“With games, learning is the drug”
If you lose in a video game, there’s usually not much frustration. After all, the game is trying to beat you, and you haven’t been through that level before. Failure is just a park of the process.
When that same student is in the classroom, they surrender at the first setback.
“My pencil broke. I can’t do my work.” In a game yesterday that boy spent an hour making his character climb to the top of the Sisctine Chapel, and then dive off into a cart of hay, but a broken pencil is just too much for him.
If we could harness the “Failing is party of the process” mindset for both our teachers and our students, we could make great headway towards changing the structure of our classrooms. Unfortunately, the students aren’t quite ready for that paradigm shift. But if we think strategically, we could start making some inroads.
In a video game, players are given small challenges that are meant to be an echo of those that are coming. We do the same thing in class. The only difference is, when I say “You need to learn to write paragraphs, because soon we’ll write a full essay,” the students don’t get excited about the next challenge. They sink deeper into glumness.
One good way I could start helping students improve their mindset would be for me to improve mine first. Writing an essay doesn’t sound like fun. What about writing a treaty?
An enemy army is coming, too powerful to fight. Your nation might be spared if your write a perfect argumentative letter. If your letter isn’t good enough, I’m sorry . . . the barbarians will come . . . and they’ll steal your desk for the next day. So start writing!
While this wasn’t a true game, it was a small start at reframing the way students see the world
After completing tasks in a game, students will start to see immediate benefits. They’ll be able to interact with a larger part of the world, or receive a magical sword, or be given the ability to fly. Some teachers scoff at games, but in reality games are just handing out prizes at a faster pace than we are. If a student works hard in high school, she might get scholarship. This is like a bonus point, or a special item in a video game. If she’s taught by a wise old master (pick any ten college professors and one will at least look the part), she’ll be able to distinguish herself and get extra support, which will lead to good job placement after graduation. Those rewards are similar–if less flashy–than the prizes sought in games. If we can start reimagining our classroom, and making our students partners as explore which learning strategies can work in this way, we’ll be able to change education in a way that will be easier on the teachers and more engaging for the students.