• Category Archives Games in Education
  • The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter by Greg Toppo


    Greg Toppo has been visiting my school for years— literally years.  He’s clocked an amazing number of hours speaking with my students and, more importantly, listening to them–observing their play, their struggles with literacy, and their social interactions.  My dear friend, Marianne Malmstrom (@knowclue)  would be proud of Greg— for he truly did “Follow the Learning” but he did so by following the play.

    Often Greg would stay and chat after the kids had exited —in earlier times the library, and more recently the classroom.  Sometimes he would talk about things he had observed and ask me, “What do ya think?”Other times we’d talk about what he had seen that I had not and he’d answer my poking, prying questions about other projects and sch1397414979002-tjn-0414-gameteach003ools.  In hindsight, I cannot recall him uttering a disparaging word about anyone or anything he had researched. Always the consummate professional— always the just plain good guy.

    We talked about the name of the book when he had unearthed it–we discussed the bodies of research he continuously relied upon as footing for his own.  We’d share bits about our families, our jobs, and I truly became very fond of Greg.  We became the kind of friends who could just pick up where we left off whether the interlude was a week or a year.

    At some point, he began revealing deadlines for the book with a curious combination of excitement and unadulterated panic.  But he made his deadlines. One day he called with some “aIMG_0106bsolutely last questions and fact checking.”  Next thing I knew, a pdf arrived for my final stamp of approval.  I remember reading it and thinking, “Who is gonna care about this part—get to the part where you talk about the kids–and the play!”–and indeed he does.   There’s more personal information about me included than I would have deemed necessary, but again, the quiet genius that is Greg Toppo uses it to paint the complete picture.  I guess I’ll just resign myself to the fact that the world now knows my age, failed marriages, and lack of high school diploma.  He got most of it exactly right.   Greg's signing

    Chapter 7,  appropriately named after a direct quote from one of my students, “I’m Not Good at Math, But My Avatar Is”  has little to do with math, and everything to do with the work I’ve been  fortunate to be able to do at Ramapo Central Schools with hundreds of kids and scores of teachers.  Yeah—that’s what it’s really about.  I’m honored he felt it important enough to devote an entire chapter to my work with kids.

    The Game Believes in You was released to instant rave reviews… and I’m not talking from some fly by night stand in who can whittle a phrase, but instead from the royalty of games in education such as Jim Gee, and Jane McGonigal.

    From the prologue (Hard Fun) right through to the Epilogue (Games Everywhere)  I was glued to this book.  Greg has dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s and just made so much sense PLUS he does so in a sometimes snarky, sometimes sweet, extremely readable way.  Buy this book and read it.  If you care anything about education, read it.  I promise your eyes won’t bleed from footnotes and rambling “academeese” terminology.  Yes, there are references to research(ers) but only when they solidify a point. Greg speaks with his reporter voice, and one barely notices how much deep, important information is being delivered  The book gave me hope.

    “I really hope gaming is not the next big thing in education, because the next big thing in education always sucks,” he said.

    Thanks Greg—and don’t forget to stop by.  You know you always have an open invitation to Room 339.  But (as you stated on p. 128),“REMEMBER! If a future you tries to warn you about this class, DON’T LISTEN!

  • OK, I’ve been tagged in the #EdChatNZ MEME and so I will…PLAY!!

    If I understand the protocol correctly, I am now instructed to  answer these questions and then conclude by tagging a few victims of my own!  Muauahahaha    Here we go@

    1. How did you attend the #EdchaIMG_3078tnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn’t)

    Visiting New Zealand, a leg in the “There and Back Again” Tour with colleague Marianne Malmstrom and Bron Stuckey, we were honored to enjoy a tour of Hobsonville Point Secondary the week prior to EdChatNZ.  Since we had our return trip tickets to Sydney booked for Friday, we were so IMG_7111disappointed that we’d miss EdChatNZ when we heard  @MissDtheTeacher speak of the event—and even more so as each teacher we encountered spoke about what they would be sharing.  But as the excitement built we realized that perhaps we needed to have a little powwow with Qantas about changing our flights.  @Claire Amos overheard this  and insisted that we do so –stepping up with covering the cost of the ticket change–and @MissDtheTeacher immediately started to rearrange the conference schedule in order to allow us slots to present our work!
    So we continued on with the week’s  planned visits to Rotorua (yes–we did the baths, the tour, and the mud!)  as well as the Polynesian Village where our tour guide, Carla, gave us a detailed history of the Maori people and their customs.

