I Just Did TEDx!!!

I’m still on cloud nine and I don’t really have any desire to come down. The energy of a TED or TEDx stage is empowering, majestic, and awe-inspiring. This year 16 presenters were selected out of 170 nominations to bring to life some of the most innovative and thought provoking ideas in Greenville–and I was one of them!!! See here for the TEDx selfie page (http://tedxgreenville.com/conference2016/nixon/)

My talk was on Gamification which is a fancy way for saying that I like to add game elements to the learning process. It’s something that I did for years, but for a long time I didn’t even know that it was an actual application like a game-design theory. In otherwords, I was doing it because (1) my students were learning more (2) having fun learning (3) and I hate boring lectures.

So here are my top three reasons why you should try gamification, encourage your teachers to use gamification, and fight for more gamification in schools:

(1) Gamification makes you more receptive to learning: The U.S. currently ranks 17th in science scores and 25th in math scores when compared to the top 31 developed countries in the world. Talk about being low on the totem pole! We used to be number one, now we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel. Ask any student if they are bored in class, and the answer is probably ‘yes’. Scientists say that the happier we are, the more we learn. So why not play to learn and enjoy doing it?

(2) Gamification can let everyone learn at their own pace: It’s difficult to teach 25 people who all learn at a different speed. As an educator, you realize that regardless of the political phrase somebody is gonna get left behind. But when the goal is to focus on acknowledging the strengths and weaknesses of each student and allowing them to work an hour where they are and not their neighbor, everyone can finally learn without the stress of comparison.

(3) Gamification motivates you to learn: When I learned about www.raise.me I was amazed. High school students can log into the website, load their weekly accomplishments and make cash for college. You can make $200 for taking AP Biology, or $250 for visiting a local university, or being a leader on their sports team, or perfect attendance, and more. So, yeah, if you start passing out the Benjamin’s and making it rain then of course I’m gonna work hard to achieve more. But then again, why not?!?

Gamification has more benefits than these, but the three that I mentioned should get anyone started. One of my favorite gamification items to use is when I teach the anatomy of the human heart. I select 8 students to represent 8 parts of the heart. I have them create a Soul Train line, then I show them hand movements that simulate the functions of each part while red blood cells dance down the Soul Train line! It might be a little crazy, but it works like a charm because Gamification really is the game in which everybody wins.

And You Wonder Why I Hate You: A Talk About Trust

This has been a rather difficult first quarter for me. The year of 2015 ended with an extra helping of awesome while 2016 began with an extra large order of screw-you. Now don’t get me wrong, my life looks alot like an undefeated season of your favorite college football team right now. I just did a national conference, I’m working with a nationally known educational organization and I will be presenting on the TEDx stage in one week. So what exactly is my issue?

I’ve experienced a few incidents in the past few months that really hit me hard–like, Mike Tyson’s Punch Out hard. As a matter of fact, I’m still dealing with some of it right now. I know that there is purpose within my trials and tribulations but I am being reminded of how difficult it can be to make it through a struggle when you are uncertain as to whom you can trust. The incidents themselves are not the reasons for my lack of sleep last month, or my bloodshot eyes, or my random dizzy spells. It was really about the people who were involved. It was more about being strategically wounded while your assassin wore a mask to hide their identity from everyone else. Now I understand why some people are afraid of clowns.

The masks that we wear can either bring a smile to faces or great disappointment.
The masks that we wear can either bring a smile to faces or great disappointment.

It isn’t the clown’s antics that have them afraid, but it’s the mask. As long as the mask is there, you have no idea who is actually BEHIND the mask. The person behind the mask actually controls the mask itself so it gets kind of creepy. Now I understand why some students have a difficult time trusting teachers. If that student reads the Facebook page of that teacher, or goes to ratemyprofessor.com and sees spooky things that don’t match what they get in class the student is then left to wonder if they are getting taught by the teacher or getting taught by the mask.

As I move forward within the classroom, I am making it my goal to get back to the basics of relationships with my students. I want to make sure that there is integrity in my classroom and that the ‘real me’ is showing up each day. When students can count on the ‘real teacher’ showing up it brings a bit of stability to the classroom. I mean, a 3-ring circus in the middle of class can make things alot more interesting. However, if that’s not the show that I paid for, then might be looking for a refund from my experience–and that can kill a learning environment faster than an apocalyptic virus.