Revising Exit Tickets with Digital Tools

If you’re a proficient technology integrator, you know that using technology in lessons for technology’s sake is not effective — when decisions about tech are made in the lesson planning process before decisions about instruction, the outcomes sometimes suffer at the mercy of the tool.  Good lessons should be designed and only augmented with tech tools to improve the instructional process and learning experience.

Exit tickets are one of my favorite ways to assess students on a routine basis.  Admittedly, however, collecting and grading 90 stacks of paper per day can be a bit overwhelming. In this situation, digital tools can (and should!) be used to speed up the process more efficiently — and even collect some data along the way!

Matt Levinson, Head of School at University Prep in Seattle and author of From Fear to Facebook, shared a few excellent ideas for designing Digital Media Exit Tickets in your classroom:

  • A six-second Vine video to capture the most critical six seconds of class
  • A 16-second video to post to MixBit, YouTube’s new video sharing tool
  • A tweet that boils down the essence of the class to 140 characters
  • A photo illustrating the key learning moment that can then be posted on a class Instagramaccount
  • A question posted to a class Edmodo account inviting a continuation of the learning outside of class

For more information, check out the article linked below!

Source: Levinson, Matt (2013). Hit The Mark with Digital Media Exit Tickets.


11 Games to Enhance Learning (and why you should play them)

To educators and parents alike, hearing the phrase “video game” in connection with education can instill some nerves.  However, more and more research is telling us as educators and parents that we shouldn’t be concerned. According to an article published by the APA (American Psychological Association), “The Benefits of Playing Video Games,” Granic, Lobel, & Engels found that there are four positive impacts that gaming can have on the development and learning of children: cognitive, motivational, emotional, and social.  Their research shows that the benefits of gaming in the classroom outweigh the cons (Granic, Lobel & Engels, 2014).

As Jordan Shapiro phrases it, the research shows that “[g]ameplay has cognitive benefit because games have been shown to improve attention, focus, and reaction time. Games have motivational benefit because they encourage an incremental, rather than an entity theory of intelligence. Games have emotional benefit because they induce positive mood states; in addition, there is speculative evidence that games may help kids develop adaptive emotion regulation. Games have social benefit because gamers are able to translate the prosocial skills that they learn from co-playing or multiplayer gameplay to ‘peer and family relations outside the gaming environment’” (Shapiro, 2014).

Before we talk about what games you should start your learning journey with, however, you should know that there is a big difference between gamification and game-based learning.  While gamification takes principles and ideas behind the structure of a game (like assigning experience points instead of grade points, or acknowledging that failure is acceptable (and not punitive) until ultimate mastery, etc.) and embeds them in the classroom to create a game-like learning experience, game-based learning immerses students into virtual worlds through first-hand gaming experiences.  For more information, check out my friend Lucas Gillispie’s site EduRealms

If you’re interested in finding a way to integrate game-based learning into your curriculum, but you’re not sure where to start, here are eleven options I’ve curated for you try in your classroom:

Elementary School:

Pora Ora — This is a game targeted at elementary students of all ages.  It runs in your Internet browser as well as through apps. Pora Pal HQ is the hub of all these games, and is a Massively Multiplayer Online realm where students and teachers can interact and collaborate to explore the world and solve real-world problems.  Pora Pal HQ is currently priced at a one-time fee of $12.45.

JumpStart — This is another interactive game aimed at elementary-aged students. It is browser-based and will run within the browser (though it says Chrome has stopped supporting Unity3D — what the game is built on — there is a workaround to use it in Chrome).

Ayiti The Cost of a Life — “Ayiti challenges its players to manage a rural family of five in Haiti over four years.”  This is a game you will enjoy exploring and using to teach many different life skills — and it plays in your browser!

School of Dragons — School of Dragons® is an epic, 3D multiplayer online world based on DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon franchise. Created by JumpStart — the leader in epically fun learning-based games — School of Dragons takes players of all ages through an immersive, adventurous gaming journey unlike any other. With this game, players will dive straight into challenging quests, raise and train their very own dragons, and play alongside fellow Viking trainers aiming to be the Ultimate Dragon Trainer. (

Middle and High School:

The Radix Endeavor — In this STEM-based, standards-aligned game, You arrive on the island of Ysola in an area dubbed Bladed Plains. Ysola is an earth-like world populated with human-like people. Speak to the girl with the exclamation point over her head; she’ll start you in your adventure. Using your mouse, left-click and hold to travel, or you can use WASD keys on your keyboard.

