Week 7: Reflection

I think my biggest takeaway from this week was just how useful understanding our students as gamers can be in our classroom. Even if students aren’t gamers, they could have a gamer identity. When I took the Bartle test, I didn’t have a lot of experience with most of the scenarios as I am not a “gamer”. But I’ve played enough games and know of enough games that I was able to hypothesize my answer. And since we game the way we live, I considered how I would react in each scenario presented in the test based on my values. Long story short, all of our students fall under a gamer type.

If I’m aware of this as a teacher, then I can plan my groups and lessons and activities according to the skills, strengths, abilities, and interests of  my students based on their gamer type. I can have students with the same gamer type work on a project that is geared toward their particular gamer type, or I can have each gamer type represented in a group to work on an activity that requires skills or interests of each type.

Another thing that struck me is when a classmate wrote about how game design doesn’t sell the game— the elements of the game like art, sound, characters, and experiences sell the game. I think that teaching is the same way. It isn’t sitting in a classroom and hearing information that causes students to learn— it’s the experience of the learning process, the social interactions, and the creativity or art that is present in the the learning process.

A final thought: We want to engage our students with the learning process. We can choose to meet them where they’re at, which right now is a culture of gaming. Virtually all of our students have played games of some kind, whether video or computer or traditional board game, and if not, then they know someone who does— they have some kind of experience with gaming. Since this is the case, we should incorporate their gamer type in our classrooms, even if we only consider it a lens though which they learn and see the world. By incorporating their learning style, and relating that to gaming (something they’re familiar with) we will hopefully engage them in the learning process to a greater extent.

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Week 7: What is the implication of player type on game design?

As I read about the different gamer types and related classroom behaviors, I couldn’t help but draw connections to the various styles of learning or learning modalities that my professors introduced to us in college. My undergraduate education professors taught us that everyone is one of three learners, with some overlap: visual, tactile/kinesthetic, or auditory. Basically, people either learn by seeing the content, hearing it, or physically manipulating it. In addition, we learned about 8 other learning styles:

  1. The Linguistic Learner
  2. The Naturalist
  3. The Musical or Rhythmic Learner
  4. The Kinesthetic Learner
  5. The Visual or Spatial Learner
  6. The Logical or Mathematical Learner
  7. The Interpersonal Learner
  8. The Intrapersonal Learner

To me, the different gamer types nearly parallel this concept of learning styles. Bartle (1996) classified the four gamer types as: achievers, explorers, socializers and killers. Achievers are most concerned with earning more points or going further than anyone, reaching goals they’ve set, and doing this the quickest. Explorers care the most about learning the various functions and elements of the game world, gathering information, and making discoveries. Socializers are most interested in interacting with the other players and getting to know them. Killers use their powers and abilities to manipulate other players, occasionally for good but usually not, and get their kicks from killing other players.

Most players, and thus students, fall into one of those four categories, but with overlap into others. Dan Dixon (2011) is quick to point out that while these four types are not mutually exclusive as Bartle claims, and the test is not valid, there is overlap or mixing between the types, and further research has given more support to these claims. Dixon also provides research on a new model based on those four original types:

  • Achievement: Advancement, Mechanics, Competition
  • Social: Socialising, Relationship, Teamwork
  • Immersion: Discovery, Role-playing, Customization, Escapism

In citing this research, Dixon says that “Yee is careful not to describe his work as player types. They are overlapping sets of psychological and social ‘motivations’ based on player behaviour and preferences.” This framework, bulleted above, provides a finer outline of the types Bartle first presented. The killer player type is delineated into the competition and advancement subcategory. The explorer type has also be separated between the discovery and mechanics subcomponent.

