Unleashing their inner superhero. Adding meaning and purpose in education with the help of video games!

I work with a student who is in high school but does not attend any classes.  This student is bright, perceptive and capable, but found little, to no meaning in attending school. The subjects and skills had no relevance to what he was interested in or needed. It is through my conversations with him that the following perspective has evolved.

I find some of us are much better than others at “playing along.” Girls, especially, feel rewarded by doing what is expected of them. Therefore, many kids go through the hoops of education without getting very much in return except for a “well done” from parents and teachers. Nothing intrinsically satisfying though.

The difference between school and video games is that video games are purpose-driven, while school is a collection of random chores. 

Last time I chatted with “Lynx” we were talking about how students need to feel in danger in order to access to their super powers. Which inspired this meme:

Today, we were basically talking about how every person has an alter ego – a super hero. This is the person who plays make-believe or video games. A bad-ass version of ourselves. The person we imagine telling our boss where to go, or the person who saves the day when someone’s in danger. We all suspect that they are in there and are just waiting on the situation in which we are forced to use them: like the moms who pulled cars off their children.  The problem is, life doesn’t work like video games and therefore, our alter egos stay tucked away until we finally stop dreaming of being them.

Ready, Player One? This is what all kids dream about – playing the hero!

What I think education needs to do is to give children a chance to be heroes in every day life. No, don’t dangle a child off the side of the roof hoping one of your little super heroes will save them. I mean find something that the child feels like it’s worth fighting for. Maybe as a class you decide to write your local city Councillor and petition for a new slide at your park. Maybe you have pen pals in retirement home or in another country that you write to.

Instead, what we give students are the equivalent to chores. Add this. Draw this. Summarize that. We take the meaningful context away, so students don’t feel like any of it matters to their own life. The reason for completing these tasks is to avoid getting into trouble, not to accomplish something difficult. What if we phrased math questions as real life problems to solve – meaningful problems, not “How many bananas would be on each tree? type of questions”. Math is entangled with every subject and every atom! Watch this Ted Talk for inspiration and ideas.

The problem, of course, is that these are not tasks that can be completed in a “period.” These types of problems take time to identify and to solve. There will be lots of failure along the way.  There will be no exemplar or instructions to follow, often. These things scare teachers and administrators who want to know how to assign marks to tasks. They don’t fall under a single subject’s curriculum. How can we do this?

Just like we set aside time for genius hour, maybe the class sets aside time each day to work on it together? Community Hour? Start with questions. What do you want to know about? What problems are you not okay with? In high school, it should include things that relate to finding a career or developing skills that will be useful on a resume (or in an interview).

I haven’t got all the answers yet, but I do know making school more personally relevant and meaningful is imperative to kids well being, sense of self, and intrinsic enjoyment!

One last thought from Lynx, who is very involved in video games, was that these characters in video games taught him a lot about morals and values. (Check out these League of Legend characters with full backstories and meaningful quotes.)  In video games, characters can be healers, tanks (take a lot of damage), DPS (do a lot of damage). These help students identify and define their own alter egos. They identify with these heroes and help shape the hero in themselves. It’s up to us to teach them how to embrace this side of their nature.  To give them something important to fight for. Maybe a good activity at the beginning of the year is to find out which character they identify with, create their own personal version of this hero, and use this to inspire their future actions. “What would my hero do in this situation?”  Great for moral development as well. It’s so much easier to roleplay someone other than ourselves! I always tell students before they give a presentation to pretend they are someone else – that this is an acting assignment. This gives them permission to let go of some of their personal angst and insecurity and role play a stronger version of themself!

Maybe together we can brainstorm ideas of relevant tasks we have done with our students.  Imagine if instead of learning about global issues we brainstormed ways to solve them? What of instead of global issues we started with something closer to home? Community issues? School issues? Personal issues? Government issues? Environmental issues?

Please share your thoughts and ideas below!

 

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Secret Societies: Codes, Ciphers & Philosophy Activity

Create a Secret Society

Secret societies have existed throughout history for many different reasons: some good, some nefarious!  The goal of this lesson is to a) think about what secret societies exist in our world, which ones do good and which ones to harm (or both), and then create your own GOOD society and come up with your own secret code, cipher or other secret communication. 

