Ti esrever dna, ti yalp, no emag ruoy teg.

Game based learning, gamification, play based learning, reverse instruction, flipped classroom, these are the current buzz words in education that I was exploring this week. Since they all center around fun and student engagement, I will describe each one using a fun gif to keep your attention along with some text to explain it a little more.

Get Your Game On

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There are two methods of using games in the classroom; gamification and game based learning. In gamification the whole teaching and learning process is done through the elements of game playing. It is collaborative, goal oriented, and rewards/recognition driven. This kind of learning has been known to quickly increase student engagement in the classroom. Game based learning on the other hand is simply when the teacher uses games in the classroom to teach or practice specific skills.

Although I have not done any gamification of entire units or lessons in my classroom, I do use game-based learning on a daily basis. In math class my students are using iPad apps such as Mathletics and DragonBox Numbers to learn and practice specific skills. I also use a lot of non-tech based games that I have found from others or have made up myself using dice, ten frame towers, gameboards, etc. Because of using games so often in math I find my class is really engaged by it and love to learn it more as well. The other area I use games in my class is when it comes to word study. When students are practicing sorting words and identifying their common patterns, games really help to keep them motivated. I use things like building words with magnet letters, iPad apps, dice games, word paper coding, and even fidget spinner games to keep them wanting to practice more and more.

There are some challenges that come along with doing these things in the classroom. In regards to  gamification, I have not personally done it because it is daunting to me to think of planning and developing something that I’m not sure will actually be more effective than what I am already doing. Another challenge with gamification is that the motivation for learning really becomes extrinsic instead of fostering more intrinsic motivation in students. In regards to game-based learning, the challenges that I personally have experienced in my room are finding quality iPad games for instruction, and the creation and storage of non-tech games in the classroom.

Overall I really prefer game-based learning rather than gamification but I am open to the idea of trying it out in my room before I disregard it all together. Any ideas for me for how to implement this smoothly into a first grade classroom are welcome!

Play It

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Play based learning is often something you hear happening in preschool but happens less and less as kids get older. I however think this is truly something that needs to be incorporated more into all grade levels of learning including adults!

Play allows students the freedom to explore the world around them and work together in different ways. It fosters good social skills, healthy brain development, problem solving skills, creativity, promotes physical wellbeing, and enhances emotional development and self esteem. Recently there has been a lot of research around this topic and it has shown with overwhelming certainty that play is indeed a central part of neurological growth and development. In other words, play is necessary for life.

In my classroom I try to incorporate as much play as I possibly can because it is especially important when kids are younger. Keeping this in my mind, a lot of the learning activities and projects I do in my room are based around play, i.e.; students creating powerful stories through role playing/acting, and students working together to construct things using LEGO or makerspace items to name a few. I am also a huge believer in allowing free ‘Exploration Time’ at some point every day. During this time my students can choose to do anything with the resources we have available in my classroom. Students might choose to paint, draw, write, code Beebots/Probots/Ozobots/DASH robots, build in makerspace, role play with costumes, do yoga, fingerknit, dance, or anthing else they can come up with. When we do this, students are completely engaged and also willingly collaborate with students of similar passions and interests. This time also allows me to introduce new tech and allow my kids to play around with it before I require them to try to use it for a specific educational purpose in a different context. This playing around is so valuable and they learn so much from the process.

When kids play, it naturally means that disagreements will occur. This can indeed be a challenge and does happen, however this is when it becomes a teachable moment for the adult to step and and help them get better at solving problems and working with others. “Playing takes away teaching time for us to fit everything in!” is sometimes what I hear from others when encouraging them to allow more play into the day for kids of all ages. From my personal experience I don’t see this as a problem because I see that the value it brings to my students heavily outweighs the fact that I have less time each day to fit in all of my teaching.

And Reverse It

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“A new Pew research study that surveyed 4,594 Americans in 2018 found that 51 percent of YouTube users say they rely on the video service to figure out how to do new things…”

The article being quoted above was very interesting in regards to this topic of learning from watching videos. In today’s day and age people of all ages use videos to find out how to do things on a daily basis. So, why not use this tool when it comes to teaching and learning in the classroom as well?

In a reverse/flipped classroom that is exactly what happens. The teaching time and homework time are flipped. Students are assigned to watch videos of lessons outside of the classroom, this then frees up class time for practicing concepts and individualized instruction. This kind of teaching and learning can be beneficial for students to be able to learn at their own pace, have more teacher support of things they don’t understand, and enables more higher order thinking skills during the class time. Educational technology is really at the core of this method because it is relied on heavily for instruction, collaboration, and sharing what is learned.

I don’t use this method often because the daily teaching and learning in my room is not really lecture based but instead experiential/inquiry/hands on based. For all content areas I do 10-15 min minilessons that target specific skills related to the content being taught, and then send my students off to practice in a variety of different ways.

I do however use this method on a much smaller scale. During math time, I will sometimes create teaching videos for a particular skill on Seesaw and have my students watch the video to learn in small groups while others are either with me or doing math inquiry. I also use Mathletics for my students to watch learning videos, and then practice those skills on the iPad. This gives me instant data for grouping students to work on specific skills in which they are lacking. Another small way I utilize this is by making short audio instructions into QR codes so students who forget what to do at a certain word study or math center in class can scan and listen so they remember what they need to do.

One challenge to this type of learning is the need for technology. If students are required to watch videos at home, the responsibility falls on parents to monitor it and to make sure there is tech available to complete it. Another challenge is that it takes a lot of planning and time to create or find quality teaching videos that match the skills that need to be taught in the classroom.

Final Thoughts

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Overall each of these learning methods have positives and challenges just the same. Personally I am not completely sold out to any one in particular, but instead I like to take pieces of them and put them together like a puzzle to match my personal teaching style, reinforce my personal philosophy of teaching and learning, and meet the needs of my diverse students.