Taken from a painting of Kapiti Island at Sunset.
by Sonia Savage.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gaming in my Classroom

This term I set out to experiment and do something that is quite different for me.  I decided to introduce some gaming time into my classroom time.  I was unsure whether it would be of value or whether it had a place in the classroom.  However I wanted to try it out.

I had heard of Gamestar Mechanic from Kevin Hodgson, a teacher in the USA, who has implemented it in his classroom, I had read his blog and it enticed me into exploring Gamestar.  During my sabbatical term I started out on the first quest and began to find out what it was all about.  One thing I like about Gamestar Mechanic is that there is no need to download anything onto a server.  We started off as a free classroom, but once students completed the first Quest, I upgraded them at a cost of $2 (US), per student.

Kevin had used it as a part of digital storytelling in his classroom and this is what I wanted to do too. However I am not quite as adept at game playing as he is, so I relied heavily on what he did.  Still unsure about it, I asked him to skype our classroom and tell us about the storyboarding part of it.  This he did and you can read about his visit here and access the links he has to what happened in his room.

After he had spoken to us I again explored those links, looked at the storyboarding and finally felt I was ready for my class to start this part of the unit.  His skype call gave me the confidence to keep on moving into the completion of the unit.

Today I asked my class what they thought was the learning involved in a site such as Gamestar. This is what they shared:
  • During the Quest we were learning about game design, the components, the mechanics, the rules, the points, and how a game has to be balanced.
  • We were unlocking components that we would be able to use when designing our own games.
  • While doing the quest we had to develop strategies, it involved thinking and problem solving.
  • We needed to be patient, we needed to persevere.
  • We experienced challenge and eventual success.
  • We were reading and following instructions.
  • Hand/eye coordination has to be good.  (I am not very good at that part!!)
  • We are called on to be creative, as we have to create our own games.
  • We are writing - a storyboard, comments on others games - giving them feedback.
  • There is lots of helping going on, we are communicating and cooperating.
At the moment my students are putting their storyboards together, some of them are ready to start building their games.  I am hoping we will manage to complete them before the holidays swoop down on us.  It is actually a great unit to be doing at this time of year, when often energy flags.  The students  and myself are finding this highly engaging.  Often in the morning I am seeking their help with my failed efforts of the night before! Great for their self esteem. Actually one of my students who struggles with many aspects of learning was delighted to tutor me this morning!  I think he may know some of the despair teachers experience when they tutor those who 'just don't get it' very quickly!

I am coming to the opinion that this does have a valid place in the classroom. It has linked nicely into what we have already done this year. It is also another social media site really, where the students can interact and comment.  Next year I will most likely include it and see where we can go on from here.

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