As an EDUcator (and, perhaps moreso, as a TEACHer EDUcator) I am not interested in surface or superficial LEARNing…I am interested in “real” LEARNing… deep LEARNing…transformational LEARNing (even).
I have never been a “fan” of educators or institutions that simply say they want to be “different” – I have always found that this perspective on LEARNing is more about “What’s NEW” rather than the more important consideration of “What MATTERS”.
“Winning” has also never really interested me – though I must admit I hate “losing”!
COLLABORATION beats COMPETITION hands down – always!
I have also always been more interested in LEARNing that “makes a difference” to the lives of LEARNers – and I push this little “envelope” of mine a little further and actually “define” LEARNing as anything that:
This is perhaps why I struggle with the way some EDUcators over-emphasise “games” in LEARNing.8
The recent resurgence of games and their role in LEARNing (or to use the sexier, upgraded term “gamification” – the global, cultural phenomenon) and their impact on the brave, new world of technologically-enabled EDUcation (and ELL – English Language LEARNing) has really got me thunking over the past few months.
Just do a search on the term (yes, right now…on Google) and see how many “hits” you get.
It’s scary stuff…for a “word” that ain’t even in most dictionaries, yet!
I was at an ELT Seminar recently (and why do we call them ELT…not ELL seminars, anyways) and witnessed something a bit “surreal”. A younger “digital cheerleader” and TEACHer I have seen on the “circuit” – did a session on “Gamification in ELT” – he got a half-decent crowd (buzz-words will always have that effect)!
Almost immediately – the first words out of his mouth were “TEACHers need to forget all their language syllabi – and teach English ONLY through games”…
You can imagine the response!
Rotten tomatoes whizzing past my ears (I like to sit in the middle row at seminars – all the “bad kids” sit at the back)…the room echoed with loud “Turkish tuts“…and quiet whispers of “Manyak…yaa!“
He didn’t seem to care…I got the impression that he was not a very good “listener”. He had a “speech” about a “sexy” topic…and he was gonna “deliver“! Mmmmm…
The thing is…and remember I’m pretty patient (tolerant, too)…he really annoyed me. Actually, the suggestion that “games” should “replace” solid LEARNing and TEACHing practice in the classroom…was the thing that got me!
This is a job for “Super-Blogger”!
My aim is not to get into the definitions, history and trends of gamification (that’s been done to death on many other blogs) – but, as ever, Wiki to the “rescue”:
The rationale for the “explosion” in gamification in both our leisure activities and workplaces is equally easy to get our heads around:
I mean, come on, even Ben Franklin “got” it (way back in the day…really back in the day – in 1750):
…in matters of LEARNing!
As an EDUcator, my “gut” tells me:
This is why I talked about “resurgence” – good EDUcators have known for years that “games” can and do help promote effective LEARNing.
The thing is, I also “know” that:
This is probably why I detest the phrase “EDUtainment” (especially when used to describe what TEACHer LEARNing opportunities “should” be “all” about)…but I (still) use it all the time when I speak to others.
Yes, for me –
– but is should not be the “goal” of EDUcational experiences!
I guess my challenge is that I am trying to reconcile myself with the notion of gamification at the level of “beliefs” or the fundamental “assumptions” that drive what I do as an EDUcator (or, perhaps, “how” I do it).
Like many thunking EDUcators (who operate in more “formal LEARNing contexts”), I still struggle with many of my beliefs…that’s the God’s-honest truth…especially when it comes to my own beliefs on informal LEARNing (or what is sometimes called “self-INSTRUCTion” or “self-TEACHing”) – even though I view myself as a very talented “self-TEACHer”!
What do I mean here?
It’s difficult for me (as a TEACHer) to separate my own intuitive assumptions about LEARNing from the stuff I am still LEARNing from the (emerging) “science” of good LEARNing and the notions that (rightly or wrongly) are functioning as the engine of change in EDUcation these days.
