Monday, May 28, 2012

Let's Play a Game

Because my non-school employer sponsored the Simmons Leadership Conference, I was able to watch many of the speakers. By far, the most inspiring was Jane McGonigal, a passionate advocate of multi-player gaming and the positive benefits it has on players' ability to cope in real life. You can view her TED talk on the same general topic; below are notes I took during the Simmons presentation.

  • Who is playing? 1 billion people. 99% of boys under 18 play video games for an average of 13 hours/week; 94% of girls under 18 play an average of 8 hours/week.
  • How much are they playing? One estimate puts the total time put into Wikipedia since its beginning as 100 million hours ... that is just 3 weeks of Angry Bird play. (McGonigal advises against more than 3 hours of play at a time.)
  • What are they getting besides points? When asked about the emotions they seek/feel, gamers' number one answer was creativity. And a Michigan State University study of 500 12-year-olds suggests that they really ARE more creative: gamers scored 23% higher on the Torrance Test of Creative Thinking than non-gamers. 
  • Why is this so? Gamers spend 80% of their time failing. Students learn best when failing 50% of the time. Games make us resilient. We stick with challenges instead of giving up.
This talk made me determined to use more games in my lesson plans. I have already spent the year avoiding lecture and encouraging group work and discussions. What about adding an element of play?

First experiment: almanacs. My counterpart had created a list of questions, and the kids had to find the answers in the World Almanac for Kids. I had already expanded the activity by having my students also tell me whether they used the table of contents or the index, and which terms they searched under. I decided to take it a step further. Dividing the class into two teams, I instructed one half to use the TOC and one half to use the index; when they had found the answer, they were to raise their hand. We would see which reference tool got them to specific information quicker. They had one minute. GO!

I could not even believe how intent the students were on finding their answers. Instead of just filling out a graphic organizer in as long as it took, they had a time limit, and they had a goal. The room was silent for that minute. Well, for the first 40 seconds, at least. Even in classes with notoriously disruptive children. They wanted to get to that information! After each question, we discussed search strategies. Halfway through the list of questions, we switched sides.

Best of all, most students seemed to grasp the point of the lesson: use the index if you're looking for specific information, and remember that you might need to look up synonyms and related words.

Next experiment: Dewey categories. More to come.

1 comment:

MM said...

Just discovered the Level Up Book Club ... excited to get more ideas!

Creative Commons License
This work by Meredith C. Moore is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.