What I enjoyed most was reading about how to incorporate these gamer types in the classroom. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear about Fortnite, or some other game my kids are into, so this was a goldmine of information! Douglas Kiang outlines each player type in a more positive manner compared to Bartle (in my opinion) and how they might act in the classroom. According to Kiang, my students who are explorers are the ones whose sense of achievement comes from knowing the most information, learning just to learn something new, and the ones who will do an entire project or assignment— and not turn it in (I definitely am already picturing some of my students as this type!). My achievers will be the students who are most concerned about their grade, scores on assignments, and being the top in their class (again, several students come to mind!). My socializers are the ones who care most about talking to their friends and classmates, and who thrive when working in groups. Perhaps the most enlightening descriptions was that of the killers. While Bartle describes the killers as receiving their pleasure through the pain and downfall of other players, Kiang described them as the students who have a growth mindset! While, yes, they do tend to act without concern for the consequences of their actions, they’re also the risk takers. They make mistakes and get back up again because in the gaming world, they’re often killed and start over with nothing.

Kiang detailed how he would organize groups, keeping in mind the various gamer types. Depending on the task, he would either have a group with diverse types in order to collaborate and utilize each of their strengths, or homogenous groups with only one gamer type in order to accomplish a particular task based on the strength of each type. This is just how I might organize groups based on the learning styles mentioned earlier!

My biggest takeaway is that we can use the knowledge of the “gamer types” in our classrooms to play to our students’ strengths. We build a classroom community by getting to know our students as individuals; understanding their “gamer type” is another layer of that, and one that provides a more psychological understanding of their actions and emotions and motives (Dixon, 2011). And once again, since gaming is a part of most of their personal cultures now, we might as well incorporate it into our classrooms in a way that benefits everyone!

 
Resources

Bartle, R. Players Who Suit MUDs. Retrieved from http://mud.co.uk/richard/hcds.htm

Kiang, D. Use the Four Gamer Types to Help Your Students Collaborate. Retrieved from https://edtechteacher.org/use-the-four-gamer-types-to-help-your-students-collaborate-from-douglas-kiang-on-edudemic/

Dixon, D. Player Types and Gamification. Retrieved from https://classes.alaska.edu/bbcswebdav/pid-6026899-dt-content-rid-68781989_1/courses/EDET_S679_JD1_201803/Player%20Types%20and%20Gamification.pdf

Verma, E. At Your Fingertips: The 8 Types of Learning Styles. Retrieved from https://www.skillsyouneed.com/rhubarb/fingerprints-learning-styles.html

 

Week 6: Reflection

Wow! I really enjoyed this week’s topic. It made me think about my own teaching strategies and how gamification fits in with current classroom research.

Overall, I learned from my research and that of my classmates that personalized learning is one key to engaging our students. When their learning is personalized to their needs and interests, as it can be with blended learning and gamification, students are more engaged with the content because it is relevant to who they are and where they’re going.

Today’s students are different than generations passed, and that relevance is another key factor for their engagement. Today’s students need to understand the importance of what they’re learning and why they’re learning it in order to become engaged with it. Gone are they days where they learn because that’s what school is for. In this age of information, they want to know what the content has to do with them.

I also am beginning to see how accessible gamification and personalization can be in the classroom. At first, when considering I teach four English classes, roughly 90 students total, the thought of creating games and personalizing the learning for EACH STUDENT seems overwhelming! But hearing from my classmates and how they incorporate games in class and work to personalize the learning path of their students, I see how teachers do it in real life, and I’m more inspired to work at it myself. As Matera said, we’re teaching students— individuals with passions and pursuits of their own— not standards. I know that if I keep this in mind, personalization will seem less daunting and more vital to my instruction, and the needs of my students.

Week 6: What research supports or refutes Matera’s claims?

In chapter 3, “New World, Old World” (Explore Like a Pirate, 2015), Matera made several claims stuck out to me that I wanted to research a little further. The first claim is the idea of personalized learning and its affect on student motivation. Matera claims “students want a personalized and a sense of autonomy.” When I researched “personalized learning”, I found an article by Michael B. Horn and Heather Staker that explored the concept of blended learning. They provide the definition of blended learning as “any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace.” For example, high school students taking courses online and at their high school campus could be considered blended learning.

