I’ve noticed a few things that have changed over the months that we’ve been playing our game, prompted in part by an article from Karl Kapp about Competition and cooperation in gamification. One is that who is on the top of the leaderboard remains a bragging point and a sought-after position, but isn’t a key driver or motivation. Another is that gradually, my students are looking to the web and, even more, to each other as sources of solutions and information. The last one is that I’ve lost control of the classroom and I love it.
Who is on the leaderboard has been a topic of conversation since the very beginning days of the game. The coveted top position has alternated between several of the players over the months. Any time a player manages to get a lead on the others due to extra work or a more thorough job, they count it as bragging rights and definitely let everyone else know, especially the player who they knocked out of that spot. On the other hand, the way they talk about it, the focus of their trash-talk, shows that what they’re really proud of is the work they did to get that position, rather than the position itself. They seem to inherently get that the position isn’t the value, it is what that position represents, the work that goes into becoming the top player, that matters. I stay out of these conversations but am happy to notice this development. I do intervene when the trash-talk gets out of hand, but that’s another story 😉
In the beginning, I was the ‘expert’ and provided much of the basic knowledge and content information for the class. As rapidly as I could, I transitioned that to having students look on the web for the code, problem, or technique they were interested in or needing. This took a bid of repeated modeling before they understood and incorporated into their own thought patterns, but gradually I’ve noticed that there are fewer questions to me and more viewing of examples videos, reading example code sites, and otherwise using the vast resources available through Youtube and Google. A related trend, this semester in particular, has been to ask the other students for assistance. I started pointing them at each other whenever they asked a question that I knew a peer had already solved. Fairly rapidly, they figured out that they, as a class, probably had figured out most of the problems, if they just asked each other. So they did. And it just gets better and better.
Both of these changes have lead to me as the teacher loosing control of the class. I set the general course with the assignment (and I’m pretty careful about what that course is, in consequence) but the students are steering themselves where they feel they need to go in order to fulfill that assignment. Many days I’m starting to feel a bit superfluous during actual class-time. I try to check in one-on-one with each student at least once a week, but sometimes I really feel like I’m imposing on them because I’m taking time away from their projects. It’s a wonderful place to be as a teacher, though not nearly as comfortable as being in front of the class expounding ;-).