A few days ago, Matthew Farber’s Gamify Your Classroom showed up in my mailbox, and I’ve found myself absorbed in it twice-over. The first time, I skimmed through it, bouncing around through different chapter, unable to repress my patience and my desire to absorb the entire text at once.
Now that the initial thrill is over, I’m taking my time on my second read through the book, and in the opening chapters, where Farber presents an overview of games, I highlighted several key statements that surprised me or resounded with my current thoughts. Here’s one of them:
- “Older–not younger–teachers” are actually more receptive to using games because “more experienced teachers saw the need to further engage students.” (23)
The lack of student engagement has been a frequent topic among teachers in my school. A common complaint is that the current generation of students expect entertainment. The cause? Some say television, even going back as far as Sesame Street‘s origins, while others blame cell phones, ipods, and whatever form of handheld entertainment is hitting the shelves this year. (Ah, cell phones–that’s a whole ‘nother issue I’m not about to tackle here.)
But the cause is a moot point, as far as I’m concerned. Our task as teachers isn’t to solve the problem of students’ shortened attention spans. Our task is to teach the students who land in our classroom on the first day of school and each day after that. Somehow, we have to meet them, or at least do our best to meet them where they are.
While Farber’s statement surprised me, it makes sense. Even in my 14 years of teaching, I’ve seen students working less outside the classroom and the importance of connecting what we’re doing in the classroom to the outside world. Just expecting my students to read and comprehend Macbeth isn’t enough anymore. I need to do more to connect it to the outside world.
What do games have to do with this connection? It’s a method, a channel to get students there. Games are like technology–they’re not a destination but rather a vehicle for teaching students, getting them interested in the subject matter, and once they’re interested and have gained a basic understanding of the subject matter, they can start making connections to the outside world.
As I continue on, I’ll share more of Farber’s writing that resounded with me. However, I’d also suggest getting the book for yourself–http://www.amazon.com/Gamify-Your-Classroom-Game-Based-Epistemologies/dp/1433126702/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1423418163&sr=1-1&keywords=gamify+your+classroom