Reflection 8: Quest to Learn

This reflection is based on my own interest in gamification, game-based learning, and my continuous wonder on how we can create teaching that enables an innovative mindset.

First of all, I’d like to introduce the Institute of Play, a New York City-based institution, that creates all teaching plans through cross-curricular games.

The Institute of Play has a middle school in the center of N.Y. City called Quest to Learn:

Seeing so well thought through initiatives (in lack of a better word) like Quest to Learn, always makes me think of how to create my own games as a teacher in order to foster that innovative entrepreneurial mindset within the students. I came to think of one game in particular, which I developed with Thomas during the European Teacher in Austria. The following presents the plan to scaffold, the game idea and finally my own reflections on how it went.


Description of the game (teaching sequence) as presented to the teachers, except anything added in yellow.

Adventure Learning: Lights Out

Lights Out is an adventure learning game over 2 weeks – The students will work with assignments during their Lernbüro (Læreriet; a type of teaching style/environment, where students work individually on tasks, that we had to adapt to), which will scaffold and support the student for the actual game on Thursday the 6th of October in the Dark Room. The students will earn points for completing their assignments and tasks during Lernbüro, which they can later spend in the Dark Room (the class will gain the joint amount of points, that all the students in that class earned) to complete the tasks and win the competition. The assignments function as scaffolding in their own right as they provide the necessary vocabulary, grammar and story knowledge the students will need in order to solve the tasks in the “Dark Room”. As the students have their assignments corrected together with a teacher, they themselves have to argue how well they think they did and will be given points thereafter (normally, they are doing hardcore grammar tasks in Lernbüro, and the teachers will give them feedback according to the more traditional teaching approach; many mistakes equals a not acceptable effort – we’d allow the students to rate themselves much higher, as long as they were able to explain their thought-process)

The plan for Lernbüro:

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The Dark Room is a game based in a completely dark room filled with unlit candles, in which the students will have to cooperate in order to solve word puzzles. There are 15 separate word puzzles that, when completed, will form a story (this is a story that they know since they have worked with it in Lernbüro)

Set-up of The Dark Room:

 

  • There is only one candlelight in the room, thus it is very dark and the students have to cooperate with their teams to solve the word puzzles.
  • Class (team) A and B will compete against each other to construct sentences first
  • Each team has two tables in The Dark Room; one is the management table and one is the workers’ table – The management will have the rules, clues, etc. Available and they will also be in charge of how to use the currency. The workers will have to open envelopes and construct sentences from a lot of cut-out words from the story The Little Matchgirl
  • Each team will assign one runner from the beginning who is not allowed to sit on a chair, but can communicate between the tables and with the lightmasters
  • Currency can be used to used to light more candles by their team’s table or receive help from the lightmasters (Thomas or Sophie)

RULES (given to all students prior to the beginning of the game)

  1. Complete 15 sentences to create the final story.
  2. Each envelope contains a number of words — they make out one sentence.
  3. The sentences must be grammatically correct by placing the words in the right order.
  4. You must complete one sentence to open the next envelope.
  5. The sentences must be in the right order to form the story.
  6. You are NOT allowed to get up from your chair. Only the runners can walk around.
  7. You are NOT allowed to touch, move or blow out the candles.

If you don’t obey the rules, the Lightmasters will punish you any way they see fit! Remember they control the light!


Management Paper to be found at the management’s table:

Congratulations – You are the management!

Your job is to help the other table by spending the points you earned during Lernbüro responsibly. If you want to spend points on something, please have a runner address your Lightmaster.

The workers sit at the other table, they have all the envelopes. Their job is to put the words in the right order to form sentences. To receive a finished sentence from them, send your runner to collect it.

Your job is also to put the sentences in the right order in the story.

Tips for the management

  • Be quiet and speak in turn, then it’s much easier to hear each other (and also so the other team can’t overhear you).
  • Appointing roles for different people on your team makes it easier for you to cooperate.
  • Having more light gives you more information, having more information is good for you.
  • You can swap students from one table to the other, remember it has a price!
  • Different people are good at different things — help each other out with what you are good at!
  • You are allowed to have 2 runners — appoint one more from the other table (it’s free!)
  • Remember to tell the other table what you can do. Then they can ask for help and you can help them better!
  • Use your runner to exchange information between the tables.

Clues

  • Is it difficult to see colours in the dark right?
  • How many points do you have?
  • Do you know the story?

Post the game, on a different day, we would take one class each, and talk to them about how things worked out when having to depend on your whole class in order to succeed in the game. After the initial plenary discussion, they were introduced to learning styles and we gave them each a German version of the test so that the students could get a better understanding how and when they learn best. We gathered the classes’ results in order to create specific group-combinations later on.

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Finally, we played the game once more a few weeks later and the teams worked much better this time.

 

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Reflection 6: The Creative Platform

This reflection is based on my knowledge of The Creative Platform – a didactic approach for unlimited application of knowledge in interdisciplinary and intercultural groups (Byrge, C. & Hansen, S., 2009).


