I created this with my Fourth Graders in mind. I want it to go along with our Growth Mindset lessons on The Power of Yet ... (I can't do this YET!) and to help them understand that failure TEACHES us and is okay. This game will hopefully be addictingly annoying for them so that they fail a lot, and get used to it, learn from it, and conquer it!
After sharing my learning theory with my classmates, professional coworkers, and friends, I made a few adjustments. My very original image created was very MEH. I was in a creative slumber from exhaustion and just didn't put much effort into it.
After viewing other classmates ideas, I felt a surge of renewed creative juices and so I revamped mine using Piktochart and edited my blog.
Finally, I added a portion to be specific to game-based learning and edited the image once again. It aligns perfectly and I really feel like it came together much nicer.
While reflecting on this infographic, there were some things that stood out to me. First of all, as an educator of young children, I see a growing gap in some of the most important life skills such as problem-solving and collaboration.
It is powerful to be in the classroom and witness children who are so quick to give up when things get challenging OR when I don't give them step-by-step instructions. Often times, I like to let my students problem solve their own ideas and solutions when conflicts arise. While not all students quit easily, there are a handful who demand answers or they're going to throw a fit, shut down, stop listening/working, etc. . . So how do we reach out to those students? I like to think of it as "tricking" them into working hard. When the buy-in and engagement factor is high enough, they are willing to trouble-shoot. I love that about games in the classroom.
It is also a huge job teaching these young children how to collaborate and work well together. It's a relative new skill for them, and it's hard. It's difficult for adults to collaborate effectively often times! That's why I love to start teaching those skills early on. The gaming atmosphere allows students the ability to work in teams, share ideas, trouble-shoot ideas, make plans, revise plans, and try again!
When studies show 95% of teachers finding games to be an effective teaching tool, why isn't it being pushed MORE? Teachers and administrations seem to be willing to do anything and pay any amount... yet technology isn't always brought up as an effective tool? Why? Is it because some teachers don't feel comfortable? Probably. Is it because technology is expensive to fund and hard to keep updated? Probably. Is it because of fear? Probably. But clearly, infusing it into the curriculum is CLEARLY worth it.
This class has provided a massive amount of knowledge, experience, and inspiration. I loved designing and creating a website through Weebly, where I was able to immerse myself into the process. I found the creative control and ability to organize in however manner I please to be invigorating and essentially, a breath of fresh air. It strikes me that this is how our students in the classroom like to learn, too. Even in the elementary level. I was inspired to branch out more of my assessment options to allow students to express their creativity in more of a powerful, creative way hoping they'd feel the same invigoration as I did.
I learned a lot about technology integration. I was initially a bit prideful to begin with, as I felt that I was already integrating technology pretty successfully. I'm glad I was knocked off my high horse a bit, because I learned so much! I can humbly say I was nowhere near using best practice with technology, and now I can move forward in a more effective, engaging way. I loved all the resources we explored through the textbook (which I had to buy in paper copy too, just so I could keep it to peruse through much longer!), online links, and discussion forums. I feel that it will take a long time to work everything into my Units, but one step at a time, I feel like I can make some big improvements in my classroom.
Mostly, I learned how important infusing technology into every day of a elementary classroom. It is critical. With the future of society progressing as rapidly as it is, and the need for technology-fluent learners growing with even more vigor, I know that I need to do more to prepare the future leaders of the country and world to be technology literate. I felt a deep passion begin to take root about technology integration. There are no excuses, it can be infused ANYWHERE. It is critical, and I will move forward using what I know to spread this passion throughout my school and district.
I feel like a changed educator, and I want to be part of the change happening in schools across the world. I want to spread EFFECTIVE technology practices into curriculum. I want to help draw the stigma away from "play-time" or "wasted time" or "too difficult for an old geezer like me" that circulates the schools. I want to show the zest, creation, and power that technology can bring into the classroom. I want to plant a passion in students to code, or create, or collaborate with technology.
