Changing the Rules of the Game

by Randy Fairfield, 1/4/18

Middle school and high school was just a game to be won for me, with the end goal of getting the highest possible GPA. Each teacher’s class had different rules, and I took the easiest possible path to manipulate them to end up with the lowest possible “A”. I thought things like, “I already have a 96% in math and the teacher said the final can’t hurt my grade, so I guess I’ll just skip these last few homework assignments.” The only purpose learning about quadratic equations served was to help me get that “A.” Unfortunately, it wasn’t until halfway through my senior year that my mindset started to change. Yet given the rules of the game and how the adults in my life framed “winning,” my mindset and corresponding behavior was completely rational.

All things considered, the game ended up working out pretty well for me. After all, I did end up learning about quadratic equations, I got into college, and as I matured I began to understand that there is more to life than having a good grade point average. However, I also noticed that a lot of marginalized students seemed to just disappear during the course of the game. I wouldn’t see somebody for a few months and would think, “Oh, wow… I wonder what happened to so-and-so.” And for many of them, I’d never see them again. For far too many students, the rules of the game were preventing them from feeling like they had a chance to win, and so they decided to quit playing. Can we blame them? Too often we do because it means we don’t have to change.

Change is uncomfortable. It’s hard. Most people do not like change, even when it serves to make things better for themselves and for everyone else. A perfect example of a rule change that most people hate is, “no trade, reverse robber” in Settlers of Catan. This rule change makes the game become far more strategic and largely prevents people like Cody (see below) from going on suicide missions to take out the best player. Please be gentle, it was my first of many embarrassing attempts to go viral…

Rule changes aren’t always for the better. A teacher I once worked with made participation a full fifty percent of his students’ grades so that, and I quote, “If they’re acting like little s***s in my class I can just fail them.” True story.

I can’t help but consider: What “rules” can we change to make our schools and classrooms better, and how can we frame the conditions for winning in a different way so that everyone feels like they have a chance? I think I’m better at asking questions than I am at giving answers, but as a recovering video gamer and current board game enthusiast, this is one I have some unique insight into. I’ve been working on a keynote titled, “What Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers” that I’m dying to give. Dee Lanier (@deelanier) has some pretty awesome thoughts on “hacking learning” too. I’d also love to hear some of your thoughts on Twitter if you’re open to sharing! Just tweet me at @RandyFairfield and you’re sure to get a reply.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

The Greatest Scandal of Teaching

by Randy Fairfield, 11/9/17

I’ve heard many people say that the most important thing they learned from college was how to learn. That got me thinking: Why does learning this incredibly important skill have to wait until college? Is it possible to empower students by teaching them this skill during high school? Middle school? Elementary school? Even younger? I believe it’s not only possible, but that it’s of the utmost importance.

For me personally, I started to feel empowered to take charge of my own learning during my senior year of high school. My mom pulled my sister and I out of school to go on a three week road trip to visit family in early January right before the conclusion of first semester. Most of my teachers grimaced that I’d be missing so much school, but since I was generally a stellar student they decided to just give me the grade I’d already earned. That is, except for my calculus teacher. He gave me an incomplete and assigned me a whole bunch of chapters to do on my own. What a jerk, right?

Once I finally mustered the intestinal fortitude necessary to teach myself calculus, I made a shocking discovery: Not only could I teach myself, I could also learn at a far quicker pace without all of the distractions and limitations that are an inherent part of being in a classroom full of students. Since I had taught myself, I felt a greater sense of pride in my understanding, and I found that my level of retention increased as well.

The discovery that I could be my own best teacher had a cascading effect on my life that reached far beyond calculus: I spent Spring Break teaching myself how to build my own website with HTML code; When a Rubik’s Cube craze hit our senior class, I figured out how to solve it on my own while the rest of the students were looking it up on YouTube; When the time came for me to file my taxes for the first time, I didn’t take them to a tax prep guy—I solved my own problem. I found some of my greatest joy simply in self-discovery and learning. What a shame that it took me so long to find it!

Now, am I advocating that the best way to teach students is to hand them a textbook and wish them well? Certainly not. Given a similar situation at a different point earlier in my life, I can’t say with certainty how I would have responded. Yet I do wonder what more my teachers could have done in response to this strange truth:


I can’t remember when or where I heard a quote like this, and I couldn’t find it with a Google search. If you can help with attribution, that’d be great.


