So a student of mine told me about this website called Webkinz today. This site allows kids to bring a stuffed animal toy to life by creating a simulated home for it online. It also allows them to connect with their friends through chat rooms.
The site is evidently pretty popular with my fifth graders as the girl who told me about it was able to name a few other students who were using it. When I asked her why she liked it, she stated that she like getting money to build things for her pet.
This is pretty timely as right now I'm wrapped up in using a simulation video game as a teaching approach. My students have been glued to their computers for the last week playing Venture Africa. To me, the popularity of the Webkinz site and my students' level of engagement with Venture Africa reinforce the necessity of using these technologies--games and social software (my students communicated with each other through my classroom blog)--in the classroom.
It's very important that we begin to leave behind the tired teaching approaches that still dominate our classrooms. Our kids are bored and unmotivated by them. Bring in the right video game though and engagement soars.
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