Essential question: How do we prepare parents for differentiation, and gaming in the classroom, in particular?
I think preparing parents for innovations like gaming in the classroom would have to start in the beginning of the year. When I send home information about class, I would also include this in my letter. I would invite parents/guardian to come in to observe when we have a lesson like this. I would also talk to parents at open house. While I have never had to prepare parents for “differentiation” by that name, when I design my projects, I often tell parents that I leave up to the students how they want to present their results. I explain that some students might be artistic and want to draw, some are good at computers and want to do a project on the computer, and some might want to do a video. I tell them that I find that if I appeal to the students’ interests then they will more likely complete the project and have fun learning in the process. To prepare parents for differentiation I would ask students to share their project with their parents/guardians. I often give extra credit, so students are more likely to share their information. Parents are really open to this because they want the best for their student and also want them to learn the material.
Differentiating instruction encourages teachers to design our learning environments to appeal to a variety of learning styles, interests, and abilities in the classroom (Willoughby, 2005). The assumption underlying this theory is that every child is different. The same might be said for parents. I would ask the parents to think about their school years. What did they like or didn’t like about school and why? I would point out that every child is unique in her or his own way and I want each to succeed in my class. I need to help each child by drawing on her or his strengths to find success.
To prepare for gaming in the classroom, I think I would include the students in this as well. I might ask the students what they get out of gaming and quote some students about it. The more that parents see positive results that are traceable to gaming activities, the less likely they will be to resist these new methods. Studies have shown that using academic games in the classroom garners a 20% gain in student achievement (Marsano, 2010). I might do something like is described in the article in Wonderful Wednesday, where the teacher has parents drop in anytime and invites them to stay the day, an hour, or for however long they want. This enables parents and guardians to experience ongoing work in the classroom. Students can interact with their parents and show them what they are participating in, and I will get a chance to know the parents better.
By being open and communicating with parents, I think things will go smoothly. I don’t think I would have many parents objecting to our use of these new tools. Once they see what differentiation, and gaming in particular, is doing for their child, they will be supportive of the decisions I make and the things I do in the classroom. Lee and Hammer (2011) point out that, if we can harness the energy, motivation, and potential of game play, we can direct that towards learning and give students the tools they need to become high scorers in real life. I think teachers, parents, and anyone else would want this for the students. We want them to be successful in the years to come and in their own lives.
For my games I have created a jigsaw puzzle of what my blog is about. Below is the URL that will take you to it. Have Fun!
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Lee, J. J. & Hammer, J. (2011). Gamification in Education: What, How,
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Marzano, R. (2010). The Art and Science of Teaching / Using Games to
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Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-Ability
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Willoughby, J. (2005). Differentiating Instruction: Meeting Students Where They Are, Teaching Today, Glencoe Online. Retrieved February 5, 2015, from http://www.glencoe.com/sec/teachingtoday/ subject/di_meeting.phtml.