Although this module involved a large amount of challenging reading, I enjoyed the opportunity to research material on an area of interest, games and education. I am making more connections now to the constructivist theories behind games and their attraction to so many. I recall my first game system, the NES and Super Mario Bros. Although this was not the first video game, it was perhaps what made the video game industry take off.
The designers started things of easy, within the Zone of Proximal Development, simple movements to the left and right and jumping up and down. Soon little mushroom guys come along and you quickly learn that running into them kills you. You then learn to jump over them. Then, maybe by accident you learn that if you land on top of one it kills it. This can be used with later enemies as well but not will all enemies. Then there are pipes, some of which you can do through to enter secret areas but in later levels those pipes become dangerous when fire spitting plants pop out. It is a constant cycle of using what is known, being given new tasks or challenges within ones current ability range, and gaining new skills and knowledge based on a cycle of problem solving and failure.
It’s been almost 30 years since Super Mario Bros. and games continue to evolve, yet our education system has remained nearly unchanged. I continue to hear of the need for individualized education but I see very little change.
Games are not the answer to all of the problems but they have the potential to make a difference when used as an environment for student learning. Not only could students engage in content within the game, but perhaps more importantly, the skills of critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, etc. gained in playing are essential to their success in the 21st century.
In my classroom I continue to encourage student exploration and communication with one another. Rather than come to me for an answer I ask students to talk to a classmate first. This gives the classmate the opportunity to reinforce their knowledge while learning to help others. I also encourage students to try things out either by reading the tooltips or trial and error. There is no need to fear failure or mistakes because we have the magic combination of CTRL+Z to undo mistakes. I strive to make my students independent learners. After all, what do they need me for? The answers to the questions are right at their fingertips.
Greek philosophers (Socrates, Antisthenes, Chrysippus, Epicurus).
Photo courtesy of: Wikimedia Commons, Matt Neale: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Greek_philosopher_busts.jpg
Again I struggled through the complexity of the philosophical language used in the course readings and found myself resorting to other resources (possibly not as reliable) that put things into terms that I could better understand and therefore made it easier to understand the suggested readings. I guess this kind of fits with my theories on learning however. Yes the topic was chosen as part of the class, but in order to make meaning for myself and construct my own knowledge I had to find text that was meaningful and relevant to me. This then helped put other readings in context so I could form a better understanding of the topic. That being said, I feel constructivist theories, whose belief is that knowledge is constructed from personal experiences (Jonassen, 2012 and Ertmer, 1993), best describe my thoughts and strategies on teaching and knowledge construction.
As a computer teacher, I use technology with my students daily, but I struggle to find a balance in what I teach and how I teach it. Ideally, I would like to give students more time for discovery but find this difficult at the elementary level because students do not yet have the knowledge about how the technology works. At the elementary level I feel I should give students the basic knowledge of tools such as word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, and using the internet. I currently use an I do. We do. You do. strategy, which allows me first to model a lesson, lets students practice the lesson with my help and the help of classmates, and then lets students try things on their own and even experiment with new tools. I struggle to find a way to balance class time that would allow me to give students the background I feel they need in the basic use of the computer and computer applications and using some of the amazing web 2.0 tools for communication and collaboration. In an effort to counteract this, I have started an afterschool Minecraft Club using MinecraftEDU giving students the opportunity to create and communicate in an open ended world. I have also provided students with access to online accounts for sites like kerpoof, Sploder, and CoasterCrafter, which give students the opportunity to use creativity, processes of design, publishing, and communication with peers. In addition, I have created a Symbaloo webmix with links to web 2.0 tools involving creativity and research that students can access during their time in the media center or from home. I am excited about the prospects of gamification of the classroom and hope to find ways to gamify my class and make more use of games and simulations.
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (1993). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance improvement quarterly, 6(4), 50-72.
Jonassen, D., & Land, S. (2012).Theoretical foundations of learning environments (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.