Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Link to published article http://theeducatorsroom.com/2012/11/blended-classroom-learning-virtual-and-real-classrooms/-
The spear whistled through the air, but the aim was low. The huge tail swished and contemptuously flipped it aside. Then the black form dropped into the foaming waters.
"Missed," Cico groaned. He retrieved his line slowly...
"Are you sorry you missed?" I asked as we slid our feet into the cool water.
"No," Cico said, "it's just a game."   (Bless Me Ultima, Rudolpho Anaya)

As a life time gamer of Four Square, Monopoly, backgammon, Scrabble, I am hard pressed to define gaming by today's standards. As an educator who relies on games as incentives for inquiry I have ignored digital game technologies. I awoke to realize that just as the number of books children access is a predictor of reading ability so too is gaming a predictor of digital literacy.  I have fallen in to the very literacy gap that I fear exists for students.  Never has it been more urgent for teachers to introduce and promote deliberate gaming in education yet it is difficult to find clear approaches to balancing effective classroom management, strong connections to content with the fast pace of the gaming world.  Often teachers' good intentions ruin the fun factor crucial to skill development which paralyzes us and gives voice to the skeptics.  Observations of both traditional and unconventional teachers who game assures me that everyone can succeed with the gains of gaming.  I organized a thinking map of all that I have observed over the last five years and whittled it down to common practices that always result in success.

First, most of teachers I admire most as mentors will ask the important question, what are we calling gaming and why are we doing this.  James Paul Gee and ...... can answer this better than I can.  My husband, a tech integrationist is currently building a website for our own district to answer this question.  Gaming is defined by the free online dictionary as An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime: party games; wordgames. 2. a. A competitive activity or sport in which players contend with each other.  To me, gaming meant an ongoing role play of "let's pretend" and as a teacher it meant finishing each unit with something that students could connect to.  Card games after studying the Enlightenment, Tug of War during political units or studies of Israel.    I found early on in teaching that I would never have the build or the ego to be a dominant force in a classroom. Students would never just stop talking or eye me with obedience just because I walked into a room.  In conversation with coworkers who were women, boys tended to role their eyes at us as if we were their mothers, or liked to strut invasively into my personal space with snide comments, "you'r not the boss of me".  Girls eyed me as competitive and sneered behind my back.  So I discovered gaming.  Gaming gave me authority, it made me a confidant, it allowed students freedom to back out of a situation or to direct their anger.  Gaming was an incentive at the end of a unit, an incentive to be someone new or an incentive to step outside your learning.   Games are a gateway tool they get kids to do what they should.  Edutainment.  

good games have freedom to fail, to experiment, intense and relaxed moments, interpretation, open ended, together builds new cognitive structure.  (James Paul Gee).   Students can walk away from a game when they get frustrated and they offer second chances for entry, students are never permanently labelled as failures because persistence is rewarded with harder levels, more power.  Hockey is a perfect example. You foul, you go to the penalty box. But when you are done you get back no hard feelings.    Good games can evolve, change as long as rules are clearly defined.  Bad games are too complicated or are too educational.  Interactive quizzes are not games.  Word Island- not a game. Illustrative

 The approaching holiday season advertisements bombard us with console and application games providing individuals with a private game world (Wii U) or a global network like the ever popular Sims. In the upcoming educational era of the Common Core there is an emphasis on teaching with clarity towards expression of gains in knowledge and new understanding with informational text.  The emphasis on evidence is apparent when reviewing standardized test questions.  Every moment of my curriculum is being analyzed for purposeful planning and content.  Students are pre tested, post tested and tested in between for learning progression.  Never has it been more urgent to encourage students and teachers to insist on gaming in the curriculum.

Students were asked to read from a written passage and take a position or explain something. Nona Allen.  Debate Clubs

Libraries, the great equalizer, “what is crucial for a child is not jkust having access to digital media but also having access to good mentoring around that media.” (Gee, 63).
Students as mentors

Video gaming tends to make me wary.  I don't know how to coach students who are gaming, I can't anticipate whether a game is good or bad or if it connects to my curriculum.  I worry about lost amounts of time, student inequity or harassment.  I don't know where they begin or end.  I have learned over time how to use questions to trigger meaningful exploration within a unit and developed role playing (RPG) or Multiplayer situations as test the context of our unit study.  Most of my games are person to person interactions within the confines of a classroom over a period of days.  We study, read, question and then have 20 minutes of game time.  We can redefine the rules for the next day.  We can expect more from analysis and individual or team efforts that will impact a final assessment.   Students sometimes want even more and speculate on how they could keep a game going.  It has made me take online and application games seriously.  I discovered fantastic research behind meaningful connections and gaming but no real explanation of how teachers balance both their classroom structures with gaming opportunity.  

