Gaming Classrooms

When showing a great simulation to an instructor, I often get back the following response. “It seems like students could game this.” Then the instructor leans back, smiling triumphantly, as if having delivered the killing blow. “Well, the simulation represents about 15 hours of student time. Sure, if they wanted to put in an additional 15 or 20 hours, they could probably get a better score not on their successful integration of productive knowledge, but on finding the cracks in the scoring algorithm and level design.” I reply. “But that would almost necessarily come after they learned quite a bit.” The instructor shakes his or her head. “The whole gaming thing troubles me. We need to have a higher level of integrity in any kind of grading or scoring.” Here, for the first time anywhere, is what I really want to say: ” Listen. I have been gaming classrooms for my entire life in order to get better evaluations, comments, grades, or certification scores. I have been dressing appropriately, feigning interest in topics that bore me beyond belief, cramming for tests in a way where my command of the information has a half life of hours desperately hoping that I forget the information moments after I write it down not moments before, skimming tangential sources to ask the one question that makes me seem much more knowledgeable than I really am, interviewing past students to see what will be on the test, playing back what the instructor said without understanding it at all, and pretending to take notes when I am really designing a biosphere in the margin. You want to talk about gaming? What do you think all of your students are doing all of the time?”

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