Level 1: It’s all Just a Game

So at first, I wasn’t real excited about this blog post, but then last week a colleague and former COETAILer and I were having a discussion. It started around the digital curriculum, reporting, portfolio program that my school is helping develop (don’t get me started!). We have also started using Seesaw in every classroom and subject area in our Elementary school this year. Our discussion started on how to best use the systems and quickly developed into our idea around to both gamify and use game-based learning in education. After rereading the definition in the ASCD’s article The Difference Between Gamification and Game-Based Learning I realized that the idea we were talking about plays on both elements. Combined they would help create our idea.

It also started with a comment that a teacher made about how you couldn’t be self-directed and standards-based. Which we both disagree with. So, we started batting around ideas and eventually came up with something like this.

This would be for any grade level any age. Students would all have a device of some variety. Technology is a key element of being able to have this type of learning, it is non-negotiable. The students would begin each “day” by logging into their device and the platform. I say “day” because one of the advantages of this is that the school day could become something that looks nothing like what it currently does, but more on that later!

After they log in, they have a bit of a checkpoint where they would review their goals and their game statistics. They would then plan their day. This is where the “day” element would become less traditional. The scheduling options could still be done in similar ways to what we use in schools today, but the students themselves would begin to build their daily/weekly schedule independently. Obviously in PK, K and G1 there would be scaffolding with teachers to help with this. The scheduling options could also be somewhat regulated.

For example, there could be blocks of time for recess/lunch so that it wouldn’t be unsupervised free for all! But what it wouldn’t be is every 2nd and 3rd grader at recess at the same time. It would be a mix of any students who decided that a recess/lunch time worked best for them. There could be parameters in the system that required a certain number of recesses a week or a certain type of recess. For example, if a student always chooses to go to the library, once a week they would be “required/encouraged” to play outside. This could be a way for them to earn extra points of some kind, more on points later.

The same would be happening for lessons. There could, of course, be some lessons that happen virtually and this would be a great way for a student who wants to study something that is beyond the capabilities of the school to study. What we are not envisioning is that there will be no class times. What we are envisioning is that those class times will be very different than what we are used to seeing.

So for the academic element, the students would be evaluated in some way and leveled. Then they would choose what they want to work on, for example, they want to do during a math lesson. Then the platform would give them their options for math classes to attend. These would be math classes focused on the standards which student needs to achieve. They would not be age or grade based. So you would have any number of students (there would obviously be a max) of mixed ages, I will stop saying grades because this entire system would do away with the need for grades. The child would then choose the math class options, given to them by the platform, that they wanted to attend and the platform would offer them their next class option. Thus, building their schedule.

You may be saying to yourself, sounds great for teachers of young students but for older students you have just designed me out of a job. I was struck by this paragraph in the Edutopia article Three Ways to Use Game-Based Learning.

The Game Is Not the Teacher

When using games in your classroom, remember that the game is not the teacher—you are. The game is just an activity. When using games, try to avoid intervening when students are figuring something out. This affords students the opportunity to play with games as systems. And do not grade play; instead, assess the learning transfer that you facilitate from the game experience to the curriculum.

Our idea is in no way excluding the teacher, the teachers have an equal role to students in this scenario. They have their learning that they are doing by constantly having new students roll through their classes, finding new ways to deliver lessons and integrate the platform. They will also have students that they mentor along the way and develop close 1:1 relationships with. These mentorships would also not need to last for only a year. Students and teachers could decide to maintain them for several school year cycles.

Now to explain what is happening parallel to this on the teacher side. Because every child would be doing their own attendance by logging into the platform while at school there would be no need for “homerooms”. What could happen is small teams/tribes/houses/families of students who could be multi-aged, who get together throughout the year in order cover elements of PSPE (Personal, Social and Physical Education). And there will be teacher mentors who are assigned students to track and follow along with the process. This grouping would be where the typical “homeroom/advisory” class things would happen and where general school messages would come through.

