Thursday, June 27, 2013

Basketball and Games-Based Learning: 5 Takeaways

I love sports. Hardly a day went by when I was young where I wasn't playing basketball, tennis or something else.

I just returned from ISTE 2013, hearing a great keynote from Jane McGonigal on the benefits of Games-Based-Learning. We're making progress (but still have a ways to go) in our attempt to create games that can be integrated into the classroom easily.

Sure, we can acknowledge that there will be adoption resistance by some schools and urge them to come on board. But we also need to acknowledge that we are not creating games that generate genuine, intuitive, widespread interest for teachers' use in the classroom while at the same time addressing the 21st Century skills we want to target. We are struggling to create games that link content to purpose. Until we do, we will only get early adopters and innovative teachers as consistent users of GBL.

There are characteristics of team sports that need to be better incorporated into the games we design for learning. These are the characteristics that make team sports so challenging and so rewarding for players - both in the moment and for their future.

We need to design game experiences that move beyond rewarding "right" answers with points and badges as the main goal. We need to start designing games with these five elements - present in almost any team sport, and sadly lacking from most classroom games.

If there are games out there that do all five of these (or even a few of them), please share. We need to recognize, honor, and PLAY these games!

1. Students need to create and regularly be able to adjust that creation to solve a specific problem. A basketball player is making multiple decisions every second. He is both planning and executing his creation in real time.

2. Students are simultaneously evaluating the actions of each other and making adjustments accordingly. Is someone shooting well? Get her the ball. Has the other team (player) changed there defense? I better adjust my offense.

3. The player's actions effect the entire game and all who are playing. 
When I decide to go for a steal, what happens if I miss? What will be the consequence? How will my teammates handle this?

4. The game is dynamic, constantly changing due to the actions of the other players and the outside factors. (coaches, referees ... aka: teachers)

5. Most important: There are multiple and competing goals with no right answer.  As a player within a team, there are multiple ways that we can strategize to try to win. That strategy is important and may change throughout the game. But in the quest to get a team victory, there are a hundred sub-plots going on. Should I shoot more if I feel like I can score against my defender?  What if I'm not my team's best shooter? Should I deviate from our planned offense?  What will my teammates think of me if I do this often? Is my girlfriend in the crowd... and what things could I do that might look good to her but harm my chances to have my team win?

A basketball game is multi-dimensional. We are individuals within a context of a community and those roles are sometimes confusing. If the classroom games we play are simply one-dimensional representations where there is a right answer and we want to try to find a fun way to have students arrive at that answer, we are sadly misrepresenting what the real world holds and missing out on a whole level of engagement and challenge.

Give em a basketball instead.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Effective PBL ... and a request for educators to share design ideas for simCEO

Well, summer is upon us and that means the end-of-year chaos has subsided to a point where I can blog again!

Three points I wanted to share with everyone.

1. Yesterday, I was the featured guest on Education-Talk Radio with Larry Jacobs to talk about simCEO.

Below, I've listed a few bullets from the discussion with Larry about PBL that were really interesting to me.

i.) Educational software/environments needs to let students create AND evaluate each other at the same time.  That's what adults do in the real world all the time; we create solutions to problems (problem-solve) while simultaneously:
          a)   evaluating other solutions that others have done in similar situations, and
          b) looking at if our solutions are judged as effective by others

ii) We need software that can bridge the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning with an authentic purpose for students to learn content.
Collaboration between my classroom and one in Brazil is great for collaboration, but likely not an effective/ efficient way to help students learn content - and unfortunately, "content is king" when it comes to testing (despite what we say about the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning)

iii)  Entrepreneurship is a 21st Century topic. We need to either provide time to teach it, or harness students' natural desire to learn it by integrating it into traditional subjects. The recent Gallop Education Poll confirms that we're losing student engagement by not tapping into entrepreneurship.

2. I met Larry at the SIIA Conference in San Francisco in May. In case you haven't seen it, SIIA just posted the video from the conference.  Below you can see the simCEO presentation that helped win the Most Innovative Ed Tech Award at the Conference.

3. We are seeking out a few courageous educators who dabble in graphic design to help us in our re-design of the simCEO site. Graphic design experience is helpful but not necessary. Knowledge of successful classroom learning is essential ! We're hoping to get 3-5 educators who can help provide feedback to us and/or contribute their own design ideas. 
If you're interested contact us at 

I'm getting prepared for the upcoming ISTE Conference in San Antonio next week. Hope to see some of you there.