    Next we were on to Napier-a little seasideimages hamlet that leads one to believe they have been dropped into a post WW art deco city—where the shops even carry the theme forward and offer period clothing and accessories.  Ultimately we arrived in Wellington, but instead of Hobbiton, we visited the Titahi Bay North School where they stole our hearts and honored us with the Kapa Haka.

    Later that day we visited Amesbury school where I was most impressed with the inquiry approach based around the concept of Living Stories. It centers around the premise that we can communicate through a wide range of art forms – story, poetry, dance, drama, photography and a range of visual art formats.IMG_3083

    Once our school visits in Wellington were completed, instead of flying to Sydney, our staunch and masterful tour guide, Bron Stuckey, drove  us straight through the night to Auckland in time for us to head over to EdChatNZ on Friday AM!

    Friday, I started by attending a session entitled Digital Literacy – Learning & Social Implications by Andrew Cowie. Twitter: @cowieandrew
    Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AndrewCowie74/posts
    Website: http://schools.natlib.govt.nz/supporting-learners/digital-citizenship/digital-citizenship-schools

    avshuldrFull disclosure, I was fully prepared to rip this apart and dutifully point out the error of his thinking –(since he already had me a bit chaffed by calling it “Digital” Literacy –rather than dispensing with what I perceive to be an antiquated clarification–to me these days, literacy is just that—literacy –and there’s no longer a need to distinguish that which happens in bits and bytes from that which does not.) However, I was most pleasantly surprised as Andrew started to dispense some forward thinking ideas, in digestible little bites that elicited great conversation from his audience, and he shared some truly insightful concepts to assist teachers in the shift to future focused thinking! Bravo!

    2. How many others attended from your school or organization?

    Three of us traveled from New York, New Jersey and Sydney

    3.IMG_0214 How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?

    I had to skip this portion of the day, as every spare moment I had was devoted to developing a new presentation for KIWI teachers who were ready to grapple with much more sophisticated concepts than my usual audiences.

    4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?Georgi de Stigter

    1. (who will always be “Ginger” to me) gave a gorgeous talk on games–succinctly providing just enough information before she facilitated a game to send the message home!  Brilliant and FUN!

    2. The students in the library Friday were enormously helpful in validating for me that kids are kids and play is a natural authentic arena for learning.

    3. Maurie Abraham, Claire Amos and Diane Cavallo modeled leadership that encouraged community, comradery and a sense of adventure!

    Of course, so many others whose names escape me now in a flurry of new friends!

    5. What session are you gutted that you missed?

     1. Design thinking: think agile, discover & innovate with Di Cavallo

    2. Unleashing Curiosity and Creativity in the Classroom with Steve Moulday

    3. Curriculum For The Future: The Game with Rachel Bolstad & Dan Milward


    6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned? Brian Fox

    Would have loved to have taken Brian Fox, @smsprincipal, my principal who is already a leader ahead of the curve but would have appreciated seeing and hearing  from those a bit down the road from where we stand!

    Also would love to have brought my Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum.

    Lisa Weber  who has demonstrated an understanding of future focused  learning but would have really enjoyed seeing it in action!

    7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why

     Would have loved to had more time with the folks from CORE.  The few minutes I did get to spend with them were illuminating and their enthusiasm for their work was absolutely contagious!

    8. What is the next book you are going to read and why? 

    Need to finish:

    1. The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning : James Paul Gee

    The Anti-Education Era: Creating Smarter Students through Digital Learning

    One of the first champions of the positive effects of gaming reveals the dark side of today’s digital and social media.  Today’s schools are eager to use the latest technology in the classroom, but rather than improving learning, the new e-media can just as easily narrow students’ horizons.

