How we work in our class Part 3
Think back to the time you were a child and try to think of the games you played and the toys you used to play with. Maybe it was your favorite toy that made you use your imagination and brought you to the most extraordinary places you could imagine, or maybe your favorite thing was to play board games with your family. Or perhaps exploring your physical environment in a game of hide-and-seek or catching ball was more your thing. Then, of course, younger generations would probably also add some video games to that list. The common ground idea behind all these different game variations is that they helped you learn and develop through physical experiences and actions. In education, it is widely known as a hands-on or learning by doing approach, which was popularised by an American philosopher and educator, John Dewey. Here we combine multiple sources of information from different senses that help us process and retain learned information.
It seems that games have been present in human lives as long as humans inhabit the world, from rolling the dice to the latest virtual reality games. Our DNA's are wired to seek pleasure, and games can be seen as one source for satisfying its need. One of the reasons behind the success of games and gaming, no matter if we talk about sport or video games, is the release of an important brain chemical called dopamine. Each time you accomplish a goal or a mission, you feel rewarded – you feel happy because you have accomplished something. So the question is, why are we not using games and gaming in our workplaces when it comes to leadership and enhancing communities' unity? At this point, I want to recommend Dr. Andrew Huberman's podcast called "Huberman Lab," where phenomenons are explained from a neuroscience point of view in a user-friendly language.
Statistical facts: Especially video games with a lot of novelty can release dopamine levels between levels you get from nicotine (150% above baseline) and cocaine (1000%). (How to increase motivation and drive, Huberman Lab Podcast)
The reason behind using games and aspects of them in the classroom is pretty straightforward:
1) Games encourage teamwork, raise individuals' motivation, and create new techniques for practice and development with academics and social-emotional skills.
2) Games have a strong foothold in modern life. Using games, or even by asking what games they are playing, can help you hook with even the most unmotivated school individuals and connect with them.
3) One part of learning is repetition, and games can encourage repetition with deeper focus.
4) While games can connect your class to work and learn together, they can also simultaneously increase social well-being by fostering collaboration.
5) Creativity has started to be an essential skill needed on every level in our societies. But, unfortunately, our school systems tend to focus too much on specific subjects and not emphasize enough creativity and art. Imagination sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom and A.I so we must pay more attention to it.
Here I let you think about positive aspects of games in your environments and move to introduce our class foundation when it comes to gaming.
Whenever we aim to have optimal and versatile learning processes, we should give a lot of weight to our emotions in those processes. This is because most of our memories are linked to our feelings during those moments and are remembered. In addition, emotions help us to understand and communicate with our environment. For this reason, emotions can hold us back when it comes to learning or interacting with others because our reactions today are affected by past experiences. Therefore, emotions and social environment are strongly linked to each other, and that's why we can not avoid talking a bit about social context here. We receive our experiences and emotions most of the time while interacting with others. That's why developing emphatic accuracy is vital because it helps us understand ourselves and others in social contexts. Playing games is one great way to practice all these skills safely with guidance.
Unfortunately, students with learning difficulties/disabilities tend to have challenges with social-emotional skills. As we know already, the lack of social-emotional intelligence leads to the inability to decode the emotions of others and yourself, leading to difficulties in having and maintaining social relationships. Our student body is not an exception here; on the contrary, it confirms the argument above. That's why it is not a big surprise that the most popular entertainment outside the school hours in my class is video games, and many of them mainly because face-to-face interactions are challenging to maintain. Even I brought up our school's student body and their difficulties with social-emotional skills, that does not mean that all gamers have challenges with social-emotional intelligence. Games and gaming can be a good step to learn these skills by providing a safe environment to practice social-emotional skills without pushing boundaries too much.
Video games are a BIG thing everywhere. For example, today, video games are more popular than ever before. Across the world, millions of us use our phones, PCs, or various consoles to play. Alone in the U.S, video games are a million-dollar industry that doesn't seem to tail off in the coming years. Although I still favor more sports games and physical activity (which sessions we have every day), different games from Minecraft to creating students' own board games while learning foreign languages have a stronghold in our daily work. Therefore, games are included in our daily work.
