Saturday, July 25, 2020

Turning a Tragedy into a Teachable Moment

Recently, Naya Rivera, an actress from television, went missing while boating with her four year old son. This tragedy ended with Naya Rivera being declared dead but her son being safe. The tragic results along with the way the situation was handled by the press can easily be turned into a teachable moment.

The child was discovered sleeping in a boat by himself and she was missing. According to the press conference following the tragedy, it's believed that the currents pushed the boat away from them and that Naya used her last energy to get her son back in the boat safely. Her last act was to save her son's life. So valuable lesson number one is about the love a mother has for her child.

The second valuable lesson revolves around how the news handled the story. The image attached to this post has three screenshots of Tweets. One from an entertainment site, one from a news site, and the last from the official police department's social media team. All three screenshots were taken within seconds of each other so we can say the retweets and likes are from the same time.

Seven minutes after the police announced they found a body and would be holding a press conference at 2, the entertainment site posted a claim that it was Naya Rivera's body that was found. A real news site posted 20 minutes that a body was found and a press conference would be held. While the real news site used an image of the late actress, they never claimed the body was her.

This tragedy can be turned into a positive by helping to teach about reliable sources and helping students learn how to determine truth vs click bait. Looking at the screenshots, it's interesting to point out to students that the entertainment site had more retweets than the legit news site or the police department combined. The entertainment site was also used as the source for many other entertainment sites such as radio stations.

This blog post was posted after the press conference. I have purposely waited a few weeks out of respect to everyone involved. While I believe this example can be used as a teachable moment, I also understand this is a difficult time for the family and friends of this talented actress. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Game-Based Learning Is Not Gamification

As my post's title suggests, game-based learning and gamification are not the same thing. They both serve purposes in the classroom, but the two terms are not interchangeable. So what's the difference? Game-based learning is when you use games in the classroom. Gamification is when you transform the entire class or lesson into a game. In its simplest form, gamification means you're adding game-type elements into the lesson. This can be through story telling, problem solving, competition, or scoring.

This 2014 Google Teacher Academy application video from Jeffrey King is a prime example of how to gamify a classroom. He's not just playing a game with his students, he's turned the class into a game. From "mission briefings" instead of instructions to they way he tracks progress and scores his chemistry class, he has transformed it into something different and exciting.

My favorite theory behind gamification is that students don't fail. Just like in a game where an avatar dies and returns to the last "save point", learning is a process as well. If the student doesn't reach the goal don't just give them a F and move on. This won't help the student and will make it harder to move forward. Let them go back and try again. They use the knowledge from that first attempt to improve.

When you use game-based learning in the classroom, you are using games to promote learning. Examples of this can be as simple as using Scrabble to practice spelling or more complex ideas such as a game show style review. Game-based learning can be really effective for student engagement.

If you would like to learn more about Gamification, I highly recommend looking into Karl Kapp, a professor at Bloomsburg University. I discovered him while surfing Lynda courses (free through my public library so check yours) during quarantine. He has a few videos on gamifying classrooms and a few on gamifying professional development for the business world. They were all extremely informative and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

To sum this up, I'm not saying that playing games in the classroom is bad. Students love games and they will help you engage the class in exciting ways to teach or review materials. Just when you are submitting proposals to EdTech conferences please make sure to specify in your description what you are discussing. I would love to become better at gamification, but I seem to always end up in sessions about game-based learning.