Would You Believe It?! Fun: Common Core Style

It’s Wednesday & that means something about Common Core you just have to research to believe. (in other words, so ridiculous it appears made up, but then isn’t!) Today’s topic: FUN!!!

Common Core is fun! It's free & for your student!
Common Core is fun! It’s free & for your student!

Search, I dare you!

Let’s say we’re playing a game of hide & seek. Our goal is to find the ‘Common Core fun’. If you find it for ‘free’, that’s a bonus, right? If you have your Smart Phone or other portable internet capable device handy, go to the ‘playstore’ and let’s ‘shop’. I have an Android (hey, it works for me). By searching ‘Common Core Standards’, I have over 250 apps available, over 100 books I can download. Most of these are ‘free’!! Now, drop the ‘Standards’ and search again. This time I got over 77 types of music for downloading. Most to the music is fee based.

Searching  for STEM (also intertwined with Common Core): I tried “STEM for Fun” (it’s so popular it has its own category). The results? At least 100. The kicker, while some were very clear about their names, many looked just like the more traditional video games/apps we’ve seen for years now.  **This is not a scientific study nor method. just a general search**

There are other national standards you will find games for, even Physical Education is now Common Core aligned. However, I’m not spending any more time searching, it turns my stomach to see all those cute animal with such a wicked agenda hidden behind them.

Games, games and manipulated marketing:
According to http://www.gamesandlearning.org/category/markets/, games, while fun, are being used to craftily amass data, conduct assessments, etc. Here’s what it stated about games/assessments: “The most important foundation for a learning game or game-based assessment is that it possesses the ‘stars align’ principle. Under this principle, the very actions and decision points in the game that are compelling as an experience (the things that keep the player at play and coming back to play) are directly relevant to the learning and assessment goals. That means that if the assessment goal is to find out if a player is good at collecting coins and breaking bricks on a 2D platform in order to rescue a princess, then the game has to be about collecting and counting coins, and rewarding the collection of coins to arrive at a score or ranking. Simple enough.” (source: http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2014/02/19/when-the-stars-align-connecting-game-play-to-assessment/) You’ll need to read the rest if the assessment is to be more in-depth.

Bonus: The entire website: “Games & Learning”? Gates Foundation funded! (‘The site is operated by the  is operated by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and is a project of the Games and Learning Publishing Council. The Council and the Site are made possible by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.’)

Venture Beat website predicts by 2017, the educational game market will top 2 billion dollars. If you read my post yesterday, you’ll know that much of the capital for the games will come from locations like Silicon Valley. That’s a tremendous amount of gaming to use for Common Core, STEM or other national educational standards.  (see: http://venturebeat.com/2013/08/16/with-a-mobile-boom-learning-games-are-a-1-5b-market-headed-toward-2-3b-by-2017-exclusive/)

According to Serious Game Market’s website, consumers are driving up sales. “Consumers are by far the major buyers of mobile edugame digital content in Canada and the US and they will continue to dominate throughout the forecast period. The majority of consumer purchases fall into the two ends of the age spectrum: math and language learning for young children.” The rest of the article, http://www.seriousgamesmarket.com/2014/06/consumers-to-fuel-demand-for-mobile.html

Wait, isn’t playing a good thing?

In an answer, yes. However, as with anything connected to Common Core, ‘simply’ doesn’t exist very well. Many studies have been conducted proving the value of play when it comes to education. All ages, learning styles and capabilities are able to learn much more when things are fun. Yet, let’s contrast the concept of play & learning without the CCS filter in place and then with it.
Non CC play minded:  Psychologist Peter Gray, 2011: “As free play has become less common in the developed nations of the world, kids have become more troubled. Anxiety,depression, feelings of helplessness, and narcissism have increased in young people in an apparently linear manner that seems to mirror the decline in play.” He goes on to share: citing  the work of Jean Twenge, a researcher who has tracked changes in public mental health over time. “According to Twenge, rates of anxiety and depression among children and adolescents were far lower during the Great Depression,World War II, the cold war, and the turbulent 1960s and early 1970s than they are today.” That doesn’t prove that lack of play has caused emotional problems. But it makes sense that play might protect kids from developing these problems. Gray noted that play helps kids learn rules, practice self-control, make decisions, regulate their emotions, and cooperate with others. And in case we needed to confirm it, social play makes kids happy.  Gray describes a study that asked American tweens and adolescents to log their activities throughout the day. Kids said they were happiest when they were out of school, talking and playing with friends. Watching TV was linked with happiness, but to a lesser degree. It’s not rocket science. When people are happy, they are less likely to feel anxious, depressed, or helpless.” (article source: http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/8-26-2011-lack-of-free-play-is-harming-our-kid/)