The most waited and wanted day of the week in our class is Tuesday. Tuesday is our dedicated day for the exploration of our city of Helsinki. Since the start of the academic year 21 - 22, we have been using the whole city as a learning environment for seventeen Tuesdays (out of 19 possible) and keep going. This approach perfectly fulfills the idea of active learning, where students explore daily phenomenons in an authentic environment and see the connection between their studies and their own world. One of the benefits is less stationary work and more physical activity, which is also seen as an enhancing tool for deeper learning.
The tool we are using to make the whole day as one big game is Seppo, and if you are not familiar with the content, you should take time and read more about it. In a nutshell Seppo is an online program for creating educational games and building gamified lessons.
Our Seppo Tuesdays are planned in the following ways:
1) Objectives are to learn something new about our city, from landmarks to attending interactive museum tours or events like World Floorball Championships. In its simplicity to get different experiences on emotional, social, and intellectual levels. All these education trips are connected to the materials we use or will use in our classroom.
Example: We have daily specific reading and writing moments where students practice set objectives by Personal Learning Plans, which can be improving mechanical reading, reading comprehension, or just expanding their Finnish language vocabulary. All texts and questions are linked to the Seppo Tuesday phenomenon during that week.
The ongoing project of the first part of this Academic Year is designing our classroom to be an extension of a living room, "aka" the best place in the world to come and hang out. Inspiration has been sought from places like the Design Museum or IKEA.
2) Learn how to use and behave in public transport. Especially for our school students, it's vital to have a chance to go outside of their range of moving, because many of them are not having that many opportunities to explore the city on their own, which leads to the lack of skills in this area. These skills are usually taken for granted, but the reality is that our society has individuals who have not learned these basic skills like navigation, traveling safely in the community, or handling unexpected situations.
Example: One student did not feel comfortable using any transport because of the previous bad experiences and lack of practice, but he is a passionate gamer. A couple of basic tasks in Seppo made a big difference because whenever we used any public transportation, students received points. Luck or not, but he could join our trips more comfortably after a month of training.
3) Getting a chance to practice exploring the city individually and other crucial daily skills while knowing that support is near. For example, whenever I create a tour map for our day (which includes from four to six activities/tasks/places to visit), one goal is to give the students a chance to make their own choices like to find and decide as a team the best route to the National Museum. These small steps have boosted individuals' self-esteem because students have visibly seen their progress as active community members.
Example: How great you feel when you know that you can use your mobile as a tool to check timetables or routes to your needed destination.
4) Drill and practice already learned topics without having traditional tests. Even our class goals are highly focused on social-emotional and problem-solving skills. We are still following the Core Curriculum, which includes the academic part. Seppo Tuesday also provides an excellent opportunity for the students to test their memory and show and see their learning progress. Academic tasks vary from foreign language vocabulary to math topics, and because almost all students play in pairs or groups, they can double-check or again learn from each other.
This AY's most significant gaming success is "Seppo Tuesday."
Other apps or platforms that have gamification aspects and have been gaining popularity in our class have been:
Loru Games - Mostly used in foreign language learning. It allows the students to play different games and, at the same time, drill learned vocabulary.
Ville. utu. fi / Eduten - Digital learning platform used in Maths as a differentiation tool. Earn points and receive a golden cup.
Uno (Card Game) is a great way to enhance fun social interaction while bolstering strategic thinking.
Alias - Self-expression walks hand in hand with creativity, so the format of Alias is the perfect way to practice that crucial skill. We have used the idea of the game while exploring the new topics in social studies or as a revising tool.
"Civilization is a race between education and catastrophe." H.G Wells
Creative school and curiosity
All children love to learn, but this curiosity somehow subsides during the learning path from daycare to middle school. School satisfaction is one main factor that predicts how well individuals commit to school and is also linked to school success. Unfortunately, even Finland is still one of the top countries for providing high-quality education; the sights have been alarming for a while. The latest Survey on Social and Emotional Skills (case Helsinki) clearly shows a fall in satisfaction levels when students move from elementary to middle school. There are many reasons, but one crucial change is losing joy and fun. Ken Robinson and Lou Aronica describe well in their book called "Creative Schools" that one of the reasons is that the education system can be seen as a factory where everything is about outputs. This approach suited well when societies sought answers at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, where mass education was found as an answer to produce useful labor for factories. So what do you think can gamification deliver a supportive hand to this issue and improve school satisfaction while teaching critical competencies for the better tomorrow?