Latest Videogame: Your Classroom!

Video love them. They can't wait until they get home to play them. They hold their attention for an extended period of time. They hate it when they get them taken away as punishment. Kids that can't sit still for a fifteen minute mini lesson sit glued on the spot while interacting in the video-virtual environment.

How can this behavior translate to a classroom? What teacher doesn't want her students to love their classroom? Look forward to coming every day? Pay attention to every morsel of information delivered in the lesson? How can we make our classroom more like a video game?

David Warlick, in Web 2.0 New Tools, New Schools, says we need to study the experience of video gaming for a child. Here are the elements that keep the kids returning with gusto for more:
1. Responsiveness
2. Convert-able and convers-able rewards - Kids work to increase their own level. This is desirable for bragging rights and also to share strategies/short-cuts used to achieve their level. Also, when moving up levels the game environment changes.
3. Personal investment - Video game developers learned that kids return to games they have invested in. This can be done by generating currency in the game, health points, extra powers or an inventory. Kids have to invest time, skill and learning into the game to increase their level.
4. Identity building - Customizing your video-game presence. Personalizing the player's experience.
5. Dependability - Most video games give a sense of the solution to the problem being attainable in some way.

This got me can a classroom environment harness these powerful elements? I think the easiest thing would be identity building. As a classroom teacher, every summer I worked hard to decorate my classroom and label each desk with names. Everything matched and looked great. I never thought about the fact that it was an identity I assigned. Each desk could have an identity the kids assign. Some easy ways to do that? Allow the kids to cover their desk with a piece of gift wrap from home ( or bring an assortment in ), by the time they tore off it would be time to choose a new identity. They could put stickers, notes or photos taped on the wrap. Students could bring little pillows from home to sit in their chair. Or...have a class project to bring in a favorite fabric pattern and sew them in class. Allow students to move around the room to work if they work well that way. Many of the teachers at my school allow kids to choose an area of the classroom for their "book nook" for reading.

Think about what kind of personal investment your students have in your class behavior system. I think the biggest mistake teachers make is never varying what they do throughout the year. Change the rewards involved or offer alternatives. Allow students to earn non-tangibles such as special priviledges (helping out in another class for 30 minutes, inviting someone from another class to recess, eating lunch with the teacher one on one...if you need new ideas, ask the kids for suggestions). Offer rewards "points" for coming to school on time, kindness, 100% effort, neat personal spaces, etc.

Most teachers probably feel their class encompasses dependability already. We feel like we give students strategies to attack problems and comprehend...but many students still aren't getting it and they know they should because everyone else is understanding. Do they know what to do? They don't want to raise their hand or admit in public a lack of understanding. Provide a private way for students to communicate. Have a teacher mailbox on your desk for notes. Let them know the solution is attainable and they can ALWAYS say they don't understand.

Convert-able and convers-able rewards is a BIG new idea. Bragging can seem negative, but what if we allow students to be "experts" on certain things. You can make a chart on your wall that labels experts on topics such as: naturally good spellers, organizers, multiplication facts, artist, welcoming committee for visitors, musical, book reviewers, etc... Students would then have permission to go to those students for needs in those areas and would generate an opportunity for bragging when the student explains why they are an expert. It could be possible that one day a week you allow an "expert" to teach a strategy on what they are good at doing.

The only thing I think about responsiveness is that sometimes the relationship you have with your students can be more powerful and life changing than any other thing you do all year. Think about how well you know you students. Is there a way you can know them better?

I hope this idea of looking at your classroom the way a child looks at a videogame has impacted your thinking like it has mine. I can't wait to hear your thoughts and your ideas...


Farfisa said...

One thing I remember reading (someday I'll find the article) is that gamers (and students) will not keep playing unless they experience some success - at least once in every three "tries" needs to be a win. I keep that in mind in my math class. Students *need* to experience success or they'll give up.

You are absolutely right. We have to figure out how to grab and hold this new generation of children. How exciting would it be if they wanted to come to school as much as they want that newest video game? WOW!

Your post is so timely and compelling. I just blogged about using comics in the classroom as a way to reach out to those kids who do not like traditional writing. That being said, your post about appealing to the video game generation is super-important too. Thanks!

Dorry Lopez said...

I don't know if you know this, but whenever I read your blog, you always seem to write what I am thinking. You write so real, so "to the point", like your thoughts are pouring out candidly on the computer screen. I just want to scream out, "Yeah, Melanie, I think these same things!" I know that if you are connecting with my thoughts, that there are a bunch of others who feel the same connection. This is what is so cool about blogging! Our thinking is not alone, isolated, but connected to real people in the world. You observe students like I do. I am always thinking of ways to motivate, to engage, to find that medium of self-directedness.