Saturday, February 8, 2014

Game Time

At this point last weekend, I was sitting in Philip Vinogradov's session on Gamification and Flipped Instruction at the DCIU Google Symposium.  But to say that I was just sitting there would be inaccurate.  Instead, shortly after Philip's opening remarks, we split into small groups and my teammates and I, who did not know one another prior to the presentation, read through the first directions which happened to refer to rolling some dice using Dungeons and Dragons lingo.  It took only a few seconds for us to realize that all of us understood the directions; we all had played D and D. We were united, we were nerdy, and we quickly set to work completing the first task. It took a little while longer to realize that we had completed the first task of Philip's presentation prior to him explaining it to the rest of the educators in the room.  And it was that moment that got me thinking more seriously about gamification. We were engaged from the introduction to the close of his presentation.

Photo by peddhapati
I am new to the idea of gamification.  As a high school English teacher, I used to think that gamification referred to the use of online avatars and badges to reward student progress, which sounded a bit too much like the stickers given to elementary students, too much like an extrinstic reward.  Although I have seen a number of gamification sessions listed on recent conference programs, I must confess that I dismissed it as just an educational fad inspired by teachers who had grown up playing a few too many role playing games (which I should also confess that I would be included in that group as not only did I play D and D with an actual group but also played all...yes, all...the D and D inspired video games).  But when I saw that Philip's presentation also included elements of flipped learning, I was intrigued.  And now I must admit that I am a bit ashamed that I had so quickly dismissed gamification as a fad. As Philip's presentation demonstrated, the principles of gamification are not simply to have fun or hand out rewards.  Instead, the principles of gamification include engaging students in higher order problem-solving skills, both collaborative and competitive learning, placing learning opportunities in the students' hands.   So if this skeptical teacher was engaged in the first few minutes, imagine the possibility that gamification holds for classroom planning and instruction.

Philip's presentation had our group of teachers reflecting and discussing the possibilities of implementing gamification in a variety of classrooms, from elementary math classes to high school English courses.  And something that I have found myself returning to over the course of this week is Philip's helpful heuristic - Q.U.E.S.T.T.  I would highly encourage teachers to review his presentation materials below for a better introduction to the principles of gamification than I could give. I also found that participating in the #levelupEd Twitter chat this past week was another good introduction to teachers in various stages of using these principles in their lesson design.  The interest in incorporating the principles of game-play into lesson design is growing, and it is easier for me now to see why.  The ideas of gamification and game-design thinking are not simply about rewarding players, or in this case students.  Instead, the same principles that underpin problem-based learning, flipped learning, and mastery learning are also at the heart of the gamification movement.  It is about inspiring and empowering learning at all levels.

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