I thought I’d have a go at summarizing all I’d been looking at over the least 12 months. So here’s a poster for you.
What can schools learn from why millions of people of all ages are turning to online gaming and online virtual environments? I’ve been reading this book by Jane Mcgonigal on the effect of and reasons why millions of people of all ages are turning to online gaming and online virtual environments. Here’s Jane at TED summarizing the book in 15 minutes. The basic premise is that the continuous feedback and desire for self-improvement becomes the drive to continue.
It goes as far as to say that games that have a definitive end and can be won are less appealing. A classic example is “Tetris” which became one of the most popular games in history regardless of not being able to win it! It never ends, you just continue to challenge yourself to last longer each time, whilst receiving continuous visual and sound feedback.
Gamers just want work and learn! The more work the better. World of Warcraft has clocked-up 6 million gamer hours in about a decade! (That’s as long as humans have been upright!) It takes 500 hours of play to reach the highest levels in the game and this is now seen by gamers as a small amount of work time!
The constant desire to get more work done within the world, whilst continuously “levelling-up,” and the fact that one’s levels are shared across the system is what drives the engagement. The other thing going on in these games is learning. the students only really score points if they show they have learnt something new. I’m wondering if we can bring that level of drive & dedication to work and learn into the school environment.
So I thought I’d have a go!
Here’s an idea for a mobile app system used by teachers and students that could work in many schools to drive student engagement but also provide individual student performance analytics to the school.
Allowing for my previous blog posts, I must add that this would only work in a student-centred environment where students were self-directed on large enough projects that the teacher is free to only offer 1-to-1 guidance and have time to truly assess how each student is developing.
The school decides on about 8 core requirements for life in the 21st century. Skills that it feels students must be assessed on across all their school-life and students can then “Level-Up” on each day/week.
The school could outline a matrix of examples of how students might behave and think to Level-up in each requirement.
Classes are set up on a database system accessible through mobile devices by everyone in the school. An app is created with both a student and teacher version. A website also collates the data for the school leadership team.
A Mobile app is used by all the teachers to simply issue points on-the-fly to each student. Any evidence at any moment, either in the classroom or when marking work in the evening can gain points in any of the identified core requirements.
The app design is key and is simple to use. The class list is shown and clicking on a name brings up 8 large buttons that allocate a point on each click to the student for any of the core requirements identified by the school.
TEACHER APP (MOCK-UP)
Students download the student app and can login to view a live self-profile and see the levels increasing day-to-day. For fun they can design an avatar (maybe to illustrate a future career) and possibly even share their thoughts on their scores with other students in the school. Socialising about your levels using the app would also be key to the engagement. Students who have Levelled-Up in Creativity, for example, might share what they did to show creativity. Their peers might then attempt to model the same behaviour.
Students start to question at all times in the day how they might show evidence of creativity or leadership etc, knowing they’ll receive the feedback on the mobile app almost immediately. They also understand the core skills are cross-curricular and essential to life in general. It also pushes the idea that any moment of the day is an opportunity for self-improvement.
…anyway, it’s just an idea and please feel free to make the system and become a millionaire! However, I might spend some time next year developing it.
STUDENT APP (MOCK-UP)
One good use of student iPads is to appreciate that all creative output that comes from the device can feed directly from real-world stories, delivered by the various news apps. There should be one of any day’s events, stories or features that connects to a learning objective in any subject area.
The iPad can be used to produce media products or documents that cover how the story connects with the learning objectives in question. Appropriate news apps for your country or even local area can be used by the students to make learning more real and tangible.
Connect the learning to the story. It’s just a matter of asking the right question.
How does the story:
These are just some examples (from the top of my head) but given that the news apps divide stories and features into categories, teachers should always be able to find something appropriate and design decent projects from it. It doesn’t have to be that exact day. Anything from the last week will still feature in the apps and offer a range of opportunities. Connecting topics to real-world stories often humanises the context and engages students through an emotive connection. Studying weather patterns is one thing but connecting it to the effects of 8 million people loosing power after hurricane Sandy is quite a lot more powerful, especially if you demand solutions to their problems!
This approach to learning does go hand-in-hand with project-based learning and does not fit well with the more common approach of one-size-fits-all topic by topic approach (fixed curriculum factory schooling – see right). This is precisely why I encourage it. 21st Century learning, if it is to be engaging and successful (long-term) must appear relevant in today’s world. Separate from what school offers, information is delivered to students too easily and quickly for schools not to connect it to bigger learning objectives and discuss it’s meaning and impact.
Technical issue 1: The news apps don’t often allow for the saving of images or the highlighting of text.
Solution: Use the 2-button (Home+off) screenshot to grab content from the screen and crop using the photos app. These can then be entered into any iMovie project / keynote or in fact any app.
Solution 2: Many allow sharing through email. This will give you the website link and you can grab content using Safari with the normal copy-paste.
