I have the good fortune of attending the International Society for Technology in Education annual conference in San Antonio this week. Last night, Dr. Jane McGonigal gave the opening keynote to around 6000 of us, and we might have broken a world record for thumb wrestling.
If you have not heard of Dr. McGonigal, you might want to see my previous post about her or go directly to her TED talk. Her studies on the effect of gaming in education are fascinating. In last night’s lecture, she made a good case for how we can utilize the positive aspects of gaming to our advantage in the classroom. She spoke a lot about the importance of engagement in learning, and the fact that our students become less engaged as they move higher in our educational system. Integrating gaming with our lessons could help us to change that. The picture above shows one of her slides on the 10 positive effects of gaming, and I think every teacher would like to see that mirrored in the classroom.
McGonigal’s work is controversial because so many people have pre-conceived notions about gaming. What’s important to note, though, is that you do not have to use actual video games to reproduce their significant qualities. By convincing her entire audience to participate in a massive multiplayer thumb wrestling game for 60 seconds, McGonigal was able to evoke the same emotions. We can do this in our classrooms by emulating the positive characteristics of popular video games – choice, control, collaboration, challenge, problem solving. There are some great educational video games that can be used, but we can also create the type of environment that will have virtually the same effect with less dependence on technology. Whether you choose to use electronics or do it the old-fashioned way, you can “gamify” your classroom and aim to awaken all 10 of the emotions above in every student each and every day.
Don’t worry; I promise this is not going to be an advertisement for a home improvement network…
DIY is one of the coolest new sites that I’ve chanced upon in a long, long time. I haven’t even shown it to my students yet, and I am super excited about it. This is going to be something awesome, I have a feeling.
DIY offers kids the chance to earn Skill Badges by doing challenges. After browsing through the skills and challenges, I was ready to start earning my own badges. The challenges look fun, and since I never got a chance to participate in Girl Scouts, the virtual badges seem like the next best thing to me. For example, how would you like to earn your Papercrafter badge by doing 3 challenges (out of 13 choices) that include making a walkalong glider or building a paper vehicle?
Most of the challenges include instructions, either with video or pictures. There is a great parent info page, along with a Parent Dashboard once you sign up. DIY kids get their own website to show off what they make, and there is a supporting iOS app to easily upload videos and pictures of their creations. The site seems very user-friendly and, best of all, encourages kids to be creative and inventive.
According to Codeacademy, even teachers who have little experience with programming can facilitate the after-school club. There is a free, downloadable curriculum, and Codecademy also provides a mailed kit to the first 250 teachers to sign up, which includes stickers and “other stuff for your club”.
The program is self-paced, and there are no downloads or special pieces of equipment required. As long as you have computers with compatible internet-connected browsers, you do not need to provide any other materials.
The topic of gaming and its usage in the classroom has been popping up more and more in the last year or so. Jane McGonigal, who is an expert in this area (check out this link to see her extensive experience and list of “unlocked” achievements), gives some good reasons that we should not dismiss gaming as “a waste of time”. Other than improving flirting skills, it seems that many of the benefits might be worth consideration by teachers. I am planning to create a gaming environment in my gifted classroom this year for my 5th graders, and I hope to see an increase in productivity in the areas of creativity and ambition, as Dr. McGonigal predicts! If you are interested in this topic, you might want to visit Gamification of the Classroom and Classroom Game Design, too!
This is, in part, a continuation of Friday’s post on the gamification of the classroom. In this post, by Ben Bertoli, the teacher explains how he turned his 6th grade class into a role-playing game. I love his ideas on allowing the students to create their own characters and to participate in “Random Encounter Friday”. The nine point list that he gives of the basic plan for implementing “Class Realm” in his classroom would make a good place to start for anyone who is interested in trying this with his or her own students.
In my post that featured a TED talk on Classroom Game Design, I mentioned the interest that I have in trying to use the interest that my students have in gaming to engage them in the classroom. Rather than having them play video games in the classroom, I am considering making the classroom, itself, into a game-type environment. I found this wonderful post by Mr. Daley that gives some great tips on trying to “gamify” your classroom. I have a grand scheme to integrate Mr. Daley’s ideas, Genius Hour, and Teaching with Tournaments into my 5th grade Gifted and Talented class next year. As usual, I am biting off far more than I can teach, and it will probably dissolve into a sort of semi-controlled chaos. But, I guarantee that the kids will have fun and they will learn! (You might also be interested in this case study, by Peter Ross, about a teacher named Kate Fanelli who successfully used “gamification” to engage her students.)
Teach with Tournaments is a curriculum written by Josh Hoekstra, and was recently featured in a blog entry by William Bennett, former U.S. Secretary of Education. I highly recommend that you read William Bennett’s blog entry, as it gives a very good summary of the idea successfully used by Mr. Hoekstra with his U.S. History students. I love the concept of having the students defend their “champion” by doing research, and I think that this might also be something that I could include next year as I attempt to “gamify” my classroom. It could also fit in nicely with the Genius Hour idea. In addition, I would suggest getting other classrooms involved through Skype or FaceTime, so that they could help determine the “Champions”, which might encourage the students to take their presentations to an even higher level (and discourage popularity contests). Kudos to Mr. Hoekstra for such a creative idea!