Choice in the Classroom

I am giving this presentation, thought I would share.

Games typically rely on choice (despite what some of my students say, no choice cannot be to gain one good thing vs three good things). Students are begging for choice. Mostly it is about control… or the illusion of control. Agency. They want to feel like they have meaning.

And that’s just the thing! When I’d designed lessons / activities I often would have polls or informal assessments gauging their interest. A student asked for a board game to review materials, gave it to the class… he was the only one that interacted meaningfully with it (guess I shouldn’t create a lesson on one data point…).

Later in the year I had a bulletin board taken over by folders with activities written on them. On the bottom row were older assignments or present review materials. Above, that weeks homework(s). And at the very top, the week’s extra credit. The system seemed to be working fair for a while, but they wanted more control, more choice, more variety of activities. Get them moving around the class, get them making posters of their learning, have them use Edpuzzle videos I had made for review. I wished I had started this earlier in the year!

Most good games have new options that show up as the game progresses, new choices. One must be cautious to avoid AP (analysis paralysis): what do I do? I suppose this is where players can chose one game vs the other, where a higher maturity or focus level wants more deep thoughts and considerations.

In trying to gamify a classroom one just needs to be aware of choice. Choice comes in many forms…

(1) choice of tasks, (2) choice of reporting formats, (3) choice of learning goals, and (4) choice of behaviors  (taken from here )

But even beyond these: many tasks embedded in themselves have choice. When you solve a linear equation you COULD decide to undo the multiplication/division first. When you write an essay you have a lot of words to choose from!

However many games have more of a feedback system. The consequences of the choices are more readily available (points, new abilities, fun graphics and noises, denying other players access) and reinforce the good ones. I suppose this ties back into education’s need for timely feedback which leads us back to computerizing the whole thing!

Wrapping this up, in allowing for choices, do we consider enough the path those choices will take the user? In game design that is what playtesting is for… how do we playtest in education?

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