Last week, a group of day school teams participating in the JDS Collaborative joined together for a professional development day on game-based learning, held at the Institute of Play in New York City.
The JDS Collaborative supports day school teams as they collaborate in the design and implementation of programmatic initiatives that further their schools’ Jewish missions. Utilizing networked techniques, the Collaborative connects at least three schools that share a common passion for a specific project identified as a priority by the schools’ leadership. Then, the Collaborative provides the team of schools with professional project management and access to outside expertise to help the team see the project through to completion. Each school implements the project in its own school’s context, with continual opportunities to collaborate, learn from the implementation at other schools, workshop challenges, and share and document ideas and solutions, in a continuous feedback loop. The project is directed by Educannon Consulting.
In this case, the goal of these teams is to use game-based learning strategies to create engaging curricula in Judaic Studies, with a more specific focus around concepts of God. The schools participating were Magen David Yeshivah, Fuchs Mizrachi School, Jewish Educational Center, Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway (HAFTR), and Tiferes Bnos Girls School.
The day focused on actually designing, “modding” (modifying), and “play-testing” games in a methodical and thought-provoking way. The group learned the principles and theory behind game-based learning, which will help them put game-based learning into practice in their schools in a more intentional way. Here are some of the lessons they learned:
- How can game-based learning be used in the classroom? The group was particularly interested in how to make less compelling material more engaging, and how to help students who may have more difficulty with the material learn more effectively. They learned that there are three impactful inflection points where games can be applied: 1) to introduce content; 2) for student assessment; 3) to reinforce concepts and information. The game format is effective because it provides students with a concrete reason to need to know the information at hand.
- What is the best way to develop a game? The group learned that beta testing and prototyping is the best way to hone in on the best game for your class. Actually playing a game in order to perfect it is key, and you can try it out even if it is not fully developed. In doing so, a teacher embodies some of the principles of game-based learning, such as:
- Failure is reframed as iteration;
- Everyone is a participant;
- Feedback is immediate and ongoing; and
- Learning feels like play.
- What can be learned from the structure and methodology behind a game? The key parts of a game are:
- Goal – what you have to do to win
- Challenge – obstacles in the way of reaching the goal
- Core Mechanics – how the player plays the game
- Components – materials of play
- Rules – what can a player do/not do?
- Space – where the game happens
It is really useful to build a game by focusing on these parts – specifically, starting first with being cognizant of the game’s goal.
Interestingly, these parts are not only helpful for thinking about games. They also can be applied for the systemic study of any concept. For instance, to look at the study of God in the classroom, you could look at what the goal is of studying it, what challenges there are to understanding it, the rules of the study, etc. This goes to the game-based learning principle that all of the learning is interconnected.
The collaborative context for the day’s activities was an important aspect of the proceedings. More importantly, the team-building that took place will serve the group well as they begin to work collaboratively on curricula. They will be able to not only collaboratively build curricula, but also be in touch with different schools as they implement curricula in their school. This will help them troubleshoot, get new ideas, and work together to explore new opportunities to make Judaic Studies teaching maximally engaging and effective.
To learn more about the work of this group and opportunities to join the Collaborative, contact Jonathan Cannon at firstname.lastname@example.org, or stay tuned on the AVI CHAI blog for more updates.