The Ted Talk titled "7 Ways to Engage the Brain" was a great listen for me. I related to so many points when I consider how I teach my students, or even behave as a mother. The points that stood out to me the most were related to how video games work within our biology, the natural way our brain ticks, and the instincts humans have. For example, the uncertainty note explains that humans like to be rewarded, but are even more energized to receive an award unexpectedly. Another note that humans like to exist together, with each other. Games promote that, especially in this day and age with headsets and microphones. Finally, I love the note about people being rewarded for every little thing they do. Attendance, experience, bonus efforts.
Don't let the title "DISCONSTRUCT" fool you... this learning theory is about discovering, constructing, and creating.
I've always identified with Constructivism because I believe students have an incredible ability to problem-solve, analyze, and persevere on their own, if that's the expectation set to them. I've seen it over and over again while teaching math concepts, that even third and fourth grade students can realize a pattern or formula before it being explicitly taught to them. They remember this strategy or idea 1,000 times better and it's a huge bonus that they usually find this to be FUN!
What stands out to me as above-and-beyond simply constructing knowledge, is the emphasis the Discovery Theory places on furthering that understanding to CREATE or INVENT something new that hasn't been discovered yet.
Students are future leaders, scientists, inventors, and teachers.... they need to be prepared to discover, construct, and create!
During my spring break, I took the time to watch this documentary-style video. It helped me understand the world of eSports more. This semester has actually been my first introduction the sport at all, so I felt it was very eye-opening. My initial assumptions of the sport was that it was exactly what the title suggests: where PLAYING is their WORK, therefore enjoyable, fun, and lacking in the typical stresses of other athletics. The documentary helped expand my narrow view before to include all the struggles and stress.
The opening introduction the video was definitely a "hook" for me, as we refer to in education. The comparison between eSports athletes and traditional athletes was both familiar, but also shocking. Even though the physical aspects of the competition is different, there are many connections that were made between the two kinds of athletes and I appreciated this. This actually got me thinking so much that I designed a lesson to take into my fourth grade classroom. We read an article on eSports, then they discussed and wrote paragraphs about their various opinions on whether eSports athletes could be considered real athletes. It was really fun to introduce the kids to this idea, research, and formulate opinions. Not everyone agreed they could be considered real athletes, but many made the connection that there is strategy, focus, perseverance, hard work, skill, and a high level of competitive nature in the eSports world. Then, I showed the introductory clip of this video to help enhance their learning further with a visual support.
I also enjoyed the contrasting point that is made against the title. Although they are PLAYING, it is sometimes stressful, lonely, and full of insecure futures. In other words, the work isn't always "fun and games" so-to-speak. Understanding the technology complexities, behind-the-scenes workload to prepare for the events, and the people themselves better, I felt like I received a valuable education to keep my bias at bay.
Throughout time, people have played games. There have been many scholars study this in a professional setting, studies done to define the words "game" and "play", but these are terms that must evolve as society evolves. So what does it mean to me in my teaching world?
In Man, Play, and Games from 1961, a game was defined by six characteristics: free, separate, uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, and make-believe. I find it to be rather disturbing that the term unproductive was used and defined as: "as opposed to disconnected from material interest — his point is that nothing is produced in play, though money can change hands." Nothing is produced? Nothing? Not problem-solving skills? Not communication skills? Not strategy, or perseverance, or good sportsmanship? Another point I find myself challenged with is the make-believe because I'm coming to believe that a game can be just as real as real-life.
Isn't managing finances in a way just a game? I have a job, and I earn money, in the form of numbers on a piece of paper. Not ever have I held the full amount of my paycheck in cash or anything of concrete status. The numbers on my check abstractly represent my earnings (points) and then it's my responsibility to stretch those abstract funds on the most important resources and requirements in my life. Every week I can watch my balance drop lower, but this again just numbers... could be anything besides money for all I know. The game is me reaching the next paycheck before my money runs out, while also living my life and being happy. It seems just as real as a game- however, the consequences to "losing" are much less "make-believe".
