Bill MacKenty

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Helping teachers use games

Posted in Games in education on 11 - February 2006 at 03:46 AM (18 years ago). 201 views.

The real value of technology is when it is integrated into primary learning activities. As an instructional tool, technology really has no peers. of course, I know this, but many teachers raise a (healthy) skeptical eyebrow.    Moreover, many teachers have had less-than positive experiences using technology.

Apple Computer has some nice stages of technology use by educators.  I’ve found it to be a good framework for thinking about how teachers use technology.

Even with very tech savvy teachers, using games as instructional tools is a bit of a jump.  How then, can we encourage, engage, and excite teachers to use games to teach? (It should be noted we very rarely have a problem encouraging kids to use games to learn).

The relationship

The teacher’s relationship to the technology is important.  Every interaction a teacher has with technology should be viewed as a potential opportunity to evangelize technology.

How do we help strengthen a teacher’s relationship with technology?

1) Prompt and courteous technical support
2) Excellent professional development with hands-on, time saving strategies
3) Simple kindness
4) Sensitivity to a teachers need/style

I could write 2 or 3 pages about each one of these points…but let’s move on

Using the structural dysfunction of technology in schools

In many schools, the computer room is separate and divorced from classroom teaching.  Many teachers use computer time as planning period. This isn’t a pejorative thing, it’s just a simple fact.  If we accept technology works best when it is in the classroom, we begin to see a real disconnect in technology use in many schools. 

The advantage to a system like this becomes apparent quickly.  If the social studies teacher is teaching the 7th grade all about Europe, we can dedicate our computer time to targeting specific learning objectives.  We can use games to teach the nuances of 13th century Europe. We can use games to help the science teacher better explain cells or DNA. We can use games to strengthen Spanish skills. Good games, games that don’t stink…meaningful learning.

Relevant and real connections between content and the game

This has happened to me on many occasions.

When I’m using games in class, students really get into it.  They are eager to share their knowledge and understanding with anyone (gasp…even an adult). When a student hears their History teacher discussing the Dark Ages, hands fly into the air as student seek to share their knowledge.  The really cool part of this is when students self-identify with the content!  “My castle doesn’t have enough food”  or perhaps “my kingdom isn’t strong enough” or “these droughts are killin’ me”. 

Teachers GET this. They actually tend to get it REALLY quickly.  When a student is excited and motivated about something they need to know on some Standardized Test, the teacher “gets it”.

When I approach a teacher, and ask how I can help their students, I usually hear about a particular topic the kids are really struggling with.