Last month, I wrote about both the successes and flat spots of gamifying an accelerated high school literature course, and student surveys were loud and clear: all participants appreciated (more than anything else) having more independence and ownership in their journey towards discovery. It was a very student-directed project, and they were free to choose from a variety of different assignments (which appealed to a wide array of learning styles). Failure in this context just meant try again, and students were in complete control of their unique learning path. For these reasons, most learners loved it, but, as stated before, there were flat spots. In the surveys, many learners expressed a lack of confidence regarding their mastery of style analysis: this was a "hard skill" that was not adequately addressed or practiced.
|Students working collaboratively on their google doc|
|Discussions were need-to-know and focused|
|Screen shot of student-created google doc on Context/Setting. A work in progress...|
-Class discussions were need-to-know and therefore authentic. Students always had a very focused frame of mind when having conversations, and not only did they direct their concerns of inquiry toward me, more importantly they framed questions for each other! What can the Historical Context/Setting group provide to help our task to analyze this character? How can the Theme Analysis group help us articulate the purpose of this passage as we perform a close reading of literary style?
-Students created and curated the knowledge, and my job, therefore, was more about design and (occasionally) interventionary guidance. I did outline the topography of the learning landscape by directing inquiry towards four main topics, but students had a lot of room to explore and create for themselves and for each other (and at times it was messy!). Students really owned the learning process.
-Students had to work together, which reinforced work on certain soft skills such as the ability to communicate, collaborate, and negotiate with each other. Not all moments were harmonious, but I think such uncomfortable experiences are just as important for purposes of developing the whole student.
-Students brought something to the table, and everyone felt like they were an important part of the puzzle. The picture of understanding was only complete once all groups shared their part of the knowledge-creation process; therefore, everyone mattered.
-Students were doing all of this (at least by the end of the project) not for the teacher but for each other. Purpose, audience, relevance: these were not abstract concepts, they were real elements of the learning environment that we created together as a collaborative community.
Students are (as we speak) working on papers based on their readings of Dickens's novel, and one of the cool developments is how the google docs (that they created as a learning community) are now serving as resources for each student's writing process. They have literally read, thought, and researched for each other and not for me, and it is deeply rewarding to watch.