Gaming in Education: my Who, What, When, Where, Why, KAPOW!


It has been months since I last blogged.  Without actually looking at the date, I’m going to guess around January.  That is when I was thinking about implementing a standards-based grading scheme for my classes.  Follow-up: I did, and I liked it, the students sort of hated it (at first), and it needs a LOT of tweaking.  Lesson: don’t implement a radically different grading system at the semester 🙂

Who? What? When? Where?

On to the gaming.  At my district’s TechFest this past month I had the pleasure of sitting in on a session on “gamification” hosted by Michael Matera and Rory Newcomb (check out their blogs!).  They discussed how they each used gaming in their classrooms to encourage participation and help in learning.  Michael transformed his 6th grade history class into a ‘Game of Thrones’-esqe battle between class periods.  Rory used gaming for the physics unit of her high school science course.  Very different levels of gaming, but both very well planned and executed.  Their accounts of the trial-and-error involved in setting up the games, and the fun they had along the way was appealing.  Videos and pics of their students in excited states of learning sealed the deal.  I just HAD to try gaming.

I then began some modest research.  Hey, school was still in session and I was burnt out!  So, I tried looking up other teachers who had done physics gaming.  Not many results beyond individual games for a chapter.  I also tried to find teachers using Canvas to implement the games.  Again, not much luck.   But I did find Jane McGonigal‘s book Reality is Broken.  The book is great.  It doesn’t try to convert the reader into a D&D player, or a World of Warcraft addict, it just outlines why games hold our attention for hours/days/years! at a time.  And she doesn’t stick to video games.  She discusses how turning daily activities into games is motivating, too.  I’m only about half-way through the book (I’m a slow reader), but am loving every bit of it.

The icing on the cake of, er, gaming, was going to InstructureCon 2013.  I love using Canvas in my classes.  And I jumped at the chance to attend the conference in Park City, Utah a couple of weeks ago.  Aside from learning all sorts of cool things about Canvas there was a session on gaming.  It was called “The Saga Continues: Dungeons & Discourse, Level 2” and was presented by Gerol Petruzella (who did the webinar for GE4L).  He showed us how he implemented gaming in his college philosophy course.  He used Canvas as the delivery system and had friends create artwork and music for the role-playing game quests his students would follow.  I’ll add a link to the video stream of his talk once Instructure posts in on youtube.


Why gaming in class?  Well, I’m not an expert, but I’ll share why I want to try it.

  1. Students need feedback, and from what I’ve been shown by other teachers, games can provide very positive feedback
  2. Students need a goal, or objective, to complete.  Games are all about goals.
  3. Games can, if made correctly, keep students coming back for more.  Failing in a game is followed by a try-again screen.  In the classroom failing is followed by anger and accusations!


Hmmm.  Kapow.  It rhymes with “how” so I threw it in there.  “Kapow!” is what I want my students to feel after they finish their first challenge/quest when I start gaming in class.  “Kapow!” is what I want their minds to feel once they realize that they can learn while having tons of fun.  And “Kapow!” is what I want other teachers to experience when the students we share ask them, “Why don’t we play games in your class?”

>> This post is part of some posts I will be making for the course “Gaming Elements For Education” I am taking.

One thought on “Gaming in Education: my Who, What, When, Where, Why, KAPOW!

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