Outside of that grouping, the teachers would be teaching in a variety of ways. For example, if I am a teacher who loves math then I might focus on teaching math. Instead of teaching to a grade range of standards though, I am just teaching to the entire range of standards. For example, I could review all of the Kinder-Grade 5 Common Core Math standards, choose the ones that I felt as a teacher I was best at teaching. Obviously, there will need to be moderation to make sure that all standards are covered by all teachers in the school, but you get the idea. Then about two weeks before your new class starts you would get a message from the platform saying, “Here are the students who will be coming to you” and “Here are the standards that they are aiming to cover”. You have time to plan out your math activities and engagements. Then you would let the platform know how many lessons over how much time you would need to complete the unit.

One of the advantages here is you could say to the system I need 6 lessons over 3 days, which would put you doing double lessons on those days, this would allow you to let the system know that you will need longer time slots to keep the engagement going for the unit.

This would be happening in every subject area and every teacher and student. Younger students would be building their schedules with the help of their teacher mentors. Older students could be building their schedules independently. This would mean that the platform would have to be adaptive in order to prevent scheduling black holes.

There could be game based elements that are either customized by teachers or added in similar to the games mentioned in the ISTE article Try Game-Based Learning to Teach Multiculturalism. Small mini-games embedded throughout the system could be used as another checkpoint to gather data of a student’s understanding or ability to demonstrate a skill in their learning. Games like what Jane McGonigal has developed to solve real-world problems. I recently watched her TEDx talk The Game that will give you 10 Extra Years. The game Super Better that she built could be used as a powerful way to monitor students throughout the platform.

So how will the gamification come in? Well, the whole time the student is doing this through a gaming platform that they have some control over the design of. For the younger students, it could be similar to the way Disney Infinity is set up, using popular characters as avatars or have the students be able to create their own. In order to get more options, you have to complete more challenges (academics). You would also be able to earn different elements through power-ups, these would be for elements that were based on skills, in the PYP the Transdisciplinary Skills. There would also be … for earning points based on the showing of dispositions for learning.

The whole time you would be encouraged to earn points or power-ups or complete challenges to get to the next level based on your needs. The algorithms running the system, which I realize are beginning to get super complex, would be saying things like “hmm, I see that you have done a lot of math lately. So I am going to not give you any more credits for math activities until you have completed a language challenge.” or “I see that you have done a lot of group activities lately, to get your next … you will need to do an independent activity”. The whole thing would also be monitored by the teacher mentor could force certain challenge types when needed.

So this all sounds great but how do we know how they are doing? This is why there will never not be a teacher. So the whole system would run on documentation. A student could self-assess with an image, video, audio, or text entry. This entry would go to the teacher or the teacher mentor depending on who was responsible for that standard. The teacher could also provide evidence of mastery of a standard in the say way as the student has. The parents would receive a notification as soon as a standard has been evaluated and be able to add any feedback that they would like to add as well.

What would be needed to make this work?

  • Flexible Teachers
    • Teachers willing to teach in a new understanding of time and space.
  • Flexible Buildings
    • Buildings that had a variety of spaces for different types of learning.
    • Buildings that are open in a variety of times.
  • Flexible Schedules
    • This system will remove the need for an 8:30-3:30 day.
    • Teachers could choose their office hours, students could choose their ideal day length.
    • Students who participate competitively in sports would be able to work around their training schedules.
    • Students who are ill could work at home for longer to fully recover before being worried about falling behind.

Congratulations you have earned the Resilience Badge for making it to the end of this very long post! Please leave comments below to level up. Stay tuned next week for the next level update!

One thought on “Level 1: It’s all Just a Game

  1. Something I just thought about to add to this idea is that teachers would be given reminders by the system to check in with their mentees. The same for students. As well as teachers having “office hours” for students who need additional assistance. This would allow for students who are not directly your mentee to be able to come and ask you for help.

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