An extract from a conversation which took place between two teachers playing the teaching game!
Player 1: Games in the classroom? I don't understand!
Player 2: What don't you understand?
Player 1: Well..you know games are games. They aren't learning.
Player 2: Yes they are.
Player 1: How?
Player 2: Well, children learn to play the game, they learn to work out new strategies to complete the game and they reach a goal - so they achieve and earn rewards.
Player 1: But they are just playing! They aren't learning!
Player 2: So playing isn't learning?
Player 1: Well...yes it is. Well, it sort of is. But it isn't proper learning.
Player 2: What does proper learning look like then?
Player 1: You know the stuff we do every day! Book work, reading, the teacher explaining stuff to children.
I used to be just like Player 1!
What caused me to make such a U-turn on the Game Highway?
I guess it started one day about six year ago when I suddenly realised that I didn’t enjoy some of the things I was asking my students to do in the classroom. One great example of this would be ‘morning activities’ – this takes place at that nether-worldly time of day just before the school day starts when children are often given onerous tasks like spellings, maths review questions and dictations to complete.
At some point, I just thought these tasks were exactly that – TASKS – you know like Hercules and his twelve tasks (did he really enjoy slaying giant snakes, lions and wild boars?). I hate the word ‘task‘! It has such negative connotations. ‘Game’ sounds so much better.
So I decided to change these tasks to games: Top Trumps, Playing Cards, Dice games were all introduced. Gone was the dull silence of children pretending to enjoy the morning tasks. Instead, we had conversation and collaboration taking place in the classroom – ‘Oh Happy Day!’
So I guess the question that needs to be asked is ‘Why, when it comes to gamification and game-based learning, are some educators still stuck on level one playing the part of player 1?’ Even today, in a world where gaming has grown to such an extent that it now has it’s own e-sports channels on YouTube, there are still many educators who refuse to see the woods for the trees.
I believe that much of this Player 1 attitude comes from fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of letting go of what works. Fear of losing control. So much Fear! I know this attitude is particularly prevalent in education, where a stereotypical view of the classroom still exists across much of modern society.
I suppose that I get a little worked up and stressed by this whole idea because I love games; whether they are online, tablet/computer-based, board, card or sports related. I have certainly seen and felt the undeniable benefits that games offer!
There is no doubt that online games opened my eyes to culture, history, nature and science. This is one of the reasons why I love the combination of game-based learning and gamification that is the middle school History game Historia. I wish I had been a History student at this middle school; learning History at middle school was very different for me – it usually involved me copying from the blackboard and answering lots of dull questions on even duller subjects.
So what do I feel when I play games?
I feel immersed, energized and part of something. I also tend to feel very competitive, frustrated and addicted (depending on the game I am playing). The reactions displayed by Libby, in this video, during her player to player battle on Mortal Combat is how I imagine I react when I play similar video games.
I have seen the joy that children get from competing and collaborating (inside and outside the classroom) on different games against/with each other. I know that game based learning and gamification are both fantastic opportunities to make the learning process more enjoyable and engaging.
And so I am going to make my classroom’s learning environment as game-friendly as possible!
Weekly ‘End of level Boss’!
This week my end of level boss (something challenging but incredibly rewarding if it is successful in the classroom) will be to introduce the two typing games – Baronvontypefast and Nitrotype. The reason for this – I am now teaching in Year 6 (Grade 5) where we have one to one iPads and ChromeBooks; this makes speedy typing a priority.