Competition shouldn’t just be for athletes — or brainiacs — writes Greg Toppo in Game Plan for Learning in Education Next. Academic competition can engage and motivate students, writes Toppo, author of The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter.
Schools “use sports, games, social clubs, and band competitions to get students excited about coming to school,” he writes, but rarely “use academic competition to improve instruction for more than just a few top students.”
That’s starting to change.
Shawn Young, a 32-year-old Canadian physics teacher, has created a peer-driven classroom learning and management system, dubbed Classcraft, that resembles a low-tech, sword-and-sorcery video game. In it, students work in teams to meet the basic demands of school — showing up on time, working diligently, completing homework, behaving well in class, and encouraging each other to do the same — to earn “experience” and “health” points.
Arete (originally named Interstellar) lets students compete to solve math problems with rivals anywhere in the world. Tim Kelley was inspired by watching the school rowing team compete to improve their personal bests in endurance.
Kelley began to wonder how one might replicate that fighting spirit in the classroom. He soon imagined a computer application that would use students’ day-to-day results to match them up with comparably skilled contestants in head-to-head academic competition — in everything from classroom pickup games to bleacher-filling, live-broadcast amphitheater tournaments.
Yes, Kelley hopes to make math a spectator sport.