Remember copyright and kids should attribute their sources when using the material.
Technical issue 2: Which apps?
To save me a lot of time, here’s a good list but I would add 4 things:
Technical / teaching benefit: Safe surfing
Using the News Apps gives you a simple internet filter and is safer for younger students over general internet surfing
Make want to teach relevant to today’s world because it is and always will be. Humans will always be human and so everything you want to teach still has relevance even if it’s to discuss the stark difference between ‘then’ and now. Make the students think and make connections, hopefully while tackling problems that have a real purpose.
In this second video, Ruben Puentedura explains his research into why particular technologies are successful (even over 200,000 years). In it, he shows that any technology will be successful long term, if it allows:
C) Visualising ideas
D) Story Telling and
Are you thinking, what I’m thinking? Yes, that’s exactly what the iPad brings to learning and why it will be successful in schools. The last 3 of those 5 are all about visualising ideas and immersing oneself in a concept using multiple senses. This is not only where extra engagement comes from but also true understanding (never forgetting).
It’s important that students visualise their understandings, both for their own development but to also aide their peers and gain a sense that what they are doing is for the better of others. It is this that develops real drive to learn, it does not just add ‘play’ to the learning environment.
Many Apps to choose from but here’s two:
ANIMATION CREATOR HD ($4) : This app offers a great new way for students to prove understanding in an entertaining way that other students will in-turn learn from. Easy frame by frame animation that some student really like to beaver away at at the back of a classroom. I’ve see some stunning examples!
iMotionHD Stop-Frame animation Filming with “Auto-wait” shoot setting.
This is the most instant fun I’ve had with my iPad in 2 years! It’s a free app and really simple to use. You set the number of seconds gap between photos and then make slight movements of the objects in front of the iPad’s camera to create instant animations. It also has a manual mode for taking the frame shots one-at-a-time. It is simply brilliant! It could be used to comically or otherwise cover any topic and show you understand the process (great for Science) or story so you should be able to use this in any subject!
Here is an excellent example from the TED Ed site, where a normal teacher’s lesson is given to a professional Animator. The result is stunning. This professional connection might change education but your own classroom versions will be of equal importance.
I feel a major part of the Scientific process is the final depiction of the process / concept / new understanding and this requires an understanding of how people think visually. The use of colour & shape, the position of key objects within a frame at any one moment, the direction of cameras & direction of film sequence determine whether a scientific idea is ever understood and passed around the world. This makes learning the visual arts as important for science students as for any. It is a commonly neglected part of the scientific industry and certainly in Science Education. iPads in the classroom can start to readdress this imbalance.
So, you’re in your classroom and annoyed that the kids are playing games on the iPads. You have devised a strategy and at random intervals, you ask them to double-click the ‘Home’ button to see the last apps used. Great! Well done on controlling the situation so they can get on with:
The only step forward you’ve really seen is the ability to use that Shakespeare app or Dissecting Frog app. You are also worried that the iPad’s ‘distracting’ tools and games are removing rigour from your teaching process.
The parents too, have complained that all they seem to see is game playing and maybe your school is considering limiting the apps allowed on the devices.
Well done on introducing iPads. But it’s teacher-centred pedagogy that encourages gaming, not their maturity level.
Now you have introduced a radically new and powerful learning device, you need to update your pedagogy to match it. The iPad is revolutionising education, not because it is replacing paper & textbooks or offering new gadget-style apps, but because it:
Why are these issues the most important?
As I have previously mentioned, you can’t encourage the idea that learning is a lifetime occupation, if you centre your education delivery around the teachers. If you need to have a teacher to learn, then your learning must stop at the end of the school day. I have witnessed a number of classrooms and teachers having problems with iPads. In every case the classroom was teacher centred and generally students were reading issued text, making notes from lecturing and definitely all working at the same task in the same way. In these teacher-centred environments, any iPadding at home will consist of mainly gaming as only a teacher-issued piece of structured homework could possibly indicate that home was a place to be productive with an iPad.
This is not what the iPad was designed for. Even outside the realm of education, the iPad was only designed to be personal and this should be the only approach when considering how one learns with or even without an iPad. Any approach where the iPad is a paper or textbook replacement, within these traditional teaching methods, wastes 98% of the iPad’s power to reinvigorate education for a new century.
I’ll cover the potential for gaming itself to advance learning in a future post, but for now, you need to
When students are working on a creative project of their own design that will prove to the teacher just how powerful the iPad can be, then genuine engagement in learning not only takes place in the classroom but returns home with the iPad and will often continue. Tactics like these, readdress how the student views the iPad’s capabilities and in doing so, reduces the desire and time for gaming.
I teach to the exam. There, I’ve said it! After all, doesn’t everyone smile when the student gets an A grade? Isn’t graduating what’s life’s all about?
But what does A mean?
