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Gaming in a Sustainable Classroom

Feb 02, 2021

On today’s episode of the Sustainable Teacher Podcast I am so excited to welcome Dustin Staats of Board Games with Education.  Dustin and I first crossed paths about a year ago at the time of this recording when he learned about how I used a game board in my classroom.  Now, please know that I am NOT a gaming connoisseur.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  The most complex video game I’ve ever played is Duck Hunt on my cousin’s 1984 Nintendo.  Ok, wait, I take that back… I totally played Sonic and it was so fun! - but that’s about it.  So understanding how gaming could work in my classroom was not something I had the talents to make happen in a quick or effective manner.  If I’m being totally honest, I didn’t have the space in my calendar or brain needed to make it work.

However, the drive of human motivation when it comes to simple games is something I became intrigued with as my understanding and philosophy around grades and student engagement was morphing into what it is today.  Which we’ll talk about a bit in today’s episode with Dustin.

Dustin is coming to us today from sunny Los Angeles, and has many cool experiences in education including teaching English as a second language at many age levels, and consulting, researching and even leading tutoring programs.  He is dedicated to his mission with Board Games with Education, to create a more engaging classroom and develop a strong classroom culture to strengthen learning.  I’m super excited for you guys to hear our chat today that isn’t just about games, but is about basic foundations to learning and reinforcing a growth mindset through the possibilities that games provide.  

Gamification in a Sustainable Classroom

My first not so nice, almost combative parent email arrived in my inbox some time in the second quarter of my second year of teaching.  I remember that email like it was yesterday.  I had just made a rather significant change to a routine assignment and it’s grade in my course, and this parent was not happy about it.  I was grading every single reading guide and giving students 5 points each.  Long story short, what that meant was that my students’ grade from the reading guide equaled about half to 75% of the value of their test grade.  That didn’t sit well with me when I realized that many of my students were bombing their tests and yet had a B or even low A in our class.  So I made the change - the reading guides went down to only one point.

O boy, this parent was not happy.  He chastised me for making an abrupt change to students grades mid year (which is not totally off base there), but then proceeded to explain to me how, like in real life and especially in the occupation or business world, we have to teach our students to do their work by directly rewarding them for it.  No student, especially his child, will ever do the work if they don’t get a reward for it.

What I heard him saying is that my classroom is simply a factory, I am the owner, my students are the factory workers, and their output equates to their getting paid in the currency of grades.

O man - I wish it were that simple.  I also wish that as the factory owner I could be rolling in dough in my mahogany-lined corner office with a bar and massage chair, but, no sir, that’s not real life in my classroom.  Just like I don’t make a profit on my students’ output, I don’t pay my students for their input.

This little email, my professional and rather effective response, and the clarity I gained from it about what I believe about grades began a significant journey in my teaching career.  I later went on to start my master’s degree and wrote my thesis on the meaning of grades, but more importantly took significant steps inside the walls of my classroom with my students year after year that was over time shifting the culture and paradigm around grades… at least in my classroom.

And this is what led me to using a game board in my classroom.  Without spoiling much more I’m going to now bring on Dustin for our chat about how gaming can be used in the classroom in sustainable ways for teachers.  Here we go.

Here are the questions that guided our conversation with Dustin. To hear all of his answers and the awesome discussion that ensued be sure to give the episode a listen at the top of this page.

  • Tell us all about you and Board Games with Education.
  • What has been the most successful implementation of games you’ve seen in a classroom?
  • What was the simplest use of games in a classroom you’ve seen?
  • Now, I’ll be really honest - most of my listeners are teachers looking for strategies that are going to give them the best return on their time investment, meaning they are smart with the time and energy when it comes to making improvements to their classrooms.  So walk us through how gaming can be super simple, yet effective for a teacher who’s maybe never implemented any kind of games in their classroom before?
  • How do you see games having an impact on education in the current virtual, hybrid, or what I’ll just call distance learning world, where a huge number of students’ school experience is happening through a Zoom call?
  • If a teacher listening right now is saying to themselves, ok - Dustin and Mandy, you’ve intrigued me enough to give this gaming thing a shot.  What are a few simple steps they could take to just get started?

Find Dustin at…

Website: https://www.boardgamingwitheducation.com 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/boardgamingwitheducation 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/boardgamingwitheducation.com 

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/bge_games 


Games mentioned in today’s episode:


Heads Up

Wits and Wagers

A complete list of board games compiled by Dustin’s board game community

Teacher Shout Outs in today’s episode:

Secondary Sara’s gameboard system

A Primary Kind of Life’s free gameboard template

WOW!  There you have it teacher friend.  Games can be a simple way to reinforce the love the of learning and even a growth mindset amongst your students, and it doesn’t have to take a complete overhaul of your classroom to do so.  I hope you’ve enjoyed Dustin and my conversation today and go check out his website at boardgameswitheducation.com.

Until next time, teacher friend!


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