Game On

Next week I will be returning to Liberty University for my second intensive class. These classes run for five days with some pre and post course work for three hours of credit. Based on my experience last summer intensive is the proper term for this experience. Yet, these are fun because I get to meet and work with new people in a traditional classroom setting. The class I am taking next week is Technology Practice for Instructional Improvement, which should be an interesting one for me.

One of the pre-course assignments is to select a team for a literature review based on the following topics: augmented reality, game-based learning, mobile devices and apps, and personal learning environments. While Personal Learning Environments looked interesting, I selected Game-based Learning because the topic intrigued me since I first heard about it a few years back. I was told games, especially electronic ones, have certain characteristics. One, a player must learn a new skill or demonstrate a skill to progress to a new level. Achieving new levels take practice and critical thinking skills we desire in our classrooms. Two, players naturally collaborate in working towards new levels. One experienced player passes on skills to other players or multiple players work together to solve the problem needed to progress. Again, another desired trait we wish all students showed in the classroom. The best part is players (usually their parents) pay for this engagement and do it willingly.

When I was in the army we used computerized battle simulations for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle to great success. We also played role-playing games which helped in teaching various tactics needed on the battlefield. I casually observed my son playing video games over the last few years I noticed how he had to problem solve and collaborate to enjoy his games. When we played the Nintendo DS game Animal Crossing together I got to see first hand how he wanted to collaborate with me so I could learn what I needed to succeed so I would have fun playing with him. I also noticed how he could channel his creativity to enhance his game-play experience.

While not every lesson should become a game, there could be benefits to Incorporating both traditional card or board games or electronic games on a computer or massive multiplayer online (MMO) games into some lessons for potential maximization of engagement. It is going to be about two to three years before game-based learning achieves any real potential as their quality begins to match consumer-oriented games. The idea of game-based learning should not be rejected as unrealistic either. I am looking forward to learning how game-based learning can help students become better learners. Stay tuned.

Why Do We Do It?


Last week was the Beaufort County School District's Summer Institute. This our school district way to bring the conference experience to teachers every year and save money as teachers get some great professional development. The theme for this year's institute revolves around the 4 C's of 21st century learning. This concept comes from the Partnership of 21st Century Skills, a national group whose goal is to prepare our students for the 21st Century world by fusing the "3 R's" with the "4 C's." The 4 C's identified are:

-Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
-Creativity and Innovation

It should be clear these elements will make students stand out from tasks that can be routinely done by machines. Add Common Core standards (another two C's) and we will have students that can tackle any future problem they will encounter. Since we have no clue what will be required in the future as far as careers are concerned it is safe to say there will be many problems. All of the sessions at the Summer Institute touched on all of these themes including my session on the Flipped Classroom.

While I did the Flipped Classroom in Greenville earlier this summer, I was given more time in Beaufort to actually work with teachers and let them experiment. After defining what the Flipped Classroom was and its possible benefits followed by a question and answer session, participants grouped by subject area created lessons and video them using the Paper Slide method I learned in Greenville. Later, each participant went on to create their own flipped lesson. I was struck by the fact that almost all of them worked together to share information and techniques even though it was an individual activity. The 4 C's in action and everyone learned something.

One of the great things I really like about conferences is the chance to see friends I have made at such conferences over the years and the conversations we have. Probably because we know we don't have much time we get down to business discussing educational issues. One such discussion was about the Flipped Classroom that I advocate. One friend said he could not grasp the flipped concept and pressed me hard on its merits because he felt it would eventually take away jobs from teachers. My friend later apologized for, in his perspective, upsetting me. There was no apology needed because my looks were actually me thinking about his questions and trying to formulate intelligent answers. If if my friend annoyed or upset me I should not take it personally. It is these type of questions that educators should always be asking each other because if we cannot adequately defend our classroom techniques then why are we doing them and even worse trying to get others to do them too. Too often we fail to ask the hard questions to each other out of fear of upsetting other friends and colleagues. If we wish to raise our standards and incorporate the 4C's in teaching students then we should be willing to use them amongst ourselves. If not then why are we doing it?