British Columbia students and teachers are heading back to the classroom next week, after reaching an agreement in a protracted labour dispute.
The strike has brought the education system under growing scrutiny and fuelled debate around optimal conditions for learning (e.g. appropriate class size and composition). These concerns are compounded by an increasing need to prepare students for a technologically driven global marketplace and surprisingly high dropout rates across the country.
As it is better understood that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to learning may let too many kids fall through the cracks, researchers, educators, and educational theorists are exploring creative new ways to engage students in the classroom.
Some teachers aim to boost engagement by bringing music and scents into the classroom, pointing to research suggesting that, “smells and sounds can have an impact on learning, performance and creativity.” In Finland, grades and testing are downplayed in favour of cooperation and collaboration.
Another approach to education looks to game playing for inspiration. Every week, people around the world spend about three billion hours playing computer and video games. The gamification of education is an approach to learning that aims to harness the positive skills associated with all those hours of play—curiosity, tenacity in the face of failure, risk taking, and problem solving—and engage kids in effective and culturally relevant ways.
Quest to Learn in New York City is a school dedicated to game-based learning. Students engage with a curriculum assembled by teachers and game designers through playing games. Students also design their own games, from board games to digital ones. According to the school, games become tools to encourage students to “… actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others.”
How large a role should games have in our education system? How else can we innovate and inspire learning that prepares younger generations to survive and thrive in the modern world?