Friday, August 19, 2011

A little more on Gamification

I attended the Games for Change Conference two months ago through the AVI CHAI Foundation's generosity, because I was interested in understanding how gamification could be harnessed to improve student outcomes in education.

If you haven't heard about the idea of gamifying education before, take a little time to watch the video below. It's definitely worthwhile:

While the conference itself offered very little in this regard, the idea of gamification and education has only continued to gain in the popular press. Forbes, and HuffPo have recently posted articles on the subject, and even more recently, EDUCAUSE's 7-Things You Should Know series (Which as an aside is my absolute favorite edtech resource) posted their latest white paper on 7 Things You Should Know About Gamification (pdf).

In was in this zeitgeist, when last week I noticed a somewhat random link on my twitter feed to an article written by Ian Bogost entitled Gamification is Bull... -- (title edited for content) -- The whole post is absolutely worth a read, but the gist of it is that this idea of 'gamification' is nothing new, but simply marketing mumbo-jumbo that makes it appear as if people are changing the status quo and making meaningful 21st change, when in practice it simply conceals and coverups the underlying challenges and problems that need to be changed.

I often feel very much the same when I hear people talk about educational technology and Jewish education, or when I read some of the comments and links on the #jed21 twitter hashtag. Just because we can do something technologically, doesn't inherently make it pedagogically sound. I have witnessed teachers who are masterful at utilizing every single function of an interactive whiteboard, but whose lessons still remain a chalk & talk style that doesn't engage the students. Digital tools are powerful only insomuch as they change the power dynamic in the classroom and place the students at the center. If we harness them to simply to augment the same thing we've always done, we shouldn't expect any different outcomes. The lessons we want to teach are not mimetic, and we need to reflect our pedagogy to fully engage our students.


Tzvi Daum said...

Amen! Couldn't agree more.I recently wrote that people have to realize "it is not the technology it is the teacher". Meaning, technology is just a tool and it can only be effective if used properly. I would venture that most teachers use a Smartboard as nothing more than a glorified chalkboard. I once read the primary impediment for getting teachers to use technology is not the skills it is the time. To use technology correctly requires time and planning which most people don't have enough of. I think games can be great if they were integrated properly but who exactly has the time or skills to develop them? Just saying. Thanks for the post.


RavScottBolton said...

From your incisive piece, it got me thinking about how I talk about pedagogy with some of the teachers at our school. Differentiation is a great theory, and many books and videotapes and now dvds and then YouTubes abound, yet the practice does not take. Why? Because it is hard, diligent work that makes for the right mixing-up of pedagogy. That also includes educational gaming, in order to apply knowledge in yet another way - the hallmark of great assessment. When the Rambam spoke about the 400 ways a teacher has to be able to explain a concept or passage, I believe that we can read that as encouragement to use games, different sources, diads, triads and group discussions, make videos, animate your PowerPoint or make believe you are a friend of the main character and write a letter, or watch the mold grow and observe it every day. The terms are just there to drive us forward. Yet, sometimes finding the right expression, the right teaching or the right way of phrasing it does make a difference - all back to the 400 ways to explain it! Thanks Rambam.