This post is written by Cate Tolnai, a co-founder of BUOY Consultants, a partnership agency serving schools, districts, and companies with implementation strategy and services. Her recent co-authored publication, Power Up Your Classroom: Reimagine Learning Through Gameplay, (ISTE, 2019) presents frameworks for learning engagement and instructional design. You can connect with Cate on Twitter at @CateTolnai.
Remember the joy you felt when you laid the last domino in a match, played the final card in the deck, and finally reached level 4 in your Super Mario Brothers world? Well, that feeling is not just a coincidence. That is game-design in it’s purest form — leveraging choice, strategy, skill, and a little luck to unlock an emotional connection to the task at hand.
Sounds a little like good teaching, huh?
By the time our paths crossed, Lindsey Blass (my co-author) and I each had powerful experiences in classrooms and with professional learners that were fun, engaging, and truly different. Being connected educators, we are able to share our experiences far and wide with our professional learning networks.
The more we shared, the more we heard similar struggles amongst teachers and leaders: How can we design learning that really sticks for adults and that eventually make their way into classrooms?
Lindsey and I believe that if we provide impactful professional learning opportunities for educators then the strategies and resources will have a higher chance of making it into the classroom.
And here’s why…
#PowerUpClassroom Theory of Improvement
So what does this mean for the learners? Game-based learning (GBL) has the potential to take traditional classroom content and invigorate the learning process with choice, clarity, collaboration, and celebration.
Many students arrive in our kindergarten classrooms with years of experience playing games and solving puzzles on handheld devices. Their worlds consist of bright colors, rapid motion, and multiple chances to fail and succeed at any given task.
Yet, our instruction often offers the opposite. By mimicking this game-based style and pace of learning for professionals, we see the likelihood of integration increasing substantially.
#PowerUpClassroom 4 Cs of Game-Based Learning
“By inviting our students to move through the content at their own pace and choose the method of learning that works best for them, we increase the likelihood that they will retain the information and feel more invested in the learning process.” (p 64)
How to add game-based learning to your class
When you consider the simplest onramps to GBL, think about how you might start by adding these elements to your instruction:
1. Add more CHOICE by creating a menu of project options and invite students to choose how they want to show their learning.
2. Add more CLARITY by empowering students to show you they know skills as they are mastered through a digital badges program rather than waiting for an end-of-unit test.
3. Add more COLLABORATION by creating team competitions in which learners assess each other for accuracy, creativity, and critical thinking.
4. Add more CELEBRATION by posting a “Class Mystery Reward” board that invites learners to catch each other doing good and remove corresponding post-its until the whole class gets an opportunity to celebrate together.
A quick search on Pinterest or Twitter will give you a TON of board ideas to implement with your students tomorrow!
— Park View Primary (@ParkViewUpdate) February 21, 2019
So, if you’re waiting for us to invite you to play the “game of learning,” consider yourself invited. Everyone, even you, deserves the opportunity to play both at school and at home. Start by creating moments of play and watch how those moments eventually POWER-UP your classroom for the better!
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