I recently watched a video by social architect Amy Jo Kim who has worked with EA games, Ebay, Disney and Yahoo to name a few. She gave a Google talk relating to games and social media. I’ve recently been interested in bringing together game elements and teaching and have played around with it with my students. Having failed miserably at first, and then somehow succeeded a few times, it is definitely not easy to design a good lesson plan, or even series of lesson plans around game mechanics.
Amy gives an unstructured definition of a game as : a structured environment with rules and goals that’s fun. Now doesn’t that sound like a classroom environment you would love to be in? Going through the techniques she talks about in her Google talk, let’s see how they can relate to the classroom.
Collecting – In games we can collect objects, in social media we can collect friends, “likes”, and complete profiles (90% complete, please add a comment to complete this post). But in the classroom what to students collect? Grades are an obvious one, but let’s really think about whats motivating our students. What about skills? Student are constantly collecting new skills and giving them an opportunity to get a certificate or gain some sort of proficiency from the class will motivate students to participate. I know there are others so please comment away.
Points - Some points in games are given by the system, and some are given by other players. Angry bird gives you points for every pig you get while you can get favorites points from YouTube. Once you have points you can create leaderboards which are strongly a reflection of what you wanted to celebrate in the game. You can also divide by levels when you have points. In the classroom what sorts of points are the students receiving. Do you have a starboard for good behaviour? Do you have the students divided into teams that compete during class activities? Social status is a major motivator and collecting “social” points can really motivate students to get involved (of course in a healthy way). Give opportunities for students to feel accepted by their peers and praise it with points. What are some other points?
Feedback – a major component of many games these days is seeing how well you are doing. Instant feedback is expected by young game players and I’m sure many of them would benefit from it used in the classroom as well. Feedback helps you improve over time and drives players towards mastery – something we want for our students as well. A simple way is to give more opportunities for assessment that don’t necessarily count towards the grade. Practice test scores displayed on a chart for each student is a great way to show them how they are improving and help students to create goals and techniques to reach them. Having class discussions about how they planned their essay or how they studied for the test will give students new ideas, opportunities to compare their techniques to other students’, and motivation to try new things, or make iterations to their current practices.
I’m sure many of you are already using some of these techniques to make your classroom a more fun and rewarding environment, but I encourage you to find new ways to combine them into a more complex and deceptively motivating environment. Before you know it students will be performing better on tests, more involved in class discussions and generally more personally invested in the class.
To watch Amy Jo Kim on youtube click here or copy this link into your browser http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihUt-163gZI&feature=player_embedded#at=682