I grew up at the super tail end of Gen X. And I always felt a little different than the true Gen X friends I grew up with. But I didn't quite feel that I fit in with the Gen Y (as they were called when we were growing up). My siblings are Gen Y, now known as "Millenials." And I am actually in a subcategory known as "Xennials". We had a non-digital childhood, but a digital adulthood. We rode bikes, played Atari, and didn't get a cell phone until well into adulthood when they were available for the everyday person. But, we did have access to computers. And we know The Oregon Trail was the best game ever invented for the computer. Don't even try to change my mind. That green screen with floating yellow-green squares shooting at passing deer and buffalo would either save your life, or cause you to starve. We learned that there was a direct correlation between how much supplies we carried in our wagon and whether or not we would be able to ford the river. And for those of us growing up in California, this was the beginning of integrating technology into our history curriculum.
Fast forward thirty-five years, and here we are purposefully integrating technology into school curriculum. Not everyone is willfully doing this, but many of us seek out ways to do so. Right now, I am researching ways to gamify my classroom for the next school year...which begins in a little over a month. I have a hope that we will stay safe and have everything online. Which means that my gamification is even more critical now.
In his TED Talk, Gabe Zicherman, entreprenuer and author asks, "Do our kids have ADD, or is our world too freaking slow for them to appreciate it?" Since his talk in 2011, our world has gamified in ways I didn't even think about until now. Gamification is creating game-like experiences in the real world--points for shopping at stores, videos while gassing up the car, and the sounds in C major when needing to take out your debit card from the machine!
One example I thought of, was something I would never have thought of as being gamification--my car's dashboard. Until 2014, I was driving a silver 1999 Toyota Corolla. I bought it new that year and it drove like a dream. It had an awesome tape deck, and was my first car with automatic windows. I named her Bullet. The dashboard dials all had hands like a clock to show her speed and amount of gas in the tank. Now, my current car, Cherry, totally different. She has all the things I wanted in a "big girl" car. She has air conditioning in the back, cup holders every which way, and a special light above my gear shift that lights up at night so I can see what I'm touching.
Now, you may be asking yourself, "How is this car gamified?" Oh, trust me. It is.
Gone are the days when I would say to myself, "I wonder how many more miles I can drive before I hit a true empty?" Or remember when we had to do the math and write down our mileage to see how many miles we got to the gallon? Yeah, that's all gone now. My dashboard tells me EXACTLY how many miles I have left in my tank through a little electronic dashboard that looks (coincidentally?) like a tv screen. And she also keeps track of my miles per gallon. I can flip through its channels and it tells me when my next oil change should be, how much air is currently in each of my tires, and my personal favorite--which of my tires are bumping around too much. That one is FUN! At times, I find myself purposely going over bumpy parts of a road just to see the tires change from stable to bumpy. Oh, I totally forgot to mention that there's a racing game too! Cherry tells me what my best mileage is. I'll be honest, I feel like we cheated a bit to get it. I put her in cruise control at 75-80 mph on I-5 on a trip back from San Diego the first year we got her. I haven't been able to beat my high score since. Beginner's luck, I guess.
And because our life is so fast-paced, and our technology is outdated almost the second we buy it, shouldn't our school system also be up to speed? It isn't. You might think it is, but it isn't. Just like we can use social media experiences to keep students engaged in class, we can gamify the classroom to teach the standards in an exciting and "new" way. According to Zicherman, the "average IQ is rising .36 points of IQ per year....Fluid intelligence began increasing in the 1990's. Coincidence? I think not." The 1990's is when the technology of video games really began to take off. Companies like Nintendo and Sega were fighting to stay on top as being the most popular home video gaming system. And now, they not only have home gaming systems with which to compete, but online games, and gaming apps for hand-held devices and cell phones. And yet, most classroom teachers do not attempt to integrate these games into their lesson designs.
Katie Salen, Executive Director at Institute of Design in New York City, NY states, "The heart of everythnig we are doing, is, we are trying to help kids understand how to be in charge of their own learning." The school where she works, teaches students using game-based design. Students are learning the curriculum through the experience of playing and designing games. These games are both digital and non-digital. These students are transferring their knowledge in amazing ways. This is also preparing them to think critically, work colloboartively, and have an eye for design. And the best part? Their learning is preparing them for the digital world in which they live. They will be ready to create their own jobs in the future.
I just finished watching Eddie Obeng's TED Talk "Smart Failure for a Fast-Changing World". In it, Obeng describes our learning as being too slow for the world in which we currently live. I have said this before, making the point that we are teaching our students for jobs that haven't even been invented yet.
Obeng's diagram shows how our learning is behind where it should be. They (as I do not know this person's preferred pronouns) explain that we have known constants, or "answers", that we've held on to for decades (past). In our minds, the rules haven't changed. So our learning has stayed stagnent as the world around us has drastically changed, and has changed exremely quickly (now). Obeng jokingly states that it's because of the audience's use of technology. And honestly, I have to agree.
In one school I worked in, it was a magnet school for technology. Many of the teachers who worked there, were there prior to the magnet. They did not have a choice in becoming a magnet school. Adopting a theme of technology, for many, was out of their comfort zone. These were seasoned teachers. Some of whom had taught there for twenty years or more and never taught anywhere else. Some would say they "were stuck in their ways." Several were not willing to learn about the technology at the school. They did not go to trainings--whether during school hours or after school/weekends, or even trainings during the summer. And although I would consider some of them excellent teachers, I couldn't help but notice what a disservice this was to the students living in a modern society. After watching Obeng's video, I have to say that I would consider these teachers were excellent teachers...twenty five years+ ago.
Obeng says that there is a magical moment when all the rules changed. They call it, "midnight". In the diagram, the moment is captured as a dot where the line of the world, meets with the line of learning. Then a line is drawn with a clock added, to emphasize the exact moment.
The rules we knew about teaching and learning were flipped. I see this right now in the classes I am currently taking for my master's degree. Video games used solely for entertainment, is a thing of the past. There are many excellent video-game style educational programs. Prodigy, ST Math, iRead, and Fast Math are all examples I have seen and/or personally used with students.
Gamifying your classroom is a way to keep kids engaged without using video games, but using the elements of a video game. For example, students earn points instead of grades. They can earn XP points to "level up", or spend in the classroom store. You can create a live document on your website to allow students to see real-time stats and ranked standings. Students can be put into teams and subteams for even more game play. Gamifying your classroom to keep up with modern technology is also a fun way to add a new level of classroom management to your classroom.
Sarah Magallano teaches 5th grade. She also coaches teachers on integrating art & engineering into their lesson plans.