Both presentation and games are controversial topics in education. Presentation is commonly seen as the “old way” of teaching and games are often viewed as not teaching, but entertaining. Nevertheless, both have a place in classroom instruction and student demonstration of knowledge or skills. As a tool for teaching, presentation allows students to better perceive content (Morgan, n.d.). This can be especially true in chemistry because much of the content is abstract. For example, atoms and molecules are too small to be seen. Presentation allows students to see what formerly could only be visualized. Utilizing animations of molecules in motion in various state of matter or at various temperatures takes the guesswork out of drawing a picture with words and assuming that each student is translating those words into an accurate “mental movie”.
Presentation is useful for students to communicate understanding or process. Digital storytelling requires students to start by writing a story and continue by making a storyboard, breaking up their text to correspond with their storyboard, collecting graphics, recording narration and combining these elements with a video-editing tool. This type of presentation improves digital literacy, encourages engagement and reduces boredom by making the learning product customized, relevant, and meaningful, especially for “digital natives” (Morgon, n.d.).
This type of product (as opposed to strictly written work) can help struggling writers. Storyboarding helps them identify gaps in their written work, encourages awareness of purpose and form because the product is usually viewed by an audience as part of the assignment, and encourages fluency because the oral portion must be rehearsed for recording (Morgan, n.d).
As I become more familiar with various video and video-editing tools such as Animoto, and LetsRecap, many of which are free and easy to use, I am inspired to implement them in my classroom. Using Animoto to make a short video to help students with lab directions was very easy to do. I think that presentation programs such as this would be especially useful for having students show process. For example, my students were recently challenged to make their own thermometer with a few simple materials such as water, food coloring, clay, straws, and test tubes. Although not all students were completely successful, they enjoyed the process and worked hard thinking about how to modify their design between repeated tests. Making a video of their process would have been a great way for students to reflect on their work and show how they used engineering process skills along the way. Implementing the use of presentation or “digital storytelling” with traditional lab reports may also prove valuable. Although I think it is still important for students to be able to write an hypothesis, procedure, etc., following this up with a storyboard and narration will only make the process more engaging and meaningful. As long as concepts and skills are the main focus of presentation activities, I think this will be an exciting addition to my classes (Morgan, n.d.).
Gamification refers to, “…the incorporation of game mechanics into nongame settings, which aims to increase users’ engagement of the product or service and facilitate certain behaviors” (Hsu, et. al., 2013). The use of games or game principles can enhance learning by providing engagement and fun but, if done correctly, can also immerse the learner and/or provide an engaging challenge. Few, if any, digital games exist that fit the bill of being highly engaging and highly educational and it is unreasonable to expect a classroom teacher to design and develop such a game. However, incorporating one or a few game principles into instruction can enhance learning and is a reasonable expectation for classroom teachers. Principles such as the story dynamic, the failure dynamic, the flexibility dynamic, the progression dynamic and the constructivist dynamic are implemented by game designers resulting in engaging and even addictive games (Using Gaming Principles to Engage Students, 2014). The web site, Edutopia, suggests weaving these principles into teaching to enhance student experience and learning (Using Gaming Principles to Engage Students, 2014).
- The story dynamic can be implemented by grading the process (possibly by keeping a journal or video diary) rather than grading only the product.
- The failure dynamic can be implemented by using rapid prototyping and promoting constructive feedback.
- The flexibility dynamic can be incorporated in several ways such as building in multiple paths to success or using an “elective credit system” where students have certain required credits but can fulfill the rest of the credits in various ways.
- The progression dynamic can be implemented with traditional scaffolding and use of digital “Badges”.
- Finally, the constructive dynamic can be implemented by having students create something with a purpose.
Although I believe it is unreasonable to expect teachers to design and build elaborate digital learning games such as those available for entertainment purposes, game principles can be incorporated to increase engagement and improve students’ learning experiences. Today, small interactive games can be created with ease using one of several game creation platforms. Although there is a learning curve, Inklewriter is an easy way to make an interactive story. I think this program can be applied in an English or History course and, with a bit of creativity, other courses as well. Students should map out their story and choices before attempting to enter it into Inklewriter to avoid confusion or frustration.
Game principles I intend to implement are the story dynamic and the progression dynamic. Students will need to keep track of their process (by making notes and taking pictures of each prototype) the next time they are given an engineering task and, to implement presentation, students will be required to keep a digital diary including images and narration in addition to writing. To incorporate the progression dynamic, I will be developing digital “badges” using OpenBadges for various skills in chemistry and 21st century skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking and character. I already incorporate the failure dynamic in my level two chemistry classes by implementing a mastery based grading system where students are assessed multiple times on a single skill so they can use constructive criticism to improve without penalty.
Both presentation and games or gaming principles can enhance students’ learning experience.
Hsu, S. H., Chang, J., & Lee, C. (2013). Designing Attractive Gamification Features for Collaborative Storytelling Websites. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(6), 428-435. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
Morgan, H. (n.d.). Using Digital Story Projects to Help Students Improve in Reading and Writing. Reading Improvement, 51(1), 20-26. Retrieved November 21, 2016.
Using Gaming Principles to Engage Students. (2014, October 14). Retrieved November 22, 2016, from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/using-gaming-principles-engage-students-douglas-kiang