|Candyland route (Hasbro)|
To address the problems described above, this year I designed our PD days this year to use gamification as a way to make it collaborative, personalized, and exciting. I envision teachers working together to incorporate new pedagogical trends into their curriculum for next year. Rather than accomplishing this goal with "talk-at" programming, the game facilitates "work-with" programming. Rather than commissioning a speaker to teach something new (something better saved for end-of-summer PD), this PD is fully personalized. Teachers get to work on their own needs within their own curriculum, and they get to choose which sessions to attend and which colleagues to work with. And by gamifying with Habro's help, I hoped to capture nostalgia and promoted (faux) competition to motivate teachers to enjoy their time on campus without students and to commit to pedagogical development with peers.
We wanted to highlight and expand upon successes from the current school year, so teachers shared successes via Google Form. That way their colleagues can emulate them and/or collaborate with them. To gamify this learning, I blended the various teaching successes into 7 pedagogical trends. These trends became the locations (or "incubators") on the game board that a teacher can visit to learn from and work with colleagues.
Candyland PD Gameplay:
On the Candyland game board, there are 9 locations. We will use the first (Gingerbread Forest) and the last (Candy Castle) as a starting space and ending space. The Gingerbread Forest functions as a space to reflect on successes from the school year. The Candy Castle will be the space to celebrate when a player "wins" the game. In the other 7 locations, called incubators, teachers have to complete a pedagogical task to improve their teaching for next school year [visit this document to see what pedagogical work each of these incubators entails]. We budgeted an hour and a half at each incubator, so that each player has enough time to thoughtfully plan something ready to be used next year--not something that will be forgotten come September. Finally, each player gets his own game board to write down what he does at each incubator in order to win the game.
Teachers Helping Teachers: Powerful Stuff
At first, teachers enhance an existing unit, but by the end, they rethink the way they disseminate information and present themselves to the outside world. Realizing that these are tough tasks for some teachers, the incubators will be staffed with teachers who have successfully completed the task this past year (based on their skillset and self-identified successes received by Google Form). Additionally, for each incubator there is a write-up about a colleague's successful implementation of each pedagogical task. So at each location there's an example to learn from and a teacher to consult with.
For the teachers who aren't comfortable running an incubator, I will recommend using the coaching model, where a teacher asks questions to push a a player to develop a project on his own, or using Sugata Mitra's "granny cloud" technique, where a teacher just provides lots of encouragement.
This game structure requires reflection, planning, and collaboration. Not only will this help individual teachers improve their class and grow professionally, but it will also generate a lot of ideas for the community at large--organically from the grassroots level--to discuss and work on together.
The Secret Sauce: Engagement
All this planning is for naught if we don't also generate energy and buy-in from the teachers. In general, teachers have an internal desire to improve their craft, but that's not enough to sustain PD days in June (summer vacation piques all five senses). To promote collaboration between colleagues and to improve pedagogy at the school as a whole, this game design makes for both light & easy and exciting & entertaining PD. There's no consultant, there's no "expert," there's not even an administrator with a long-term, strategic plan-heavy talk. And there's no preparation other than self-reflection. Teachers are working with colleagues who are in the same head space, with the same goals. That means everything.
The Candyland invention gives the PD days a silly but endearing aura. The game is quirky and unique by design, because we need our teachers to be creative and innovative when they engage in PD. For example, I intend to create a gimmick for the teacher leading the incubator; Lord Licorice can have a licorice crown or Grandma Nut can have some nuts to snack on. I will also use construction paper the colors of the Candyland board on the floor or wall to direct teachers to sessions. These gimmicks inspire smiles and jokes; the smiles and jokes open up conversation which can be quickly steered to pedagogical pursuits. Ideally, this fun improves faculty morale as well.
There's nothing more engaging and empowering than PD by faculty for faculty; schools always win when they flip their PD goals from institutional demands ("talk-at") to what teachers want for their own development and their own classrooms ("work-with"). The PD described above creatively celebrates and spreads great teaching. It promotes collaboration, trying new things, and keeping up with current trends in education. But most of all, it's fun, exciting, and it builds morale!