August 30, 2022
Gamification has been a big thing in Education for several years, and why not? It’s engaging to students, it doesn’t feel like learning, and they can demonstrate their level of skills and reach mastery and application. All the things we look for in a classroom!
One thing I have noticed is the claims that they never learned something the prior year. For years, I wondered how that was possible. I’d have to reteach the prior skills then try to also teach my skills, which often meant we didn’t get to mastery, or if we did, I feared it wasn’t reinforced for long term memory.
Talking to other teachers, this is a common occurrence. Talking to adults, we see this as well. The claims of never being taught “life skills” in a classroom echoes in a variety of posts, videos and memes. We see it all the time. “You’ll never use Algebra”, but you do for creating a budget, filing taxes, adjusting a recipe, and even packing lightly for a long term trip, to name a few. “We should learn to change a tire or our oil” but PE class taught you about your physical abilities, science taught you about physics, chemistry, and biology, and you learned to read and follow directions so can find the process in your car’s manual (yes, it’s in there, whether online or a paperbound book in your vehicle–that’s where mechanics find it to learn for the vehicle!). “Why do I need to learn History from another country” as we see events repeated around the world on a regular basis.
So I started talking to teachers in lower grades. At my prior school it was a K-8 Arts school, so these students had been there for years by the time they got to me in 8th grade. Come to find out they were learning the skills, but it was often via gamification, so they learned it without realizing it, so it didn’t translate across platforms. What the students missed was the concluding step of connecting skills beyond the classroom–that DOK level 4 needed for true mastery (Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, if you are unfamiliar with DOK and the levels).
We need gamification in the classroom, for sure, to engage the students in active learning. Many do not learn from just book work and worksheets, although some do.
Our best plan, as educators, is to have a blend of both. Teach the skills and terminology to label and identify the knowledge, reinforce it with a variety of activities and assessments, then create opportunities to apply it over time in other scenarios.
Parents can get involved, too! Showing students how they manage their household, do their job, or complete routine tasks can help students identify skills used that teachers can connect in the classroom to their every day life.
For example, I currently teach a technology course that teaches students proper typing, computer habits, and basic skills for the internet and two programs they will routinely use in school and life–word processing and presentations. The approach taken is to teach terms, practice in chunks, take a quiz, apply to a product, and have a discussion about it and how it applies to future classroom and life experience. Then they still have a final exam that is a blend of terminology and various scenarios to choose the best application for. I also engage them in conversation with family members about how they use what we are learning in their own lives.
So the next time you look to use or create that amazing Escape Room or STEAM activity you designed or purchased, be sure it is a piece of the puzzle, not the grand finale–or even rotate it in in a week or two to help reinforce those long-term learning skills. Take the time to give them tasks that translate and reinforce those skills. Build in activities later on in the year so it gets refreshed. And don’t be afraid to bring it out again as the same activity for those days after testing or they finish early–easy successes for students is great, and it reinforces the learning all over again.
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