“Hello. My name is Mr. Anderson… and my classroom is a video game.” – Paul Anderson

If you are a science teacher and you have spent any amount of time on YouTube, there is a good chance you know the teacher quoted above, Montana Teacher of the Year in 2011.

In the video below (among his almost 400 self-made videos), he breaks down his thinking and implementation of the facets of gaming into the Biology classroom:

The great thing about how he uses the game design is that it’s based around mastery. I like that he decided to take a risk and do something very out of the box, but in doing so, also placed emphasis on the Blended Learning Cycle. Although I do enjoy his informative and well made videos on numerous science topics, another well-known science YouTuber, Derek Muller, researched the effectiveness of science videos for learning in his PhD and concluded that the inclusion of common misconceptions within the video results in significantly more learning:

There are a number of science educators such as Paul Anderson who create amazing resources for their subject areas. I often wonder how they have the time to get this done, but my main theory is that they are very specialized teachers. They teach one course. Maybe two. When you teach something a few times a day, or the same subject all day, you have the time to really dive in and invest your time in creating high quality materials like this.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have the luxury of such a situation. That includes me. The relentless demand of prep for five different subjects causes me to spend most of my time on the consumer end of the spectrum when developing lessons, rather than producing new and original content for students. At least I feel confident that using the content created by others like Paul will result in a quality learning experience in the end.

In reading through the Diigo articles for Course 4, I came across an epic list of games that can be used in various science units. This is clearly an area that I have not dug deeply enough into, I have realized – and will need to spend some quality time looking into these possibilities.

Although this is program is about educational technology, as I think about what I’ve done related to game-based learning in the classroom, a lot of it has no technology involvement at all. To employ tech certainly does open doors for many new options – whether you want to create your own material or incorporate the wide selection of educational games already available.

I remember playing “Review Jeopardy” in preparation for tests. Using the actual blue grid on PowerPoint and creating slides for each answer certainly used technology. (I never figured out how exactly that worked, but these days it wouldn’t be too difficult to develop something much more visually appealing.) Anyway, the students went completely nuts. They loved the competition beyond any other activity we would do. However, I’m not too sure how effective this was as a learning experience. They wanted to ‘win’ – that was the goal, not the learning, I feel. This may fall under the ‘gamification’ label (turning useful activities into games).

Another review activity I have used in various classes is called Teams-Games-Tournament (TGT), as explained to me by one of my university instructors. This is an ongoing tournament where home groups help each other to study and review concepts from each unit, then go compete with members of other groups to see who can bring back the most points on review questions. I can see Google Forms being very useful here as a way to input results and to tally and display them after each session on a spreadsheet. When I did this, it was all by hand (and chalk… wow, does anyone still use chalk??)

The reason I stopped the above game-based activities, it seems, is that my class size has dropped off significantly since going international. There are no longer 30 students to divide up into multiple groups and teams that can circulate and intermingle. Perhaps online-based tools are a more realistic option in such small class sizes.

Photo Credit: Patrick Q via Compfight cc