What does this mean for personalized learning? Well, online courses as described in “The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning” offer students the opportunity to “learn at their own pace, use preferred learning modalities, and receive frequent and timely feedback on their performance for a far higher quality learning experience.” These are some of the same characteristics of gamification, and the key to personalized learning. Horn and Staker even compare the practice of blended learning at one campus, Carpe Diem learning center, to a game:

Just as in a video game, students do not move on to the next level or unit until they have passed. As students move through each task, the software displays their progress in a bar along the top of the webpage. he progress bar moves from red, to yellow, to green, and then to blue if they are ahead of pace. he software provides continual feedback, assessment, and incremental victory in a way that a face-to-face teacher with a class of 30 students never could. After each win, students continue to move forward at their own pace.

Horn and Staker also point out the success of a charter management organization, Rocketship Education, that also utilizes blended learning. The two schools in that system have the two “highest-performing low-income elementary schools in Santa Clara County and [are] ranked in the top 15 among all California schools with low-income populations of at least 70 percent.”

I believe their findings support Matera’s claim that personalized learning enhances student motivation and provides them with the autonomy they seek. In a blended learning environment, students are relatively free to choose their learning path and courses they want to take from those provided. They are offered the support they need on an individual level rather than receiving instruction that is too high or too low for their current ability level. And they are provided immediate feedback on their progress. These are the elements of gamification that we’ve learned about that make gamification a success in the classroom.

Matera also claims that “inspiring self-motivated learning is the key.” We need to embrace who our students are and what makes them unique, and incorporate their passions and interests into our instruction/their learning process. Personalized learning, and blended learning, allow that to happen. While we have a curriculum and content and standards that we need to teach, we are (usually— hopefully!) still able to be flexible enough to allow student interests a place at the table. Personalized and blended learning provide a pathway to do that. If students are able to work at their own pace, on something that is interesting to them, and provided with the support and feedback they need, they will be more motivated to learn for the sake of learning than simply because they’re told what they need to know.

I think that while there will always be challenges or pushback to doing things differently than we’ve done them before, it’s worth it to try something new if the research and evidence support it. To me, the concepts of personalized learning, blended learning, and gamification will sometimes be challenging to incorporate, it seems like they are all valid ways of motivating students and enhancing their learning in our classrooms.

 

Resources

Matera, M. Explore like a Pirate. Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. 2015. Print.

Horn, Michael B., and Heather Staker. “The rise of K-12 blended learning.” Innosight institute 5 (2011).

Week 5: Reflection

I loved reading all the posts this week! I really saw some perspectives on virtual reality (VR) that I hadn’t thought of before.

I think my biggest take away was realizing that we, as teachers, should take the emotional and psychological baggage our students bring to the classroom into account when using VR in our classes. When they’re immersed in a new, computer-generated world, they don’t leave their fears and background knowledge and previous experiences behind; all of that follows them into the virtual world. This could have both positive and negative affects on them and their experience in that world. I think we could combat this as their teachers by doing a reflection with our students before and after the VR experience to assess how our students anticipated and reacted to the VR world and activity. That would also serve to prepare them for what they will experience, and to reflect on their perceptions of the VR activity.

I also maintain the thought, after reading through all the blog postings, that VR allows teachers, especially here in Alaska, to provide our students with experiences they wouldn’t get otherwise. Using VR, we could have them explore museums or locations that they might never get to see in person. It’s difficult for us to take our students on field trips, but VR allows us that opportunity. Plus, taking virtual field trips as opposed to real-world field trips seems more cost effective, once you get over the initial cost of VR equipment compared to the number of students and field trips they would go on in real life.

Overall, VR allows for a new dimension, another layer of immersion and engagement that would benefit a gamified experience and the learning experiences of our students. It provides them with opportunities they wouldn’t otherwise have to experience the world, and allows for self-reflection on their end as well.

Week 5: How can immersive virtual reality enhance gamification?

