Saturday, January 18, 2014

Growth Mindset and Video Games

Growing up as a child, I remember many nights spent with friends learning to "master" the newest video game.  Whether it was trying to decipher the codes in the original Legend of Zelda, working to figure out how to beat Mike Tyson in Punchout, or finding that "sweet spot" in NHL '95 where you could not miss with the Pittsburgh Penguins, many hours were spent among friends playing, learning, mastering and having fun.  So what do video games have in common with principles of learning?

1. Video games are fun and engaging.  The games were fun.  The games held our attention.  The games left a hunger inside of us when our parents said to turn it off!  We wanted to get to the next level on Zelda and see what was in store for us.  These same qualities should be in all of our lessons.  Our lessons should be fun.  My skin crawls when I hear teachers say, "That isn't fun to teach."  My response is "You are talented in your craft.  What can you do to make it fun?"  Lessons should hold our attention.  I come back to the popular quote "If a child can't learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn." - Ignacio Estrada

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2. Video games provide immediate feedback.  When we engaged in some heated, intense hockey games there was quite a bit on the line including lots of bragging rights.  We heard there was a sweet spot with the Pittsburgh Penguins where Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr could not miss from the blue line.  Was this true? We tried every spot on each blue. Time after time, we were not successful.  These spots were not what we had heard about.  We soon found the one spot where those two players could not miss.  With our lessons, what type of feedback are we giving our students?  Is it timely?  Is it specific?  Is should be in order for our students to understand what they are doing well and what they need to continue to work on to master their skills and concepts.

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3. Video Games give us a chance to try and try again.  When we spent hours and hours trying to defeat the various characters in Mike Tyson's Punchout, we had to learn how to beat each opponent.  When we got to Soda Popinski, we spent hours trying to defeat him.  We soon realized hitting him in the face time and time again was not helpful.  You had to hit him in the stomach with jab after jab and do this a few times before you could beat him.  We did not get just ONE chance to beat him.  If we failed, we learned from our mistakes and could try again.  With our lessons, do we give students an opportunity to fail and learn from these mistakes?  Do we value and praise effort and not just the final product?

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I look back and can apply these lessons I learned from my time playing video games to learning in our classrooms.  Are there any lessons you can add?