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Incredible Teachers Fighting to Keep Gamification in Classrooms

GameTyrant Rant by Narz

After attending a New York Comic Con Panel entitled Games and Learning, I was suddenly endowed with a remarkable yearning. With a panel of professors, teachers, scholars and theologians, many got to see an incredible connection between video games and a classroom.

The guidelines and rules of a classroom and a game mimic one another as they follow rules, victory conditions/rewards and genres. In order to facilitate critical thinking and harness players’ and children’s potential; their skills are put to the test to create an unprecise skill set for the future. What exactly does that mean you say? During your younger grade years, you are taught to obey rules, tie your shoelaces and count to 10. These skills set are completely unprecise skill sets as they are the beginning foundation to your ability to follow the law, take care of yourself and apply mathematic equations to situations. Same holds true for video games. During the preliminary stages of a game, you’re battling enemies with unprecise skill sets that will either later evolve into more power skills/combination of skills, or are apparent now to teach you something new in the future. The difference in video games and classrooms are that in games players act upon their own idea of a better skill set to complete a task. This evokes a determination to seek to be better skilled for reinforcement inside and outside the context of a game.

In regards to teachers, a certain degree of over stimulus interferes with the ability for a student to flourish on their own due to the process of control over the student's every task, ability and mental direction. A student’s prospective is hindered when its own potential results from the constant effort of not exceeding a teacher’s expectations. What Gamification does to counter the old teaching methods is it influences and encourages students to adopt processes and applications that will engage them in desired behaviors combining the elements of game mechanics and uses it in the real world. According to Sue Parler at DePaul Catholic High School in Wayne  NJ, Gamification in classes has kept kids in school engaged and obtaining good grades. She believes the old school system “simply doesn’t work anymore” as student these days are more interconnected and online with the use of iPhones, iPods, computers and video games. She believes children aren’t “hardwired” like they use to be, so engaging them the old fashion way fails every time. Connecting to kids with the same tech they are accustomed to closes the gaps for teachers to reach students. Sue believes using game mechanism to motivate students has a higher probability for them to respond to well.  Demanding students to follow methods that were used 10 years ago is completely obsolete and impractical.

Gamification is used in a slightly different way in other classrooms. Underfunded schools with old teaching skills are inadequate to combat issues related to gang wars, underpaid/understaffed teachers, and lack of supplies. As a teacher at Newark, Justin DeVoe uses games mechanisms to bring kids not only to school, but to work together even if they are rivaling gang members. Justin divides his classroom into guilds and uses guild gaming mechanisms to get kids to work, teach, and do homework together. For kids that arrive early to school, Justin allows them to play games before school starts. Most of his classes revolve around playing loud rock or metal music and talking about the mechanics of economy, skills and war in games like Halo, World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero. Justin's methods were so successful that he now teaches an English class in Newark Leadership Academy, an experimental reform school which received a $100 million dollar donation from Mark Zuckerberg to improve struggling school systems.

Most teachers like Sue and Justin are criticized and ridiculed for their attempts to divert from traditional failed teaching methods and apply Gamification into their classes. In order to help support these striving leaders, spread the word of their efforts. Encourage change in our school systems to better our students.

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