summarization

Lisa Keene (@lkeene0306), 4th grade teacher at Leonard Lawrence, provides her students choice and creation in language arts. She takes advantage of the multimodal opportunities that technology brings to the classroom.  In her reading curriculum, students were studying the genre of tall tales and learning the skill of how to summarize. After class time was spent learning the skills and reading the tall tale Paul Bunyan, students were given choice and time to create video tall tale summaries. Students chose their groups, the tall tale, and the app and applied their creativity and summarization skills to retell the tall tale.

“The students really got into it,” Keene said. “They brought props from home, made props/costumes out of paper, and created their own characters in Toontastic. Writing summaries can be difficult for 4th graders sometimes, but given all the choice, creating, and knowing it was going to be seen by an audience, made it motivating to learn.

What did the students create? Projects included a green screen video, an app smash with Puppet Pals, Toontastic, and iMovie, a paper slide video.  All the students shared their creations SeeSaw app and additionally shared their projects to the class using Reflector 2 (computer) and airplay (iPad).

Here are examples of tall tales. Some characters were created in  Toontastic and Puppetpals2 and the video created in iMovie. Green Screen videos were created in the Green Screen app by Doink.          Johnny Appleseed green screen          John Henry super slides (paper slides)            Pecos Bill toontastic          John Henry toontastic             Paul Bunyan green screen

As you reflect on your classroom, is creation part of your workflow? How can you redesign your lesson to include opportunities for students to create projects that show their understanding of learning objectives? Use these ideas above as a springboard to opening the doors of creation for your students.

“Creativity is intelligence having fun,” Albert Einstein

Written by Ann Feldmann @annfeldmann1

First Steps and Pitfalls: How we got started…

This is the second post in a collaborative blog series telling the story of three teachers, in three different classrooms using gamification to create a more meaningful and engaging learning environment. The first post laid the foundation as Santha Walters (@santhawalters), Liz Lambert (@LambertClass), and Phillip Loomis (@TeachLoomis) discussed their reasons for infusing gamification into their English classrooms. Not an English teacher, no worries! These strategies can be used in any subject or grade level.

“That sounds awesome, but I have no idea where to start!” – Random quote from the majority of teachers who hear a great strategy but have no idea where to begin.

Teachers often hear about great ideas and strategies to use in their classroom. However, rarely are they provided a roadmap to use as they embark on the new journey. That is the focus of the upcoming posts in this series. Providing teachers with the steps they can take to begin using gamification in their classroom, no matter what they teach. Not only are Santha, Liz and Phillip going to be providing the first steps they took in implementing gamification in their classrooms, but also some of the productive struggles they have encountered during the process.


Santha Walters (@santhawalters) – 8th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

unnamedFor me, my gamification process started with reading and a flow chart. I used Matthew Farber’s Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies) book to both understand why gamification was a sound strategy and how to go about getting started.

After pursuing several chapters, I came up with this flowchart to share with my collaborators in the gamification project to explain how I was seeing things play out.    

fullsizerenderI decided on a house system based loosely on the Harry Potter book series. The entire team of 121 students was sorted into four “houses” or teams. Dividing them equally, it ended up being approximately 30 students per house. These teams spanned the entire body of students I teach, so students in 2nd period who were in House X were also grouped with students in 3rd hour in House X and so on.   

One of my first steps in creating the teams was to build them in a way that they were of equal intellectual strength. Calling on my team of special educators, I asked them to help me uniformly distribute the kids across the four houses. After the team here at Logan identified all the students I teach with special needs (SPeD) and high ability learners (H.A.L.), we then focused on making sure that each house had the same number of SPeD and H.A.L. kids. This appears to have done the trick as the intellectual strength of each house seems fairly even.

As far as pitfalls, I think the biggest challenge has been counting up points because I provide so many different avenues for students to do the teamwork (they can make worksheets, do worksheets, create teaching videos, do quizzes online) and they are not divided by class period anymore. However, I would much rather spend this time counting all the work they have turned in than writing emails to parents about students who have not completed their grammar work. The honest truth of it is that one of the reasons this is so time consuming is because so many students are turning in and actually doing their work–which was the goal to begin with! Some say “be careful what you wish for,” but I would wish for this level of engagement a hundred times again. The raw potential in the gamification strategy is astounding.


