There is one problem with making learning into a game–you might lose. As you were thinking about the stories and examples given in the readings for this week about getting people engaged in learning using 21st century tools or creative games, did you notice all of the failures and near-failures?
- Douglas Thomas, who created a class around a video game, felt like he lost control of his class, that it was a waste of time and anticipated students not learning what he wanted them to learn (Book by Thomas and Brown)
- The history game, Reacting to the Past, would have failed if the class wasn’t willing to meet earlier each day, because the game exceeded the time and plan the professor had (Article by Mark Carnes)
- Students in Jean Lacoste’s class could have abused the flexible deadlines and freedom of choice in how to engage with the materials (Reading on canvas)
- What if the children building computer models or patients on the diabetes discussion boards were misled by incorrect information? What if they didn’t get that one piece of critical information they needed? (Thomas and Brown)
Playing games is different from what is defined as learning now; because games involve risk and uncertainty while the standardized, model of higher education we use now has defined right and wrong answers and expected outcomes (pass or fail). When you play games there is a very real change that you will lose.
Faculty who try new things in their teaching, like games, face many real and perceived risk; many ways to lose. The game or idea you worked on may not work or accomplish the learning objectives that you had hoped. Then, you will have wasted precious time that could have been spent on other things, like a lecture that at least would have appeared to be a good use of teaching time or maybe finished the paper you’ve been working on forever. Your students will respond negatively on evaluations, not be prepared with knowledge and skills they will need in the future and will leave the class with a bad taste in their mouth for your subject. And then, when it comes time for tenure evaluation, how well will you do with a failed teaching experiment, disgruntled students and 3 fewer paper than you had hoped to publish? Not to mention the subtle (or not so subtle) “I told you so” from your colleagues and supervisors, that you should have just given lectures and exams. No, there is nothing to lose when you take a risk and try something new in your teaching.
Failure, or at least the possibility of mistake and revision, was a key component in many of the stories of learning we read this week. And it was this failure or big, unanswerable question that led to real, life-long learning and genuine enjoyment for the learners. But as a teacher, I don’t feel like I have the room for failure, reflection, revision and correction in my teaching practice, or even in my subject knowledge. I feel a large amount of pressure to make sure that everything I say in class is correct. I feel like any new ideas for how to teach need to work exactly right. I am inspired by creative ways people have engaged their students in their classes and would love to try them myself but then worry if I would be asking too much of my students. What would I do if they failed at the task I gave them?
This is where I should give you helpful, positive, concise answer to the questions I have raised. I said should, because this is not where you will find it. I don’t know what the answer is and it irritates me to leave this post with such an unresolved conclusion. But I am embracing it, because maybe learning to “lose” is the way to start learning better…