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Using the Video Game Model in the Classroom

Mary Beth Hertz

K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA
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This post is cross-posted from my Philly Teacher blog, but I thought it fit this week's gaming theme and has a lot of applications for how we bring technology tools into our classrooms as well as for how we design tech-infused projects.

I have been thinking a lot recently about video gaming and what we can learn from it as educators. This is not a new concept or a new discussion. I've been seeing things happen in my classroom that really make me think there's something to this idea. My recent reflections and changes in classroom practice don't actually involve my students playing games to learn new skills or concepts (though there is research about the positive effects of this), but rather on the broader structure of games in relation to classroom practices. As I teach in a lab, this approach can definitely be applied to integrating technology in your classroom.

Mistakes as Part of Mastery

For one, while watching my students play games I notice that they easily just click 'retry' or 'new game' or 'start over' and keep trying until they master whatever skill that game's level requires. They don't worry about making mistakes because they know they will get another chance. They learn more and more each time they have to do a level or game task over. We should be building these kinds of experiences into our classrooms.

Immediate Feedback

In addition, games provide immediate feedback. Not just any feedback, but usually feedback that helps a student fix or improve on their previous performance. We should be giving students as many opportunities as possible for useful and timely feedback.

Manageable Goals

Games also have a purpose, an underlying goal. Sometimes there are mini-goals that help get you to the final goal, beating the game. Players can focus on the mini-goals rather than be overwhelmed by the ultimate goal of beating the game. There is usually something that indicates how far along they are toward their final goal, which makes them feel like they're getting somewhere. We should be setting manageable goals for our students that help them move toward mastery while providing timely feedback on their progress.

I have been giving my students chances to revise and revisit their work, and I find that they learn more from this experience than they do while creating the project the first time around. I have also been having them share their work with their peers to solicit feedback. From listening in on the sharing sessions, I also find that they have to explain their choices in their work, which means they are thinking about the choices they make. As for goals, I have been making a point of breaking projects down into manageable chunks and focusing on small goals for each class period so students are aware of what they are focusing on and so my assessments are focused on the mini-goals that will lead to mastery.

Don't think that things are as perfect as they sound. Adding these gaming-like aspects to my classroom is a new endeavor, which means I'm still figuring out the best way to implement the approach into my classroom. However, the immediate effects and results have been noticeable.

I am interested in reading more about the Quest to Learn school in New York City, which focuses on gaming concepts throughout their curriculum.

I would love to know your thoughts.

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Dave Hinrichs's picture
Dave Hinrichs
Math Teacher - 7th Grade, Pre-Algebra, Algebra

I was looking through my RSS feeds for interesting articles and when I saw this post I was very intrigued.

I have been working out the details in designing my math class so that it runs using the concepts of video games. I want to allow students to move through units (I'm calling them levels like games do) at their own pace, and pass the final challenge at each level before moving on. I am trying to incorporate moodle and other technology to make this all work. My biggest challenge right now is how to give the students grades. Grades are typically given with the assumption that all studnet have completed the same tasks and assignments. If students are able move at their own pace and can retry tasks until mastery, how do I deal with giving grades when a student may have an A on the assignments but is far behind the pace of everyone else? I plan to having benchmarks and providing support but I'm still trying to figure out all of the "what ifs."

I enjoyed your post. It's nice to know others are thinking the same way.

Anne's picture
APLanguage and Honor's World Literature 11th and 12th grade

I have also tried to implement these kinds of strategies in my classroom. The biggest problem is grading and time. In a 4X4 block it just isn't possible to allow that many revisions. I include this requirement in process writing, but I am never satisfied completely. Standards based grading does reduce the number of items graded "for real" but not enough to allow a student to learn at their own pace. This is a public school and everyone including the student expects to have some kind of indication of progress. At best, I have to find a compromise between perfect practices and the reality of my classroom. But I am intrigued with calling the practices gaming theory. Cute : )

Mary Beth Hertz's picture
Mary Beth Hertz
K-8 Technology Teacher in Philadelphia, PA

Thanks for your comments. Grading, In the traditional sense doesn't allow for this kind of learning to occur to it's full potential. When we are required to fill our grade books with grades to show "progress" or we cannot show individual student progress because every student is expected to be at the same place, or even a child whois making progress still shows a low grade due to the "A, B, C, D" system it takes away from the real learning that can be experienced through implementation of these practices. We do end up compromising.

I do think Standards-based grading is a pathway to meeting students' individual needs and tracking their true progress. For more on grading, check out Joe Bower's blog:

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