    2. dana boyd’s  It’s Complicated: 

    It's ComplicatedWhat is new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Do social media affect the quality of teens’ lives? In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens’ use of social media.  She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions.  Best thing yet?  IT’S FREE!  Download the book here.

    3. Papert (1993) “My goal became to strive to create an environment in which all

    children could  learn in ways more like the informal learning of the unschooled toddler than the educational process followed in schools.”  “People laughed at Seymour Papert in the sixties when he talked about children using computers as instruments for learning and for enhancing creativity. The idea of an inexpensive personal computer was then science fiction. But Papert was conducting serious research in his capacity as a professor at MIT. This research led to many firsts. It was in his laboratory that children first had the chance to use the computer to write and to make graphics. The Logo programming language was created there, as were the first children’s toys with built-in computation. The Logo Foundation was created to inform people about Logo and to support them in their use of Logo-based software for learning and teaching.”

    9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #Edchatnz?

     Spread the fire!  Share the links, and community with those back home!

    10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?

    My students will not only have a blank canvas, but they will decide the size, shape, and medium with which to create!

    Who will I tag with this meme:

    I’ll tag @Knowclue, and @BronSt as they  will have context with which to participate having attended EdChatNZ as well!

  • Media

    World of Warcraft Finds Its Way Into Class

    Katrina Schwartz


    World of Warcraft

    Students’ passions can be a powerful driver for deeper and more creative learning. With this knowledge, some educators are using popular commercial games like World of Warcraft (WoW) to create curriculum around the game. And they say they’re seeing success, especially with learners who have had trouble in traditional classrooms.

    World of Warcraft is a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplay (MMOR) game, where players take on the identity of characters in a narrative-rich plot, working together to overcome challenges.

    “In my estimation, a well-designed video game is pure, scaffolded, constructivist learning at its best,” said Peggy Sheehy, one of the designers of WoW in Schools, an elective English Language Arts curriculum built around the game. “Mastery of content opens up new content and offers unlimited opportunity for success.” And that’s what learning should be like, she says: interesting, engaging and collaborative. Research on gaming in an educational context corroborates Sheehy’s viewpoint that games demonstrate mastery learning because a player cannot move on until he or she has completed a set of tasks.

    “Game designers get that failure is anticipated and celebrated. It’s a learning opportunity.”

    Sheehy designs “quests” with particular learning objectives in mind that the students or — “heroes” as they’re called in class — must complete. Quests might include components of comparative writing or characterization exercises. For example, Sheehy had her students read J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit as they progressed through the course, and for one assignment, they had to pick a character from the book and categorize that character within World of Warcraft. They were asked to defend their choices in writing, supporting their argument with the text.

    “When I bring these to their other teachers, I am consistently told, ‘I don’t get anything like this from them,’” Sheehy said in reference to the writing her students produce. They write complex arguments because they are passionate about the game, the storyline, and the class. “When there is no passion you get dutiful, for the grade work,” she said.

    One of the benefits of using a multiplayer, collaborative game is that students also work together to accomplish quests. They post their writing in “guilds” within the game and are asked to critique one another’s writing, creating a constructive peer review.

    Perhaps one of the most prominent ways that game-based classes are different from traditional ones is how failure fits into the daily experience of learning. “Failure in a game typically means that you tried the challenge in a new way,” Sheehy said. It’s not bad; it’s creative problem-solving, risk-taking, and a natural outcropping of trying something new. But in most classrooms, kids are programmed to understand failure as shameful at early ages. “Game designers get that failure is anticipated and celebrated. It’s a learning opportunity,” Sheehy said.

    [RELATED READING: Money, Time and Tactics: Can Games Be Effective in Schools?]

    Those accustomed to having assessments be part of the learning model may wonder how to measure things like reading comprehension, grammar, and vocabulary.

    “Assessment and gaming are so contradictory,” Sheehy said. “Gaming is almost like the scientific method. You get your quest, you form a hypothesis, you try it out, you encounter challenges and you draw conclusions.” She thinks that’s assessment enough and is wary that formally assessing students will take the fun and the passion out of what she considers to be a very effective education tool.