It is equally difficult for me to see the difference between what I have LEARNed (over years and years) about the “artistry of good TEACHing” (for myself, often by myself – by “failing”…a lot) and the things I have LEARNed (and continue to LEARN every day) from my interactions with those that I “LEARN” (OK – you know I mean “teach” there)!
What the hell has happened to the Tony we know and love?
As I said, “FUN is a SERIOUS business” – but LEARNing is “seriouser”!
With this in mind…I thought it was time for me to “thunk” over what happens if and when I am confronted with “ideas” that could (eventually) remove or replace “formal TEACHing and LEARNing” (in a face-2-face institutional context)…that’s what some “gamification cheerleaders” are saying these days! That’s what my young “digital gamification cheerleader” was banging on about!
Especially, when we thunk about ELL…or even “Chinese Language Learning” (the other “disruption” that keeps me awake some nights), if it comes to that.
I “know”, in my heart-of-hearts, that what Carl Rogers said:
…makes more sense in ELL than it might in “other” disciplines.
Classroom interaction is a very “poor substitute” for immersion in the culture and the day-to-day happenings of an actual English-speaking environment (this is how I LEARNed Turkish – after dropping out of a couple of “courses” because the TEACHers were driving me up-the-bloody-wall)!
A pile of lessons on lexico-grammatical structures and skills-based strategies (in a very “artificial” classroom environment) can never match (blow-for-blow) the struggles of balancing life, study and work (not to mention a relationship with someone you fall in love with – and having to dance around the pitfalls of a “mixed-marriage-to-be”) on some distant shore…without your mum and dad to protect you!
As I said…this is how I LEARNed Turkish!
What I keep coming back to is the basic “truth” that Language LEARNing is bloody hard work…but it’s hard work that can be made easier when there is a bit of “fun” involved…and when we hit the sense of “flow” that comes from engaging in “real” problem solving and the feeling of “success” that comes from solving those problems (feelings that are magnified when you know you did it…on your own)!
What I have just described there is exactly (maybe not word for word) what the gamification cheerleaders are saying about “doing ELL” through games!
At an intuitive level…I agree…but then again those bloody “belief-thingies” get in the way!
As such, I thought it might be a good idea for me to explore my own “beliefs” – and check out why it is that the term gamification (and the prospect of games replacing formal LEARNing) “scares” me so much.
- All students can learn…and, indeed, have the right to LEARN and be LEARNed by others.
- LEARNing is (a lot) more than “knowing” – it is about doing something with what we know and our ability to continue to LEARN and grow after “formal EDUcation” is over.
- LEARNing is a complex process that involves the whole person in a constructive, situated and collaborative exercise of sense-making.
- LEARNers develop knowledge, skills and attitudes best when they are connected “to” and transformed “by” their LEARNing – in addition to “taking responsibility” for that LEARNing.
I do…I really believe these things!
…and I can show you “evidence” of this…through what I “say” and “do” in my interactions with others! Hopefully, a few of those others (those that “know” me in the non-virtual world) will vouch for me on this!
I also recognise that I (yes, even me) was “socialised” by my experiences within “institutions” and systems of “formal” EDUcation. This is why I mentioned the second point above. Many of my beliefs on LEARNing have been shaped by my LEARNing within these formal institutions – and by the fact that TEACHing plays an important role within the schools, colleges and universities that have made me the EDUcator I am today.
This having been said I do not subscribe to the view that dominates the way many of these institutions “do business” – this being that the “means” (TEACHing) are more important than the “ends” (student LEARNing and SUCCESS).
Hence, I also believe:
- The best EDUcational institutions maintain an unshakeable focus on student LEARNing and success in everything they do, they have a “living” mission (rather than one that is little more than “wall decoration” for visitors) and a “lived” educational philosophy (that they “walk” every day).
- A focus on “student engagement” is also the key to successful LEARNing in “formal LEARNing environments” and that this engagement has two key components: the time, effort and other activities students put into their studies and the ways in which an institution allocates its resources and organises LEARNing opportunities to encourage students to benefit from such activities.