Introduction

Some secret societies were good and necessary. For example, the Underground Railroad used songs and secret codes to allow for slaves to escape to the north where they could be free. They were secret to ensure their safety.

Some secret societies have done harm. However, the KKK for example, promotes white supremacy and are are a secret society because their values are against the law!

Small Group Activity

Brainstorm at least 6-10 secret societies in a T-Chart. What is their secret? Do they exist for good or for evil?  (Templar, Anonymous, Fenians, Illuminati). 

Good

Both

Evil ( harmful)

Underground Railroad – freedom for slaves

 

Superheroes – justice or vigilantism 

Anonymous – justice or vigilantism

KKK – white supremacy

 

 

Class discussion:

Discuss the pros and cons of having a secret club? Is it bad to exclude others? Is it ever okay to exclude others? In what situations? (E.g., Alcoholics Anonymous, survivors of abuse, people with AIDS,  people born with birth anomalies, groups smuggling people out of North Korea, political activists in fascist countries, etc…) Who gets more achieved – secret societies or public institutions?

Mission

  1. Mission: Have your students come up with a secret society (they could protect a secret, be a super hero squad of crime fighters, or attempting to escape from something. A secret society must have something or someone to protect.
  2. Code name: How will you refer to yourselves?
  3. Symbolism: What metaphorical symbol would best represent your cause? E.g., dove for peace (have students draw one).
  4. Communication: Students must invent their own code or cipher OR they could also invent secret handshakes, door knocks, clothing (poppy pin, red scarf, yellow watch etc.), ways of answering a phone call, texting,…you get the idea.
  5. Initiation. How will you choose who will belong to the group? What is the initiation? Refer to the class discussion on on exclusion/inclusion? When is it okay to exclude others (e.g., safety concerns) and when is not okay?
  6. Philosophy: What is the slogan or mission statement of your group? What are the only true and just reasons for a secret club to exist? Ensure students don’t start their own private, exclusionary club at school. Most of the time, secrets are bad! Not much good ever grows in the shadows.

Communication Examples

  • Morse Code – a form of communication developed by Samuel F. B. Morse. It uses a series of dots and dashes to relay coded messages. It was originally used to send a telegraph, but is still used today by amateur radio enthusiasts and for distress signals. https://morsecode.scphillips.com/

    Try sending messages with a flashlight!

  • Pig Pen Code: The pigpen cipher is a geometric simple substitution cipher, which exchanges letters for symbols which are fragments of a grid. The example key shows one way the letters can be assigned to the grid.
  • Semaphore:  Semaphore is a cipher system that uses the position of two flags to represent letters. You don’t necessarily need flags; the important piece is the arm position. It’s very similar to positions for the hands of a clock. Semaphore is still an effective method of communication used between boats or for distress signals.https://www.44mlb.com/kids-semaphore.htm
  • Caesar cipher is one of the simplest and most widely known encryption techniques. Decoding depends a lot on frequency analysis with the alphabet.   E! https://www.khanacademy.org/computing/computer-science/cryptography/crypt/p/caesar-cipher-exploration
  • Substitution cipher – instead of a letter, we use a symbol. So, instead of an A, you could write # or %, or any picture. This form of code was used by Mary Queen of Scots when she was plotting against Elizabeth the First. Unfortunately for her, it wasn’t that difficult to decode! Frequency analysis ( math – data! ) ) helps you figure out the most used letters in the alphabet. Sherlock Holmes also used this kind of cipher in his one story The Adventures of The Dancing Men. For a PDF of the full story, click here.
  • Police Letters – 6966786_f520

    The 26 code words are assigned to the 26 letters of the English alphabet in order. Prior to World War I and the development and widespread adoption of two-way radio that supported voice, telephone spelling alphabets were developed to improve communication on low-quality and long-distance telephone circuits.

    This list seems a bit out of date now. How about your students create an up to date version that is gender and culturally neutral?