BACKGROUND

There are an expectation and a goal on a national scale for Denmark to become the Scandinavian (or even European) hotspot for innovation and entrepreneurship. Following the Danish Innovation Strategy “Denmark – The Country of Solutions”, the reform of the primary and lower secondary school in 2013, stated that entrepreneurship and innovation had to be included in all subjects. But how do we teach innovation and entrepreneurship? First of all, we need to establish learning environments that foster creative thinking. The Creative Platform (Byrge & Hansen, 2009) offers a suggestion of how to do so. Albert Einstein, though undocumented, is given the credit for once having said: “We cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”. The creative platform is both a didactic approach, but also presents a model with four pillars necessary to uphold that platform (a mental state). I will get back to the model and its four pillars later.

Firstly, Byrge & Hansen (2009) defines creativity as:

  • An unlimited application of knowledge
  • To play with knowledge in the search for other possibilities than the ones our pattern thinking normally would make us aware of
  • The mean to cut across the limiting boundaries of subjects, professions, scientific, ‘not scientific’ knowledge, truths, lies, understanding and misunderstanding
  • The discipline of sharing and applying knowledge across all professional, social, disciplinary and cultural boundaries.

When we want to create something new, we need for people to be creative. To create is at the top of human capacity. It involves the unlimited application of knowledge, that a person has gained through life. So why is it so difficult to come up with new ideas? The thing is; we create patterns in our brains — to cope — to save energy — (&) to save time. As we know it from habits, or the morning routines, that we perform with ease even though we are half asleep. Patterns also control our perception and thinking, which makes it difficult to perceive information in new ways, to conceptualise differently and to think and do differently. The key to the unlimited application of knowledge is to remove judgment from the learning process, that is done by:

  • Skipping the dominating norms of communication: Examples of that could be: logical argumentation, the positioning of ideas, professional or personal persuasion, judgment, evaluation, criticism, praise, acknowledgment and other traditional discussion behaviours.
  • Secondly, but additionally, we need to remove no from our vocabularies: In most learning situations, students experience fear of judgement, fear of saying or doing something wrong. So removing judgement from the learning environment is necessary for an optimal session of idea generating.

When teaching creativity, we need a learning environment that focusses on experience, because experience is the only place where our perception is not controlled by our pattern thinking. In experience, all our knowledge is at our disposal. The creative platform offers such a learning environment. The creative platform is a mental state, only achievable if held up by 4 pillars: Parallel Thinking, (being) Task Focussed, No Judgement and Diversified Knowledge.


THE FOUR PILLARS OF THE CREATIVE PLATFORM


Parallel Thinking
Parallel thinking encompasses, that during group tasks:

  • all group members must only have the current subtask in mind
  • all potential disturbances must be eliminated or removed
  • there must be deadlines for the subtasks

Additionally, all subtasks ends with a presentation. If you do these things, should be totally absorbed in your work, i.e., achieve the sense of flow, as described by Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi.

Task Focussed
To be task focussed entails, that the creativity must be controlled, there has to be some rules to the task, that the students are engaging in. Thus, the importance of having a faiclitator (the teacher) becomes even more important, because someone has to make sure everyone is working within the frames/rules of the given task.

No Judgement
During a normal academic discussion, members often introduce themselves or their opnions, which leads to individual reflections. Social interactions easily leads to an atmosphere of judgement, thus should be avoided. When teaching according to the creative platform, introduction happens by small activities to create shared experiences (3D Cases). No judgement is allowed, bad nor good.

Diversified Knowledge
We know that 95% of “new problems” have already been solved, probably many times over (Altshuller, 2003) and that, the solutions are usually found within disciplines or industries that you didn’t even know existed. Studies also show, that the intersection between all disciplines, cultures and domains is, in fact, the only place where new knowledge is created (Johnsson, 2004). Therefore, the creative platform is only really doable, when interculturality and variety of skills and knowledge are 


TASKS TO REACH (THE MENTAL STATE) THE CREATIVE PLATFORM 

Using energisers to change energy-level within the classroom
Example: 

Find someone with the same kind of shoes as you, raise right hand, when I say 1 — you clap your right hands together — raise the left hand when I say two, you clap your left hands together — when I say three, clap both hands together!

3-Dimensional Cases (3D-Cases) using both attitude, body & brain to create shared experiences
Example:

Find someone with similar or the same hair as you. Now you close your eyes, you will be given 30 seconds to think about your childhood dream. After the 30 seconds, the one with the biggest hands will start explaining their biggest child hood dream, afterwards, and when both of them are done — let them make name tags with their childhood dreams on (instead of the normal way of having your name and/or occupation/title) on there. The reason for this certain 3D-Case, is to give an example of a way to create a non-judgemental introduction of the participants (compared to traditional introductions).


