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.)
The students did a pretty good job with completing their projects by the deadline. Last week, they presented them to the class. While one of the pairs was presenting, a student kept whispering my name frantically. I tried to sign to her to listen to the kids standing up front, but she could not wait.
“I didn’t finish,” she said, desperately.
Several thoughts came to mind, such as saying, “You should have used your time more wisely.” Instead, I said, “That’s okay. Just show what you have.”
She had started a website on pet care. When it was finally her turn, this student, who rarely speaks in class, stood by herself in the front of the room, and showed us what she had done. As she got deeper into her presentation, she almost seemed to forget that we were there, and clearly showed more confidence and passion about her topic.
When she finished, the other students asked clarifying questions about what she intended to include to complete the site. I told her that I thought she had done a fabulous job on the portions she had finished.
At the end of the day, when the students were lining up to leave, the student approached me with her research notes from class in hand. “Can I bring these home?” she asked. “I want to finish the site before next class.”
This project was not for a grade, and the presentations were done. Yet, she wanted to finish what she started – on her own time.
That’s what Genius Hour is all about.
As our Genius Hours continued, the students began to get interested in each other’s projects. Many of the kids were using Weebly for the first time, to create websites. They would end up criss-crossing the room to consult each other on such things as how to make logos or to embed games into their sites. Several of them were confounded by our district’s filters as they tried to access sites they could easily jump to at home, and quite a few of them got lessons from me on copyright violations.
A few of the groups decided to make websites that linked to fun games. This led to not a little time being spent on playing the games to “make sure they are appropriate for school”. We ended up having a conversation during one of our feedback sessions about whether or not they were making the best use of their Genius Hour by doing this. They agreed that the games could be explored at home during the week instead.
The one student I absolutely could not help was fortunately one of the most self-motivated. He had decided that he was going to make a remote-control robot. He brought all of the materials from home, and took them back home each week so his grandfather could aid him with the tough parts, like welding and figuring out electrical circuits.
Two other students had selected a project that would be done, for the most part, outside of Genius Hour. They wanted to start a tutoring group to help kids with Science. They used their Genius Hour time to make a poster advertising the tutoring group, write letters to the teachers explaining their proposal, and to find support materials.
One of my students wanted to design a video game, so I introduced him to Gamestar Mechanic. He basically got all he wanted out of it in three sessions, and started wandering around to help others with their projects. Then I showed him Sketch Nation Studio on the iPad and he was back in business.
The variety of interests and projects was exciting. We were all learning, and I kept hoping that an administrator would walk in during our Genius Hour to observe the engagement amongst the students. When I was a little girl and pictured myself as a teacher, this was exactly the image that I had in my head – kids enthusiastically taking responsibility for their own learning.
Come back tomorrow for the final post in my Genius Hour series!