Learning Experiences

Post date: May 24, 2015 8:14:06 PM

While reading up on #gamification yesterday I came across an interesting blog post. I'm pretty sure it was on Classcraft but I had like 7 tabs open so I could be wrong.

It said that today any student at any time can get the information/knowledge that previously was delivered by teachers so what we as teachers need to do is create learning experiences that students can't (or at least don't) get on their own.

While I disagree slightly with the premise (my kids are terrible at finding reliable information online or in a book) the general sentiment is something I've believed for awhile. I've honestly started thinking of myself more as a Disney Imagineer trying to create "attractions" for students than a teacher trying to create info dumps. With my recent Vicksburg simulation I used that as my inspiration to take things to the next level. By the time it was done I had a multi-sensory, multi-media experience that my students could not get on their own - even in video games. Explosions going off in 5.1 channels may be the norm in countless games but few really get students into the role of a civilian simply being impacted by the events around them.

In almost all games players are too "in control" of the situation to truly be impacted by them. This is not a knock on game design by any stretch. Games are largely built to help us fulfill power fantasies and I greatly appreciate them for that. My classroom is designed for other things. While we can use game elements (like light, sound and spectacle) to be more game-like we are still creating learning experiences. It is those elements tied in with the content (in the Vicksburg case first person accounts of life during the siege) that create those experiences.

As the year winds down I challenge you to ask students to write a list of the activities they remember from your class throughout the year. Don't prompt them with reminders. Just let the silence hang while they first think "I don't remember anything..." and then slowly remember the big experiences. For me it is always things like going outside on a Crusade pilgrimage and turning the room into Feudal Europe complete with Viking attacks. Of course, not every single day is going to provide those experiences but can I aim for one a week? I think so. Then it can be two, then three, then who knows? If I'm focused on creating these experiences as opposed to focusing on making sure they know that Cortes landed in 1519 I don't see why not. Plus, by way of bonus, they'll remember the little things anyway if it is part of an unforgettable experience.

I've written and spoken about engagement and how important it is to learning for over a decade now but only recently have I started to grasp my role as a Learning Experience Designer. I think that sounds so much better than the stereotypical "Guide on the side" title that teachers are given. I'm not on the side and I never want to be. I am central to the learning that my students experience. I'm excited this summer about putting it all together with a unifying game experience to layer on top of my classroom next year. Disney Imagineers eat your hearts out.