Teaching in a Gamified Classroom - Levels 9 and 10: On Ambition

Levels 9 and 10 - Vanquishing that boss was a big deal, and that journey ends, but always around the corner, a new journey beckons…

I had no idea a year ago when I sat down and began to radically restructure and gamify my America 3.0 class that the journey would have led me to where I am now. It has been an extraordinary learning journey for me, certainly one of the richest I've undertaken as a teacher. The process of looking at a course curriculum from a fresh, new perspective isn't all that dramatic. Good teachers do it all the time. But the degree of revisioning that this work entails was more comprehensive than I realized when I began. Anyone who knows me and has been reading this blog knows that I'm an avid gamer...have been my entire life. What was surprising to me was how well game philosophies transfer to the classroom. I wasn't sure that what I've learned from playing board and computer games would have such a clear, dramatic, obvious connection, but it certainly did.

More important than the work has been the relationships and the sharing of the "gospel" of game-based learning. Great work with my colleague Nick Holton who used the game-based learning concept along with others at Milken Community High School last year informed my understanding of the method. Perhaps the most rewarding relationship that has come from this is with a fantastic young educator in Detroit, Mike Irwin, who has become a valued accountability partner, creative sounding board and emerging visionary who has pushed my own thinking in dozens of new directions. We've got a number of presentations in the works for next year. Very, very excited to be working with him.

Two thoughts to wrap up this nine part series.

Scope: I began this story in a single, elective, semester-long class for seniors at an elite private high school in Los Angeles. This is not an inappropriate place to start. But friends and colleagues have shown me that that scale is pretty restrictive. There are entire schools that do game-based learning throughout their curricula. And there's every reason to believe, based on evidence gathered by Mike Irwin that the method can have a powerful impact on student self-direction, resilience and persistence. It's a reminder that there's no reason not to start small, but there's also no reason to stay small.

Ambition: Many of us who've been studying education in the last dozen years have become acutely aware that as our society changes, our approach to educating young people also needs to change. As the pace of change increases, it becomes more and more incumbent upon us to reach out to that change and embrace it, because to do otherwise makes it worryingly likely that our institutions will be bypassed as society comes to its new equilibrium. Game-based learning is a straightforward enough method. What makes it important in 2012 is that it makes claims on the entirety of the student's experience that are themselves radical. We must be ambitious in the 21st century if we are going to meet the challenges that confront us.

As General Eric Shinseki said: "If you dislike change, you're going to dislike irrelevance even more." Now is the time to be bold, relevant and ambitious.