Gamifying the (Australian) Curriculum

Professor Jeffrey Brand – Gamifying the Australian Curriculum (Oxford Conference 2014)
Jeffrey Brand presented a keynote on ‘Gamifying the National Curriculum’ at the Oxford Conference and tried to turn it into the first gamified keynote ever.
Gamifying is not a dirty word, he argued. Games have clear goals, immediate feedback and a social layer.
Other elements he saw as important were ‘badges’, levels, which signify ‘progress’. These have been in the ‘Horizon Reports’ since 2007 but which are not referred to more than sporadically in the AC.
Gamification is using aspects of games (game mechanics) in other activities, like learning. Games are problem solving activities approached with a playful attitude. Isn’t that what learning should be like? It’s different from GBL (games based learning) which is using existing games for classroom activities.
Game mechanics include: points, levels, increasing difficulty, low risk points, progress, narratives, quests, social engagement, mastery, virtual goods, leaderboards, use accumulation not averages …
Some final lessons:
  • Design for narrative-play and flow. I liked that.
  • Don’t add a thin layer, like badges, on content. Oops.
  • Don’t force people to play.
I tried Class Dojo a couple of years ago and I’ve tried things which *might* be construed as game elements (badges etc) but this presentation didn’t really grab me, or convince me. I’m not a game player. I don’t know if my students need an extra artificial construct to be interested in the learning. The more the ‘game’ of the keynote progressed the more I disengaged. The woman next to me was the opposite, getting very animated, racking up points, enjoying answering the questions, ‘how many points was that worth?’, she called out. She interrupted him mid-sentence to point out the deliberate spelling mistake. She was more interested in the game than the learning. The game had supplanted the learning. I didn’t want to play the game.

The future is blended


I’ve been putting the finishing touches on a presentation I’m giving at two Oxford Conferences soon. The title of the presentation is The Future is Blended, and the descriptor for my session is:

In this workshop the focus will be on blended learning and approaches that extend and enhance the classroom experience. The latest research tells us what we have always felt: that good teaching is critical to student learning and that feedback to students is also critical. New technologies provide teachers with powerful tools to organise, collaborate and give feedback and to re-envision the classroom for the twenty-first-century learner. In this workshop participants will get a snapshot of the latest learning theory and get to play with some digital tools in a range of platforms that that can have immediate application in any classroom. The future is not digital, but it is blended.

The Education Changes Lives Conference is focused on Australian Curriculum but my session is more about technology and blending traditional approaches with new ideas. Last year I presented in the English teachers stream; this year it’s for general teaching audience.

The Melbourne conference is on May 16th

The Sydney Conference is on May 30th

Hope to see you there.

De Bono on ‘cave-man’ thinking

Secret Cave, Hai Long Bay

The first session of the Oxford Conference was a video of De Bono talking about thinking.  He had been scheduled to open the conference, but was too ill to travel. It was still very worthwhile to hear him.  De Bono argued that we are locked into standard responses,standard thinking. This is “cave-man thinking” – responsive. He said we were locked into “Thinking to find the truth”, the thinking that grew out of church beliefs. But what about “thinking to create value”?  That’s been neglected.

He argued for teaching thinking directly, and that improved results in all other subject. And, not thinking in subjects, but the explicit teaching  of thinking frameworks.

He also argued that we should be teaching the “now-story”, how the world works now, as being at least as important as history teaching.

He also talked about the six hats thinking tools he developed, and argued for their continued relevance in moving thinking beyond instinct and emotion.

He also talked about the logical and patterning systems in the brain, and how humour was an example of creativity. Lateral thinking, he said, was formalised, creative thinking (random word technique, provocation technique etc). These can be learned.

Our existing thinking is ebne (excellent, but not good enough).  We’ve been hung up on “truth thinking”.

Above: Secret cave near Hai Long Bay, Vietnam.  Photo: Warrick

New curriculum, new thinking

Well, I just finished my presentation on new teaching and pedgogy at the Oxford Conference and, as always, relieved it’s over, though I thought it went okay. As usual I probably had way too much material to cover, and didn’t get to some of the tools I wanted to get to, but overall it was okay. And a nice audience who were (mostly) interested.

It was a bit of a daunting feeling coming off Edward De Bono and Sir Bob Geldof in the morning, but luckily it was a smaller, more scaled down, personalised kind of workshop feel that I wanted and I was trying to avoid anything vaguely authority figure(ish).

At some stage soon, I’ll blog about some of the key ideas of my piece, or at least the outrageous propositions I shared with the audience. 

I will also blog about the rest of the day, which was pretty interesting. I attended all the sessions and took some notes so happy to share them, if I get some bandwidth over the next few days. Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy a couple of days in Sydney and explore some old favourite haunts again.

Above: Beautiful machine at the Sydney Technology Park

New thinking and learning opportunities


I have begun to come together for the ‘New Thinking and Learning Opportunities’ Conference, coming up in Sydney in May. Organised by Oxford Education I’m excited to be presenting on using new technologies in the teaching of English in the Australian Curriculum.

Of course Edward Do Bono is the main attraction! I joked with someone at school that I was presenting with De Bono and he said, ‘What, are you one of the hats?’. I said, ‘Yes, the yellow one.’

The conference details say:

The Australian Curriculum is a profound educational reform. It represents a singular opportunity to improve teaching and learning outcomes, and Oxford University Press is delighted to host this event, designed to support the New South Wales educational community in realising implementation from 2014.

My session says:

The Australian Curriculum: English offers both challenges and opportunities for teachers. In this session, Warrick will explore approaches and tools to support English teachers in implementing the Australian Curriculum in the secondary classroom, including iPad and iPhone resources to support critical thinking, reflection and collaboration, as well as supporting teachers in giving students targeted feedback.

The program for the day is here. The full conference brochure is here