Science teacher Brandon Watters is a gamer. He particularly enjoys playing The Room on his iPad. The Room transports gamers “into a unique space that blends spellbinding visuals with intriguing problems to solve,” according to its website. If you played Myst on your PC back in the 1990s like my brother and I did, The Room is a lot like that, Brandon says—super fun and filled with mystery. I don’t know about you, but I’m checking it out over spring break …

You heard it from Bill Daggett during our February Institute Day: Games help students learn more and learn faster. Why? Because like The Room and Myst, they immerse gamers into a fictional world where they rely on critical thinking and problem solving skills to compete against themselves. Also, because they are fun.

Daggett’s talk prompted social studies teacher Morgan O’Connor to invite Brandon, Antioch ILC director Barb Mason, and me to a meeting to discuss the possibilities surrounding gaming in District 117. We didn’t get far, but at least we got the conversation started. 

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Morgan has been reading some blogs about gamification and discovered that not all educators are relying on computer-based gaming to enhance learning. Some educators turn their entire class into a game, where students can earn points for achievement. This reminded me of the game some English II teachers at Lakes use during the Lord of the Flies unit. Students can earn points for their small groups, or islands, by completing homework or scoring well on a quiz. The winning island gets a prize.
  • Students already are computer gaming in some classes, especially in the CTE Department. In Life Resource Management, for example, teachers use online learning programs to reinforce lessons. Students need to answer a certain number of questions correctly in order to move on to the next level. Laureen Carl’s students were completing a financial literacy unit using FinLit last week in the ILC. Laureen told me she appreciates the opportunity to expose her students to online learning in this way because many of them likely will take online classes in college or as part of their future employment. Also, students use Virtual Business simulation programs to practice personal finance, restaurant management, and more in classes such as Introduction to Business, Entrepreneurship, and Sports and Entertainment Marketing.
  • Asking students to develop a game—or at least the concept of a game—on their own or in small groups is an effective and engaging way to encourage students to use critical thinking skills. Morgan described an assignment where her Global Studies students had to create a board game that would help their classmates to learn information for their unit on Tiananmen Square. Her students also have told her that if she made Global Studies class like Trivia Crack, it would help them remember content better.

We want to hear from you. Have you gamified your classroom? How? Or, maybe you’re in the curiosity phase of gaming like Morgan, Brandon, Barb, and me. If so, check out these websites and blogs that Morgan and Brandon follow:

At Brandon’s request, Barb and I also ordered the book The Multiplayer Classroom: Designing Coursework as a Game for our professional collections. Brandon already has called dibs on the Lakes copy, but you can read it after he’s done.

As I finish this blog post, a sophomore named Jennifer asks me, “Ms. Doyle, what goes around your neck?”

I said, “Huh?”

She said, “I’m playing a game and I need to know things that go around your neck. I’ve already said necklace and scarf.”

“Ok. Ummm… a tie?”

“Tie! Good, that’s a new one.”

A student sitting next to us named Megan chimes in: “I have that game, too. The next one you need to know is ‘collar.’”

“Ohhh, collar…,” Jennifer says. “Thanks.”

See? Gaming is everywhere.


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