I started this series earlier last year (Part 1 & Part 2), examining how video games have become one of our culture’s favourite types of text. But this series is not just about video games. It’s about how the benefits of games can crossover into education. This series stems from my fascination with how people learn vast sets of rules and garner a variety of skills when they are engaged in games and play. So, how do we use games and play for learning?
EK – Edna Krabappel. Jaded teacher from the Simpson’s.
BRS – Brent Schmidt, yours truly.
EK: Why would we want to infuse gaming in the classroom? Kids play too much video games.
BRS: Gaming doesn’t mean video games. Many teachers over the years have used games to help their students learn, or used game elements to increase engagement.
EK: “Game elements?”
BRS: Game elements are things like: mystery, narrative, conflict, chance, scores, strategy, uncertainty, aesthetic appeal, competition, progress, emotional involvement, and collaboration.
EK: Still don’t get it. How can we possible play video games in class? That’s not educational.
BRS: That’s not what’s being suggested here, although video games have been used to teach. Think of it like this: how can we design our teaching and instruction in a way where lessons are more “playable” using the elements listed above.
BRS: Playable means a lesson, unit, or project is inviting. It means, it should pique a student’s curiosity . It means that play becomes part of the way we learn and practice skills. It also means that it’s done collaboratively.
EK: Whoa, whoa, whoa, there buddy! You can’t do all that!
BRS: Yes, you can! You just need to practice what it looks like in a classroom. You start with a setting, students have characters, there’s a problem, and the students need to learn and use the curricular stuff to progress.
EK: Okay, so what do we call this? What’s the acronym? EdGaming? Gamification? Game-based learning? EGGGBL?
BRS: Game-based learning is legit. A mantra my colleagues and I have used is “Classroom Story”. It’s not about acronyms, a detailed methodology, or cookie cutter lessons. It’s having an approach using narrative and game elements to drive the students to learn and create.
EK: What about other methods? Like Project-Based Learning, or Writer’s Workshop, and Lit Circles? And what about technology?
BRS: All are still totally viable! A Classroom Story is using a creative narrative and game elements to drive the class forward. Teachers can still integrate their own strengths, styles, projects, and personality!
EK: You just said “Classroom Story” again, and before you were talking about video games! What are you trying to pull here!
BRS: I’m just trying to be part of a grander conversation about culture and education. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between popular culture and education system. I’m trying to incorporate the ancient practices of storytelling and game-playing, with modern technology and pedgogical methods to create a positive, creative learning environment. All those principles packaged together became something called a Classroom Story.
EK: This confuses me and now I don’t want to do it.
BRS: If you try and don’t like it, or it doesn’t mesh with what you’re trying to do, I get it. This isn’t a magic bullet. It’s not a solution to education’s woes, but many teachers have found it increase student engagement, the quality of writing, creative output, and classroom cohesion.
EK: I’ve seen a bunch of stuff online about using badges, achievements, and level-ups. Is that gaming in a classroom?
BRS: Some will say yes, but I don’t believe it is. Just because there’s an electronic achievement with a little badge, packaged like a game, does not make it gaming. Remember learning about the “Types of Players“? Achievements and badges are just re-packaged grades, and there’s only one kind of “player” that goes for that; achievers. We need to teach to the “Explorers”, “Socializers”, and “Killers”, too. And I feel that the Classroom Story does that.
EK: Why do I need to do a song and dance for the students? Why can’t they just sit in rows, read the assigned texts, and do the work? Kids are lazy these days!
BRS: The human brain learns and retains information better when it is engaged. When there is purpose and joy. When students are working and playing in proximity and community. This is why we need to teach students differently.
EK: Well, I’ll just add more tech. And YouTube. Kids love tech and YouTube.