- The primary role of EDUcators and institutions is to support LEARNers to achieve success – read that again (nuff said)!
- TEACHing and LEARNing are two sides of the same coin – the LEARNing of students (in an institutional context) is largely dependent on the quality of TEACHers, the TEACHing they receive and the level of student engagement created by TEACHers.
- The best institutions (and their TEACHers) do not simply “cover” their curriculum – they “UNcover” it by listening to their LEARNers, by hearing their LEARNers…and by adapting themselves and what they do to the reality of LEARNing environment in which they operate.
- Curricular should be (a lot more) more than a “TEACHing plan” – TEACHers and institutions should conceptualise of curriculum as the expression of “educational beliefs in practice” and must think of curriculum in terms of the “whole educative process” (rather than simply “content” or a document that collects dust on a shelf somewhere)!
- Many of the dispositions required for successful LEARNing are the same as the positive behaviours and dispositions that characterise effective TEACHing professionals (yani, the best TEACHers are also the best LEARNers).
- Effective TEACHing is grounded on a multi-dimensional set of abilities: what teachers know and understand about LEARNing, how they prepare to TEACH, what they expect of students, what they do when they TEACH and assess LEARNing, how they treat students, and how they evaluate their own practice and improve as professionals.
- Highly effective TEACHers help all students to identify their individual LEARNing goals, perform at their highest levels and achieve success.
- Highly effective TEACHers view students’ strengths and weaknesses as opportunities for LEARNing – and (actually) encourage their LEARNers to “fail” (by modelling this themselves as “real” people – not as infallible “knowers”).
- Great TEACHing involves articulating and generating enthusiasm for LEARNing and modelling the skills of a lifelong LEARNer.
- TEACHing grounded on a ‘just-in-case’ model is not as effective as TEACHing at times when students need to and are highly motivated to LEARN (a ‘just-in-time’ model).
Whoa! What the hell has happened to Tony, shiriously?
…why have you “kidnapped” him and replaced him with this “BOT-version”?
My beliefs have been further shaped (nearly there, guys) by my own “imagineering about the future” – what I believe is important for the future of LEARNers as we race into the brave, new word of 21st Century LEARNing (yes, I “hate” the phrase, too – but you get what I am saying).
These beliefs are:
- Knowledge in the 21st Century is expanding so rapidly (bla,bla,bla!) and, just as students can’t LEARN everything about a “discipline” (especially “language”) or even everything across a range of disciplines (trans-disciplinary LEARNing is the “way ahead”) during their school or university career, TEACHers can NOT (and should NOT) try to TEACH “everything”.
- Facilitating “real” student LEARNing (that continues to “evolve” after “graduation”) must involve developing students’ critical thunking, independent problem-solving and performance capabilities (towards the same multi-dimensional sets of abilities that make for great TEACHers).
- EDUcational institutions need to make technology integral to LEARNing and adopt new digital technologies to achieve TEACHing practices more appropriate to 21st Century LEARNing.
- 20th Century institutions will only survive into the 21st Century, if they can adapt (and re-adapt) themselves by first creating and nurturing institutional cultures that are open and responsive to meaningful change and real LEARNing – the days of creating institutions for TEACHers and administrators are well and truly “over”, boys n’ girls!
- To survive – schools, colleges and universities must realign their processes, policies and practices around the notion of student LEARNing (and put that LEARNing at the heart of their decision-making) – because “survival is not mandatory” and systems that place their “means” over LEARNer “ends” will also go the way of the dinosaurs!
What is it about all these beliefs that might account for the “bad taste” that many of the current discussions on gamification leave in my mouth?
Many of them do, in fact, seem to support the “theory” that gamers and EDUgamers work with…
Actually, after getting all those thunks on “paper” and re-reading them…
I suddenly feel very “naked”!
Is that part of the problem, acaba?