One of the key elements of gamification in the classroom is immersion, where students feel as though they are IN the game or activity, and the world around them falls away. Traditionally, this is possible, but students still have one foot in the “real world” and might never be truly immersed in a new “gamified” setting.

Virtual reality (VR) truly allows the user to become immersed in a new reality. Stifor and  Stefanut describe virtual reality as media that “allows the users to experience different computer-generated worlds in a very similar approach to the real one.” The computer generated world allows the user to feel as if they are truly in that world, without physically leaving the real world. Often times the user can interact with and move around this computer-generated world, which allows another layer of immersion.

According to Casu et. al., one major benefit in the educational world especially is that “VR has been adopted in different areas for teaching, especially when allowing the action of inexpert people may cause danger or may raise ethical issues.” Virtual reality allows the user to practice skills or knowledge in a safe setting without the potential harm of practicing in the real world. For example, someone learning to fly will practice for hours in a virtual cockpit where no lives are at risk while he’s learning to fly. Medical students can practice procedures without possibly harming a real patient.

Gamification works when it immerses the user in the activity, offering a challenge with a defined goal within the user’s capabilities. Virtual reality provides a way to truly immerse the user (student) in the activity or content. Students can explore a museum or location that they’re studying in class without ever leaving the classroom, and still have an experience as if they were there. And VR offers a challenge when the user first navigates the computer generated world. They must learn the motions and cues in order to complete their assignment or activity, as students did in the case study presented by Garth et. al.: “The learning activities associated with RTR moved students through various stages, to manage the cognitive load and encourage exploration.” By encouraging students to explore the virtual world or program, they learn on their own how to navigate it, and in turn they are set on a path that is conductive to independent and personalized learning through gamification.

Virtual reality allows students opportunities that they might not otherwise have in their classroom, or in life. They can experience places they can’t otherwise visit. Students can learn a new skill in an environment where failing isn’t going to hurt anyone, and this will hopefully encourage them to take risks and try harder, which they might not be willing to do in the classroom normally.

Week 4 Reflection

One thing that came to my attention after reading the posts of my classmates is considering the age group and level of education when deciding to use gamification in class. One reading focused on gamification in a post grad course, and it wasn’t received by those students as expected. A gamified lesson that works with elementary kids most likely won’t engage high school students in the same way.

I think it was also a common theme that the activity needs a clear objective so students understand what they’re expected to accomplish. The content should also be relevant to the lives of the students in order for the activity to be the most engaging (ideally).

I’ve realized that the best way to make gamification work at any level of education is to determine the interests of the students and make the activity as personalized as possible in order to make it engaging. Personalization should apply not only to the content though, but to the pathway itself, the challenges, the feedback, and possibly even the goal of the lesson in some way. I feel like this is what the gamified college class was missing. The elements that students didn’t enjoy could have been modified to fit their interests and abilities rather than being set by the researchers/professor.

It is not easy to personalize an activity for every lesson and every student, especially when you have multiple classes every day. But it is possible, and it doesn’t necessarily have to take a crazy amount of time. Ultimately though, if you set a clear objective, allow for some form of student choice, and relevant content, you can set the stage for students to achieve a state of “flow”. Those are the key factors that contribute to flow, and if they’re missing or done incorrectly, they can also detract from “flow”.

Week 4: What classroom strategies can contribute to or detract from “flow”?

Flow is defined by Martin Sillaots as “a state of mind in which a person is concentrated so deeply on a certain task that she is loosing her sense of time and stops worrying about other things.” Flow is achieved in the classroom when students are given achievable tasks in their productive struggle zone, clear goals for the activity, “instant and rich feedback”, are controlling their actions, and become immersed in the activity, losing sense of time and self. Gamification within the classroom uses these same elements to engage and immerse students in the learning process, thus creating flow. But there are some elements of classroom and lesson design that can detract from “flow” as well.

