A reflection about differentiation through gaming in the classroom

The readings this week highlighted for me the exciting ways that games are being used to differentiate instruction.  When I think about differentiation through gaming or digital games, I think of it as an extension of a physical learning environment which allows a student to “step into” the content and experience learning in ways that are personally meaningful to them.  It’s also important to balance physical and virtual learning spaces to complement and supplement students’ learning needs and interests.  A tricky challenge for every teacher but one that is worth the effort if we intend to help students develop life-long learning habits and skills.  I enjoyed writing my blog this week and exploring the resources shared by others.

Creating my video was more challenging than I anticipated given I had neglected to record a screencast during our MinecraftEdu challenge!  I tried to focus on my blog themes and use screenshots from the previous challenges to show common ways that gaming and MinecraftEdu can be used to differentiate.  I think I will need to create one at the end of the course to show how many more ways we learned to differentiate in the game!

I also had a great opportunity this week to work on creating a Minecraftedu challenge for our class.  I had been thinking about gamer types and how that is an extra element of differentiation in digital or virtual games.  I even tried to incorporate differentiation in the challenge by creating character and task options for each player to choose how they wanted to participate.

I had fun hosting another Twitter session with Tristan; we brainstormed questions in our shared Google Drive document to help others debrief our MinecraftEdu challenge session and to share our experiences (good and challenging) in using games to differentiate.  We have a good dynamic in our twitter sessions when they follow MinecraftEdu challenges from the previous evening.  There is much to share and “commiserate” about but it is a valuable experience leading up to our work in Givercraft.

I enjoyed reading other blogs this week and felt that after MinecraftEdu and twitter sessions, the blogs add more depth to our shared understanding of differentiation.  This week there were great resources and insights on how to use games, what challenges teachers typically face when using games, and how games are a natural fit with some subjects.  Some insights that I had from reading other blogs included:

  • Gamification principles and tools have been proven to work, as teachers, we need to make them work for us.  Games and technology are great tools for differentiation because they do much of the time-consuming work for the teacher to make learning more engaging and meaningful.
  • Not all games and tools are useful if we struggle to integrate them into our classroom. We need to find (and learn) tools that are best for what we are teaching and to take advantage of the way games transform the learning experience for students!
  • The game environment gives much more ownership to the student than we are typically comfortable with in a physical classroom, but maybe that’s why we need to use these games. If we restrict students to only “learning” under certain conditions and with tools we feel comfortable using, it doesn’t help them understand how learning is a lifelong skill that uses the best tools and knowledge available to solve problems!

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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