CC/STEM play minded: Dr. Rachel White, 2012 “Power of Play” for the Minnesota Children’s Museum, wrote, “Recently, the field of education has experienced a push to develop the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills that are important to success in the 21st century. Through play with objects – blocks, sand, balls, crayons, and paper – children begin to understand logical scientific thinking, such as the concept of cause and effect. They also practice mathematical skills such as measurement, quantification, classification, counting, ordering, and part-whole relations (Gelfer & Perkins, 1988; Ginsberg, Inoue & Seo, 1999; Piaget, 1962; Ness & Farenga, 2007). The informal understanding children gain through experimentation, observation, and comparison in play lays the foundation for higher-order thinking and later learning of formal STEM concepts.” (Bergen, 2009; Ginsberg, 2006; Shaklee et al., 2008 as cited in Fisher et al., 2011; Tepperman, 2007)   (rest of the research summary MCMResearchSummary)

Game Savvy:

Going back to our original idea of ‘hide and seek’, how would you know which games, toys, apps are CC/STEM aligned (include those other nationally standardized subjects and thus aligned, as well) or not? Read labels, for starters. The graphic above (Splash Math) was easy, the website clearly stated the games, etc. are CC aligned. However, let’s say your at the big toy store, and you pick up a “Leap Frog” game or toy for learning. Did you know they, too are CC aligned now? Yes! By searching their website via the toy/game store , you won’t see it in plain language like “Splash Math”, but when you really dig…(http://www.leapfrog.com/en-us/learning-path/articles/common-core-nation.htmlWhat’s more, it is intentionally planned, Dr. Jody LeVos, manager of LeapFrog’s Learning Team. “One exciting aspect of the CCSS is the deliberate attempt to connect topics and have children think across curricular topics, such as writing a narrative about mathematical problems and drawing pictures to represent what children think.”

A great rule of thumb? If the game or toy is educational and from before 2008, you should be good. If, however, it’s an app, you’ll really need to get to know the company, who’s funding it, look at the content or learning strands. Buzzwords like, “meets national standards”, etc. need to be looked for as well.

Some websites have several aligned resources in one place (like this one: http://kidscreen.com/2013/04/22/50-games-with-stem-education-features/and will make researching a bit easier. Others will be produced or published by the now, well known backers of national standards like PBS, Amibent (or Amibent Insight), etc. Don’t be shy when it comes to gift giving occasions to request non CC/STEM or other nationally standardized games, toys,  and apps. Don’t assume toys, games, and apps made for those in private, home or parochial schools are off the CC/STEM or otherwise national standardized hook. Those outside traditional schools need to be just as savvy and diligent as the rest of the consumer markets. For example, “Simply Fun” is a company which offers games, toys to all kinds of schools (homeschools included), yet is CC aligned: http://www.simplyfun.com/pws/homeoffice/tabs/national-core-standards.aspx

Another tip: go play outside! Be free & have fun!

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4 thoughts on “Would You Believe It?! Fun: Common Core Style

      1. Sandra, The only things I seem to be able to find are all aligned to CCSS. However, I have an idea. If you can access any games prior to 2008, you should be safe. If you wish to have more modern, access the Home School Road Map’s Common Core Project. The lady who’s created the database has all kinds of companies with learning products or/and curriculum that are CCSS Free! Even if you don’t homeschool, this is a great resource. Check with Freedom Project Education as well. Everything they have educational is 100% CCSS free. Keep me posted.

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