Paul Anderson [ 2 APR 2012 | Gamification | 10:55 ] Hello, my name is Mr. Anderson and my classroom is a video game. I can’t think of a better way to start a story better than Alice falling down the rabbit hole and she comes upon a bottle and the bottle says simply “Drink me”. I am a teacher, so I want to try to recreate that. What I did is I left my computer in my class and I had angry birds on it and a card next to it that simply said the word “play”.

Then I walked away.

But I wanted to see what happened so I left the webcam on so I got a little video that kids come into class so….

Would you like to see that?

I love how they take turns. And I love Jackson’s eyes – if you watch him.



So that look in his eyes, that look of learning, trying something new and failing and trying it again is something we inspired to see in the eyes of our kids.

We don’t do that.

A lot of the time it’s glazed over look.

I want to try to apply some of these dynamics into my classroom. I grew up in 1980s playing video games, and these video games taught me lessons that I think we could apply to schools today. The first thing I learned, is the video games are fun and school should be fun as well. Unfortunately, most kids wouldn’t say their school day is fun.

However there are elements of school that all students love. They love seeing their friends, and they love learning.

Unfortunately they spend most of the day just passively sitting, listening to a teacher lecture

I think school should be fun.

Second thing I learned, is that failure is OK. If it takes you 8 times to clear the third elevator stage in donkey kong, that’s OK. Failure is simply part of a learning process.

However, in schools, we tend to stigmatized for failure.

You don’t take a quiz over and over and over again, until you finally pass it. In fact, failure in individuals right now, failure in schools, is highly stigmatized.

I think we need to send a message that failure is OK!.

The third thing I learned is the importance of leveling. This could be applied in schools in two ways. When a teacher decides to move in a specific pace that’s ok for some of the students in their class but some of the students are automatically going to be bored. Some of the students are quickly going to be confused. Students should be able to move at their own pace through mastery system where they master a level and they can move on to the next one.

They also should be able to level up– becoming more powerful as they learn new material in the class.

I also think that, we give the wrong lecture at the beginning of the year as I said the lecture at the beginning of the year, I would say, You all have an A, from this point forward, you will fall precipitously , until eventually you land your final grade. No game will ever be designed this way. So one of the great thing to be a great teacher is you have a summer break.

Summer break is great because you get a break from school, but you also can reinvent your class.

Make it something that’s never been before.If you try to do that during the year, if you try to make a radical changes, kids will just simply be confused but if you change it during the summer, you make huge, swiping changes in your class the kids will never know what hit them.

So, this was my dream.

I wanted to reinvent my class as a video game.

But I didn’t want kids just sit in front and watch the video game, like Oregon Trail – or the world in Carmen San Diego –I want to take them in most compelling elements of gaming.When applied in the classroom this took a lot of work. I had created a class, it’s called “Biohazard 5″.

It’s got narrator, got the narrative, all the kids come together there.

I’ve created about 150 podcast that take them through the lecture and so when they get that point, they get kind of learned. I have all the special activities in class that kids can apply the material that we’re learning in the real world.

I have a bunch of inquiry labs, this one right here, is a photo synthesis lab.

You can see my students are very riveted.

They’re studying photo synthesis – using little samples we cut from a leaf.

I’ve developed hundreds of questions.

I have a mastery system where the students can take quizzes over and over and over again until they finally get it.

I have a leveling system– so they start with zero experience point at the beginning of the year.

I borrowed this from Lee Sheldon in the University of Indiana.

So basically they coming on day 1. I invented the button level as the primordial soup because I teach Biology. So they gain their experience point, and they can move their way up like dumble octopus, and mountain gorilla, and may be grand master at the end.

I also have a leader board, so they play with the avatar and they can see how they’re doing in the class.

How they’re doing to against everybody else. This is the most popular resource in the class. Kids are constantly logged in and see how they’re stacked up.

I also got a piloting set that off an ipad. So kids got an internet connected devices at all times.

Finally, the summer was over and I stood in front of the class Like this, apparently [laugh] and I said Hello, my name is Mr. Anderson and my class is a video game.

What I want you to do is grab an ipad. I want you to log into Biohazard 5. I want you to watch a video. I want you to do some reading. I want you to take a quiz, and head off to class.

Now if I have done this with my students’ parents that would be the most frustrating day of my life. But the kids grew up with the technology and the technology today simply works so they were headed off on their own. So my class, is a learning classroom. If you come in, you’ll find the kids are reading, watching videos, applying, doing special activities, trying to solve challenges, working together or working alone. So it’s really neat as the teacher come.

We were just talking in the hallway through the class he said ” what you created is like a shop class” because he was a shop teacher. Once he said the shop teacher, you teach them some skills and the kids can apply that.

So it’s like that.

I would love to keep telling you how great it is.

How the test scores seem to be going up and how the kids learning how to learn independently.

But I am a science teacher and that’s not what gets us excited in science. What gets us excited is discovering something new. So I want to talk about 3 ways that I failed. Number 1 a conventional classroom is like a school bus where all the students were all logged in they just get on and the teacher is like the bus driver and it drives from point A to point B. You can make sure that all the students get there. So what I have done is get each of them a brand new car, keys, and I said “Drive”. Some of them stalled out and some of them raced ahead and some of them drove right into a wall.

So I need to get them more scaffolding next year.

Next thing I learned is the importance of reading. Kids struggled with reading. When you make your class independent –and I should’ve seen this coming (because this is the biggest indicator of success) and I think the reason I didn’t see it coming is that I never stopped talking, because that’s what good teachers do we read the book. And then we come out with really good examples. Then we present it in a really dynamic way and the kids can just sit there and then they can learn it.

Why would they want to read the book?.

We read it for them.

So when I forced them to read the book a lot of them struggled and we have to work with that.

The last thing I learned, is that we’re not Vulcans.

In the most recent star trek movie young Spock sits in a little module and he is surrounded by computer screens and the computer keeps throwing questions at him,. Philosophy, and relativity That’s his school day. He just sits in a module like that.

So a lot of people think they can change education by somehow using videos or automating the learning process.

That sucks, who would want to be at a school like that?

Kids are coming to school to be social.

So I add elements of social learning at the class to make it more compelling.

This is a TED talk, all the good TED talks always end with a call to action so what can you do? I think schools need to move from a passive teacher-centered learning environment to an active student centered environment. That’s what I did. I was off to the side now, there’s a mentor in the class. So how do we do that?. If you are a student, you get feedback to your teachers,.

Everything I do in my class, all I got, is a result of feedback I got from my students.

What you do if you are a parent?.

You write an email, if you want your schools to change. The only emails I get from parents are complaining about their students grades

I never get “My students had an A in your class, but I have a problem with the philosophy in your class” that doesn’t happen. The message you are sending to teachers is that the grade is the only thing that’s important.

But maybe you’re not a parent, and maybe you’re not a student but you are human so what’s the lesson?

What’s in the bottle?

What’s in there.

It’s your passion, it’s the one thing you want to do.

Can you figure out what my passion is?

I love my family and I love teaching and if you can drink that bottle, also remembering to fail, learn and repeat the process over again, then I think you’ll have a life worth living.


Anderson’s Three
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