Recently, I attended a music festival that involved embarking a bus at 9 a.m. in the morning, waiting in line for one hour, trekking through rugged terrain to secure decent seats (With my own bag chair), paying exorbitant prices for food and drink, and arriving back home at 2:15 in the morning. And, the truth is I loved it and will do it again next summer. As I look forward to another school year, I wonder if I or another teacher can make their course so engaging that students will be as motivated to attend class as I was the music festival? Dave Burgess, in his book titled Teach Like a Pirate poses the question: ” If students were not forced to come to your class would they? Or, better yet, would they pay to come to your class?”.
Some teachers state that education is not about entertainment and students do not need to appreciate nor enjoy their educational experiences to benefit from them. They refer to engagement tactics as “fluff” or “touchy feely.” However, brain-based research proves them wrong. In Marilee Sprenger‘s book, How to Teach so Students Remember, she quotes Shaun Kerry of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology stating “…whether certain events or information are retained in memory is dependent upon an individual’s love for the subject matter and its dramatic, emotional, auditory, and visual impact.” Engagement is as necessary as scaffolding learning, processing ideas, and having students recall concepts. As the saying goes, you must “reach them to teach them.”
The ability to engage involves many elements:
- Appeal to the emotions: fear/surprise, anger/disgust, happiness and sadness
- Appeal to the senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch
Looking at Other Industries to Put it Together
Identifying the elements is one thing; putting them together and producing results is another. When considering how to do something well, I always heed the advice of Personal Finance expert and Radio Host Dave Ramsey who says “…if you want to be great at something find someone who is great and follow them around…do what they do.” Of course, observing great teachers is where any teacher should start; looking at other industries and professionals can be beneficial too. Chemistry teacher and TED Presenter Ramsey Musallam has recently done this by studying the movie industry and how they use the power of stories to engage an audience. He looked at blockbuster movies, such as Star Wars, that used a process of telling a story known as the hero’s journey. He now references the stages of the hero’s journey when constructing his lessons (Watch this awesome keynote he delivered at PBL World 2015 on this topic).
Mr. Musallam’s study of the movie industry is interesting and follows Dave Ramsey’s advice of observing and doing what great people, or in this case industries, do. Lately, I have been intrigued by the size and financial success of the gaming industry. Educator and fellow blogger M.J. Linane notes in his latest blog the success of the game Clash of Clans led the company to earn nearly a billion dollars in 2013. In The Gamification of Learning and Instruction, Karl Kapp notes numerous organizations that use gamification tactics to change behavior and instruct; they range from fitness, coffee, retail industries, to the United States Department of Defense. In the spirit of Dave Burgess, Dave Ramsey, and Ramsey Musallam, I want to learn more about the elements of gamification and how to incorporate them into my classroom. Therefore, this Thursday, August 13th, M.J. Linane, ClassCraft, and myself will be hosting a free webinar about gamification. Sign up and attend by completing the registration form here. There are limited seats, so hurry before we run out of spots.