We begin with a tutorial questline to help get you oriented as a player. Following that, you will receive curriculum topic questlines. A few notes on what to expect as you play:

  • Game progress is saved. Once you have completed a quest using a particular character, you won’t be able to play that quest again. You can, however, create a new character within your account.
  • If you’d like start a quest from the beginning, you do have the option of dropping a quest, using your Quest Log. Completed quests cannot be restarted.
  • The game work is full of creatures and plants. As you enter/exist various zones, it is populated with creatures and plants that may look similar but in fact exhibit a variety of traits. Experiment! (

Moonbase Alpha — In Moonbase Alpha, you assume the exciting role of an astronaut working to further human expansion and research. Returning from a research expedition, you witness a meteorite impact that cripples the life support capability of the settlement. With precious minutes ticking away, you and your team must repair and replace equipment in order to restore the oxygen production to the settlement (

World of Warcraft (WoW) — World of Warcraft (WoW) is a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG).  It has a high fantasy theme borrowing from the traditions of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.  Launched on November 23rd, 2004, the game is based on Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft Universe which began in 1994 with Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, a real-time strategy game. (  Check out this information on putting this MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) to use in your classroom today!

Glass Labs: These games are immersive, browser-based games led by an effort from the Institute of Play to align pre-existing video games and their engines to academic learning standards and objectives.  The games are built with the following tenets: Deep Learning Matters, Fail Forward, Immediate Feedback to Learners, Not-so-standardized Assessment, and Transformative Learning.  If you are looking for variety, look no further than here!

Cell Craft — CellCraft is a state of the art game that invites students to delve into the world of the cell, learning about how a cell functions while helping it survive in hostile environments. The student will gain an understanding of important molecules such as glucose and ATP, as well as a variety of cellular organelles, while going through an entertaining story guided by Platypus scientists in need of help. The game encourages students to balance resources and grow a robust cell in order to fight off cold, starvation, and viruses. Can you use your cellular knowledge to grow a super cell and save the Platypus species? Find out by mastering the art of CellCraft! (

Pandemic IIThis is an in-browser flash game that simulates a world-wide pandemic.

ChemGame Tutor — A comprehensive, browser-based game reinforcing chemistry knowledge through play!

One final note: some of these games which run in your browser and don’t require a download operate on the Unity 3D Engine.  The Unity 3D Engine has recently stopped being supported by the Chrome Browser due to some browser updates. However, there is a way that you can re-enable Unity support to play in your browser:

  1. In chrome url bar type: chrome://flags/
  2. Go down to Enable NPAPI Mac, Windows and select Enable
  3. Scroll down to Restart Chrome
  4. Come back to game and play

If not on a Chromebook, you can play the game on another browser — Download Firefox Here

If you have any questions about gamification or game-based learning, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me via Twitter @mrjamesfrye, or by e-mail (click for contact info).


How do you inspire PQ and CQ in your work?

Thomas Friedman wrote, in an op-ed column for the New York Times, that to be successful in a digitally-savvy job market, one must “leverage all the new digital tools to not just find a job, but to invent one or reinvent one, and to not just learn but to relearn for a lifetime” (Friedman, 2013). He argues that we should be honing the PQ (passion quotient) and CQ (curiosity quotient) of our students, perhaps more than their IQ.

As teachers, it is our duty to prepare our students for futures such as these–where job roles are defined as they go, and where every day is spent proving the worth of your job being carrier out by you as opposed to some competitive hardware or software.

In the final week of one of my graduate courses, CEP 812, I was asked to create an artifact that demonstrates how I bring passion and curiosity to my work, and how it use technologies to instill passion and curiosity in my students. Click here to see my artifact on Padlet.




Friedman, T.L. (2013, January 29). It’s PQ and CQ as much as IQ. The New York Times. Retrieved from

Reflecting on Learning Experiences in CEP 810

Too many teachers write off the use of technology in the classroom as more of a cultural fad than a pedagogical advantage.  While there is some truth to the cliche of tech as a trend, there is so much more evidence to prove its impact in the classroom.

In CEP 810, I have truly come to understand what it means to use technology purposefully.  Through the Networked Learning Project, I discovered the power of utilizing the Internet as a tool for accessing knowledge to facilitate learning.  Because of what I learned about learning through this project, I plan to adapt this project (with credit to MAET, of course) to my curriculum to engage my students in classroom instruction this fall (for example, by prompting students to “teach themselves how to write effectively using only YouTube and Help Forums in five weeks”).  I couldn’t be more excited for the potential this will have to engage my students in meaningful tasks in my classroom!

