If you could not attend, or if you did attend and you want to download the PowerPoint, play games or access the game design site, you can find all of the links here.
It’s that time of the year. No, not spooky season, although, we do like that time of the year as well. One of our favorite events that we like attending, and have attended in the past, is coming up. Next week is the 54th Annual NIEA Convention & Trade Show! This year’s NIEA Convention & Trade Show will be held at the Convention Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico from October 18-21, 2023. 7 Generation Games will be there! Be sure to catch AnnMaria at NIEA this year at the convention and then for her presentation on October 21st. – details below. We hope to see you in Albuquerque!
AnnMaria’s Presentation Details:
“Teaching Indigenous languages through educational game design”
Saturday, October 21, 2023
9:00 – 10:15 AM (Workshop Session J)
I’m the first to admit that my history education has been lacking, with my last history course being in the eighth grade. Since I skipped a couple years of school and entered college at 16, I didn’t even take the mandatory U.S. history course that everyone is supposed to have in high school.
All my life, I have been a “math person”. I’ve taught math from middle school through doctoral programs. What history I learned was mostly with working with our cultural consultants on games like Making Camp Lakota, Making Camp Dakota, Making Camp Navajo or Forgotten Trail.
As a developer on Bozeman Trail, a game designed to teach middle school history, I was, for the first time, exposed to some new perspectives.
From an Indigenous perspective, history can pretty much be summed up as,
“We were living here and these people came in with guns, took our land, forced us on these reservations and sent our kids to boarding school.”
When I thought about it at all, which was admittedly, not often, my opinion was, wow, those colonists were really awful people.
People moved out west for “a better life.” I never asked, “Better than what?”
In eighth grade, back in the 20th century, I learned about railroad barons and the Homestead Act. People moved out west for “a better life.” I never asked, “Better than what?” and the question never came up.
Playing through the Bozeman Trail, I learned about the Irish immigrants who built the railroad. They didn’t come out west because they wanted to steal Lakota lands. They came because it beat starving back home. Does that make it right? No, but it is certainly a different perspective that I had never considered.
Chinese immigrants that built the railroad, too, had even worse conditions than the Irish. The game does not have a lot of the Chinese immigrant experience – it’s just one game, after all – but it had enough to make me want to learn more.
Life was hard for the Shoshone, Arapaho, Lakota and everyone else
If you were a child, a woman or a freed slave, you had even fewer opportunities and harsher conditions than the men working on the railroad. Children didn’t ride in wagons, unless they were very young. They walked. Deaths from disease and accidents were rampant. If your child got sick and died, you just went on. What else could you do?
Bozeman Trail gives an unvarnished look at the way the U.S. government broke treaties with the tribes. There is some background on the Panic of 1873. People lost all their savings. Banks were collapsing. There were no jobs. If you were lucky enough to have a job in the army and didn’t want to go fight the Indigenous people, you’d be thrown in the stockade.
Did that make it okay to go in and steal the gold from the Black Hills almost as soon as the ink was dry on the treaty that says the Great Sioux Nation are the owners of the Black Hills, forever? Did any of this justify moving the Shoshone, Arapaho and Lakota people to smaller and smaller parcels of land and forcing them at gunpoint to comply? No, of course not.
Personally, Bozeman Trail Reminded Me of Immigrants Today
When I see the news on immigrants getting off buses in New York City or Los Angeles from Texas, I don’t see them as people coming here to steal my job. I understand that it takes a lot for someone to pack up and leave everything they know.
Before Bozeman Trail, I’d assumed that the American west was settled by adventurers, young men who came out to make their fortune. I’m sure there was some of that. The perspective from the Bozeman Trail game, though, was many people were just trying to survive or thrive and they had found that impossible where they were.
Did you ever wonder what your students thought about your lessons?
During the summer, we were fortunate to have six students from Minneapolis review our lessons. Our reviewers included one third-grade student, one sixth-grade student , one student entering ninth grade, two entering tenth grade and one entering eleventh grade. Why did we include high school students? Because they have been in middle and elementary school much more recently than us, and they were better able to express their opinions than the younger students. Plus, as anyone who has taught grades six through ten knows, they do NOT feel the obligation to tell you what you want to hear!
And the winners are …..
Introducing fractions – This was my favorite because I like how it starts the kids off easy and explains to them what fractions are.
Introduction to Lakota/Dakota Oral Histories & Storytelling – third grade social studies and this was a good subject also i looked at the presentation it was great and i think kids will be interested
(Yes, our office has a swing out front. Doesn’t yours?)