It means that when given:
Thank God, life outside schools and every workplace is both silent, organised in straight rows and has no technology beyond the pencil! Thank God working life only means working alone within fixed boundaries. ….Oh that’s right, it’s not. And many of these A grade students prove to be useless when given any creative challenge in a real workplace scenario, something universities and employers complain about. Fortunately most develop many skills outside school that allow them to cope.
One joy of working in this crappy system of 20th Century factory education is that now with the Internet and video I can record each of my full-year courses’ exam lessons into about 4 hours! Yes, 4 hours and yes, it’s the full course of teaching! See this for details.
The direct teaching of the exam is now outside the classroom. I can ask them to complete an amount of the course by a certain date and check this with traditional assessment while they spend all the class time working on a related project of their choosing and design. If there’s a practical element to the course then all projects and time can be based on this practical work, within the context of a real-world scenario.
These projects can be long, the whole year for all I care! They can also work in groups if it suits. As long as the project is engaging for the student and they take real ownership over it. They should also set their own check points to monitor their own progress. Ownership, creativity and variety is what the iPad does best. Hopefully the project connects directly with the outside world directly. I like to pitch the possibility of making money in any area using the internet. For example, any student can publish a book for free.
The important thing is that they are engaged in your subject and see the exam as an unfortunate extra rather than the whole reason for school. If they need to learn how to do something during their project, they find it themselves on the internet (this is what they should do, it’s what we do!) or if the teacher can help then great, as the teacher now has time to work one-to-one!
“Drive” is a book about motivation.This is a book for anyone who has charge of anyone else. leaders, teachers, sports coaches & parents all need to read this book. It discusses how we are starting a 3rd era in understanding motivation:
Motivation 1.0 (Primal)
Motivation 2.0 (External)
Civilisation’s introduction of “Carrot & Stick”
(Post-Caveman to ‘recently’)
Used in 20th Century schools
Motivation 3.0 (Intrinsic)
Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose = Genuine Drive
Used in 21st Century schools
It divides human activities into 2 types.
Type 1. Algorithmic. mundane, fixed tasks, “Get from A to B” (e.g. Paint Fence)
Type 2. Creative, heuristic, self-directed tasks (Design a new car / solve a problem the best way)
20th Century learning / Type 1 task / Motivation 2.0
20th Century teaching & learning generally hands out Type 1 tasks, e.g. All students do this worksheet / sum / diagram.
20th Century “Carrot and Stick” motivation techniques can work with these tasks as the result of the task is fixed and the goal of earning the carrot narrows the focus and diminishes creative thought but this suits a fixed aim.
21st Century learning / Type 2 task / Motivation 3.0
21st Century teaching & learning tries to create caring, creative, independently driven but collaborative students and in doing so generally hands out Type 2 tasks. Type 2 tasks are not susceptible to Carrot & Stick motivation techniques as the promised carrots’ negative effect on the creative thought and collaborative process means that students narrow their approach and will start short-cutting, even cheating to achieve any fixed aim and the desire to do the best job is replaced by the desire to obtain the carrot.
Teachers can learn a lot from the idea that for 100 years, schools have been run on the principles of Motivation 2.0. The idea that the students will not want to do the work and so “Carrots and Sticks” are used to encourage good and discourage bad behaviour. But Education’s move towards 21st Century learning is an indication of our new understanding that Motivation 3.0 principles mean that students will want to work if they have 1. Ownership (It’s their education not the teacher’s); 2. Progress (I have opportunity to master this) and 3. Context (There is a real-world application for this). This autonomy and thus motivation is increased massively by students having iPads!
The various apps offer such a wide variety of possible processes when solving a problem, creating a product or accessing information when and wherever they offer students an environment where they own their process and will be more intrinsically motivated to do the best they can on any task.
For many reading this, the Flipped classroom is a newish idea with possibilities. For a number of EduGeeks it’s passe and uncool to talk about and for the traditional dinosaurs, it’s miss-read as something they’ve been doing for 20 years. In fact, it is still an important first step into 21st Century teaching and as long as it remains just a first step, I wish the EduGeeks & Dinosaurs would stop attacking it.
The simplified view is:
But here’s a better list of what really can happen:
This isn’t quite the full dream of 21st Century learning. It is normally based on set content rather than allowing students to base their inquiries on more recent and relevant material for the world they live in now, but it’s a bloody good start! Any teacher should be commended for making the first steps towards student-centred learning within the confines of their probably traditional school structure, rather than dismissed as either susceptible to fads or even ‘old-hat!’ (bloody EduGeeks!)
The strange thing about a 21st Century approach to teaching and learning is that it makes it easier for the teacher. You do about the same amount of work but it’s different work and a lot more fun and personal. Below is not the only way to do this and I’m developing and changing things every week. There are also 1000s of tools that can be used but this is approach / pedagogy keeps things simple and puts the demand back on the students to think creatively, work collaboratively, while supported by the relevant material and encouraging the idea that a classroom / school is not always required to learn.