Education has 6 fundamental flaws that are evident in some way, shape or form in schools. I’d like to breakdown these 6 flaws and how a truly gamified program addresses each one. I’ll use my program as an example to demonstrate how each one was combated.
Here is a little video I came across that illustrates the flaws pretty well, this is also where I selected the wording for the 6 flaws...
If you look back into the history of education, school was designed to essentially promote a specific type of student, or in reality a specific product. The system needed to bring about people who were good at following direction, not questioning authority and not bucking the system. The vast majority ended up in factories on assembly lines routinely performing the same tasks. While this may, and I stress may, have worked at the time, the modern world does not reflect these value at all. Of course we appreciate being able to follow instructions and contribute but we need more than that now.
In my program, especially because it is based in science, following direction and order is a fairly useless endeavor. I need to produce thinkers, not robots. Many of the problems we are now faced with require outside the box thinking, collaboration and innovation. I needed to foster this so students in my program do not earn maximum XP (top grades) for doing what has already been done. If their 1st instinct to is Google the solution, I’m not doing my job! I fabricate all of my major quests (major projects) so that they are loaded with details and problems that need to be interpreted and broken down. I awarded bonuses for creativity and award risk taking. Whether the project works or does not work, the process and explanations along the way mean more to me than receiving 30 identical Styrofoam ball cell models for example. I do not want factory workers, my classroom is design to push out creative thinkers and strong collaborators.
Lack of Autonomy
When designing my program, I wanted students to understand that they had control and that I trusted them. While I could not re-work my entire school day schedule I could re-jig how my classroom ran. When students quest (work) they are given a series of different quests to complete, each ranging from easy to hard difficulty. This often included bonus and optional assignments as well. Each assignment is worth a different amount of XP and the monthly goal is to hit 1500XP points. Do honour autonomy and choice, I provide them with 2000XP worth of quest, meaning that students can choose which ones they do. This allows them to carefully select the ones they feel comfortable in and progress up to more challenging ones, in essence, they provide their own form of scaffolding. Much to my surprise since I have started this process, over 75% of my students to date consistently attempted more quests than required. Even though they hit their monthly targets they often refuse to sit back do nothing, when by the rules of the game, that is perfectly legal because they earned that time off. Even more incredibly, students regularly show in class and the first thing they ask is, “are we questing today?!” which in a non-gamified classroom would be the equivalent of, “are we working today, I want more work!” By simply providing choice, I’ve been able to encourage students to take risks, put forth more effort and challenge their own creative limits.
I really have an issue with the regurgitation of information. Yes, knowing is good. Knowing things because you simply have to results in you forgetting that information when its requirements are met (i.e.: writing the test). On a serious note, how many tests and quizzes do you actually remember from your schooling? Students need to experience their learning and not just be a simple part of it. In a truly gamified program, the students are immersed in the scenario and theme, connect to the narrative and set their own personal expectations. As they quest in land of Scientia Terra, the knowledge is being applied practically and retained with a much greater consistency. I once had a student write a test and hand it back to me saying, “you know, I didn’t study for this because I just knew it, it’s like when I was questing I was studying!” and I replied, “it’s almost like I designed it that way!” I want students to connect to what they are doing and through experiments, construction, battles, games, puzzles, riddles or completion of challenges they become immersed in their learning and just simply a bystander in it.
No Room for Passion
Many classrooms are so tightly controlled that when a student wants to try something out of the ordinary it is often shut down before it begins. I have experienced this first hand as a student and did not want my classroom to reflect this so I created work and marking systems that were specific enough to ensure the material is covered and understood but vague enough to ensure it does not lock any student down to a specific way of thinking. Students begin to infuse their passions into their projects. I’ve received heavy metal songs about cells to coffee mugs that explain diffusion. Art pieces that teach me about eyes and vision and children’s books that my daughter actually requests I read to hear at night before bed. My letting students dive into their passions, their work becomes a true reflection of themselves and not of me.
How We Learn
I totally get that we learn in different ways and require different resources to make learning happen. Some prefer that we instruct orally while others need to see it and experience it. In my classroom, I aim to reach all of these different ways of learning. I spend, on average, less than 200 minutes lecturing in favour of an average of 400 minutes questing. I present students with the base goals and materials and during questing, they dive deeper into it. It gives me time to mill about the room talking with individual, or small groups of, students in order to check in on their understanding. They also ask more questions during these times because they are not the center of attention with everyone looking at them. They feel less pressure and more confidence.
While I admit I do lecture in order to teach, I use a different platform to accomplish it. I learned about live content delivery system and have fallen for one known as PearDeck. PearDeck allows me to simultaneously cast my lecture from my screen onto their own personal devices, all they need is an internet connection. While doing this, students can reply to me, or the group, anonymously, giving voices to the shy in your room. It promotes a greater discussion and a deeper learning than what I used to do, which was admitted just talk at students, throwing information at them in mass hoping they would pick it all up. There are other live content delivery systems you can check out as well such as TopHat, SplashTop and NearPod.
So in essence, you can see that a gamified classroom runs far deeper than just sugar coating learning and, to come back to the first line of this post, it is not a bunch of bullshit. When done properly, it promotes a deep learning, fosters creativity, invites passions into the classroom and encourages collaboration...among other things. Mine runs ever deeper in certain area. Students arrive excited for class and wanting to learn more and do more. I guess you could say, true gamification is more than chocolate covered broccoli.
And hey, if the haters keep coming at you, don’t worry, just read this incredible quote by world renown author and psychologist Brene Brown …
- Master Heebs