Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Engage me

When one of the men I work with describes engagement, he talks about finding his cousin obsessively playing video games in the basement. His cousin has all the indicators of deep engagement while gaming:

• Clear goals-sense of purpose
• Connectedness—to people, things, ideas, and/or actions
• Intensity—concentrating and focusing—deep learning
• Direct and immediate feedback
• Balance between ability level and challenge
• Sense of personal control
• Intrinsically rewarding (read p. 3 of the 2008-2009 Board Report)

My colleague asks, "What must a school be in this context? is engagement something we need to do for kids?" His question is designed to get us thinking, and that is just what everyone in schools needs to be doing.

Marc Prensky, an advocate of gaming in education says that if students aren't actively, or at least ritualistically, engaged, they truly resent their time being wasted. He notes that students have long attention spans, read above grade level or solve complex problems anytime they are doing something that really matters to them. Presky does note, however, that it increasingly isn't school.

So what does Engage Me mean? Must teachers be as exciting as video games, respond as quickly as texting and provided all the choices a habitual multi-tasker could want? Does it mean we must be so exciting that kids are forced to be engaged?

That's clearly a battle we can't win, and Prensky argues we don't need to. Like many advocates of 21st Century learning, he doe values choice, visuals, authentic audiences and creating. However, he says the key to "creating engagement is not about those fancy, expensive graphics but rather about ideas. Sure, today’s video games have the best graphics ever, but kids’ long-term engagement in a game depends much less on what they see than on what they do and learn. In gamer terms, “gameplay” trumps “eye-candy” any day of the week." In gaming we often talk about levelling up - acquiring enough skills to take on bigger and more important quests. If we want to engage in levelling up as a group of educators, we need to provide our student with the opportunity to think about ideas that a relevant to them, create things that impact their world, and gain skills that matter. That's what Engage Me is about - the opportunity for a worthy quest.

Cited in this post:
Engage Me or Enrage Me -- What Today's Learners Demand (in Educause Review, Sept./Oct. 2005)

1 comment:

  1. Sure... “gameplay” trumps “eye-candy”. But, I'm not going to buy the game without looking and I'm not going to look when my attention is on something else. What we're really talking about here is salesmanship. The need for that isn't going away. There are kids that will automatically assume that you have something good to say. You aren't going to lose them either way. There are a significant number of kids who need to be drawn in -- and the allure of a "great idea' isn't going to get them.

    You want me to go on a quest? You're gonna have to roll out a pretty nice map...