Friday, December 2, 2016

What I Learned from Subway Surfer About Failure

Wow!  It's been a while since I have had time to write a blog post.  Since my last post, so many things have changed.  I accepted a job this summer at our local service center and absolutely love what I get to do every day.  While I miss the classroom, I enjoy being able to visit classrooms all over the region and encouraging teachers to do what is best for this generation of students.

Anyway, I wanted to share an experience I had a few weeks ago and just now had the time to sit down and collect my thoughts.

Last month, I was headed to Baltimore to visit a district and found myself very bored on the plane.  I had forgotten my book, my phone was in airplane mode, and I wasn't tired enough to take a nap.  As I began swiping through my apps, I found the Subway Surfer app that my daughter enjoys playing. Because of the lack of entertainment options, I thought why not?

I clicked on the app and began playing.  I realized early on that it was not going to be easy and I had a lot to learn.  As I continued to play, I also realized that I was experiencing failure over and over.  I would start running and hit a barrier, miss a bonus, or run into a subway car.  However, even though I was failing, I wanted to try again.  I wanted to see if I could get past the barrier,  grab the bonus, or avoid the subway car.

I also noticed that I learned from each failure.  Every time I would play, I would get better.  The better I got, the harder the game became and the more I was challenged.  I wasn't asked to complete a level that I had already mastered and I was instantly given an opportunity to correct my mistakes.

As the plane landed, I began thinking about the connections between the video game that I had just played and education.  I think we can learn a lot from the gaming community as we all know that many of our students absolutely love video games.

They will play for hours and will continue to play even after failure.  They talk about games, read books about games, and are often passionate about becoming better.  What is it about video games that encourages this behavior and why are students so willing to continue to play through the frustration and challenging situations?

I believe that instant feedback plays a huge role in this entire situation.  They keep playing because they know instantly what they have done wrong, are given the opportunity to try again, and are able to "level up" when they have already mastered specific levels.

Is it possible that students are less concerned about grades because they are so accustomed to instant feedback that waiting a week for a graded paper means nothing to them?  Is it possible that they realize that "mastering" a skill doesn't result in leveling up or being challenged so they lose interest? If receiving a grade or failing a paper doesn't result in an opportunity to correct those mistakes or get better, what is the point?

I believe that as educators, we can learn so much from video games and student behavior while playing video games.  Let's ask questions, pay attention, and know our students well enough to realize when something is working.  I'm not saying that instant feedback is always possible and classrooms can always model a video game.  However, I do think there are aspects that we can learn from and begin to use in the classroom to engage students and help them make connections.


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