January 2020

IDEA Newsletter

Gamification to Support Professional Learning

Originally posted on TeachBoost Blog December 10, 2019

How can you bring friendly competition to your organization that supports professional learning, you ask? Lindsay Zilly, Director of Professional Learning for Illinois Digital Educators Alliance, relays how she created an environment that promotes risk-taking through gamification as a fun alternative to standard professional development.

What we can learn from Julia Child

never would've imagined that my gamification origin story would include cooking game shows and Julia Child. But that's the thing about inspiration: you just never know when it will strike. Follow me down this rabbit hole and you'll see how I got there!

When Julia Child first started out as a professional cook, she took risks and challenged norms. It was in the imperfections of her lessons that the most learning occurred. This style of playful learning broke down barriers and allowed other chefs to innovate in ways that revolutionized the cooking industry. Shows like Chopped and Master Chef embody Julia's advice: "Learn how to cook, try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" When I watch these kinds of shows, I see the contestants as innovators—they are handed a basket of ingredients, given a pantry of supplies, and then told to create something incredible.

Now, let's look at this philosophy as it applies to teachers and education. Isn't it the same? We are asked to be innovators in our classrooms; risk-takers who think outside the box and challenge norms. While in some schools it's a slow shift from traditional practices, in others we see educators like Zack Gilbert jumping in the deep end. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Zack, an intermediate social studies teacher at a lab school in Normal, IL, and was in awe of the shift in his practice. I asked him how he was able to reach everyone in his classroom to which he responded, "I learn their interests. Interests are based on schema and the most common connection I find amongst my students is games."

Inspiration strikes

Armed with these ideas of playful learning from Julia Child, Zack Gilbert, and reality TV, I set out to apply them to my craft. Teachers respond well to personalized PD sessions that are authentic and relevant, so it made sense to create bite-sized opportunities for educators to learn at their own pace. Learning about something of interest to them made the experience more engaging and memorable. Gamification games made learning more fun and added an element of competition that encouraged all teachers to find a way to participate at a level they felt comfortable with.

Gamification for goals

The "Gamification for Goals" method creates opportunities for teachers to self-select a skill they'd like to develop. For example, teachers might choose to develop a deeper understanding of Apple or Google tools. As they proceed through their learning, they advance through four different levels, not necessarily starting at level one—just like a game they would play. Once they get to level four, they are asked to do something with their newly developed skills in order to earn a badge.

The goal of the badges was to make something for everyone and they were created based on teacher feedback and ongoing educational trends. Our badges are set up for ISTE standards, Twitter, cultivating a growth mindset, and many more. As the teacher levels up, they accumulate badges or stickers to put on their device. This not only encourages other teachers to see and inquire about the gamification goal process, but it also creates teacher leaders that educators can turn to for assistance.

Putting teachers at the center

The idea never would have taken root if teachers weren't at the center of it. Some of the badges were designed by teachers, but all were created from feedback received from everyone. The result: teachers' computers were filling up with stickers! Teachers were sharing new learning experiences with each other, going into one another's classroom to observe their learning in action, and teachers who normally felt nervous to take risks were sharing out at staff meetings. The gamification goals process was a success and it was so successful because it was designed with teachers in mind.

Soon after the development of the gamification badges, it was obvious that teachers wanted more! This led to the birth of the Will Ferrell rating scale, Jimmy Fallon Brain Breaks, and even life-sized Candyland.

Final note

Adding a gaming component to professional learning or even classroom lessons doesn't need to be "one more thing." It should be the way we're learning the content, not a reward for learning it. If you are looking to try something like this in your district my advice is simple: teachers love to learn; keep them as your focal point.

Life Sized Candyland

Ready to try your hand at some gamification in your classroom or next staff meeting? Candyland 2.0 is a great activity for professional development, institute days or within a classroom setting. This version can be played to introduce a new topic, review a topic already presented, a beginning of the year kickoff, PBIS incentive and much more! After creating the gameboard, customize your individual cards according to your learning goals and then reuse your gameboard time and time again! Thanks to Lindsay Zilly, Kim Darche and Christine Borst for sharing this with all our members!

Upcoming Events

Be sure to check out our full list of Upcoming Events at ideaillinois.org/calendar.

ISTE Certification for Educators - Chicago, IL

January 9-10, 2020

Summer Institute in Digital Literacy Online Webinar

January 13, 2020

IDEA Kishwaukee Chapter | PatioPD

January 15, 2020

IDEA & Class Intercom Webinar | 5 Steps To Building A Student Social Media Team At Your School

January 22, 2020

IDEA Northern Suburbs MiniCon

January 25, 2020

IDEA Chicago | Everyone Can Create!

January 25, 2020

Teach Boldly Book Study

Begins January 28, 2020

Shake-Up Your Learning Spaces

January 29, 2020

IDEA Central Illinois Valley | Teacher Tuesday Mentor Match Engine Showcase

February 4, 2020

IDEA & Class Intercom Webinar | How To Advance Your School’s Communication Through Podcasting

February 5, 2020

IDEAcon 2020 - Annual Conference

February 24-27, 2020

ISTE Certification for Educators - Schaumburg, IL

February 26-27, 2020


Have you regstered for #IDEAcon 2020 yet? Now's the time!

IDEAcon is a teaching and learning conference designed for all educators, including educational leaders, technology specialists, IT professionals, librarians, instructional coaches and pre-service teachers from pre-K through higher education. The conference engages these professionals in an exploration of pedagogical strategies and resources connected to instructional technology.

Districts, schools, classrooms, and libraries will all gain valuable insights at one of the Midwest's largest educational technology conferences. In 2019, over 5,000 unique visitors joined us across four days making it our biggest conference to date.

IDEAcon features nationally recognized speakers along with a plethora of leading local presenters through a program that contains over 400 formal and informal learning opportunities. Nearly 200 corporate sponsors & exhibitors will be on-site to showcase their support for the conference and technology in education.

IDEAcon will be held at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel and Convention Center in Schaumburg, Illinois. Join us for one, two, three or all four days... February 24-27, 2020. Register by clicking the button below.

We are proud to invite you to our 30th Annual student technology showcase on May 12, 2020. The Amplify Innovation Student Showcase, formerly known as TECH 20xx, is a one-day event held in the rotunda of the State Capitol in Springfield. The showcase allows legislators, policy makers and other citizens to see first-hand how technology is used in classrooms across Illinois.

K-12 students and teachers representing schools from around the state will demonstrate engaging projects that utilize 3D printers, video, graphic design, robotics, animation, and more to show how technology is integrated into the everyday classroom to increase student-engagement and understanding. Please join us to interact with students and teachers about the importance of technology in education.

You are also invited to attend the Innovation Assembly between sessions. During this assembly, attendees will hear from legislators and young innovators who will inspire us all with what they have learned in the classroom and how they have utilized that to influence change outside the classroom.

For more information and to apply for the Amplify Innovation Student Showcase, visit www.ideaillinois.org/amplify.

Help IDEA continue supporting the integration of technology in education by shopping at AmazonSmile.

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Thank you to our 2020 IDEA Business Partners for their continued support.

Illinois Digital Educators Alliance

2705 McDonough St, Joliet, Illinois 60436