Before teaching middle school, I taught high school English and competition definitely had its place in my classroom every day. It motivated students to participate, pay attention, and try their best like no other technique I had ever used. Now that I’m in the middle school, competition’s motivational magic has not changed; if anything, it’s stronger!
First, it was Kahoot! My students were obsessed with proving themselves and earning the high score (no extra incentive necessary). Then, it was Quizizz. These gaming technologies have made reviewing, practicing, even testing a more exciting, engaging, and entertaining part of my classroom. On top of that, incorporating gaming in the classroom has given students a constructive way to use their smartphones and tablets in class.
In Lee Banville’s article “New Study Finds Many Children May Not See Tablets as Educational,” research reveals that children are using tablets and technology more but are not taking away from the educational games and apps what they are supposed to. Instead, they are thinking of tablets more like toys than a technology capable of teaching them something. Banville’s article is another key reason that I enjoy using gaming/quizzing technologies in my classroom. These technologies show students that technology and education go hand-in-hand. Sometimes, as I walk through the lunchroom and see students staring at their “hidden” cell phones rather than talk to their friends, I worry that this generation of students is so fully immersed in technology, but they are not creating any connections other than that it is a toy or something to create fun.
Using gaming in the classroom has multiple advantages. For example, gaming is a great way to increase vocabulary acquisition and master spelling. Teaching vocabulary and spelling in middle school can have similar side effects as walking the plank. It can be deadly boring and difficult to get students actively interested in learning new words, especially since they may never have heard/seen them before and insist that they will NEVER use them again. The Internet is teeming (vocabulary word from this week) with vocabulary and spelling practice games, but in particular, I enjoy Quizlet. Quizlet allows students to make flashcards, review for tests, play matching games, and even take practice tests. It’s an all-in-one vocabulary tool that students ask ME to incorporate into the lesson. Digital gaming is also a great way to encourage practice with various grammar and reading concepts like parts of speech, synonyms, antonyms, and context clues.
To say the world is rapidly changing is an understatement. I’m 28 years old and my 13 an 14 year old students are experiencing life in such a different way than I did not too too long ago. That said, I believe it is our job as educators to rise to meet the challenge of sticking with our students and building bridges to meet them on familiar ground. Digital gaming, as well as other technologies in the classroom, is an amazing way to do just that.
Lee Banville - Dec 20, 2016. (n.d.). New Study Finds Many Children May Not See Tablets as Educational. Retrieved March 9, 2017, from http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2016/12/20/new-study-notes-children-may-not-see-tablets-as-educational/