First of all, if we don’t articulate a clear and obtainable goal to our students, they will be unable to achieve flow (Aguilar, 2012). While the objective/goal itself doesn’t ensure students will achieve a state of flow, it does provide the framework to develop that experience. I’ve been experimenting with providing my students with a learning target scale related to the objective: the objective I write on my board is what they’re expected to master, and the lower levels are what we work through before they master the objective. For example, they might go from identifying characteristics of a poem to describing the effect of those elements on the reader to applying those elements in their own composition. Ideally, students are able to see where their current ability falls on the scale and I’m able to help them develop their ability to move up on the scale. Since doing this, I’ve seen a little more buy in to my lessons and students have voiced a clearer understanding of their objectives and goals in class. However, I have also seen that if my objective or scale is too wordy or confusing, my lessons tend to fall flat because I didn’t clearly articulate the goal of the activity to my students. This is something I plan to work on throughout the year.

From there, we need to be aware of what our students know and are able to do so that we can adjust our support and challenging tasks to the abilities of our students (Aguilar, 2012). This means providing the instant and rich feedback mentioned earlier. When we can do those three things for our students, they will be more likely to enter and remain in a state of flow. I use anything from a “thumbs up/thumbs down” to gauge understanding (usually for directions) to a scale of 1-5 with 5 being “I could teach someone” and 1 being “Help! I don’t understand” (usually for a skill or content). This allows me to target specific students for more assistance or review a concept that a majority of students failed to master just then.

However, the other major portion, once we’ve set the goal and plan to provide feedback, is to design the actual activity students will be doing, through which they will (hopefully) experience a state of “flow”. The activity should allow for students to challenged without leaving them feeling overwhelmed (Suttie, 2012). The content should also be related to  the lives of the students in some way; when students see how the activity or content is relevant to their lives, they are more likely to become engaged. By far one of my favorite activities has been a flexible seating research project. Students researched and designed a flexible seating arrangement for my classroom, including everything from what seating they would include to the cost to how we would get the money to implement it. Students were engaged because they saw how it would impact their experience in my classroom and the benefits of having flexible seating in school. One of my least favorite activities was a research project on ancient Grecian philosophers. Holy cow, that kind of bombed! I wanted to do something cross-curricular with social studies, but I failed to make it something that was in any way connected to the lives of my students. They saw no link between these ancient men and their lives today. Needless to say, everyone was pretty bored with that assignment…

Ultimately, what creates “flow” in our classroom is giving students choice and making the content relevant to their lives, providing them with clear goals and immediate feedback, and challenging them at just the right level. To do anything less than that would detract from a state of flow. If an activity is too challenging, students will give up out of frustration, and if it’s too easy, they will become bored. If the content is not relevant to their lives, it will be more difficult to engage students with the lesson and for them to achieve mastery. If there is no clear goal for the activity, students could become lost in the activity with no real way of telling where they’re going and how they’ll know if they made it. In the end, creating a state of flow for students in your classroom comes down to knowing your students and thinking outside the box for ways to engage them with your class content and clearly articulated objectives.

Week 3: Reflection

It seems like we all agree on the definition of gamification, which is the application of game design elements to a non-gaming context, such as the classroom. While we’re all at varying levels of knowledge when it comes to gamification and gaming in the classroom, I saw that we all learned something new about the concept of gamification.

One thing that stuck with me after reading the posts of my classmates was the concept of engagement in the classroom. We all know that when students are engaged in the learning process, the concepts are going to stick with them in a way that they otherwise might not if the student was not engaged. Gamification has the ability to engage students in a variety of ways, increasing its versatility in the classroom and giving teachers more freedom to create a gamified activity to engage students and connect them to the content of the class.

Gamification also encourages students to problem solve and practice higher order thinking skills. Unlike gaming, which is mostly for pleasure and competition, gamification allows the facilitator to create an activity that necessitates students to solve engaging problems which require them to apply those higher order thinking skills while interacting with the class content. In this way, gamification borrows the element of problem solving from gaming and applies it to the classroom setting so that students are more engaged with the learning process.

