Part II: Technology’s Role in a Gamified Classroom.
This is the second part of an ongoing series on the role of gamification in modern education by Andrew Proto. For the first part, visit “Part I: the Unique Obstacles Teachers Face“
In every classroom across the country, the technology that we are teaching our students with is woefully obsolete, and no matter how much we spend on a school’s tech budget, the situation will remain dismal. The reason for this is a simple one; any technology platform students learn from today will be outdated by the time they graduate. Instead, educators need to focus on teaching students 21st century skills rather then how to use the “tools of the moment”, and gamification allows teachers to give meaning to a student’s lessons by connecting those skills to a greater purpose while enabling them to use the tools they feel comfortable using.
The history of education during the last century is one of struggle. For the first time in the early part of the 1900s, we had an alternative to the old teaching style of “Chalk and Talk” with educational leaders (most notably John Dewey and Maria Montessori) demonstrating the power of interactive student-centered learning. Unfortunately, these methods are demanding on both a teacher’s time and their patience. Without having an entire school set up to support their efforts, a solitary teacher trying to facilitate a project-based learning experience (rather then a lecture-based one) had their work cut out for them. It’s far easier to demand that your students just “pay attention, sit still, and listen”. This is exactly the problem that technology can address.
At its best, technology can provide teachers with engrossing, educational content that is appropriately differentiated for any level at which the students are currently functioning–while still being incredibly easy to implement and manage. Games like Timez Attack and iCivics are fun, compelling pieces of software that students enjoy learning from and teachers can use to gain valuable information for monitoring progress. And it goes beyond games. Electronic tools such as i>clicker (or other student response systems that allow a teacher to instantly poll the class) drastically change the lecture paradigm. Teachers can ask the class if they understand the material and get a more honest answer from students who may be embarrassed to publicly say they are confused; or multiple choice questions could be immediately answered by the class permitting every student to participate instead of just the one student who was called upon.
Unfortunately, our classroom is often filled with technology that only exists to better enable old styles of teaching, the biggest culprit being the smartboard. Though it has a veneer of interactivity, smartboards serve only as a conduit for lecture based learning. They sit in front of an entire classroom and allow a teacher to present un-differentiated material to the entire group. Even their “interactive” capabilities serve only the student called upon to represent the class at the board. Smartboards are an amazing piece of technology, but at the end of the day they serve only one user at a time, and they do it at a cost of 10 or 20 times that of an inexpensive laptop.
In schools, our students should be using technology to collaborate together on projects, present their ideas to their peers, research information quickly, or to hone the countless other skills that they will need in the 21st century workplace–regardless of the hardware they will be using in the future. If we’re just using tech to teach them the same old lessons. . . we’re wasting its potential. Students are already using these skills when they blog, post a video to YouTube, or edit a wiki about their favorite video game. They already have these skills; we have to show them how to use them productively and not just for entertainment. This is where Gamification comes in. Games are an important piece of the puzzle–they are how we get students interested in using these tools in the classroom environment. By structuring lessons in the form of a game we will have given them a reason to use these tools, and in the immortal words of Mary Poppins, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
With that being said, we need to remember that while implementing technology solutions can make a teacher’s job easier, it isn’t a necessity. Next month we’ll be talking about what is necessary to create an engaged classroom.
￼Andrew R. Proto taught middle school science for three years before going to work at Apple as a technology instructor. After teaching there for five years, he realized how much he missed his classroom. He is currently completing a Masters of Science in Early Childhood Education at Metropolitan College of New York. Follow him on Twitter @MisterProto
The Gamified Classroom by Andrew R. Proto is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License