Why Gaming?

There’s a lot of discussion currently underway regarding the gamification of all sorts of environments, from the workplace to the classroom.  While it’s nice, I suppose, to work on something that’s considered hot stuff, I’m less interested in being cutting edge or flashy than I am in finding a way to bring together in one cohesive package the things I value most regarding learning.  Here are the things I’m looking for that I believe gaming provides:

Individualized skills development

When we play games, we learn at our own pace.  It may take me three respawns to figure out a fight, and it may only take you one.  That’s okay.  I might focus on leveling up a tradeskill while you build rep.  That’s allowed.  My students should have the same opportunities.

Personal choice

Choice, ownership, agency.  Some of the best games out there immerse us in their worlds and the tasks at hand because they allow us to decide who we are and how we’ll conduct ourselves.  How often do our students go through the points-grabbing motions because they don’t own anything that takes place in the classroom?

Collaboration and development of strong team bonds

I want my kids to be able to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses and tackle problems together.  Ideally, the classroom would be a tight-knit community of individuals bound together by a common purpose and similar beliefs about how to get the job done.  Not unlike a guild.

Constant feedback in a variety of formats

Gamers get constant updates about how they’re doing, what their teammates or opponents are up to, and what steps to take to accomplish the next objective.  Feedback beyond just a grade is crucial for motivating students to improve their skills.

Resilience in the face of failure

In games, we stand in fire, die, and learn (hopefully!) not to stand in fire again.  We fail spectacularly when fighting a boss, research and confer with group members, alter strategy, and win.  Learning happens as a result of those failures, and we are okay with failing in games.  Not so much in the classroom.  However, if we’re looking for mastery of skills, risk, or creativity from our students, failure has got to be an option.

Part of the job of bringing gaming into my classroom will be gaining parent support for the whole thing.  I’ve created a little resource, available here, in order to share some of the why-am-I-doing-this with them.  What do you think?  I would appreciate any feedback in the comments.

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One thought on “Why Gaming?

  1. At the risk of sounding flippant about the case you are making, let’s assume that I agree that gaming is a viable (and valuable) part of the classroom … because I do.

    Questions that I have include the following:

    – how many/which “traditional” roles can gaming play? Practice? Assessment? Inquiry? What else?

    – Setting aside the fact that we are in the age of accountability – a VERY difficult thing to do – how do you design ways for students to demonstrate the learning that takes place as a result of gaming exercises outside of that context? At our school, for example, you are very likely to have parents who say “Fine if you use gaming AS LONG AS my child gets a 30+ on the ACT, makes honor roll and lives happily ever after”.

    – I’m new to the discussion, so this next one is more along the lines of “no clue, what’cha think”. How do teachers find games that are worth the time. If a game can be done quickly, it doesn’t do the things you described; if it is a fully developed game world, how do you know it will pay off?

    – Finally, how important is it that the struggle I imagine is the reality of my last question be faced as a team? If I wrestle with these issues and come to a different decision than the teacher down the hall doesn’t that potentially create learning confusion for students at some point?

    BTW, it’s very rewarding to me to work with folks who are having these conversations.

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