Resources on Codes & Ciphers

9780763609719_mresA handbook for making and breaking codes and ciphers. This book takes you through everyday codes and pictographs to different ciphers through history. Packed with lots of fun examples, this is a great starting book for a teacher who wants to try out cryptography with his / her students. There are also great ideas for starting a code breaking kit! Suggested for gr. 3 – 8. Priced at $11.60, it’s a deal! Click here to see more.

 

Lesson by T. Gaudun, resources compiled by M. Reist

Politics & Philosophy / Capitalism vs. Socialism

I teach this as part of a “Shark Tank” learning cycle. It is really good at bringing in politics and philosophy into the classroom.

Note, the videos contain some “classic art” pieces in the background, two of which contain partially clothed people. I say, “pretend you are in a museum.”

Watch the History of Capitalism and make a t-chart of the pros and cons of it:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIuaW9YWqEU 

    • Efficient as there is a much higher level of specialization, so there can be a much higher level of production
    • Higher specialization means people have a narrow, alienating focus on life
    • People at the bottom are exploited
    • good business is good for business
    • Value based on monetary worth and not necessarily on the things that make us happy.

Watch a video on Marxism which does a good job and looking at the ills of capitalism and shows the ideals and shortcomings/impracticality of socialism :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSQgCy_iIcc

Problems identified with capitalism include

  • modern work is alienating
  • modern work is insecure
  • big gap between rich and poor
  • capitalism is unstable (lots of peaks and crashes)
  • capitalism is bad for capitalists (wealth doesn’t equal happiness or fulfilling lives)
  • Ends with the quote, “Philosophers, until now, have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it.”

How can kids change it? Learn about politics and voting. 

List the political parties in North American and have students try to plot them from left to right.

  • Left = high taxes and high services
  • Right = low taxes and low services

Talk about the differences between Canada and the USA. What are the biggest differences? E.g., health care (impact of no health insurance (heart attack or premature babies = huge bills) , cost of education and the impact of higher tuition costs, the distribution of wealth, and opportunity.

The American Dream? The Canadian Dream? What should our dream be?

Tell students to ask their parents who they vote for and why.

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Debate:

What are the potential pros and cons of the minimum wage increase?

#WelcomeRefugees

http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/refugees/welcome/index.asp

Help refugees: Volunteer and donate

Many refugees will need extra help getting settled in Canada. Supportive social networks and service provider organizations are essential to the integration of newcomers, including refugees.

Through these networks and organizations, refugees can get information, find housing and jobs, improve their language skills, become civically involved, gain critical cultural knowledge and receive emotional and other support.

We encourage individuals, communities and businesses to welcome refugees and help them integrate into the communities.

Volunteer in your community

Consider volunteering with an organization that works with newcomers in your area.

Search our interactive map for federally funded organizations that may be in need of resources, visit Volunteer Canada’s website for ideas or seek out volunteer opportunities in your community.

Donate to help in Canada

New refugees have immediate needs, including furniture, clothing, food, dishes and much more as they resettle in Canada. Canadians can help by donating money to local organizations such as Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs) that help support newcomers in Canada.

If you want to find out if an organization is a registered Canadian charity that can issue tax receipts, check the charities listings.

Local donations can go a long way. Not sure where to start?

In British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Nunavut, you can visit 211.ca or call 211 toll-free to find out how you can offer support for refugees. 211 is Canada’s primary source of information on government and community-based health and social services.

Consider donating through the

A few more ways you can contribute

Find out where the refugees are going

Learn which communities and service provider organizations across Canada are welcoming refugees.

Sponsor Syrian refugees

There are a few ways to sponsor refugees. Find out which way works best for you.

From Damascus to Toronto: Mohamed

Facing forced enrolment in the Syrian army, for a war he did not want to join, Mohamed fled to Lebanon, where his dreams of Canada took root.

Mensa for Kids – I need a Super Hero Unit

http://www.mensaforkids.org/teach/lesson-plans/i-need-a-superhero/

I Need a Superhero

Download the PDF version of this lesson plan.