  • Teacher of the Week…

    Educator of the Week: Peggy Sheehy, Suffern Middle School

    08 January 2014, 10:46 am by  in education Video games World of Warcraft – 1 Comment

    Who: Peggy Sheehy, sixth-grade humanities teacher at Suffern Middle School, former ITF/media specialist, and national leader in the use of video games and “virtual” games in after-school programs and as part of classroom instruction.

    Educator of the weekSince when: She’s been at Suffern M.S. since 2003.

    What’s new: After building a successful after-school program around World of Warcraft, an immensely popular online “role-playing” game, Sheehy has this year made WoW a key part of her sixth-grade humanities classes. She has co-authored a curriculum that links the game to the Common Core learning standards. “We have to meet these kids where they are, with what they care about,” she says.

    About using games in the classroom: “They need to know about the Renaissance. They need to know about making inferences. They need to know how to pull citations from two different texts and to compare them to make their point. It’s my job, my responsibility, to expose them to this curriculum and, hopefully, help them develop mastery. I don’t have the license to let them just go off and discover on their own. This is much more structured than just some free game play. They’re getting the benefits of the on-line environment. They’re getting the benefits of the social aspect of things because learning is social. Learning is no longer this isolated event.”


    Look for a story soon about Sheehy and her work in The Journal News/LoHud.com.

    Read about the Wow in School project HERE.

  • The Children are Waiting…


    I was asked by my good friend , Jill Berkowitz, to write a guest post  for Education Week’s Leadership 360 Blog.  Jill asked me to  explain the value of games and to direct it to an audience of leaders who were more than likely non-gamers and non-believers.  Quite simply, that meant that I would need to provide some rationale, some concrete experience- and then some possible steps to move into action.  However, while writing this piece, the fact that  “leaders” would be  reading was always bouncing around in my head and I’m afraid that the inevitable diatribe eventually surfaced.  The host of the series, Education Week, was much kinder to it’s readers than I am to you —-as they divided the piece into three weekly segments.  No such luck here—it lives in its entirety.  Here’s where we separate the devotee from the curious, casual, or lurker.  Go grab a coffee–I’ll wait.

    Part 1

    My students will be playing games in our class this year—and this is the work ethic I hope to encourage—the “questing disposition” that, as a gamer, I have come to know and understand. Jane McGonigal alludes to it in her most recent TED Talk. Numerous books, presentations, and research papers exploring the use of games for learning are now flooding mass media. A Google search of “games in education” will yield about 1,180,000,000 results. The concept, once confined to discussions between those “geeky techy-type teachers”, is now a topic that can be found at most every education conference. So, here you shall have one educator’s opinion–as I sort through some of the controversy surrounding the use of video games in school in order to help make some sense of it all. Full disclosure–I have been using virtual worlds and games in my teaching since 1997 when I used Caravans© to supplement my third grade social studies curriculum. I am much more than a believer—I am an evangelist.

    Let’s start with why. Why the huge buzz around games in education? Since the vast collection of literature surrounding computer games and learning has been around for at least two decades, why now? As I see it, there are a number of reasons.

      1. Games are everywhere today – played by almost everyone. As of early January 2013, Zynga games had over 265 million monthly active users. The popularity of console and handheld games in recent years has tended to “redefine the nature of games, opening up the possibility for new kinds of games in the marketplace and putting powerful and inexpensive platforms in the hands of tens of millions of people” (Klopfer et al, 2009). Rather than take up your time and space with all of the statistics- here’s a link to the most current data from the Entertainment Software Association.
      2. Because there is now a huge repertoire of games available on varied platforms from computers and consoles to hand-held devices and cell phones, and people are actually revisiting the spirit of play- even if it’s for five minutes in the waiting room.
      3. The conversation has also been spurred on by the latest perceived crisis in education. Regardless of whether or not you buy into the headline reports that the U.S. lags behind their global peers in math and science or other studies that show only 17 percent of U.S. 12th-grade students are proficient in math or demonstrate any interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, (STEM), there is no doubt that right now our nation cannot fill job vacancies in STEM associated fields. According to a 2012 study from Change the Equation, an organization that supports STEM education, business leaders across the nation have sounded an alarm. They cannot find the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) talent they need to stay competitive. (Changetheequation.org)

