What I have discovered, though, is that there are gamified elements to every effective attempt at differentiation. There is the emphasis on goals, mileposts, rewards; there is the control the "player" (learner) has in pacing that isn't there in traditional classroom learning. I get it; really, I do! ...but I still struggle with it. A few of my colleagues' posts helped me think things through this week:
- Thomas wrote about the "Goldilocks Principle" and it made perfect sense. Games work in the classroom because they provide a "just right, just right, just right" experience for the learner. They meet students where they are and provide them with a paced, supported way forward. I like that.
- Theresa wrote about lack of experience with games in the classroom (a kindred spirit), and she articulated her desire to find games to support the curriculum she is teaching instead of starting with a game and trying to wedge it into the goals and objectives of her classes. AMEN! So often in education, we look for the silver bullet that will fix everything, even if it isn't suited for the content, the grade level, or the learning we desire for our students. I appreciated her approach to responsible inclusion of games and provided with a resource from Common Sense Media for social studies-related games.
- Tyler's blog post this week included a paragraph that was really fantastic. He talked about the different types of learners in his classroom and how, if school were "different," the intensive aide working with one of his students would be working with completely different students. Wow. It's so true! School "works" for certain kinds of students ... but if the way we do school were to change, imagine the impact it would have on all learners?! Gamification of instruction and the inclusion of games (and even more hands-on experiences, in general) could make a world of difference for students.
So...getting back to my desire to focus on other types of tools to differentiate instruction (besides Minecraft and "games").... This week really made me think about the tools I love for differentiation (e.g., Newsela, Actively Learn, Zaption, Kahn Academy, No Red Ink, a number of math apps for the iPad), and I finally get it: These tools aren't technically billed as "games," but they certainly have game-like elements that make them engaging to learners. Huge lesson in this for me, as I realize it's not so much a shift in accepting that "games" can be powerful tools for differentiation as it is a shift in my understanding that game-like elements exist in every engaging learning experience. Huh. Cool.