Creativity in the Classroom

I often call my approach to “Game Days” or “Quest Days” gameful, sometimes gamification, sometimes game-like learning, occasionally problem based. At best, my pedagogy is a student-centered, and creatively gameful. So we’ll go with at best.

As I wrote the Game Day quests (my Videogames and Literacies course) and Quest Day quests (my Rhetoric Capstone) I revisited Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor by Lynda Barry for inspiration on inspiring creativity. That’s right, inspiration on inspiring creativity. What games do well is design systems with rewards, motivations, and choice that allow players (users/learners) to experience learning. Once players have enjoyed learning, they’ll enter levels where creativity matters. For example games in the Little Big Planet franchise and similar games allow a player to collect items that will aid a player in designing their own level – once the player has reached an appropriate level within the game as decided by the game designers. In games like Plants vs. Zombies 2 the player has access to a LIMITED number of plants to begin with, then as the player progresses they open plants. The game then emphasizes choice as each level allows a limited number of plant slots (let’s say 5) while the player probably has a large arsenal (6-50 for instance). In all these cases, the game helps the player level up, limiting many of their choices until they’ve reached a more advanced level in the game – with game elements and desire to make more choices helping to motivate the player.

Education and an individual course are not designed in this manner. Course-to-course learning is absolutely scaffolded, which in many ways game learning mirrors. But the restriction of choice is not very present as a motivational tool. So as I read through Barry’s Syllabus I was exploring ideas of inspiring inspiration as a way to academically mimic the choice scaffolding and motivation of games to design my gameful course day assignments. What this reminded me is that I may use game-based language with quest, levels, varying points, and bonus points – but what i’m adding back to the classroom in these early quests is inspiration to be creative and free-space to create choice. These are the new elements to my gameful assignments students struggle the most with as they are the most new element.

In Syllabus Barry experiments (across several semesters) with ways to activate showing thinking, from drawing circles, to drawing on notecards, to writing and drawing everything in composition notebooks for an entire semester. She explores, with her students, what ideas look like in physical form, what processes and thinking look like in physical form in composition notebooks.

So for these first two gameful days I’ve asked students to simply create. And I have a feeling tomorrow, when they’re asked in class to create this will be the panic moment. I don’t have the practice space that games do in this learning situation, I need my students to move to choice must faster than a game would allow. What I’m struggling with today, is this classroom gameful? At the college level, does this need to be the steep cliff for students to experience creatively learning? Is this inspiring inspiration?

One of my online grad students said it best – I’ve come to expect the unexpected in Dr P’s classes. I find that inspiring, so hopefully it inspires inspiration in my students tomorrow!

Barry, Lynda. Syllabus: Notes from an Accidental Professor. Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2014. Print.

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