    The good news is video games are hotbeds of STEM! Eric Klopfer, associate professor of education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology states, “Video games can enable STEM education from elementary school all the way through college as they teach skills such as analytical thinking, multitasking, strategizing, problem-solving, and team building. Traditional learning has provided superficial learning through textbooks. Games are best at teaching a deeper level of learning” (Klopfer, in Chitra, 2012). Those of us who are proponents of games in education must consider this a really good thing, right? ? Well, yes…sort of.

    Yes, I’m very excited about the prospects of wider acceptance of using video games to support learning. What’s the appeal? Why am I so passionate about using games in education? Well, the pros most often cited are the motivational aspect of games, and the potential of experiential learning through simulation. Plus, who can argue against the opportunity to support literacy via games that offer rich complex narratives set in lush fantasy worlds, which challenge curiosity, increase extended engagement, or promote teamwork and collaboration? Games-based learning affords my students agency and autonomy in an authentic situated learning platform. They get to choose their path to mastery.

    But in my years of using games in the classroom, I’ve seen some other things at work – things much more powerful and alluring – the freedom that functioning as avatar allows. In most of the games we use, my students are able to construct the identity of their character, or avatar, and, therefore, right from the start there is a personal investment. The process of ownership has begun. This ability to function as avatar is foundational to the risk-taking, persistence and problem solving called for in a well-designed video game. Theories can be tested over and over because failure is no longer stigmatized. It is anticipated and respected as part of the process. There’s a sign in my classroom. It says, “FAIL HARDER!” Where is this attitude in the rest of education?

    I have seen the power firsthand…time and time again. I’ve seen reluctant readers and writes become versed and adept at the craft once inspired by the agency and ownership of their learning. I’ve seen the strange and beautiful evolution of a group of students merge and evolve into a well-honed team of players, often with an unlikely candidate at the helm. I’ve watched kids fail, and try again, and fail again, and learn something new each time until they were successful. I’ve watched kids mentor each other, develop and articulate a set of values and play by them, and I’ve seen those values transfer to the physical world.

    Then, they go to their next class, sit at a desk in a row of desks, fill in a bubble sheet, or take notes about a lecture, or work from a textbook, or a worksheet. Learning is serious. Learning is hard work. Education is slow to change.

    Part 2

    It seems we just can’t seem to get past some obstacles. Why is it so hard to accept the fact that games and the associated notion of play are powerful ingredients in learning? The research supports it, pioneering teachers have documented their successes, and the U.S. government has even created a White House position to lead the investigation and direct the progress of games in learning. Yet, educational leaders and policy makers continue to cross their arms, dig in their heels, and frown over their glasses at the mere mention of video games in school.

    Part of the reason for this is the negative media hype surrounding video games—so let’s dispense with that once and for all. USC Professor Henry Jenkins published a document entitled, Reality Bytes: Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked . In it, he systematically addressed the 8 most popular claims around video game violence. In addition, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) clearly delineates these three indisputable facts on their website:images

    FACT: Violent crime, particularly among the young, has decreased dramatically since the early 1990s. During the same period of time, video games have steadily increased in popularity and use, exactly the opposite of what one would expect if there were a causal link.

    FACT: Many games with violent content sold in the U.S. – and some with far more violence – are also sold in foreign markets. However, the level of violent crime in these foreign markets is considerably lower than that in the U.S., suggesting that influences such as the background of the individual, the availability of guns and other factors are more relevant to understanding the cause of any particular crime. In fact, an analysis by The Washington Post of the 10 largest video game markets across the globe found no statistical correlation between video game consumption and gun-related deaths.

