Designing School More Like A Game

Breaks are my time of ideas.  I slow down, read, think, take walks, drive my car without the radio on.  Taking that time to recharge and let ideas percolate is so important for me.  Over winter break this year, my favorite WNYC program, On the Media, aired a show around gaming.  Their last piece, The Future of Gaming was an interview with journalist Tom Bissell which aired pieces of the two following videos:

Jane McGonigal: Gaming can make a better world

Last year when I visited Al Doyle at Quest 2 Learn (Q2L), I saw the vision of Katie Salen who wrote Rules of Play and founded Q2L.  Kids using system design theory to learn History, English, Math and Science in a 21st Century way.  Kids creating their own games to teach their peers.

This leads me to Jane McGonigal’s book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World.  I’m only 56% of the way through, but her stories of real games being designed to make the world a better place is compelling.  Not that we have to solve all problems with games, but designing compelling experiences for our students so they are engaged in their learning seems a lot like designing games.

Here’s one example of how I’ve applied McGonigal’s work here at school.  A few weeks ago, I was running an exchange day between boys at my school and girls at one of our sister schools.  The boys and girls were doing some icebreaker activities and one of the activities was starting to get stale and we still had about 10 minutes to go in the period.  I added a new challenge (do the activity standing up instead of sitting down) and it allowed the activity to reengage the students.

I used the understanding that “all games share four defining traits: a goal, rules, a feedback system, and voluntary participation.” (McGonigal, 2011) was important to this process.  A new rule refreshed the game that I described above.

So I’m finding myself more and more interested and engaged in thinking about game design and design challenges as centerpieces of student learning.  Solve big problems, figure out how to change the world, engage people around you. Dan Pink nailed it when he wrote about autonomy, motivation and purpose.  This all seems inter-related in critical ways.

What do you think?  What are your examples of using games to develop better learning environments?

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