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!

I’ve Got the Power!

After watching videos this week, I feel a buzz. The buzz comes from seeing young students who have started exploiting technology in their lives. The first video was about Martha Payne and her journey to find her voice. When you watch the video which is a fantastic example of a child taking action. You may initially think “Wow, that is a that is a student who chose to take action. Look how strong and forward thinking she is.” What I realized as I watch the video is that I don’t believe that she chose to write on her blog, Never Seconds, because she felt that she had a strong, empowered voice but instead that she chose to write a blog because she didn’t feel that she had a strong, empowered voice. Through writing, she was brave enough to say things that she was not brave enough to say out loud. I think that the blog and being behind the computer gave her courage and a voice that she may never have found without technology. I realized this when I watched the video. It is obvious that Martha, while being very confident and committed to her cause online, does not have that confidence in front of an audience. This is maybe not what you would expect from a child who has had so much success online. But I think that it is exactly the type of thing that technology can do for some students.

I have seen on more than one occasion students who are nearly silent in class, blow me away with something that they have written. While writing doesn’t necessarily involve technology. Technology does allow a writing piece to be shared in ways that were nearly impossible before. Think of how much of a boost Martha got the first time she received a comment or realized that her blog was actually being read, that she has a voice.

I was in a class today with a group of students who were video recording a message to their parents on the SeeSaw ePortfolios. The teacher asked them to introduce their ePortfolio to their parents. One student asked, “What if my parents already know what it is?”. We suggested this would then be a good time for you to tell your parents how you would like them to interact with your Portfolio. Tell them what kind of feedback you want them to give you. One student went on to say: “Mom and dad, last year you liked my posts but this year could you make more comments.” What a great way for kids to communicate about their education with their parents. By having the students tell their parents what they need they are showing that they understand the benefit of good feedback.

After watching Martha’s video I was still stuck on what to write for this blog post but then I saw Scott McLeod’s TEDx Talk. The beginning of his talk is about Martha but then he makes the statement that there thousands of Martha’s who are using technology at home to learn, create and grow but, that in school, technology use is less about learning, creating and growing. That to get to the point at school where we are allowing students to achieve similar to what they can at home we have to get past our FEAR. We have to stop locking down and blocking out the world.

“We do everything we can to get technology into the hands of our kids, then we do everything we can to prevent them from using it. If we want to have more kids like these, we have to get rid of our fear, our need for control and focus more on Empowerment. If we want more of this to happen in school, then we have to give them something meaningful to work on, give them powerful devices and access and get out of their way and let them be amazing.”

I completely agree, especially since this is essentially my job. My job is to empower students, teachers, teacher assistants, secretaries, administrators, and staff to use technology and be amazing. If I do my job well then I should be able to get out of their way. I should be able to let them get on with it. That goes for training the teachers, guiding the students and working with colleagues.

When I think back on the examples of student action that I save for reference, most include tech and most include home/independent learning with tech. Imagine what students would do at school if we gave them the venue to do it. Like Richard who saved his village from Lion attacks with blinking lights. Or Kylie Simonds who wanted to help cancer patients be more mobile during treatments. Or Kelvin Doe who turned garbage into a radio station. Or William Gadoury who had a theory about Mayan temples that led to the rediscover of unknown temples with the help of Google Maps.

Another example of empowering students comes from System Administrator Aram Schalm, who encourages the students that notify him of weak spots in the school’s system, to help him find ways to close the gaps. He has empowered these students so much that they are coming to him with management suggestions, like when a student suggested that the news Widget on the iPads might occasionally show images that would be shocking to the younger students (ex: War photos). Aram says:

I love it when Students help finetune tech to make improvements! I always make sure that they get credited for this too; from sending out Staff-emails to make Teachers aware, or even during Staff-meetings and also during conference-type gatherings.

I first heard of Aram’s style of empowerment when we chatted at one of those conferences. I have found that many of my ideas for empowering students come from the buzz that I get when going to one of these conferences!

Kids are amazingly diverse and creative, imagine what they could do if got out of their way and let them be AMAZING.

This is what I love about technology, with a little bit of information and playing with keywords in Google Search you can find what you are looking for!

Sources:

“Martha Payne: ‘Changing the World, One School Dinner at a Time.’” Vimeo, Madfeed.co,  8 Sept. 2017, vimeo.com/85140281.

TEDxTalks. “Extracurricular Empowerment: Scott McLeod at TEDxDesMoines.” YouTube, YouTube, 9 Sept. 2013, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GyIl4y_MRbU.

Myinstants. “Instant i Got The Power.” Myinstants, 2010, http://www.myinstants.com/instant/i-got-the-power/.