    Finally, FACT: Numerous authorities, including the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Surgeon General, Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission have examined the scientific record and found that it does not establish any causal link between violent programming and violent behavior. The truth is there is no scientific research that validates a link between computer and video games and violence, despite lots of overheated rhetoric from the industry’s detractors. Instead, a host of respected researchers has concluded that there is no link between media violence and violent crime (ESA, 2013).

    v-games-and-violence-2The facts, the studies, and plain old common sense all counter the hype that there is any causal connection between video games and youth violence. “For most kids and most parents, the bottom-line results of our research can be summed up in a single word: relax. While concerns about the effects of violent video games are understandable, they’re basically no different from the unfounded concerns previous generations had about the new media of their day” (Kutner & Olson, 2009).

    OK, so let’s imagine that we can move past the question of violence. What are other impediments to widespread adoption of video games in school? To begin with, there is an obvious difference between serious or educational games (games designed with clear educational outcomes in mind) and the commercial off the shelf games (COTS) designed purely for entertainment. This divide is characterized by a number of differences in purpose, design, and funding. While the “educational” games may be well intentioned, most are nothing more than electronic worksheets or skill and drill with animation in between. In this teacher’s opinion, the best of educational games can’t compete with the commercial off the shelf (COTS) offerings produced by billion dollar behemoth corporations, and those are the games our students are playing off campus. When all that we offer is the “educational flavor” all that we are going to get is a disenfranchised kid- who reports, “I guess it’s better than a worksheet…barely.”

    Not only do COTS have state of the art graphics, soundtracks, and mechanics to attract and maintain their player base, but also these well-designed commercial offerings have science on their side. Game designers rely on the psychology of happiness to leverage the gameplay, crafting their products in such a way that a task or a quest is presented at the perfect degree of difficulty to keep the player engaged and willing to keep trying, yet not so complex that the player becomes frustrated and quits—similar to what the educational theorists refer to as the “zone of proximal development” (Vygotsky, 1978) or what Seymour Papert called, “hard fun”. “…every one likes hard challenging things to do. But they have to be the right things matched to the individual and to the culture of the times” (Papert, 2002). The analytics behind the interface constantly determine a player’s skill level, and produce challenges that sit at that “sweet spot” that keeps a player engaged and in a flow state.

    But there are also impediments from a very practical vantage point. Most games are not cost effective, and those that offer freeversions have placed such extreme limitations on them that the gameplay is severely compromised and diminished. Very few COTS have made any effort to accommodate the unique demands of school networks or budgets.

    Some notable exceptions to this are VALVE, who produce STEAM, the dominant game distribution platform that released Portal2 to educators at no cost, and, on the horizon is SimCityEDU— a collaboration between Institute of Play, the Entertainment Software Association, Electronic Arts, Educational Testing Service, Pearson’s Center for Digital Data, Analytics & Adaptive Learning and others.

    However, all too often teachers are unable to find games that will support or enhance their mandated curriculum, and there doesn’t appear to be a “sweet spot” for those who are subjugated to “high stakes” testing. Entrenched in a vicious cycle of preparing students for the tests, administering the tests, gathering the data and analyzing it, and then, armed with the latest test results that indicate where their students are falling short, teachers can initiate another round of the cycle, aiming their instruction directly at those identified weak spots. The thinking behind this madness is that this skill and drill, data driven instruction will yield higher test scores, which in turn will generate positive teacher evaluations. This will then assure the teachers are employed for another year and all will be well… except, we will have produced a generation of young people who cannot think. Even if test scores improve, it is at the cost of a quality education. We have poured the Kool-Aid, and these children (and their parents) are gulping it down without a moment’s consideration that perhaps something is amiss. After all, this is the way it has always been…at desks, in rows, with a bubble sheet, a textbook and a No. 2 pencil.