The TPACK framework for integrating technology, something else that we studied in this class, has become a pedagogical bible to me–something I always consult prior to teaching a lesson.  Having had a course with Punya Mishra this past fall, I really got the chance to dig into TPACK and engage in some deep play with the model.  However, in this course, I feel like I got to take that learning one step further through thinking about repurposing tools for everyday tasks through the Cooking With TPACK activity.  One of the big questions that I was left with after compleing this activity was, “why doesn’t everybody use this?”  This is a question I still don’t have any answers to.

My teaching has been transformed because I have been transformed as a teacher and thinker by the course.  My passion for working with other teachers to enhance their classroom instruction has only grown since I began this course–the difference is that, now, I am equipped with all of the tools and strategies that I need to help turn my school into an authentic learning center of technology integration; for that, I couldn’t be more thankful.


Rethinking Innovative Assessment and Evaluation Through Making: A Reflection

As we can see from a review of Grant Wiggins’ creativity rubric, we know that dynamic assessment is rooted in creativity.  Though it is easy to ignore, it has become clearer than ever to me that the root of the word “creativity” is the heart of its true meaning: to “create” is to be “creative.”  While the connotation we perceive to be synonymous with creativity is often novelty, we forget sometimes that the source of novelty comes through creation.  What novelty, or creation, can we expect our students to innovate in our classrooms if they are never afforded the opportunity?  The answer is quite simple: nothing.

Imagine a day in a classroom where the lesson begins and ends with textbook-drilling, of reading prompts, or math problems.  Unfortunately, this type of teaching is still a real problem, and it is taking place in classrooms across the world.  Our culture has always assessed its citizens’ worth based upon their contributions to society.  Why have our classrooms not evolved to reflect that?  This is a concept that Richard Culatta discusses in his TED Talk, “Reimagining Learning.”  This proves that the best strategy for classroom assessment is demonstrated mastery through creation.

The question most employers ask in interviews is no longer “what do you know?”  It has evolved to ask, “what uniquity can you bring to us that will make us better?”  Are we sure, then, that we are preparing our students to be “college and career ready?”  Maybe, but only in the classrooms that are actually having students create novelties, novelly, that advance or transform our industry and our world as a whole.

This understanding emphasizes the utter importance of the Maker Movement–the focus of the CEP 811 course, “ at Michigan State University.  This semester, I created a MOOC that could be used to give teachers professional learning experiences in Educational Technology.  Additionally, teachers and students around the world are using Maker Kits to innovate in classrooms.  I was fortunate enough to be able to use a 3D Printer in my graduate work this semester, to design a lesson plan that I could not have created without the power of the mind to create the sundial I needed to make the lesson successful.  This sundial elevated student learning experiences because it brought a symbol into the classroom for analysis that was not at all readily available.  By using Makerware, as soon as I thought it, it became real.  What potential these tools have for our classrooms!

One of the best pedagogical strategies for assessing students by “making” is Project-Based Learning.  If students are presented with a problem that they need to solve, maker software provides them with opportunities to develop novel and effective solutions to real-world problems.  This takes our education, domestically, to the next level.  I use PBL in my classroom, but since taking this course, I have realized the value and potential of interweaving making and PBL.

My experiences in the MAET so far have reinforced my understanding that assessment should also be based upon growth, and not necessarily on performance.  As I have progressed through the MAET Certificate courses, I have told myself that I want to walk away, somehow, changed by my experiences.  I know that I have progressed because, though I thought myself to be very proficient at technology integration and immersion prior to taking these courses, I now deeply understand the cognitive pedagogical strategies for why technology is such an incredible tool to improve student learning.  That is a rare gift in the study of Educational Technology, and I fully believe that studying at Michigan State University gave me that opportunity.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to study the Maker Movement so extensively. I cannot wait to see what the outcomes will be as I implement the Maker ideology when I return to my classroom in the fall!


Culatta, R. (2013). Reimagining Learning: Richard Culatta at TEDxBeaconStreet. Retrieved from

Joyce, Matt. (2013). hackrf at makerfaire | Flickr – Photo Sharing!. Retrieved 25 June 2014, from

Wiggins, G. (2012). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should.Granted, and… Retrieved from

Introducing the FUSE Learning Model

Over the course of the past several weeks, I have spent some time thinking about a big question: in what ways can we limit direct instructional time to allow for more focus on student-centered learning?