Figurative language & poetry – It’s cool how they demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships and nuances in word meanings.
Introducing idioms – The reading and the video were both good. For fourth and fifth grade, that is a good subject to learn about so I think the lesson was something I would have liked in that grade.
Decimals, epidemics and fly vomit – I liked the presentation and the activity was fun. I thought the video was boring and I’d like the teacher to tell us a few facts about flies instead. I hate flies.
Making a Calendar with PowerPoint – it was a good video and a good lesson to learn. I like the background noise. The only suggestion I have is for a little more detail on different things you can do with PowerPoint when making a calendar.
Teach ratio with Math Snacks – It was a good lesson in sixth grade mathematics. I really like how they broke it down for the children to understand and it was a nice video also.
Anyone who has worked in marginalized communities, especially in schools, is very familiar with the grant cycle. Something is funded, people are hired, everyone gets excited, progress is made and then the grant ends. What then? Too often, it is off to the new project and all the training, materials and efforts go to waste. With tens of thousands of students using Growing Math software, we couldn’t let that happen.
The Updates Happening Behind the Scenes
As part of the Growing Math project, we received evaluations from teachers of what they wanted improved and what was working. An issue mentioned many times was graphics. Students were using the games and videos on their phones at home and, with all of the different phone sizes, the text was not always large enough, or an image might overlap with text. This occurred mostly with the first games we had developed, when some of these smaller screen sizes didn’t exist or certainly were not being used by children in elementary school. (Remember when fifth-graders didn’t have phones?)
In the last month, we put a new version of Making Camp Ojibwe in the Play Store and the App Store and updated Making Camp Bilingual on the web. A new mobile version of Making Camp Bilingual and a web update of Making Camp Ojibwe will be out by the end of April. We are updating games in the order of the number of users, but our goal is to have an updated version of every game by the end of the year.
The maintenance you don’t see
Have you ever tried to download software or gone to a website for resources and it’s no longer there?
It’s not just that new screen sizes come out or new devices, like tablets. Software requirements also change. A few years ago, browsers started blocking autoplay. We get it, that’s annoying but that also meant when you went to one of our pages where a video automatically played, teaching about, say, the Ojibwe migration, that video no longer played. We made the needed changes BEFORE Chrome started blocking autoplay, so students could keep playing the games.
Without getting into the technical details, I’ll just say that behind the scenes changes are happening all the time. Either we think of a way to make the game load faster, or the powers-that-be decide that certain functions or features will no longer be supported and if we don’t change our code, it will eventually stop working.
New resources are coming …
We know educators are tired of having to come up with completely new lesson plans to incorporate the latest new, shiny thing rather than receiving support to build on what works. We do have three new games under development, one of which will be available very soon. We will get back to publishing new lessons and new units. First, though, we are making sure that what you have already included in your lesson plans stays up and running.
Growing Math Continues with Foundation Support
What happens after grant funding ends? We’ve seen it happen time and time again on reservations and other under-served communities – a project starts, staff get trained, materials are developed, students are learning and engaged – and then the funding ends. Over two years, Growing Math training was attended by 1,375 teachers from 327 schools. Nearly 35,000 students used the online resources and almost 13,000 more had resources downloaded to be used offline.
We didn’t just look at the database, we also went out and visited classrooms, interviewed teachers in person, on zoom and read many, many pages of reviews from teachers. One of my favorite comments, to which I think many of us can relate
I really enjoy the program and what I have utilized with it these last two months. This is on me to not have used more because I know I could, but it is just a timing thing t… I enjoy the language and learning the culture of the games/lessons. … I have not used any reports and would like to do so, but it goes back to the time. I am a first year teacher in 6th grade teaching all the subjects, so my time is limited, if I want to sleep.— A first-year teacher
An unanticipated result when we began the project was how much special education teachers would use Growing Math to provide individualized instruction for teachers. That became a request (because teachers are too polite to demand) from the very beginning and we have been adding suggestions for accommodations for students with learning differences, as time allows.
What do you do with a community built with grant funding when the funding ends?
I am sure you have guessed the answer by the title. As an educator, I am sure you learned those tricks about reading the title, skimming the headings and now here we are.
We have partnered with the Strong Mind Strong Body Foundation to continue providing lesson plans integrating Indigenous culture, mathematics and agricultural science. The Growing Math site and asynchronous training is here to stay and planning to grow. Stay tuned for much more to come.