Friday, April 17, 2015

GBL & PBL: Spring Fling or Long Term Romance?

(This post was originally shared on ASCD's SmartBrief and is modified from it's earlier post.)

GBL and PBL Sitting In A Tree.  K-I-S-S-I-N-G

“Hello Games-Based Learning; this is Problem-Based Learning.”

Like two pandas in a zoo, we need to do all we can to ensure that these two find a soul mate in one another.

Games, by definition, are meant to be fun. But, in the race to transform schools, we’re missing out if the goal of games-based learning is to help us run that race faster or provide students with more fun while they run. We’re running towards the wrong finish line.

Games transform education and learning. The question is: transform “towards what end?”  If our goal for games is to take traditional school content — multiplication tables — and spice it up as more fun for students, then we are missing a golden opportunity.

In the 2013 research from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center on short-form games  (quick tools for practice) versus long-form games  (higher-order thinking skills better aligned to the Common Core), they rightly advocate that there is significant potential for these long-form games to transform education. 

We've all heard the familiar student refrain, "Why are we learning this?" Short-form games can decrease this cry, but only temporarily.  Any game, by definition, has a context.  But if games are only taking our same-old learning outcomes and making them fun, then we're missing out.

Games have the potential to set a context and purpose for learning that is rich, complex and authentic — something followers of problem-based learning have been advocating for years. This is an element of game design we need to better leverage.

The descriptors below are not unique to each model; there is significant overlap. But like pandas at the zoo, we need to foster collaboration between the model of Games-Based Learning with those of Problem-Based Learning. 

Games-Based Learning
Problem-Based Learning
dynamic environments
context rich, authentic, real-world environments
immediate feedback, where failure is a natural part of the learning process
open-ended solutions with no “correct” answers
multiple decisions / choices
authentic audiences for student work
clear goals
recall not sufficient, application of content / skills is required
meta-cognition (“How am I doing?”)
naturally holistic and cross-disciplinary

The best games — with or without technology —  can set a context for learning that can combine the characteristics above to create new types of learning environments.

These environments will:

  • Empower teachers to customize the environment dynamically, so that content can be specialized and individualized as needed.
  • Enable students as creators of solutions — beyond recall and decision-making.
  • Encourage students to be environment evaluators — aware of each others’ creations/ solutions.
  • Allow students — and the teacher — to act within an interdependent environment, where the actions of one user affects others.
  • Respect that people are social learners. They make meaning from, with, and for each other.
  • Provide a context where the game is not the teacher of “content” but rather it is the “context” through which learning happens.
  • See learning and assessment as individualized. The teacher — not the game — is in charge of the learning and that happens at the teacher-student level. The game is simply the introduction to that interaction.
  • Strive to mirror the real world by giving students multiple roles and goals which sometimes conflict. Students are not simply an all-out pursuit of a single goal as they strive for points, badges or rewards.
This does not mean that all games need to fit into this category to be useful. Creating games that get us to the very limited goal of content recall can be one piece. But we should distinguish this from the nature of what games can be and the role they can play in transforming education. Otherwise, we’re just running the race faster to an out-dated finish line.

As we gamify our schools, we’re missing a huge opportunity if we’re not considering “games” in multiple perspectives. Certainly, the combination of PBL and GBL elements has vast potential for changing the way we prepare students with the 4 Cs of the 21st Century. It needs to be on our radar; we need to use our limited time, energies and money to to scrutinize our understanding of games to create these new, transformational learning environments.

There is no silver bullet. Creating games like this can’t be done with every topic and it’s not always the most efficient way to get students from A to B.

Not every panda-romance is a match made in heaven. But, for the propagation of the species, we need to encourage this budding romance to grow. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

How Much Heat Does Your Classroom Generate

Came across this simple scale from the LoTi® Organization .

A fantastic way to help all of us get a better sense of what innovative learning can be. PBL, GBL or anything else - this scale speaks for itself as great learning.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

March Madness and Games-Based Learning: 5 takeaways

This is a repost from 2013,  shared again to kick off March Madness. 
UPDATE: I've had some great discussions on this topic, and just for the sake of clarity...
1. "Games" can also be described "Learning Experiences". These experiences do not necessarily need to be confined to single "lesson" (or basketball game). They can take the form of quests, projects, etc. that evolve over many days.
2. I am not advocating that all games need a winner/loser.
3. I am picking Wisconsin to win it all !

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, 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 their 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? When 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.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

5 characteristics we need in online learning

Wanted to share a video on the types of learning environments we need to see if schools want to engage learners in the 21st Century skills.

Enjoy and Share.

This video is cross-posted on the simCEO.