Monday, November 21, 2011

Gamification begins

Image courtesy of Kakisky

I began using the techniques of gameplay as a learning style with my class today and it was a frantic, fast paced, period of learning. The buzz in the classroom was quite noticeable with another teaching assistant remarking at break how engaged the class were yet it was not all positive and that is to be expected with such a new approach.

Throughout these posts I will refer to gamification as gameplay learning (GPL) as that is the name my class have decided to call it.

I began the morning with a discussion about playing games. We created a list of gameplaying techniques that gamers use when playing games. I then got the class to help me create a learning in the classroom list that compared with the gameplay list. The similarities had the class in slight disbelief that gameplaying is tied to learning but they soon made the connections. At this point I played my introduction video (watch here) and they were literally sitting on the edge awaiting the rules of GPL. These rules are a first draft and will change.
To start I set the class one challenge in Numeracy - Can you tell the time to the minute using hands on a clock? This is taken from the UK National Curriculum objectives for Maths at Year 4 (age 8-9) and is an end of year target that children at this age have to achieve. No harm setting the first challenge very high I thought. The children got straight to the task immediately, focusing on the 'expert game players' for their lead. Any child could come to me for help, advice and explanations throughout the GPL challenge yet only a couple did so. What I saw amazed me, children who normally would not work together were engaged in the activity and helping each other with no issues at all. Every child was focused, every child was trying, every child was 'playing the learning game'. Throughout the challenge a group would ask me for the End of Game Boss level so they could prove their understanding. This was an essential part of the learning as I needed to know that each child in the group could solve the problem and show how they did it. To start with, only a few children in each group could show me confidently but by the end of the session every child in my class bar 2 could show a full understanding of the given challenge.

I was literally gobsmacked - it made me question my teaching style and whether I needed to improve. I loved it! Here were the learners in my class cooperating in teams to solve a given problem but at the same time demonstrate that each group player could do so independently. It wasn't all a complete success  as there were some learners who found the approach confusing and/or the work difficult. I soon returned to a more traditional teacher led approach with a small group of learners which quickly reduced in size to two children by the end of the session.

Tomorrow I have a lesson observation by my head teacher, I have described this approach to her and she is looking forward to it with an open mind. I have received a number of comments on Twitter and this blog which are helping me to clarify my thinking and develop my use of GPL throughout this week. I leave you with a few thoughts from my Game Playing Learners.

Until tomorrow gamers.