Affinity spaces- players use the context of thegame to engage in subsequent challenges, redesign games, work out physics,formulas,problems, puzzles. Social and learning activities- meta games. ARG- alternate reality games- blur the boundaryof creativity and practicality

 Ineffective teaching- begin the first day of a unit or theschool year with a fun activity or diving right into subject matter
Effective teacer- organize and structure the classroom sothat it is very clear to everyone involved as to what it will take tosucceed.  Develop gaming into yourroutine and structure (Harry Wong)

Stay organized, with claearly defined classroom proceduresand routines. It is easier to branch into gaming when you have your routines tofall back on.  The program I amvolunteering in currently has gaming activities once a week, every Tuesday.Students have two routines to work through before they have unlimited remainingtime for gaming.  Consistency causesstudents to be on time and to avoid absence
incentives-  I love starbucks.  

The Common Core emphasis on critical thinking and evidence seems to be designed just for the online gamers.  I realize that my daughter, age 7, can get a free game from me, such as Amazon.  play with the screen several times until her finger creates an interaction, fail and try again until she slowly develops a sense of the environment and its rules.  I can't do this, as a teacher I highly recommend googling the game name and "how to". I think wikipedia gives me a simple sense of what I should or could know as a coach.  Otherwise, game reviews are good to look at. 
Theroutine is a perfect fit. Study a theory, understand how it played out inhistory.  Build a base knowledge andthen, game it.

games are like science labs.  I always thought thatsocial studies should teach students as if they were in a science lab. Testinga theory or a moment in history and comparing the outcome to the actuality.  It worked. I flew to Colorado one summer andVirginia another and watched, practiced physical classroom games that test oneeconomic principle after another. Sometimes students were brought in. They received a credit of economics, we watched their response andreaction to a lectures and games. 

get a gaming mentor- I had my fellow teachers from FTE who kept in contact with me for years through email.  Now I have students. I have one or two students who hate school, love online interactions.  I excuse them from certain assignments or give them community service credits.  They play, analyze a game, write rules that link to our studies.  I will give them the facts or evidence that I hope to see students build connections to, they embed questions in the game or in forums for me.  In fact, they will perform higher with content and contextual connections because they have a role as a teacher.  

create or let students create roles for themselves.  First, before you game there has to be an element of fun.  Even when we play cards at home, we all have to make a noise, a dance, a game name before we play. Doing so builds rapport.  And for online gamers, picking an identity that is not your own protects student privacy, confidentiality and drowns a stereotype. 

When you game should stay the same, how you game should change.  

point value- must impact classroom.  EduArcade- games are a context for description, replay, probability. They areengines for analysis. They run themselves. You keep track of the outcomes.
Balanceindividual responsibility and group points. I find the best is to award a wholeteam a minimal point value once everyone becomes involved.  If it is speaking, The quiet kid can mumble 2words and the wordy kid can go on and on. The rest of the team won’t let eitherruin the opportunity for the group.

Games need to: “children who make the most of thesetechnologies do so in the context of families and communities of practice(& sometimes schools) that support their efforts or at the very least havemodeled some of these same dispositions (5)
Myfavorite one was a game where you were a boy in a snowy field and you had tothrow snowballs at other kids trying to hit you. I loved this game as a littlekid and I wish that they would remake it for windows 7 so that other littlekids can have their dads show them how to play.
— joe p^2

Gaming is intertextual absolutely. I find it best to endgames on a second day after student discussions prove to me to be engaging andrich.  The incentive to have one last goat a game causes for rich discussion. We draw on comparisons from games tocontent, we make text to text connections,  or real world connections especially with newsarticles.

Redesign-   What if.... very powerful.


Lists- everyone likes lists- helps us present choice.

Use sims to study the many ways life affectsyou if you choose a worst case scenario.
Gets you unsolicited reflections and discussionon poverty.  Sims can be considered as atext to text, first hand account, evidence.


http://www.thepotatostory.co.uk/  love the British accent, mention chips instead of fries, lorries etc.
Form-  log/ report/ analysis/ strategize/
same link to common core each time.  Teacher adds comments and one new question per session.
action chart in the classroom tracks common reactions,
paper- simple rules.  recently rewrote rules for Mad Libs.
Something additional- dress as characters- add dialogue- kata's crazy uncle monkey dialogue.
scavenger hunt.
incentive at Starbucks-  Why I react to this.
Independent Lens-   muslim comic books- or maps or phrase book- something tangible to walk away with.
checklist- team discussion.
back to class.
Theory- prove it right/ wrong or nuance.
writing a game for class- needed a menu of product choices.  Need a mandatory test.  Need some mandatory participation.  Discussion.
something that students keep- tangible- to walk away with.
cartoon wall.
reminds me of lobbyist - bill to law.

world without oil- suggested teaching strategies
Suggestion: Blog 
Each lesson asks students to reflect upon the day’s theme. Blogs are well-suited to this activity: students can prepare reflections as text, images, videos or audiofiles and upload them to an individual, group or class blog. Blogging echoes the way in which the participants in the original game shared their ideas.

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