In CEP 812 at Michigan State University, we call this a wicked problem–“wicked” because, though there are several potential solutions, there is no cut-and-dried answer.  Problems like this one “require the search for new tools and new uses of old ones. And they require knowing when to stop asking one question and start asking a better one” (Gee, 2013, p. 144).

Along with a group of peers in CEP 812, I have collaboratively developed a solution to this problem: the F.U.S.E. Learning Model.  The F.U.S.E. Learning Model stands for Facilitated, Unrestricted, self-paced blended learning models in a Student-centered learning Environment.  This model is the byproduct of extensive research on existing blended learning models, the TPACK Framework, James Paul Gee’s The Anti-Education Era, and our own novel thoughts and ideas.

To see the curation of the project’s efforts, including a white paper, video mashup, and graphic representation, and learn exactly how we propose our F.U.S.E. Model as an effective and efficient solution to the taxing problem of limitations on classroom instructional time, please click here.

Additionally, any feedback, thoughts or questions are welcomed and appreciated–please share this post with your PLN, and leave comments on this post below!



Gee, J.P.  (2013).  The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning. New York, New York:  Palgrave Macmillan.

Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge?  Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70. Retrieved June 19, 2014 from

Revising Traditional Curriculum Using Universal Design for Learning

A few weeks ago, I completed a lesson plan that utilized a sundial that I created using Makerware software and printed with a Makerbot 3D Printer.  After some study and research, I am revisiting that lesson plan this week with an important framework in mind: Universal Design for Learning (UDL).

Please watch the following video clip from CAST to learn more about UDL:

Below, I have embedded my lesson plan.  Written in red are the specific modifications I made to my lesson that help align it to UDL.

The first thing that I realized after aligning my lesson plan to the CORE activity was that my lesson was exclusive of so many types of students.  Typically, I pride myself on my inclusivity and differentiation in my lessons. One of the hallmark elements of the Project-Based Learning framework is “Voice and Choice.”  I deliberately spent time trying to design a lesson that gave students great amounts of choice.  While I still feel like I accomplish this through the “show and tell” project, there were many gaps in the lesson’s inclusiveness prior to my revision.

Another thing that I am ashamed to admit I forgot to consider was students’ prior knowledge of the sundial.  Many students in my classroom have never seen The Lion King, a staple of my childhood.  Many more still were not alive to experience the trauma of 9/11.  Who am I to assume, then, that every student is going to be familiar with a sundial and its purpose?  I introduce the sundial at the very beginning of the lesson, now, through a video that both explains the sundial and its technical elements, and that describes its ulterior purpose.  Being introduced to the sundial and analyzing it and then analyzing an object of their own scaffolds the levels of support for practice and fluency.

Still yet, student collaboration and communication was enhanced by an application of the principles of Universal Design.  Prior to the lesson’s revision, I had not planned for any opportunities for feedback or active engagement/interaction between the students.  Even worse, I had not listed any tools for communication between students and the teacher.  Though I use these every day in my classroom–I just assumed coming from my context that the need for a Learning Management System would be implied.  To remedy this issue, I introduced the element of peer feedback on the project.  This feedback would be exchanged via Google Hangouts, and asynchronously, through Edmodo or a Google+ Community.

To encourage student reflection, I also added a reflective element following the presentation to evaluate oneself on their perceived strengths and weaknesses.  In this manner, students are motivated to hold themselves to a higher level of accountability because they must reflect upon and justify their own contributions.

For blended learning contexts, the implementation of this model is even more imperative than in standard settings because of the string of benefits students can gain through the model while working at a self-paced rate.  These include visual and auditory alternatives, access to translation tools, opportunities for information transfer, multimodal tools for communication, construction and composition, goal setting, resource management, progress monitoring, choice and autonomy, awareness of importance, and opportunities for collaboration and critical thinking with peers.

The implications for the application of the Universal Design for Learning framework are all positive.  As I mention above, it is so simple to become so confident in our lessons (as I did) that we forget which students we may be leaving behind.  Though we may not teach these students each semester, we do need to be cognizant of the fact that these enhancements are necessary for more students than we may realize.


CAST. (2009). CAST: About UDL. Retrieved 20 June 2014, from

CAST. (2010). UDL At A Glance. Retrieved 22 June 2014, from