Liz Lambert (@LambertClass) – 7th/8th Grade English & Math Teacher, Lewis & Clark Middle School

I made the decision to go “all in” with gamification after meeting with my colleagues over the summer to discuss grammar. Leaving the meeting, I felt overwhelmed. I didn’t really know the ins and outs of gamification, and coming up with a whole new method ounnamed-1f delivering instruction and measuring student progress seemed completely daunting to me.

As I drove home from that meeting, I remembered this game I played with my husband called Pandemic, a strategy game where all players are given jobs and work collectively to eradicate diseases from all over the globe. A lightbulb went off. I decided to turn my grammar curriculum into a huge game of Pandemic. When I pitched the idea to my kids, they thought I had completely lost it, but after the first week, they were hooked. To help students “buy in,” each student was put into a group of “researchers,” given a job, and sent somewhere on the map that I had hanging in my classroom. Each destination on the map represented a different grammar concept. My journey into gamifying my classroom had begun!

Gamifying my class has allowed my students to learn at their own pace, to pick activities to practice each grammar concept that interests them while promoting creativity, and to collaborate with their peers. Even though this process has been wonderful for my class, we have encountered some pitfalls. As with any technology device, sometimes, things don’t work the way they are supposed to. It also has been time consuming for me as the teacher. I have spent several plan periods just counting points that each student earned on a given day for their group. However, these times are so worth it to me if it means my students are learning, growing, and are diving deeper into the content. Their assessments are showing that they are understanding the material better than ever before, so those plan periods I’m spending counting points are not as time consuming as offering test retakes and study sessions. I have simply restructured my time and how it is being used. The time is absolutely worth the reward.


Phillip Loomis (@TeachLoomis) – 7th Grade English Teacher, Logan Fontenelle Middle School

Playing strategic board games and role-playing games (RPGs) was a passion for me many years ago. While only a very occasional player now, I still feel the lure these games have on me. It was this feeling that jumped out at me when Santha Walters (@sa8cffed134ca4f139629ae75f3f87ba25_400x400nthawalters) first spoke to me about gamification. How could I tie that emotion into a grammar lesson?

In order for gamification to be successful, I knew two things; first, it needed to be engaging to my students, and second, I didn’t want to add significant time to my day to run it. To do this, a little reading was needed. It began with the book, Level Up Your Classroom: The Quest to Gamify Your Lessons and Engage Your Students, by Jonathan Cassie (@joncassie). The four mechanics (Table 1) and six properties (Table 2) he outlines provided me with the vehicle for my ideas to reach the classroom. Similar to Santha, I created four houses (all with equally mixed abilities), and began designing a ‘house cup’ type of contest. I provided various ways in which students could compete through the form of work they chose, outlined ways in which both personal and house points could be earned and lost. And off we went.

The largest pitfall that I’ve subjected myself too so far was during my first game, when I rolled out a game without clear instructions about how to earn/lose points or identify specific conditions for victory. In Cassie’s book (Available through Amazon) , he specifically mentions the need to have both clearly defined rules and the conditions to win available for the students. This is where I jumped in without being adequately prepared. In my attempt to ‘feel my way through’ the first couple of days of a game to make any needed tweaks, I confused both the students, and at one point, myself. The lesson was taught, and the assignments were accomplished, but to stumble so quickly into a new game significantly decreased student buy-in. Spend the extra hour or so ensuring these aspects are set, and explained from the start. You’ll save time doing this now compared to catching up and explaining changes of the rules later, which may include the need to correct student and house points.

Table 1

Mechanics Purpose
Agen (Greek: Struggle) The skill factor of the game
Alea (Latin: dice) The chance factor of the game
Mimicry Players assume a different identity
Ilinx (Greek: whirlpool) A momentary lapse of game stability

Table 2

Fundamental Properties, Jonathan Cassie’s, Level Up Your Classroom
1. All games are in some way a combination of the four mechanics.
2. Games have strict rules that all players must follow.
3. Game-winning conditions are clearly defined.
4. There are many different ways a game can end-not just one.
5. Players try hard to win because winning is desirable.
6. Games can be played repeatedly with different outcomes.


Gamification has not only transformed the way the curriculum is being presented to students but more importantly the learning environment in these three classrooms. Students are engaged, collaborating, and completing more work than ever before!

Over the next couple of posts Santha, Liz, and Phillip will be diving deeper into how their gamified classrooms and units are setup. They will be showing examples and providing more resources and ideas! Make sure to click Follow on the right of this page so that you don’t miss any of the upcoming blog posts!

Written by Jeffrey Bernadt, Santha Walters, Liz Lambert, & Phillip Loomis