Skill Building with Simple Games

Today I was working with some Grade 5 students on a robotics project. I was helping two girls fix a friction problem with their wheels. I said, “There are numerous ways to do this, but I find this way to be the easiest.”

One of the girls said, “What does numerous mean?” I said, “Many ways. Or alot of different ways.” I also pointed out that saying “alot” is not the best practice for an English speaker.

Anyway, I asked them how many languages they spoke. At my school, it is not uncommon, for a child to speak 2-4 languages. Yes, I said 2-4. One girl spoke three languages, and the other two.

This multi-language skill set is often challenging for vocabulary building. Every time a student learns a word, expression, or new language concept, they do so multiple times. If you have ever studied a language, you know that they hardly ever line-up grammatically or logically.

I told the students if they wanted to “up” their skill level, they needed to make a daily game. The game is simple at first. Take a word that you use all the time, and decide for a single day not to say it. Instead find a synonym, and use that. And yes, that means a synonym in all the languages, not just English. This practice gradually builds to phrases, idioms, etc.

Personally, I have used this method and it works great. The truth is though, I have not only used it to learn another language, but to learn computer programming, technology of all sorts, and new ways of working.

I feel it is important to recognize the patterns we follow, and patterns our students follow. We are then responsible as educators to break those patterns in order to extend our skill set(s). Sometimes this means working with processes that are less efficient, but show us the underlying workings of systems. Other times it means accidentally discovering a new feature or process involved in something we believed we had already mastered.

Challenge yourself now, today. Here are some ideas for disrupting your life and upgrading your tech skills:

  1. Instead of using Facebook, try to connect a Twitter account to Facebook and use Twitter to post your status messages. Pick-up a few followers along the way.
  2. Get a GMAIL account, if you do not have one, and activate the Google Drive. Commit to making any documents and presentations in Drive for a solid week. Avoid uploading and converting, create from scratch.
  3. Plug an external keyboard into your laptop. Try and navigate, launch applications, etc. without using the trackpad/mouse at all. Do it all with the keys for a full day.
  4. Download the open source image editor GIMP, and find some tutorials for it. Use it for a week to edit photos, make graphics, whatever. See if it meets your needs for free.
  5. Send all your media from your phone, to your laptop with bluetooth file sharing. There are many apps for this. Ask yourself if this is faster and more personalized, or just a huge hassel.

A good resources for learning to do clever things, is Lifehacker.Com. Small moves, one day at a time, that is all it takes to evolve any skill set.

Tony DePrato

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