Could Language Arts be Gamified?

I’ve never really considered the Gamification of my classroom. I believe that gaming in the classroom would create more student buy in and would result in higher student engagement in their learning. However, I struggling to wrap my head around how it would work in a Language Arts classroom. Learning how to identify Least Common Multiples seems much easier to gamify than identifying the theme of a text, at least in an organic way. It would be easy to assign points if students get it “right”, but identifying theme doesn’t have one right answer.

As I started reading about the idea of “flow”, as explained by psychology Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi I was better able to see my classroom reflected in those ideas. Flow is something we’ve all experienced when we’re doing work that is truly meaningful to us and that we are fully engaged in and challenged by – something that is just difficult enough to keep our attention. I can imagine students in this state when they are reading a book that they are truly invested in, when they’re writing something they really want to write, or when they’re working on a project that they care about. It was interesting, then, to see how so many of the characteristics of Flow overlapped with the characteristics of gaming: immediate feedback, short and long term goals, a balance between what is difficult and what is known or already mastered. Although this connection makes sense and seems obvious, it isn’t something I had ever really taken time to consider.

Then, listening to an Edutopia interview with James Paul Gee really made me begin thinking about the fact for this sort of learning to take place in schools, the entire environment and culture of traditional education will need to change. Especially when he talks about how gaming is essentially assessment, that gives constant feedback, as well as allowing you to retry over and over until you are successful. The idea that textbooks/ manuals only make sense to us and area only useful to us once we have a reference and a need to learn information from them. It’s with this thought that I considered my TAG students first. If they were able to pass / achieve something without being directly taught, why should they have to sit through the instruction? Why should they have to read the manual? The process of a gamifying a class, in theory, could allow for much better individualization of instruction while still requiring all students to show mastery.

As I explored more and more topics about gamification of the classroom, ideas began to form. Could students find the theme of a story and submit it for a certain number of points, and if they weren’t quite right, I could return it to them with feedback in real time instead of doing an activity as a class, having them turn it in, and me have to grade 118 papers to give back to them in an amount of time that matters? Would it be possible for them to submit it, and if they weren’t quite getting it, be sent to a video or text that gives them more information? Or could they go in search of their own videos about the topic? I am definitely finding myself rethinking the ability to incorporate gaming in my classroom, although I’m still not quite sure how to manage it. Seth Priebatsch’s Ted Talk about the layer of gaming in real life especially helped with this, as many of the aspects he discussed are already part of the school environment (Appointment Dynamic – showing up to class or school on time; Influence and status – honor roll, reward cards, grades). I think the idea of gaming in the classroom reimagines the teacher as not being the center of instruction and allows students to take a little more ownership and invest themselves more in their learning, which is incredibly important in preparing them for 21st century learning.

In Paul Anderson’s Ted Talk entitled “Classroom Game Design”, he not only explains how he managed to Gamify his classroom, but also the challenges he faced when doing so. One thing that stuck out to me was his mentioning that some students stalled out when given instruction in this format. I think this is an important thing to consider, as there is a reason that an adult with a teaching degree is in the room. Could students, at some point, be required to meet with the teacher before they were allowed to try a level again? Could another level be meeting up with a peer for explanation?

Anderson’s Ted Talk also got me considering how to group students for certain levels for pieces of the activity. I liked the mention of “passion communities” from James Paul Gee, but do think that in some situations, intentional grouping is necessary to support and enhance learning. How can we group students to make the learning most effective? Should the groups stay the same throughout the entire course?

Although I definitely agree with Paul Anderson about trying to completely overhaul a classroom during the school year, I am excited to look more into the Gamification resources and consider how I could Gamify more of the elements of my classroom both in the next couple of weeks and throughout the semester.

 

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