Introduction

Hereos pin

The idea of the hero is something that even very small children understand at some level. Many perennially favorite picture books feature heroic characters (such as Max in Where the Wild Things Are — a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey). As children grow, their exposure to different manifestations of the hero broadens. They encounter heroes in television, movies, books, magazines and music, and on the pages of their local newspapers.

The heroic archetype features prominently in literary analysis at the high school level. A clear understanding of, and the ability to manipulate and apply, this idea is critical to any approach to world literature for the high school student. Unlike most of the Mensa Foundation’s lesson plans, this one includes the reading of a long novel as its culminating assignment.

This lesson plan was designed to tie into the Mensa Hero Bracket Challenge that began in the October 2010 issue of the Mensa Bulletin, with the results announced in the March 2011 issue. It is not necessary to read the article, however, for students to benefit from the lesson plan. If you are a member of Mensa, you (or your students) may read about the Hero Bracket Challenge in the October 2010 issue.

Guiding Questions

  • What makes a hero?
  • Where do we find heroes?
  • How are heroes in books different from heroes in real life?
  • What is the journey of the hero and how does the archetype manifest itself?

Learning Objectives
After completing the lessons in this unit, students will be able to:

  • Explain what makes a hero and the elements of the heroic journey.
  • Recognize heroic figures in multiple media.
  • Analyze a literary work for the heroic archetype.
  • Analyze a piece of literature for elements of the hero and the heroic journey.
  • Write an essay comparing and contrasting heroes in two works.

Preparation

  • Ensure Internet access to look up relevant sites.
  • Get a copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain.
  • Print out copies of this plan as needed.

Climate Comic Contest 2017

http://cdn.worldslargestlesson.globalgoals.org/2017/09/PPT-Climate-Comic-Contest-Workshop.pdf

climate-contest

PARTICIPATE IN OUR CONTEST

WHAT

Learn more about climate change AND create a superhero with an earth-saving adventure! The world will vote on the top submissions at the UN Climate Conference, COP23.

The winner will bring their superhero to life in comic-book form worldwide on earth day! Are you ready to save the world?

WHY?

  • To show the world that young people are superheroes for climate change.
  • To become an official author of Comics Uniting Nations

WHEN

  • Submit your superhero by Oct 22, 2017

climate comic

Canadian Citizenship Week: Oct 9-15, 2017

Inline image 1

What does it mean to be a Canadian? Citizenship Week is here!

Citizenship Week is being celebrated across Canada from October 9 to 15, 2017. As we continue to mark Canada 150, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada wants to hear from you! Join many prominent Canadians who will be taking to social media to reflect what it means to be a Canadian and celebrate citizenship!  Share stories of your citizenship journey, photos of your citizenship ceremony or videos with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CitizenshipWeek.
Everyone is invited to show their pride during Citizenship Week and attend a special citizenship ceremony in your area. Details of where ceremonies are taking place, as well as information on how to organize a reaffirmation ceremony can be found at Canada.ca/celebrate-citizenship

Teacher Resources

Teacher guides have been developed in partnership with IRCC and CBC. The guides include grade-specific (grades 1-12) classroom activities which are built around expanding knowledge and awareness of Citizenship. They are available now to download for free on  Curio.ca Curio.ca is CBC and Radio-Canada’s online subscriber-based streaming service developed expressly for the Canadian educational community.
Also, during the entire month of October,Curio.ca’s Canada 150: Immigration collection  will be freely accessible to the public. Learn how immigration is one of the central themes in Canadian history.

Online Citizenship Resources

IRCC is proud to provide tools to help your students learn about Canadian citizenship.
·Canada Day 1   explores the multifaceted experiences of newcomers, from their first day to how Canada became their home, from Confederation in 1867 to the present day.
·Francophone Immigration in Canada: a part of our history explores how, from the banks of the Atlantic to the shores of British Columbia, Francophones have had a huge impact on Canada’s history.
To learn more about what IRCC learning tools and resources are available, contact IRCC>Outreach-Rayonnement.IRCC@cic.gc.ca
This message is being sent from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as a resource for educators.