Monday, February 23, 2015

They Game, They Learn

One of the downsides to having a 1:1 laptop initiative is the students' constant effort to game. No matter how closely we watch the kiddos, a few are able to access their favorite game during the school day and play for a few minutes before we ultimately catch them (although some will tell you that we never do catch them). What is the big draw? Why are they so insistent on gaming? Why can't they give as much effort to learning as they do to gaming? These are the questions that we teachers ask ourselves daily.

Gaming is learning. Now, the kiddos may not be learning exactly what we want them to learn, but they are learning. We know that there is something about learning or figuring out a puzzle that draws people in. We all love it, kids and adults alike. We are all up for the challenge. If you think about it, games provide the best kind of learning. Kids will enthusiastically try to win the game or solve the puzzle. They will work tirelessly because it is a challenge. They feel like there is an opportunity to accomplish a "win". If they don't make it, what do they do? They immediately try again and again and again. In fact, they try until they actually win the game. How much would we teachers give to have a classroom full of kids who showed those qualities when it came to the learning we wanted them to experience? A lot, I'll bet.

I decided that I wanted to tap into the tenacity that kids show while gaming. I found several games that revolved around Classical Rome. One game was a trivia game that allow kids to design their teacher and catapult that teacher if they were able to answer some trivia questions about Rome correctly. One game gave kids an opportunity to dress a gladiator so that he would not die in a fight. The game made the students learn about how gladiators dressed for fighting and allowed them to demonstrate that learning. If they didn't learn it well enough, their gladiator died and they had to try again. Another game was an archaeology game called "Dig It Up" where students learned all about Roman artifacts while their cartoon figure dug through ruins, finding all kinds of things along the way. 

During this class period, the kids were focused and intent on winning the games. Sometimes, a couple of kids collaborated on different strategies that would ultimately succeed and some would troubleshoot until they figured it out on their own. NOT ONE kid felt like they were a failure if they didn't win the game. They simply tried again. That tenacity and acceptance of "failure as a first effort" are characteristics that I want my kiddos to exemplify on a daily basis. When their mindset changes from "I got it wrong so I am bad at it or stupid" to "I got it wrong this time but I'm going to keep trying because I know I can get it" then I will feel like we have succeeded in helping nurture a growth mindset; the kids will be well on their way to becoming lifelong learners. For me, it starts with trying to incorporate some tenants of gaming into the classroom because when the kids game, they learn.

1 comment:

  1. It is this persistence in learning that I find so special about learning spaces that involve clear challenges. What they can experience in a game is working toward a definite goal with real opportunities for choice in order to get there. The one thing I don't see in this kind of gaming environment, however, is a time where learners can establish their own challenges or problems to solve.

    How is it that we can help them take the clearly defined rules and outcomes of games and apply that to their everyday work? How can we support them in defining their own goals and setting their own outcomes for achieving? I think there is a lot we can learn from the way games engage us, but I also think that games (even difficult and complex ones) may not be enough for kids to apply what they have learned within the game to real world problems. It likely takes a teacher and a community of learners to do that.

    P.S. This comment is a part of the #C4C15 project. Find out more here: