In my last post about game based learning I spoke to the power of rules in school and the need to create a rules system that supports and encourages learning and productive failure. Central to this issue is the dissonance between the goals of our rules (to create a safe and effective learning environment) and the student perception of those rules (punitive failure, demotivational grading). I see a similar disconnect of intent and outcome when it comes to feedback in instruction. Again, the goals of feedback are admirable and lofty – I tell my students what they did well and where they fell flat so that they may correct that behavior in the future, or better yet try again at the given assignment and demonstrate improvement, turn that C into a B or an A. Why is it then that students so often ignore my meticulously crafted feedback, or choose to live with the C instead of taking the opportunity to try again for the A? Why would that same student try over and over, often for hours on end, to get 3 stars on every Angry Birds level, when 1 star is all they need to progress? It turns out that the immediacy of the feedback in games makes all the difference. (more…)
Posts Tagged ‘feedback’
April 25, 2013 by Josh Caldwell
June 17, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
The first day of GLS7 brought with it plenty of spirited debate and intense arguments, as you are likely to have with any diverse group of passionate professionals, but none so hotly contested as the validity of gamification as an educational tool. Commonly associated with social media marketing, gamification seeks to engage consumers by incorporating game mechanics (most commonly achievements or badges) into otherwise boring or unexciting activities, such as filling out surveys – in essence, it’s the Madison Ave version of hiding your dog’s pill in a block of cheese. This arguably crass, commercial interpretation of gamification has tarnished the concept of using game mechanics in education for feedback or recognition. As a telling tone-setter in his Wednesday keynote speech, Eric Zimmerman characterized educational gamification as the beginning of an “unholy alliance” between marketers and learning researchers; certainly a reasonable call to be careful and cautious about with whom and for what reasons we share student information, but is that really reason enough to eschew gamification outright. Is gamefication so tied up in commercialism that we can’t have a successful discussion about it in education without adopting new terminology? (more…)
June 9, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
I haven’t had a classroom of my own this year – I’ve been a vagrant, a wanderer, a man without a country – and I’ve grown to love it.
May 9, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
Given my love of gaming and my interest in the motivational value of video games, I’m surprised (baffled, really) that I’ve only recently heard of gamification. It’s not that the concept is unfamiliar to me, far from it, but this new (to me) terminology has opened the door to a whole world of people attempting to gamify education. Empowered by my new $5 word, I went on a marathon search bender to find out how people are gamifying their classrooms.
May 5, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
Thanks to my PLN, I scan through a ton of education articles every day, parsing much more information than I could hope to encounter on my own. Sometimes, though, the best finds come when pursuing my other interests. Sometimes I just can’t help but view everything in my life through my teacher-glasses.
Case in point, Shaun Inman’s post about video game level design.
Good level design coaxes a player into first discovering then utilizing their abilities in a variety of situations. It requires balancing revelation and repetition.
Mentally I replace “level” with “course” and “player” with “student” – all of the sudden I’m back to thinking about my students (how do they get into my head like that???).
Shaun goes on to discuss the process of introducing and reinforcing basic skills and game parameters before presenting the player with tasks that require more sophisticated interactions. So, by gradually introducing new obstacles, players (students) are allowed to experience successful mastery of a skill before moving on to another. Then, just as players master the core skills, they’ve got to discover how those skills interact with other game elements. All of these building blocks have to be mastered and reinforced before a player can beat the game. You fail to master a skill, you don’t move on, you don’t win. The game doesn’t keep going without you, instead it ask you to practice until you’re reading to progress – at your own pace.
What does this approach reveal about the learning aspect of games? Game design necessitates a balance of success and challenge; games that are near-impossible to succeed are no fun (except to the die-hards) and games that are too easy provide no engaging challenge. You can’t think about the final goal without deeply considering how to build in the frequent, achievable-yet-challenging goals that take you there.
The message to educators – we need to spend more time on the level design. We need to teach players to run, jump, and shoot before we toss them at the final boss. We need to allow players to discover the parameters, reinforce skills, and make their own way through the levels. We can’t force a student a student onto level 2 when they haven’t mastered the skills to beat level 1.
The article ends with some questions that will be very familiar to educators.
How long should each level be? With what frequency do I introduce new concepts and threats? At what stage do single threat introductory screens become patronizing rather than educational? Repetition is necessary for learning but at what point does the lesson become too repetitive?
I have a feeling that trial and error is the name of the game from this point on and a hope that experience will eventually start answering those questions before the handwringing sets in.
April 18, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
After running across the slick web-based feedback tool Socractive, I knew I had to give it a test run with my Freshmen. While Socrative is clearly designed small screen mobile devices (smart phone, iPod, etc), our district unfortunately doesn’t allow students to use their personal electronic devices on the network, so I couldn’t take advantage of all of the tiny web browsers floating around in my students’ pockets and backpacks. Instead, I took the kids to the computer lab to be my guinea pigs – since Socrative is a web app, it should work on any device with a modern web browser.
I was excited right from the start – Socrative was crazy easy to get going with, both for myself and my students. No setup, or student usernames, or navigating around to find the assignment, just a simple interface and a single “room number” to get in. I decided to go with a Short Answer question, which seemed to work a treat, right up until a student asked if he could resubmit his answer.
That’s when cracks started to appear in the veneer.
There was no apparent way to allow students to resubmit a question, so I figured I would just start a second question for the student to use. That turned out to be a Bad Idea; as soon as I opened up a new question, the old one disappeared in a puff of bits, and with it, the student responses.
Fortunately, my students are used to the guinea pig treatment and willingly, if not without frustration, tackled the question a second time. As the responses floated in, I noticed that students who had already submitted their feedback were stuck with a “Waiting for teacher to start an activity…” screen, and I couldn’t find any way to queue up a second activity for those who were waiting to move on (I certainly wasn’t going to go poking around and risk loosing all of my responses again). But the real pain came after the students had left. You see, I had intended to actually use the responses I’d gathered, but apparently responses to real-time questions aren’t saved in Socrative, so when your browser crashes because of your obsessive need to leave a hundred tabs open “just in case,” all those wonderful student responses just dissolve into the ether. Ugh.
My experience may sound bleak, but I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet; there’s a good bit of potential there. For a class with more readily available technology access (particularly a 1:1 class) the ease of quick feedback offered by Socrative’s real-time data collection would be a godsend compared to standalone feedback devices. For those of us who have to schedule our lab time a week or more out, it’s more a question of how best to adapt. Given that I intended to keep my feedback for later evaluation, and that I wanted students to move through a set of questions at their own pace, I probably should have set up a quiz instead of using the on-demand questions (note to the folks @ Socrative, it would still be nice if the responses to on-demand activities were saved somewhere). I’d love to hear from teachers using Socrative with a class set of iPods or iPads – that’s where I see its real potential as a “clicker” killer.
April 14, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
Differentiated instruction, intrinsic motivation, meaningful rewards, achievable challenges, corrective feedback – sounds like a laundry list of traits associated with Good Teaching. It also sounds a whole lot like video games. Neurologist Judy Willis makes that case that video games can be not only powerful learning tools, but also a model for classroom instruction.
Video games with levels of play allow the player to progress quickly through early levels if the gamer already has the skill needed. Gamers reportedly make errors 80% of the time, but the most compelling games give hints, cues, and other feedback so players’ brains have enough expectation of dopamine reward to persevere.
Try, fail, learn through feedback, succeed, achieve reward. So why are kids willing to persevere through a challenging game, but not through a challenging school assignment?
Good games give players opportunities for experiencing intrinsic reward at frequent intervals, when they apply the effort and practice the specific skills they need to get to the next level. The games do not require mastery of all tasks and the completion of the whole game before giving the brain the feedback for dopamine boosts of satisfaction.
Who has the time to provide the kind of constant, and automated, feedback and reward we get from video games? Willis suggests individual goal setting based on incremental level progression.
Free bar graphs downloaded from the Internet can be filled in by students as they record and see evidence of their incremental goal progress. In contrast to the system of recognition delayed until a final product is completed, graphing reveals the incremental progress evidence throughout the learning process.
Forget gold stars, I think I’ll start providing Xbox Live style Achievements…
April 4, 2011 by Josh Caldwell
It’s time we start reevaluating our personal technology use policies in school (see the Speak Up 2010 report for some interesting stats). In the past, I’ve tried sites like Text the Mob to use student devices for realtime classroom feedback. Texting works fine, but setting up a question and getting kids to text the right number is cumbersome, at best.
Socrative is a site that both simplifies the process and expands the feature set of mobile device feedback. Teachers can ask multiple choice, true/false or short answer questions as well as assigning quizzes, games and exit tickets. Students don’t need an account, they just plug in the teacher’s room number to login. Because it’s a web app, Socrative can be used from any device with a web browser and internet access. This opens up access to students with iPods/iPads (assuming your district allows them network access, which mine does not) but doesn’t provide access to normal (non-smart) phones. I definitely plan on kicking the tires when I get back from Spring Break, and I’ll post back here when I do.