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Lesson 4: Teacher as Gamer

Written by Janelle Bence
July 31, 2011

Newb it up! Put yourself in your students shoes.

I was able to participate in another TTT episode entitled, Gaming Questions from Texas, Minecraft, and the “2011 Horizon Report K12 Edition”. This one was to support the gaming work for our North Star of Texas Writing Project . I was asked to prepare some questions for teachers who have experience in using game-based learning in their classrooms. I had that some old question on my mind, and I tailored it for the audience, “How did you get started with gaming in the classroom? What does it look like in your classroom?”

There were so many great responses. The classrooms have very little structure. The students play or design games as needed to reach a certain level or determine they had progressed enough. It wasn’t games all the time. The students determined what they needed within the parameters set by that community.

Sounds ideal, but working on a campus designated “academically unacceptable” by the state and feds limits the free-form structure from these classrooms mentioned in the webcast. Plus, no one had a classroom like mine: urban, high-poverty, English language-learning, labelled a failure by the state and government. I’m sure my students would love the freedom and self-reliance these other students were afforded, but the district would not allow that to happen.

Still, I was enlightened to perhaps one of the most important lessons in figuring out how gaming might work in my classroom. If I was going to support game theory in my classroom, I needed to deeply understand it, and if I was going to have a profound knowledge of it, I needed to be a gamer. As my fellow webcasters suggested, I needed to “Newb it up!” Why? It’s one thing to talk about it, analyze it, wonder about it. It’s quite a different story to experience it. The experience would give me that level of comfort I was seeking, the confidence to push me to action instead of just reflection. I would be encountering firsthand the behaviors I was wanting to see in my students. I would have empathy for them as learners.

So which game would it be? I depend heavily on Twitter for introducing me to new ideas and concepts. On June 25, 2011, Antero Garcia tweeted about The Curfew, winner of Best Educational Game from Games for Change. Here’s the teaser: “Set in 2027 in the heart of an authoritarian security state, The Curfew could be described as a miniature Canterbury Tales set in a not-so-distant future, where citizens must abide by government security measures and ‘sub citizens’ are placed under curfew at night. The player must navigate this complex political world and engage with the characters they meet along the way to work out who they should trust in order to gain freedom. Choose wisely and you could change the course of history. Choose poorly, and it’ll be changed for you. The Curfew: Worth Staying In For.” Too good to pass up, right?

The Curfew

That’s what I thought. It is amazing. I found myself wanting to play it late at night. I wondered how this might work in the classroom. Certainly, my students would find the theme of civil liberties intriguing. As I play, I jot down my thoughts, reactions, and connections to the classroom to this Prezi. It’s a work in progress, but I feel like it captures what it means to be a gamer.

Newbing it Up: Exploring the Online Game The Curfew and Its Implications in the Classroom on Prezi

It’s difficult. Some of the tasks require some hand-eye coordination skills that I need to strengthen. It takes me so much time to progress, but guess what. I keep going back for more. I will continue to do so not only to sustain the empathy for my students as learners but also to keep my perspective as a gamer, as a learner, alive and well.

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