After watching my classmates’ videos on varying topics of technology education research, I found myself most interested in gamification and digital equity. Both topics interest me for different reasons but I think both are important topics to consider in both the current and future state of education.
Video games have been a household reality for many decades now and, in recent years with the advent of smart phones, video games have made their way into the classroom, whether educators like it or not. This new reality should not be despaired though, as it creates an opportunity for greater engagement for many students who would otherwise have little interest in more traditional forms of teaching/learning. When I was in high school (the age range I teach) I was very into video games. I have a pretty good memory of being bored to death in classes while being able to go home and play video games for hours on end. I did not interrogate this until much later in my life and I have found that video games offered something that school was not, letting me take control and explore at my own pace and with minimal pressure to perform perfectly.
Games in the classroom can take many forms, from being as simple as a Kahoot quiz, to open building with Minecraft, to scientific modeling/simulators. All of these examples are relevant but what a teacher needs to ask themselves before implementing a game is, “is it worth it? Does the game meet the students needs and is it effective beyond more traditional methods of educating?” These are not easy questions to answer and require some serious time and criticism of the game.
Games in Action
In the past I had a student who was struggling in my electronics class to complete some hands-on work addressing the application of digital electronics. The class took place in a computer lab and the student had been avoiding class work by playing Minecraft. Fortunately, I knew a little bit about the game and knew that there was an aspect in the game that could be used very similar to digital electronics using switches. I asked the student if they wanted to use the game instead of doing it by hand to demonstrate the concepts being learned. They were extremely happy to do that and ended up not only completing what I asked them to but also built upon it, expanding the scope of what they learned. I was very surprised at the success. It is important to note that not all students would initially have the same success as this student did. They were well versed with the game and did not require tutorials. In the end, I was glad to offer an option, even an out of the box one, to help the student learn and show the digital electronics concepts.
This example only worked because I and the student had a foundation in games and that game. If that had not been the case it would have likely not have been such a success. Therefore, it is important for educators to receive support and training in the implementation of gaming in the classroom. It is also important to select educational games that meet all students needs equitably. Most games are made in a way to be as accessible as possible but sometimes some students differing abilities may leave some behind and this needs to be factored into any gamification usage.
Digital equity is a real concern in the public-school system. Students come from a range of backgrounds and have a range of varying abilities. This can quickly lead to some students having and some having not. To further compound this, most schools’ budgets for new tech is not high and often spent strictly on maintaining the current equipment rather than addressing new technology options.
Internet access has become nearly common place but in communities, such as in the one where I work, not every student has reliable internet at home. This limits options such as inline learning or flexible classrooms. The internet is a great thing to have access to, but internet literacy is still a thing being learned by adults, let alone kids. When I was growing up, I recall being told that anyone can write a book so make sure you think about it critically and don’t just believe it. That concept is a hundred-fold more important now with the internet and it is giving everyone with an opinion a platform to say whatever they wish, whether they know what they are talking about or not. This creates a very dangerous reality and can lead students to finding incorrect knowledge and believing it to be true.
Teachers and Technology
Teachers have a tough job at the best of times but add on keeping up with their discipline, their teaching methods, and new technologies and there is little time for a life outside of the job. Therefore, it is important for teachers to be supported when implementing new tech in the classroom by their administration. Without training, tech being put in the classroom is almost surely doomed to fail. Only the teachers most interested in the tech will likely put in the time and effort to learn and implement it.