We can often hear educators discuss how difficult it is to reach students in their classrooms and keep their interest. In fact, a lot of blaming goes towards how much time students spend on video games, as well as the instant gratification of today’s society.
If you step back to think about it, what happens in video games are the very things that we as educators aspire to have in our classrooms. Maybe instead of despising video games, we should in turn learn from them. After all, it is highly unlikely that the video game industry accidentally stumbled upon the ideas of ways to get kids interested. They most likely spent a large amount of time and money in their pursuit, so why not take advantage of that.
Let’s take a look at a few of the aspects of gaming that we should aspire to have in our classrooms.
1. Risk Taking Environment - Failure IS an option -
The video game environment allows students to fail, and then try and try and try again. All of this happens within a safe environment. Teachers understand that the classroom is supposed to be a safe place, but this doesn’t just include a bully free zone. It should include the opportunity to fail, and learn from that failure and try again. The idea that “failing is bad” is what can hinder us from learning. In fact, in video games the failure seems to make the child work harder at achieving the next time around. Failure is only bad when students aren't given the chance to learn from that experience.
2. Connections to their World
Gamers know exactly what needs to be done and WHY it needs to be accomplished. It doesn't have to even be realistic for them (for example: a plumber needs to save the princess from the giant lizard). However, kids are bought in. Why are they bought into this? Because they understand the WHY. We often talk about the real world connections that we should have, but do we really bring it down to a level that they understand. We all know that the day’s of “you need to learn this, because I’m telling you it’s important” are over. What if we placed the standards and skills that the students need to learn in a mission or goal for them? It’s possible that this will make the true connection to THEIR world through THEIR eyes, not ours.
3. Missions & Objectives
Games have a clear overall mission to them. There is an end goal in sight. How do the players get to this goal? They have certain levels or stages that they go through, with checkpoints along the way. We as educators know where we are in the lesson, but do the students understand where they are within your “game”? Do they know when they have reached the checkpoint? Do they understand when they have reached an objective? Do they know how far they are from achieving the overall mission of what is to be learned?
Think of the reward systems that are created in video games. Kids aren't playing them for a grade, they also aren't playing them to earn money. So why do they continue to play them? Points and Badges. They want to earn points and receive badges. Even older kids and adults want to earn the highest amount of points possible and receive a badge for their collection. Most gamers know their ranking on the Xbox Live or Playstation Network communities. Even Apple has a “Game Center” that users connect their iPhone/iPad to compare their game play against others around the world.
Why not bring this concept into your classroom. Let students earn a badge during a formative assessment, instead of always worrying about their grade. Create an environment of friendly competition and post “gamer” scores. Websites like credly.com and kahoot.it are a great starting points.
Transforming Your Classroom
Of course, totally transforming your classroom in a few days with all of these ideas is most likely not a reality. However, hopefully reflecting on some of these ideas can help make your classroom an even more engaging place to be. Successful change happens over time. Remember if it doesn’t work the first time you try one of these ideas, try it again - that’s what the gamers do.