Next, the word game used to have a negative connotation attached to it for anyone except a young child. Games?! In school?! They are supposed to be educated, not entertained! Your teenager is playing a game?! Instead of preparing for a career? Ridiculous! But, just as cinema and movies were once never studied in school, now every major university offers cinematography because people and society have evolved. Now "game" is usually defined a little more loosely. An example from Bernard Suits in Reality is Broken (2011) is: "Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.”
So game has consistently required rules or limitations, it has consistently been voluntary (with an exception to maybe the Hunger Games :) and consistently involves conflict to overcome. These qualifications seem to make it fit an educational world beautifully because some of the hardest teachers have to manage are: rule-breaking, stubbornness (or students who refuse to do the work), and problem-solving with others or tasks that are thought too difficult. If there was a system that fixed ALL these problems, wouldn't it be a no-brainer?!
To me, the connotation for play will always remain a positive experience. Even when it takes hard work, focused thinking, or a lot of sweat and tears... to play, is to have fun.
While trying to wrap these definitions and ideas into my own world of teaching, I have experienced enough now to be a true believer in the world of play and gaming integrated into an effective educational world. To play a game in my educational world means: to voluntarily accept a role that enters a journey of willing learning and enjoyment, within set boundaries and requirements, that leads to a final outcome of new knowledge. I believe that the willingness to participate and journey on indicates it is "play" and the boundaries and requirements indicates it to be a "game". There will be pleasure from choices and interactions, the natural consequence of enjoyment from learning something new, and added sense of accomplishment when it felt more of an independent learning vs. someone telling you everything you needed to discover. The final outcome of new knowledge indicates it to be a truly educational situation as well.
Game-based learning means to me that learning can be more than work. Kids relate to games more, but adults can also learn from the game-based approach. When a unit of curriculum is given in pieces, and those pieces can be chosen by students, it feels more like a game! Having choice and autonomy actually increases engagement and fun, which feels like a game. Add in points, ranks, achievements, and rewards ... it makes everything feel like a game without sacrificing the learning. That is if it's done properly.
There are some key differences to Minecraft and Minecraft Edu:
At first, I felt a bit biased thinking I wouldn't see an educational benefit to Minecraft either. Then I did some research. I began to see the benefits to problem-solving, collaborative play, and creative design. I also learned of several ways educational topics are being explored through Minecraft Edu. A particularly great game I saw would fit perfectly into my fourth grade Idaho History Unit: The Oregon Trail. After watching the videos online, and exploring more, there is absolutely an educational gain from the content, and it can be presented to students in a way they love! Win-win!
The Platform games I played were fun for me. I'm not an experienced video game player, so I like the simplified missions. There isn't too many overwhelming buttons to know about, and there was plenty to keep me on my toes (fighting bad guys, avoiding lava pits). I like the simplicity, especially when considering games for elementary classrooms. It's fun, engaging, and easy to improve skills on.
I liked the Retro-Arcade style game because it's straight-forward, energized from the get-go, has the ability to be practiced over and over, and encourages the growth mindset concept when students view failure as a building block to success. I also think I'd especially enjoy creating a game like this to be used within my classroom.
I had the most fun with the Physics game. I was horrible at first. Adjusting to the way the character moved and slid through the game was hard. However, I couldn't stop playing it. Even though I lost all three lives within seconds continually, I didn't want to give up! I got better and better. I love this concept for teaching the Growth Mindset.
Finally, the Shooter game was a bit challenging for me. I think it'd be fun and a little more easy to create this type of game, and I know students love this style of game too. I liked the adrenaline rush when I was trying to shoot the right person at the right time. I'm only a bit nervous of the fit for elementary school.
The 3-D Mission game was a lot of fun too. I really liked the story-line, power-ups, and obstacles to avoid. It seemed like a bit of a combination of some of the other games. There was still excitement, strategy, shooting skills, and the ability to keep trying!
So what do I think makes games great?
I think it has to have a simple objective without too many overwhelming side-stories, a story-line that keeps me motivated, opportunities for an adrenaline rush, not too predictable or repetitive, and excitement!!