RE@L Blogmeisters Commentary on 'Overcoming Gaming Obstacles' by Laurie Sullivan in Mind/Shift™

real hi res jpgEditors’ Note:  In another blog we re-posted this week from Mind/Shift by Laurie Sullivan, overcoming the many obstacles to the effective use of Gaming in the classroom were listed. What follows here is our commentary on several of the barriers she lists. We hope this follow-up sheds more light on this resource and will be even more conducive to using this powerful tool of learning games with young learners.

Laurie Sullivan

Laurie Sullivan

Ms. Sullivan mentions, among other issues, the blocking factors caused by: Time, Cost, Resources, Curriculum Alignment, and Standardized Test Issues.

Teachers recognize these barriers can provide more focused feedback for the developers of these learning games as supplementary teaching/learning tools. Teachers and educators everywhere are emailing helpful messages to game-designers, manufacturers and trainers, all of whom want to see these sophisticated, new games move smoothly and effectively into the hundreds of thousands of classrooms across the country.

The time needed to learn is always a critical issue. Simply put, there is not enough of it. New demands for more standaridzed testing steals time from the learners and the teachers, and provides virtually no help to the kids.  Not only do the learners suffer, but so do the teachers who have less and less preparation time. We need more time for learning.

Learning Game publishers, like us here at RE@L, focus on building software products that are supplementary, helpful and needed in the classroom. We know the classroom and we know what’s needed by the kids and teachers in the classroom. The needs of the learners must drive the curriculum and the delivery.

MECClogoWhen several of the current RE@L Team started MECC software back in the 70′s, they recognized that K12 teachers largely operate within the traditional scope and sequence of content. Curriculum is not a learning free-for-all.  All kids need to know the basic skills in order to learn the higher-order skills. Some drill is a part of learning. Without it the learner is unable to access the analysis, synthesis and evaulation of more complex ideas. It calls for great latitude in the teaching techniques teachers use. Good teachers also know that content prerequisites exist.  Lesson plans and classroom evaluations are driven by this planning. The more useful resources the better!

To make achievement better, these new learning games:

  1. Must complement the structure; games must be flexible enough to accommodate the variance across the wide-range of teacher plans; plans that are individualized by each teacher; teachers recognize that individuals learn many different ways and at many different speeds – but there are “only” 35 per class!!!
  2. Must fit in with ease; designing units of study and specific lesson plans is no small task; good teachers do not just “wing-it”! Good teachers plan, execute, revise, execute, revise and continually refine their plans
  3. Must come with very significant resources to help the teacher make inclusion easier to implement.

Here are some supplementary classroom tools that we know work well from our work at MECC:

  • Sample lesson plans with details built around measureable objectives; correlative information for the various standards that need to be met;
  • Tests designed to determine if the learning objectives are being met and suggest remediation if they are not;
  • Support materials that feature “how to” implementation schemes for using the technology.

These helpful resources must be realistic and include options for ways to accommodate the many variables of teaching and learning. Helpful hints are needed on organizing the classroom activities, based largely on what has worked well in other classrooms.

We’ve made a good start. And more to come!


In closing: Look for more RE@L blog posts focused on other important obstacles mentioned in Laurie Sullivan’s helpful Mind-Shift Blog.

If you have any questions or comments on this topic, click on the Globe below and send them on. We will get back to you!



Tom King & Dale LaFrenz

Dr. Tom King has served for over 40 years as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Saint Thomas in the School of Education. The Saturn School of Tomorrow, formerly a St. Paul Public School, and his visionary response to educational reform, was a lighthouse on the frontier of school change. Tom was an experienced high school teacher of mathematics, a school administrator, and Director of Technology for the St. Paul MN Public Schools. He is also a member of the RE@L Team. Dr. Dale LaFrenz is Chairman of RE@L and one of the founders of MECC Software who brought “Oregon Trail” to millions of K12 kids everywhere. He has written extensively on the history and evolution of Ed Tech. His work in forging new paths for MECC’S “edutainment" software was instrumental in connecting school-markets, kids, teachers and consumer-markets/kids/parents, and now serves as the new launching pad for RE@L apps and software.

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