Even Forbes likes gamification
EdTech is not a panacea -
This is a difficult lesson for schools and districts to learn: the implementation of technology does not magically make education (or edtech, for that matter) happen. Technology is simply a tool. Without a clear purpose, the tool will sit, idle.
The linked article outlines some of the basic questions that schools and districts should answer before pursuing a technology solution. Truncated from the article:
1. What are the ultimate goals for student tech proficiency? In the area of technology, what would a well-educated student from your district know and be able to do with technology by the end of 12th grade?
2. How do the various tech devices and tools used throughout the district lead to the proficiencies described above?
3. What professional development will teachers need to be successful in helping students meet the proficiencies described above?
4. What data should be collected to track the progress of our ed tech initiatives?
The article does not touch upon the cultural changes that may be necessary to take full advantage of technology. A traditional math class with a computer in front of every student will be no more engaging. In fact, technology essentially breaks traditional math classes.
Head over to wolframalpha.com, type in “solve x^2+4x=0” and hit “Enter.” The system tells you the solution right there. X can equal -4 or zero. That’s not much different than having the answers in the back of a math book. That’s why teachers ask students to show their work, to prove that they understand the process.
But, just to the right of the “Results” header is a button that says “Show steps.” When you click that button, every step between the original equation and the solution is displayed with detailed descriptions of the action taken.
And just like that, the rules of traditional math class are broken by technology.
Technology is not a solution; it is a tool that requires a re-imagining of how curricula are delivered and how classroom content is treated.
Gamification provides a structure for that re-imagining that is focused on student engagement, encourages experimentation and exploration, and rewards not the completion of busy work but the mastery of the ideas that we are working so hard to instill in our students.
What if everyone who took the SAT guessed on every multiple-choice question? How many perfect scores would there be? -
The short answer (even after you exclude the written and free-answer portions) is zero. And not just by a little. From the article:
This means that the odds of acing the SAT by guessing are worse than the odds of every living ex-President and every member of the main cast of Firefly all being independently struck by lightning … on the same day.
The full article, with all of the supporting math, is well worth the read. And, while you’re there, don’t miss the answer to, “What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?” Nothing good, let me tell you!
Let's ask more questions -
From Greg Gorman’s blog:
Sometimes I feel the same in the world of education, when we challenge the past practices and why we do things the way we do them. Questioning some of our practices in the education world is long overdue. Homework, as a practice to improve learning, textbooks as the holy grail of information, and the reluctance to use modern technology to protect our students.
I agree. Let’s ask more questions. Questions are the seeds of open dialog, and dialog is the only way that we will agree to change for the better.
All knowledge is an experience in interpretation. — Greg Wilson (via jasonrobertfox)
Schemes of work don't work? -
When Mr. Smith and I gamified a 5th grade math curriculum, my ideas included a flipped classroom model. A flipped classroom necessitates change in now lessons and class time are structured. Syded, of http://syded.wordpress.com/, very clearly elucidates one of these obstacles:
There is a problem. It was relatively simple to adhere to a yearly course when delivering content through a variety of mediums. Students could be fairly sure of the lesson structure and the teacher could follow a comfortable pattern. Lesson ideas could be listed and tweaked so existing documents remained relevant. With the iPad and the ‘flipped‘ classroom concept, things aren’t so easy to construct.
This isn’t a bad thing in his mind; teachers and administrators need to adjust their expectations rather than finding a way to add structure to this new delivery method:
The wider implication is that, with content delivery outside the classroom, lessons will be ‘messy’ (with thanks to @jamesmichie). I require the flexibility for lessons to go wrong and not to be too concerned.
Change isn’t easy, but it is possible.
School is too easy -
Yes, school is too easy. The same students who are doing poorly in our K-12 education system think that school isn’t challenging enough.
On the surface, that doesn’t seem to make sense. If kids aren’t doing well in school, why would they want school to be harder?
We are happiest when we are playing at the very edge of our ability. If a game is too easy, people walk away. If a game is too hard, people walk away.
When school is too easy, students disengage. They stop paying attention. They fall behind. And then when they try to catch up later, they’re so far behind that the current level of work is too hard. They disengage again.
The difficulty of course work is a key factor in student engagement. Education technology can make it easier for teachers to offer content of varying levels of difficulty, which would help to maintain student engagement in school. We talked about this before when discussing the gamification of 5th grade math. The idea is well-worth repeating.
Forget careers. Figure out what you love doing, then pick a college. Careers can wait; you’ll be happier learning what you love. — @veritasf6 in response to @alisucks
I have been spending a lot of time as of late thinking about the connections between students, careers, and college. Many of the education technology solutions out there right now take one of two routes:
Take, for example, a recent tweet by a random high-schooler, @alisucks.
literally sitting on my computer on naviance searching possible careers to find out what college i should go to
This is, traditionally, how schools, counselors, parents, and ed tech companies approach the question of “what’s next.” And it doesn’t work.
High school cannot be thought of as independent from college or career. Neither can college or career be treated as individual silos with little to no connection between them. Students, educators, and service providers are not connecting the dots for students in a way they can understand.
My favorite fiction author is Neal Stephenson. And while I have enjoyed almost every book he has ever written, one stands out as my hands-down favorite: The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer.
It is science fiction in the vein of a Dickensian novel, following the life of a street urchin, Nell, who is taken under the wing of various members of the upper crust of society. Nell is also one of three girls, all of different backgrounds and upbringings, who is given a book, the titular Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. This book, built with nanotechnology, is an interactive and adaptive learning system: the platonic ideal of an individual learning plan and comprehensive curriculum.
The Primer, even in an age of advanced technology, is cutting-edge. More importantly, it was commissioned with a specific goal in mind: intellectually steer its reader toward living a more interesting life.
A more interesting life.
This always stands out to me when I reread The Diamond Age. The thought comes from a grandfather who has seen his own children reach adulthood as well-adjusted and successful individuals, but lacking that je ne sais quoi that separates the good from the great.
Who Dares Wins, in the classroom -
This is a great, quick article about adapting game show ideas for the classroom. I remember fondly the class periods dedicated to playing Jeopardy! instead of sitting through traditional lectures.
Who Dares Wins is perhaps even better, as it is a team game that entices a stronger sense of direct competition, helping students play at the edge of their abilities while building a social connection with their team. Very cool.
A brief mention of the flipped classroom -
I’ve discussed and even advocated some of the ideas behind a flipped classroom in previous posts. Granted, this article is clearly pushing the MentorMob U product, but it still touches on some of the key concerns while highlighting useful resources, included Khan Academy and TED-Ed.
A Lack Of Rigor Leaves Students 'Adrift' In College : NPR -
This article presents some interesting studies showing a decline in academic rigor in higher education. It goes on to discuss that students plans for the future and amount of education they need are often misaligned.
One eloquent quote:
Although growing proportions of high school graduates are entering higher education, many are not prepared for college-level work and many others have no clear plan for the future. Most American high schools have come to embrace a “college for all” mentality, encouraging students to proceed to higher education regardless of their academic performance.