So the big gamification plan. Win their hearts and minds, engage, enthuse and all those other things. Yeah, not quite. It lasted a couple of weeks and then sort of died a death.
But wait! I don’t want you going off thinking I have turned my back on the concept of gamification, not at all. However, it didnt work out, on this occasion and there are lessons to be learned from that.
For anything to really work in the classroom the teacher has to be 100% behind it. They need to believe. Never mind the learners, because for the teacher to engage then, they need to be enthused. And I have to say I wasn’t. Or at least I started out being enthused, but because the learners didn’t leap upon my idea hungrily, I let self doubt creep in, and my own enthusiasm waned. So after a couple of weeks, and a break where we looked at another aspect of the course, the whole “islands” project died a death. The mighty Kraken of apathy rose from the depths and it sank.
However, this was not the only factor. The big lesson for me, the really big lesson, is not that gamification doesn’t work, but that it needs a lot more careful thinking through. My ideas never really ran beyond the sketchy, there were too many freedoms in place for the learners, meaning that too wide a range of variables were in place on the project. I guess it stands to reason that games design needs to be thorough and consistent, and the rules of my game were too thin and patchy. I hadn’t really thought out what was going on properly, and how the learners were going to “win” stuff, meaning that a crucial element of the game was lost.
I was also being over-ambitious. The idea of a SimCity type game was simply too big, too unwieldy, to work. I think that I need to go back to the drawing board a little and go for something smaller scale, a short simulation or something similar. I think starting small and working up would be a much more effective way to work it.
4. The Other Stuff
The other challenge, really, was that I hadn’t quite thought out how this fitted in to the formal assessed work the learners had to do. I’m still very hazy on what learning is supposed to happen in PSD, and I am very much feeling my wholly unqualified* way along the ICT exam syllabus. So in terms of forward planning I felt that by trying to be experimental I ran the very high risk of missing some crucial component, which would end in the undying shame of having learners fail a qualification in PSD, something which brings out my nastiest and most unfair criticisms involving well known cartoon rodents. (I’ve got another post brewing about that, anyway). So, abandoning the project meant I could play along much safer lines, and do something similar to what previous teachers had done before me.
No. We had a good speaking lesson and the learners got thinking about things, with some good groupings meaning learners who didn’t normally work together were doing so, with positive results. The session which followed had some potential but I got the feeling that half the class were less than fully enthusiastic, and really, what with one thing and another, I thought it best to cut my losses there. It’s been useful as well as a learning experience, and is still something I will try in the future. So, fail this time, but, like all the best failures, you learn from it.
So, on the subject of mistakes, let me leave you with Steve Jobs:
“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.”
*By unqualified, I mean I have absolutely zero formal qualifications in just ICT. Not even the benighted ECDL or CLAIT (I remember doing the assessments and practice tests and finding them very easy on some elements but unmotivating and difficult on others). I do have a Level 3 in the Educational Use of ICT, but that is a whole different ball game.