In the past few weeks of this new year, we have been discussing the role of games in education. From video games, tabletops, to even turning school into the game, we have examined multiple examples, avenues, and theories when it comes to incorporating one of students’ favorite pastimes into their education. Anyone who has sat through a meeting where a torrent of information was unleashed upon you knows the feeling of “okay, that was a lot of words … I understand most of them but … where do we go from here?”
Is it too hopeful or lofty to believe that education as a whole can evolve in the ways we have discussed this past month? I for one, don’t think so.
Before we continue any further, I welcome you to watch this video of Sir Ken Robinson about the state of education at the moment.
I believe the field of education is on the cusp of a type of revolution, a shift, or a tip in the direction of the things discussed this past month and toward some of the ideas highlighted in this video. Let’s look at why.
First, educators are collaborating more than ever before. Any educator worth their weight knows the importance of collaboration with other educators and experts in particular fields. It’s how the “good ideas” and “best practices” surface. Think about a raid or a group dungeon in an MMORPG. Sure, you could randomly team up with others and run it, possibly overcoming the challenges if at least one of you knows what they’re doing. Chances are though, without effective communication and planning, that run is going to be frustratingly difficult, and possibly unsuccessful. Anyone who has been part of a successful group knows how important a “collaborative effort” can be in being successful. We drink these potions at this time — apply these buffs here — spam this ability — let the tanks do their job — etc. Even just a little bit of planning and teamwork can go a long way! Teaching is no different. When educators get together and look at data, student needs, current strategies, research trends, and new ideas, the results are usually beneficial to some degree. At least they always were for me. Instead of trying to beat square pegs into round holes day in and day out, educators look for those things that they can tweak in their lessons, how to play off of student strengths, and how to meet individual needs. It’s happening, it is just taking a while for some to catch up.
Second, the days of whole class lecturing are numbered. In the past few years there has been significant research done in the benefit of differentiation in the classroom. If this sounds unfamiliar, it is probably because you were educated in the same way that most adults today were. Regardless of what was being taught, everyone way a.) being taught the same thing, and b.) being taught it in the same way. Even if you weren’t ready to move on, the class kept going. Even though you might have been a completely different type of student than the person across the room from you, you were still learning something in the same way. Now, there are certain teaching strategies that are just proven to work in most cases, but the push in modern education is to cater to the needs of the student as an individual. This is called differentiation.
Imagine you have a class that takes a quiz. Based off of the results of that quiz, you have some that fail, some that do alright, and some with perfect scores. In a differentiated classroom, the last group, those who obviously mastered whatever the quiz was over either move on to the next thing, or dig deeper into the current concept with more challenge and rigor. The middle group, those who are on the fence, would work with the concept a little bit more, and then try again. The first group, those that failed, would go back through a little more intensive lesson to see what the problem is exactly. An even better teacher would further differentiate those groups based off of student strengths and needs. The best teacher tries everything they can to make it relevant to that student’s interests. It balances the science and art of teaching. The science is using data from the quiz to cater to students’ needs, the art is the approach to meeting those needs and the strategies used to do so.
So, where do we go from here? The topics discussed this month show that innovation in education is evident, and that it is working. As these ideas a shared and spread throughout the educational community, people will make tweaks and refine, put their own spin on it, and make these things even better. To cap off this month’s discussion, I would like to try to leave something that is at least a little helpful — a short guide to answer the question “Where do we go from here?”
- Encourage educators to be brave and bold. If the current strategies aren’t working, don’t be afraid to try something radically different. Each student and each class is different, and what works for one might not work for the other; but that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t try new things to see what sticks.
- Everyone with a stake in education must realize that the students of today are completely different than students of past generations, and that the world they inhabit is as well. Realizing and embracing this fact will allow the rest of education to catch up to what these innovators are trying in their classrooms.
- Listen to the kids. Parents, teachers, and educators need to know what their kids’ interests are. It is part of building a positive relationship with them. Even the slightest connection to something they care about can work wonders. Even though this month has focused on this, it might not be video games. They might be interested in something totally different, and we have to meet them there on that.
There are a lot of things that we just didn’t have time to discuss this month that are important to this topic. Culture in general, funding and budgets, environmental factors, and educational philosophies just to name a few. But I think the point is clear: games have a place in education. The educators that use games are excellent examples of the overall push towards change and innovation that are needed in our school systems. Games might not be what some students need, but will we ever know if we don’t try?
Thank you for entertaining all of these ideas with me this month. I’m excited to see where February will take us!
Until next time, my friend.