Friday, September 30, 2011

Game On!

I have never been a gamer.

And I will totally date myself here by saying that I was never into Pac Man, I don’t own an X-Box or a Wii and I was generally not following the connections between games and the classroom.
That is until a couple of summer’s ago at the Harvard Graduate School’s Future of Learning Institute where I both learned to “tweet” and had the opportunity to attend a session with Chris Dede, Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard. 

And I thought …whoa! 

He was talking about disruptive innovations and that the disruptive innovation heading toward our classrooms was the customization of individual needs. This was way beyond  differentiating instruction. Chris Dede talks about a full customization of the learning process that is student driven. 


Students understanding themselves in ways that allow them to create the learning situations which will help them to meet their goals as individual learners.

And then we talked about gaming.

At the recent New York State Council of School Superintendents Conference in Saratoga Springs, Mary Cullinane, Director of Innovation – US Partners of Learning for Microsoft Corporation focused part of her  presentation on gaming. 

She shared an amazing statistic ….. that kids playing video games fail at the game 80% of the time.
 Think about that  …….and think about what do they do every time they fail? 

They go back for more!

When I get a mental image of what this type of perseverance and persistence would look like inside our classrooms I am filled with excitement. Kids so engaged with an activity or a concept that if they failed to understand it 80% of the time they would willingly and of their own volition keep going back until they got it.

 Just picture that! 

Consider the incredible implications this holds for learning. 

In the September issues of “the Journal,” an educational technology publication which you can check out at writer Charlene O’Hanlon talks about “a new generation of gamers who are not just picking up skills by playing video games – they’re learning by designing an creating games themselves.” In her article she explains that game creation as a learning tool is really just a digital-age take on the learning-by-doing approach to teaching. All of the current curriculum re-design work being done in schools across the country is being structured to include more opportunities for project-based learning. We know that students pick up concepts more easily and retain more information when they are hands-on with their subject matter. 

I am especially drawn to the use of Gamestar Mechanic because it is targeted toward middle school students. There is much research that points toward middle school as the time when many students disengage from learning; especially boys. Gamestar Mechanic is built on a foundation of pedagogical research that includes systems thinking, digital literacy skills and STEM learning. It is being used in 800 schools and the basic program is free. 

I would encourage you to check out some of the following websites:

I am convinced that the use of games as part of the instructional program holds endless opportunities for our students to practice 21st Century skills such as communication, problem-solving, collaboration and teamwork. These skills simply cannot be replicated in the same way by traditional classroom activities. 

According to David Samuelson, Executive Vice President and Director of Games and Augmented Reality at Pearson and co-moderator of the working group that focuses on game-based learning within the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), “we are graduating through the stage where we’ve accepted that games are now a part of society, and we’re looking for the best ways to incorporate them into the teaching environment. It’s a natural progression.”

So … innovative teachers willing to embrace the redesign of teaching and learning for our 21st Century classrooms ….

Game On!

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