Monday, March 27

Gaming Classrooms

When showing a great simulation to an instructor, I often get back the following response.

"It seems like students could game this." Then the instructor leans back, smiling triumphantly, as if having delivered the killing blow.

"Well, the simulation represents about 15 hours of student time. Sure, if they wanted to put in an additional 15 or 20 hours, they could probably get a better score not on their successful integration of productive knowledge, but on finding the cracks in the scoring algorithm and level design." I reply. "But that would almost necessarily come after they learned quite a bit."

The instructor shakes his or her head. "The whole gaming thing troubles me. We need to have a higher level of integrity in any kind of grading or scoring."

Here, for the first time anywhere, is what I really want to say:

"Listen. I have been gaming classrooms for my entire life in order to get better evaluations, comments, grades, or certification scores. I have been dressing appropriately, feigning interest in topics that bore me beyond belief, cramming for tests in a way where my command of the information has a half life of hours desperately hoping that I forget the information moments after I write it down not moments before, skimming tangential sources to ask the one question that makes me seem much more knowledgeable than I really am, interviewing past students to see what will be on the test, playing back what the instructor said without understanding it at all, and pretending to take notes when I am really designing a biosphere in the margin. You want to talk about gaming? What do you think all of your students are doing all of the time?"


Harold Jarche said...

Well put, Clark. Let's make the game more explicit, since it's been implicit for years.

Jane said...

When part of staff development involves compulsory attendance at a session with an image consultant I would say the game has become more than sufficiently explicit n'est pas?

Peter Isackson said...

The first thought that occurred to me was to enshrine your final paragraph and pass it on to my kids as a recipe for academic success. And valuable it is!

But your point is even more valuable. The obsession with scoring and grades makes us forget performance goals and the other key notion of identifying in some way with what we're learning. Instead it generates hypocrisy since we all know the techniques and attitude you describe are the only way to succeed, but we maintain the pretention that such fundamentally dishonest procedures are favorable to learning!

Dave Ferguson said...

"image consultant." Sounds like the upper-bracket term for a Mary Kay salesperson.

Jane said...

When I read back my comment out of context, it seems very flip and shallow - not, as you may assume, my intention. Let me contextualise. The organisation has 5 key themes, one of which is developing leadership with the belief that a learning management team aspiring to effectively lead the workforce will improve both organisational culture and effectiveness. The explicit features of the development activity (360 degree feedback, team building, image consultants etc) are part of a visible game and this is where identification with Clark's posting begins. Clark refers to the whole game of 'dressing appropriately, feigning interest in topics that bore me beyond belief, cramming for tests', and the games students continue to play; yet the real game is the invisible game - behaviours developed through association with that of 'successful' peers or at least those with whom we have found a positive working climate, leadership (or, for that matter, any other particular skill) developing through considered and yet organic mentoring or apprenticeship. The implicit game having explicit value.

And I still don't know whether this makes sense outside my workplace situation ...

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