FURTHER REFLECTIONS

The next step has to be figuring out, how to adapt or include the creative platform within the foreign language classroom. The reason for my interest stems from a sincere interest in the theory, but multiple failed attempts of finding any sources of implementation in foreign language subjects. To be continued (not here, but in life).

Reflection 4: Habibi

Reflection based on lesson 8: Working with Graphic Novels or Novels for Teenage Readers on the 23rd of March 2018. This reflection will focus on the pair-work of the graphic novel Habibi by Craig Thompson (2011): https://drive.google.com/open?id=1_U9l9TgiGBvq6pDcAELjkd2yqa_KdKey

During this lesson, I looked at the beautiful graphic novel Habibi with Emil Alexander. The book itself touches upon very heavy subjects both in writing (the story itself), but certainly also from the pictures, which add severity to the meaning regarding e.g., rape and violence. This book will not be suitable for all students and probably only 9th-grade students. Besides this initial disclaimer, I would like to point out 2 main reasons for using this kind of literature in the classroom:

  • A pluralistic approach to language teaching:
    Using books with a lot of Arabic text like Habibi, enabling students with Arabic as their first language, to not only help the rest of the class better but also to enable the Arabic speaking students to draw upon their language prerequisites when reading working this book in the English classroom.
  • Intercultural competence, specifically developing critical cultural awareness: This book has been written by an American, thus the many scenes of violence are naturally shaped by his perception of ‘the Middle East’ and the culture thereof. Reading, reflecting and discussing literature like this in the English classroom can enable students to gain critical cultural awareness, through discussing subjects like critical media literacy, subtextuality, othering and stereotyping.

 

 

Reflection 1: Plurilingual Language Pedagogies

Reflection based on Chapter 2, Flersprogethedsdidaktik i fremmedsprogsundervisningen, from the book Fremmedsprogsdidaktik. Mellem fag og didaktik (Daryai-Hansen, P., Søndergaard Gregersen, A., Jacobsen, S.K., Von Holst Pedersen, J., Svarstad, L.K. & Watson, C., 2018)

Opposing to the traditional singular approach to language teaching/learning, the research within foreign language didactics has shifted its paradigm to a more holistic and additive understanding of the individual’s plurilingual competencies, but we haven’t yet succeeded to intergrade that within the classrooms. Pluralistic approaches do enable the students to use their individual language repertoires when acquiring a new language. The students will go from being able to draw on intuitive- and epilinguistic knowledge to a conscious metalinguistic knowledge (Moore, 2014, p.46).

Within the plurilingual view on language learning, there are 3 approaches:

  1. The Integrated Language Didactic
  2. Linguistic Awareness Through a Pluralistic Approach
  3. Intercomprehension Between Related Languages

The purpose of the integrated language didactic approach is to strengthen the students’ communicative competencies. The integrated language didactic focusses on teaching activities that build bridges between Danish, the foreign languages within the curriculum and the first languages of the students. Within this approach is used a systematic incorporation of the students’ existing linguistic prerequisites in comparison with English and Danish e.g. finding similarities and similar words across languages. As 10% of our Danish students have a different first language than Danish, it’s very important to customise the learning environment to the individual students. The approach can also be used within other subjects than language e.g., by letting the students gather knowledge on a subject in other languages than Danish.

Linguistic awareness through a pluralistic approach focusses on strengthening the students’ linguistic awareness and linguistic recognition. This approach incorporates other languages to a more explicit degree in the sense that, there’s not just room for using the student’s prerequisites within assignments or activities, but the teaching of foreign languages itself will consist of multiple relevant languages and varieties of language such as dialects.  The approach uses material which is highly content-oriented and, that offers the students to reflect upon language comparisons, but also learning strategies used within the specific tasks and hereby gain linguistic awareness.

Intercomprehension between related languages is an approach that focusses on how the comprehension within one known language rubs off when learning a new language. This approach supports the student’s ability to reading- or listening comprehension. The students will work with languages related to the language they are actually being taught in order to draw upon their general prerequisites and context-based knowledge from the whole class. Meaning that their lexical-semantic- and syntax-morphological knowledge comes into play. The purpose of including other (but related) languages, than the one they are being taught, is to develop the students’ communicative receptive competencies within languages. But at the same time, they are gaining a linguistic awareness of the language that they currently being taught along with the recognition of language they wouldn’t normally meet within the school.

Whether a teacher is using one or the other plurilinguistic approach, the student’s awareness of language can be developed according to the following 5 central knowledge-levels as introduced by Moore (2014):

  1. Knowledge of language learning and language learning strategies (language acquistion)
  2. Knowledge of the coherence between language and social context (metapracmatic)
  3. Knowledge of discourses (matediscursice)
  4. Knowledge of texts (metatextual)
  5. Knowledge of language in general (metalinguistic), which can be divided into metalexical-semantic, metamorphological-syntax, metaphonoligical and metaortographic

 

Literature:

Moore, D. (2014): Sproglig opmærksomhed – en tilgang til at tyrke sproglæring fra den tidlige barndom. Sprogforum, 59: 41-48