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The Children Are Waiting in Rows

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Today's guest blogger is Peggy Sheehy. This is part three of her guest blog on gaming and learning.
Finally, what about assessment? Do we have time to introduce gaming as a new approach to learning when the assessments are themselves rooted in older soil? Traditional assessments contradict game-based learning. New models and methods of ascertaining mastery must be explored. As James Gee explains, "...One thing games don't really do is separate learning and assessment. They don't say learn some stuff and then later we'll take a test. They're giving you feedback all the time about the learning curve that you're on" (Gee, 2003). Most teacher preparation programs would embrace that as good teaching.

As teachers begin to investigate game-based pedagogy, they have demonstrated their predilection for peer support, and some are organizing themselves into communities of practice, establishing networks to compare notes, ask questions, offer advice and support and share resources. One popular group is G.A.M.E. (Gamers Advancing Meaningful Education) and another is The Cognitive Dissonance Educator Guild in World of Warcraft (Sister of Elune server, Alliance)

So, change is happening---albeit very, very, slowly. It is happening one teacher at a time. It is truly bottom up change. The anthropologist Margaret Mead observed "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." There is a slowly growing change movement infiltrating our schools. But, children are typically not patient and we do not want another generation to leave schools without this experience.

It is possible that to legislate that schools not only be required to teach academics, but to teach academics harnessing these games. We don't advocate for more legislation but we surely know the power of policy to change the locus of attention. These are the tools that this generation of learners already uses outside school. Informal groups of adolescent gaming friends are forming in nearly every community across the country. Along with that STEM skillset, such an initiative would be nurturing behaviors that help children be confident, successful, contributing members of the school community.

But, we also know that creating school cultures like that will take time. While gaming seems a most compelling route to this solution, the reluctance of the powers that be to embrace these new tools is creating a vacuum that the business world will be all too happy to fill and if history is any marker, the end result will be "games" that marginalize all of the deep, complex, and reflective practice well designed games have to offer.

We really need to move on this! Games have proven to be a vehicle that exists right now, that can help our children appreciate the breadth of science, technology, engineering and math beyond the lab coat and may just unleash a passion for such characteristics in the world around them. An added bonus is that gaming has proven to be a successful vehicle for confronting some of the most difficult social ailments. But are we asking too much when we ask for this change to happen sooner rather than later?

Let's come full circle. I know that this September, I'll watch and listen as my colleagues peruse their new class rosters and lament as they tally the number of IEP, AIS, ELL, and special education students on their lists, forced to contend with the reality of how these "low achievers" might impact their evaluation.

This leaves me pondering the fate of those students who either will not or cannot abide this current educational structure. By remaining stuck in this high stakes testing and Common Core atesting hamster wheel, we negate the love of learning, we amplify the have vs. have not status, and we validate the stereotypes that continue to plague true educational reform. By continuing to champion the idea of common expectations for all, we are disavowing the unique spark of promise and potential within every child. Yes, this change needs to happen and it needs to happen now because it is the children who are waiting. They are waiting ...in rows.

Peggy is a well-known fierce advocate for the meaningful infusion of technology in education. She has presented her work at major education, technology, and gaming conferences, and continues to share her knowledge and experience with teachers all over the world. Peggy is a pioneer in virtual world education, serves as Guild Master of The Cognitive Dissonance Educator Guild in World of Warcraft, and is a founding member and officer of G.A.M.E.

Peggy's resources can be found at the first of this three part post.

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