    The young people who have learned to “play school,” that is those who have managed to acquiesce and excel in the “No.2 pencil rigor” of standardized test driven education, will continue along this path towards the holy grail of a college degree. The big lie that education tells is that a college degree is the certain key to future success, happiness, and the mythic American dream. Regardless of intent, by designing our “one size fits all” test driven pedagogy, we have proliferated that lie and have patently failed our young people by neglecting to provide any setting, circumstance or opportunity to unearth, investigate or pursue their passion

    This pedagogical approach does not teach the skills that STEM careers require: strategic thinking, planning, communication, negotiating skills, group decision-making, or data handling. Personal skills such as initiative and persistence, spatial and motor skills such as coordination and speed of reflexes, social skills such as teamwork and communication, intellectual skills such as problem-solving are also missing. I know of some video games that offer this all.

    In addition to teachers learning how to identify when and how a game might support the curriculum (or not) on the “con” side of things, we should add the struggle with fitting gameplay into a typical school schedule. Also, as in a traditional classroom, teachers are the key components in effective game-based learning. It is the teacher who steers the learning, and serves to guide and mentor the social/emotional culture that is formed around the game. Educators will need time and support to navigate these new waters and they need leaders who understand the value of gaming and support those who want to take the initiative of creating a new path.

    Part 3

    Finally, what about assessment? Do we have time to introduce gaming as a new approach to learning when the assessments are themselves rooted in older soil? Traditional assessments contradict game-based learning. New models and methods of ascertaining mastery must be explored. As James Gee explains, “…One thing games don’t really do is separate learning and assessment. They don’t say learn some stuff and then later we’ll take a test. They’re giving you feedback all the time about the learning curve that you’re on” (Gee, 2003). Most teacher preparation programs would embrace that as good teaching.

    testAs teachers begin to investigate game-based pedagogy, they have demonstrated their predilection for peer support, and some are organizing themselves into communities of practice, establishing networks to compare notes, ask questions, offer advice and support and share resources. One popular group is G.A.M.E. (Gamers Advancing Meaningful Education) and another is The Cognitive Dissonance Educator Guild in World of Warcraft (Sister of Elune server, Alliance)

    So, change is happening—albeit very, very, slowly. It is happening one teacher at a time. It is truly bottom up change. The anthropologist Margaret Mead observed “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” There is a slowly growing change movement infiltrating our schools. But, children are typically not patient and we do not want another generation to leave schools without this experience.

    It is possible that to legislate that schools not only be required to teach academics, but to teach academics harnessing these games. We don’t advocate for more legislation but we surely know the power of policy to change the locus of attention. These are the tools that this generation of learners already uses outside school. Informal groups of adolescent gaming friends are forming in nearly every community across the country. Along with that STEM skillset, such an initiative would be nurturing behaviors that help children be confident, successful, contributing members of the school community.

    But, we also know that creating school cultures like that will take time. While gaming seems a most compelling route to this solution, the reluctance of the powers that be to embrace these new tools is creating a vacuum that the business world will be all too happy to fill and if history is any marker, the end result will be “games” that marginalize all of the deep,The children are wating in rows... complex, and reflective practice well designed games have to offer.

    We really need to move on this! Games have proven to be a vehicle that exists right now, that can help our children appreciate the breadth of science, technology, engineering and math beyond the lab coat and may just unleash a passion for such characteristics in the world around them. An added bonus is that gaming has proven to be a successful vehicle for confronting some of the most difficult social ailments. But are we asking too much when we ask for this change to happen sooner rather than later?

    Let’s come full circle. I know that this September, I’ll watch and listen as my colleagues peruse their new class rosters and lament as they tally the number of IEP, AIS, ELL, and special education students on their lists, forced to contend with the reality of how these “low achievers” might impact their evaluation.

    This leaves me pondering the fate of those students who either will not or cannot abide this current educational structure. By remaining stuck in this high stakes testing and Common Core atesting hamster wheel, we negate the love of learning, we amplify the have vs. have not status, and we validate the stereotypes that continue to plague true educational reform. By continuing to champion the idea of common expectations for all, we are disavowing the unique spark of promise and potential within every child. Yes, this change needs to happen and it needs to happen now because it is the children who are waiting. They are waiting …in rows.


    RESOURCES, REFERENCES and INFLUENCES – Please let me know if I omitted any sources–much of this was  wee hour rambling!
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