One last comment: When gamifying our classrooms, we should be aware of the way that we will engage students with the game and how we will encourage motivation. We want to encourage intrinsic motivation as opposed to extrinsic motivation. If we use gamification in a way that promotes intrinsic motivation, students will be more likely to continue learning for the sake of learning, instead of learning until the extrinsic rewards stop. I know my students drag their feet at most activities unless they can earn a grade or reward, but if I can motivate them through the content itself, the pathway, and the goal, as gamification allows, sign me up!

Week 3: Gamification vs Gaming and Why the Difference Matters

Each article I consulted for this week’s question provided essentially the same definition for gamification: “the use of game design elements in non-game contexts” (Groh, 2012). Basically what that means is that to “gamify” an activity is to take elements of a game and apply them to an activity or situation that is completely unrelated to gaming. Gaming, according to Groh, is “rule-based playing with determined goals.” Gaming seems to mean playing a game, whether digital or traditional, by following common and established rules in order to reach a predetermined goal. The context and motivation differ based on the game and user, but typically focus on the external motivation, like in the form of points and leveling up. Gamification applies those elements, yes, but takes them a bit further.

It seems like the biggest differences are in the motivation and context of games when considering gaming versus gamification. Nicholson (2012) states that “meaningful gamification puts the needs and goals of the user over the needs of the organization.” According to him, successful gamification ensures the user is intrinsically motivated by the outcome of the game, in the form of learning something or reaching personal goals as opposed to earning points or moving up on a leader board. It also means the game needs to be relevant to the context and user. If the user isn’t interested in the goal, then they’re not going to be motivated to participate. In schools, for example, users (students) will find the gamification system meaningful when the content, pathway, and goal are relevant to their own interests and backgrounds.

Gamification, as opposed to gaming, involves the user “into an active learning process to master the game mechanics” while providing “a fictional context in the form of narrative, graphics, and music” which, when used appropriately, will hopefully interest the user in an otherwise uninteresting (to them) topic (Dominguez et al., 2013). This means that gamification, when used appropriately in the classroom, could engage our students on a new level by using elements of game design.

Groh found that there are three elements of a gamified application: relatedness, competence, and autonomy. The activity should apply to personal goals and allow the user to connect with people who share the same interests and goals. In our classroom, that could mean allowing our students to set goals related to skills and standards we’re teaching, and encouraging them to work with classmates who chose the same skill or standard. The experience should provide interesting challenges to the user with clear goals and immediate, relevant feedback. In our classroom, this could mean creating a virtual or traditional pathway for students that features challenges related to their interests and the skill/standard, while providing feedback that tells students whether their moving in the right direction or need to try something different. Lastly, as mentioned before, the activity should provide intrinsic rewards that make the user (student) feel as though they are in charge of the experience, rather than extrinsic rewards that could devalue the activity and thus the learning. I’ve already seen that I get more buy in with students when they are in charge of their goal and how they achieve it than when I assign work for them to do; if students set the goal and pathway, even if I provide parameters for the content/skills/standards, they will be more intrinsically motivated than if I offered extrinsic rewards like points or prizes for completing goals.

A final point I thought was interesting: in education, as mentioned above, certain constraints have to be put on some choices that the users (students) are given in order to guide them toward our needs as educators for them to reach our state standards (Nicholson, 2012). However, these constraints, like our standards, can lead to meaningful conversations with our students about why we have to put these constraints on their choices, and allow them to see the connection between the elements of game design and the learning outcomes.

The difference matters because gamification allows only certain elements of game design to function in a different setting, like education, and provides an engaging way for users to master content or reach goals. Gaming, on the other hand, does not serve much of a purpose besides play or pleasure or competition, typically featuring extrinsic motivation. However, when certain elements of game design are applied to a new context, like the classroom, in the right combination, the activity enables users to experience positive feelings, more and deeper engagement with other users, and ultimately connects the gaming elements of the activity to real-life goals of the user.