While I sometimes feel that I was often robbed of the joy of discovery during school, I did find that joy through other outlets—video games, in particular. I’m dying for a chance to give this keynote on “What Teachers Need to Learn from Gamers”. It does not surprise me that a game like Minecraft has become so poplar, for at its core Minecraft is a game about limitless discovery.

There are a number of practical ways in which educators can tap into this human desire to discover and learn in the classroom, but it really starts with looking in the mirror. When is the last time you got excited about something and learned about it on your own? Tell your students about it! They need to hear these stories. Yet too often I hear educators complaining that they don’t have enough time to learn this or that, or that they aren’t going to attend professional development unless they’re paid. If we want our students to take ownership of their learning and become lifelong learners, we must first do so ourselves.

So with that, I encourage you to click around my website and learn a thing or to. Better yet, shut this blog off, open an application you’ve been meaning to learn, and just start clicking around and figuring stuff out on your own. It’s fun!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

Online Course: Using Edmodo and Google to Facilitate 21st Century Learning

by Randy Fairfield, 8/21/17

Edmodo recently launched some exciting new features on their platform which has served to tighten the integration with the Google Suite and has made the facilitation of online courses better than ever!

In tandem with these releases, Edmodo partnered with MisterEdTech last Spring to promote an interactive online course titled, “Using Edmodo and Google to Facilitate 21st Century Learning”. The course was so successful that it’s back by popular demand! The course will begin again on August 28, 2017, will last six weeks, and will cost $129 per participant. Everyone is welcome to participate, and 20 clock hour credits will be offered through ESD 171 for Washington State teachers for a cost of $40 extra to be paid directly to the ESD. Participants will be asked to spend 3.25 hours per week engaging in the course and will learn the baseline technological knowledge needed to integrate Edmodo and the Google Suite. The course will also focus on best practice and will ask teachers to be reflective about their pedagogical applications of these tools.

If you are interested in the course, click the “buy now” button below! After you make the payment, you will be directed to an Edmodo link that will let you join the course after you log in with your Edmodo account! You can check out the course syllabus here and/or send Randy an email at misteredtech2002@gmail.com if you have any questions or have difficulty joining. Hope to see you there!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

Quizziz: An Engaging Formative Assessment Tool!

Quizizz is a lot like Kahoot, but it’s better for having students work individually. One of the best things about Quizizz is that you can share it directly to Google Classroom!

http://www.quizizz.com/


Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

Kahoot! = Guaranteed Engagement

Kahoot is one of the most engaging web apps I’ve ever come across! Students compete with one another to try and answer questions as quickly and accurately as possible. It’s quick and easy to set up too! This can be used as a great formative assessment tool to see where your class is on DOK Level 1 knowledge.

https://getkahoot.com/

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin

Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool?

by Randy Fairfield, 5/19/15

Is Minecraft the ultimate educational tool? Despite the compelling and fast-paced argument made in the video below, I’m not sure that I’m convinced. What do you think?

While there were number of very practical applications to a variety of content areas suggested in the video, I did not think that enough time was spent addressing the counterargument that there are some very real limitations to using Minecraft as “the ultimate educational tool.”

The first issue I see is one of practicality. I simply fail to see how a comprehensive course could be taught in Minecraft in a manner that was practical in terms of the time investment that we need be made on the teacher end.

The second and more overarching issue is that of seeing any sort of educational technology as “the ultimate educational tool”. This implies that we start with Minecraft and then try to see how it can be the silver bullet that fixes every malady in education. Rather than starting with Minecraft, it makes more sense to begin with the educational challenge one is looking to address and then finding the best tool — be it Minecraft or something else — that addresses that challenge.

Now, can I imagine a world that Jane McGonigal imagines?

Every course, every activity, every assignment, every moment of instruction and assessment would be designed by borrowing key mechanics and participation strategies from the most engaging multiplayer games.

Well, yes. I can imagine that world. In fact, I am currently working on a keynote in which I hope to take some of the game-based principles Jane is talking about and make them a practical reality in the classroom. Here’s an overview in case you’re interested:

As enthusiastic as I am about gamification, I still have a hard time seeing it as the basis for instructional design. Can gamification components partially address a number of the core issues we face in education such as differentiation and engagement? Absolutely. Is gamification the silver bullet that’s going to solve all of the challenges we face in education? I’m afraid not.


Sources:

McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. New York: Penguin Press, 2011. Print.


Links:

MinecraftEdu – http://www.minecraftedu.com/

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedin