Our learning Journey with technology

Recently, one of the teachers at the school sent me a text message inviting me to their classroom. Attached was a picture of a student leading the learning. Shortly after another member of staff used her phone to email me during a staff meeting for URL of a site I just mentioned. Both these events have made me reflect on our journey with the use of technology in the classroom.

A few years ago technology, especially computer technology was not used a great deal in classrooms. The school had two computers rooms. Data projectors were used by some teachers.

It was necessary to move the school to embrace technology as a tool for teaching and learning. There were many reasons for this change. These include:

  • technology engages students in the learning process,
  • technology assist teachers do their job better,
  • technology provides an avenue to overcome geographic isolation, and
  • technology provides opportunities for students to create, collaborate and communicate.

Today there is greater access to technology for staff and students. In addition to the two computer rooms there is an interactive whiteboard in every classroom, every classroom is connected to the Internet via WAN and wireless, every student from year 9 to 11 has a net-book, students from kindergarten to year 8 have access to to the net-book in their classroom, kindergarten to year 6 students have access to a class set of iPads and each teacher has a net-book.

Today students and teachers use Web 2.0 tools within the classroom these include EDMODO, Prezi, Glogster, Storybird and Wordle. Teachers have access to social media (Twitter and FaceBook) and YouTube.

Teachers have been supported in the use of technology in the classroom. Professional learning in both hardware and software has supported teachers. This year we have introduced a “technology coach” a teacher who works with teachers inside and outside the classroom assisting them integrate and reflect on technology, software and Web 2.0 tools in their teaching practice. 

I have found that social media has become an increasing important tool over the past year. Twitter allows me to connect with other educators and to form powerful learning networks. Facebook has provided another avenue to connect and communicate with our parents and local community.

 We are still on our journey. We continue to work on:

  • assisting students become 21st learners. Developing citizens that fully paricipate in our society (now and in the future). Helping them to be responsible digitial citizens.
  • Individualise learning
  • Investigate how games based learning can enhance learning.
  • providing engaging learning opportunities for all learners

 Technology by itself does not mean 21st century learning. The interaction between technology, the teacher, the student and the curriculum provide these opportunities. technology does make it easier for students to create, collaborate and communicate within and beyond the classroom.

In many ways we have only just began our journey. It is an exciting journey: this may be the most exciting time to be involved in education.

Games based learning without the technology?

Games, games based learning are engaging. A question that I have been interested in “Is it possible to apply the principles of games mechanics (or games dynamics) to the classroom?” Can we use the principles of games design to make our classrooms more engaging for our students.

Several have discussed the game mechanics for example Amy Jo Kim, Rajat Paharia, Seth Priebatsch and Michael Wu. Quest to Learn use the form of games for the basis of their pedagogy. Even though each have different has a different focus and uses slightly different language, they have similarities. Setting aside the attention grabbing effects, games:

1.  Operate in what Mihály Csíkszentmihályi termed the flow. That is the level of challenge matches the skill level of the player. The challenge level is not too hign as to cause anxiety and not too low so the player is apathetic or bored. As the skill level of the player increases so does the level of the challenge.

2. Games reward the player using a variable reinforcement schedule. The player is rewarded with a small or large outcome where the player cannot predicted when or what actions will cause it. This is a powerful way to manipulate behaviour.

3. A purpose. This purpose may be to collect things (for example trading cards or friends in social media) or quest to save the World.  There can be multiple short and long term goals.

4. Players can earn points, which can be used to motivate and engage players. Points can be awarded by the game for achieving goals or mini goals or they can be social points awarded by others. Points can be used in competitive manner in the form of leader boards. Points are used to monitor progress and increase the level of difficulty.

5. Provide feedback either from the system or from other players. Feedback from the system can accelerate the drive for mastery. Feedback from others can drive engagement.

6. Structured social interaction. This can range from players taking turns adding a friend or adding a comment.

7.Games allow for customisation ie personalisation or player choice.

8. Cascading of information: Information and instruction are provided in small bits, usually in a just in time manner.

Bartle also suggests there are 4 player types that each game must cater to:

  • The socialiser who likes interactions and works with others,
  • The achiever who likes to gain points, levels and things,
  • The explorer who likes to work out the game, rules of the universe, and
  • The killer who likes to impose themselves on others.


What does this mean for a classroom?

Using the principals outlined above would mean:

  • There is a purpose or quest for the learning that is valued by the student.
  • That learning is personalised for each students in the classroom to ensure they are in the flow. That the task (or challenge) is not to hard or easy for their skill level. As each student will be at different skill levels there will be a variety of tasks, each with different levels of challenge. Information is provided to each student just as they need to learn it.
  • Students can personalise their learning and they have choices.
  • There are a variety of long term and short term learning goals.
  • Feedback from the system (the teacher) to each student is rapid, frequent and clear. This feedback would link student actions to consequences. Any effort is rewarded. There would need to be opportunities for feedback from others.
  • There are opportunitiesfor structured social interactions eg taking turns, adding a friend or adding comments.

It also raises questions:

  • How can we provide opportunities for students to “level up”?
  • How can we create a truly variable reinforcement schedule in the classroom? That is how do we create rewards that are valued by the player, that provide an element of uncertainty as to when the reward will appear and how big it is?

Technology allows game designers to incorporate all these elements and more into a single game. They provide the player with structured experiences with rules and goals that are fun.

As educators can we provide these experiences for our students in a traditional classroom?