On August 6-7, 1st Playable hosted the annual Games in Education Symposium in Albany, NY.
This is a free event for educators to get hands on advice in game based learning, and I was able to attend (and present) on the first day.
Keynote with Peggy Sheehy
The symposium started with Peggy Sheehy keynoting. “There’s a word for most games used in the classroom,” she began, “boring.”
But even bad games can have educational value, and the best game based curricula involves the kids in the design process. Begin with two questions for the kids:
- How can I best teach this?
- How do you want to learn it?
Kids today are the future, and the future isn’t sitting in rows taking tests. Schools need to be more like a game; when you get it wrong, you just do it again until you know how to do it right. In school in particular, and in society in general, we pit the seriousness of work against the frivolity of play, when we should be maximizing the outputs of work through deploying fun and engagement of play.
There were tons of breakout sessions, from fun ways to flip your classroom, digital games of Middle School Science Learning, Teaching Computer Science with App Inventor, and the NY STEAM Girl’s Collaborative.
ARGs with Paul Darvasi and John Fallon
Using the real world as the field of play. Paul Darvasi and John Fallon (the real one, not the guy at
Pearson) have created Alternative Reality Games to teach a variety of subjects. One of the most recent was to teach digital literacy and privacy. Students became immersed in a mystery, trying to figure out who was trying to amass information on US and Canadian citizens in order to control them, and in the process found out just how much information was available about them, how that information could be used against them, and how to protect their identities. Another recent game was the Ward Game, re-enacting the novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the classroom. Their tips:
- Develop a compelling narrative and story
- Create emotional connections
- Repurpose space in the classroom and school and place them into the game (diplomas, newspaper articles, announcements, posters, etc.)
- Create false documents that look like real ones
- Use social media, like fictional characters on FB or videos on YouTube
- Get collaborators who can play characters or face email or social media accounts
- Use a variety of game mechanics, like quests and missions, timers, puzzles, cyphers, codes
- The correct solution to a puzzle or quest must be obviously correct to the participants
Game Jam with Games4Ed
After lunch, Kimberly Heftje, Marianne Malmstrom, Steve Isaacs, and I (all of Games4Ed) ran a 45 minute session where participants broke into small groups to create their own game based learning curriculum. Four groups successfully created activities that used existing games to teach science, ELA, and math along with 21st century skills such as problem solving, planning, and collaboration. All participants will be able to re-enact those processes back in their own schools to expand on that curriculum or to create their own with their fellow educators.
Closing with Marianne Malmstrom
In a closing session for the day, Marianne Malmstrom gave a talk on creating space for student-driven learning.
Are the things we teach and assess in education the most important things for students to learn? If we fill up schools and class time with all the stuff in the standards and assessments, there is no place left for learning, we will be too busy teaching.
As the adults in the room, we are the experts in life; we don’t have to be the experts in content. And bookending Peggy’s comment, Marianne’s conclusion was that if we would just listen to the kids, they’ll tell us how to teach them.
My only regret is that I was not able to stay around for the second day. I heard Steve Isaacs’s keynote was epic!
I am in three speaking proposals for SxSW Edu. Please vote:
- ARG! Let’s Create Games for Learning: https://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/54757
- Power Up STEM Professional Development with Games: https://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/56393
- Edu-gaming: money, morals, and games in classrooms: https://panelpicker.sxsw.com/vote/53244
We have a great lineup for Edchat Interactive over the next week:
- August 20: Hacking Education with Mark Barnes: https://www.edchatinteractive.org/upcoming-seminars/august-20-hacking-education
- August 25: Games Jams with Matt Farber: https://www.edchatinteractive.org/upcoming-seminars/mattfarberaug2015