Thursday, February 16, 2017

What if we let students produce with content?

We are striving to get students to move beyond content recall. We know it's not the goal. More specifically, we're striving to re-invent schools and educational experiences so that our units aim for skills and conceptual understandings that will help students be successful in the future.

Unfortunately, most of our learning experiences are still rooted in a traditional model.

We ask students to producers of content instead of producers with content.

In recent years, the increased use of Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and authentic assessment techniques such as GRASPS, have helped change this model. But one area where we seem to have missed the mark is in Games-Based Learning (GBL) or gamifying the classroom.  Games-Based Learning and gamification are certainly different. Steven Isaacs (@mr_isaacs) does a good job of describing the difference. But for the sake of this post, they are going to be treated the same.

This is because many (but certainly not all) of these efforts are focused on making learning more engaging - but unfortunately, the learning goal is still largely focused on content recall. Certainly, the GBL world is closer to making a meaningful shift

If our GBL environments are focused on the following, we're making progress.

  • quests within a recall environment
  • decision making within a (academic?) context
  • critical thinking and problem solving
To take the next steps, we need more environments where students go beyond choices and decisions based on understanding the content. We need environments where they demonstrate their understanding of the content by producing solutions with that content. They need a context of creation that is authentic. They need to think and act like scientists, historians, and journalists.  We need to create these environments.

That can happen in biology, history, music, art... just about anywhere, including economics and business classes which how we apply this concept with simCEO.

As business and economic simulations go, we can start by sharing the required content and then present a scenario to students and ask them to identify the "correct" choice.

But, more meaningfully, we can put students in an environment like simCEO where we ask them to utilize the required content to create and manage a company within an authentic context. You might understand and recognize supply & demand, tariffs, or marketing techniques in theory, but how will you change your business plan because these elements are introduced into your simulation.

And here's where the power of games has great potential: The introduction of that content should produce different responses, solutions, and creations for each student. Introducing a tariff into an environment does not have the same result for every company. Students learn different perspectives and different solutions from one another.

That's the real world. It's contextual. It's applied. 

PBL advocates have known this for a long time and we need our GBL environments to move in this direction.

We need students who can take new content and apply it within a context. 

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