~Flow~

I’ve always loved playing games. I have honestly never been a video gamer, but I think a lot of the concepts I’ve learned about in this lesson apply to board games too. When think of “flow” I think of playing my absolute favorite card game: Multiple Solitaire (also called Nertz). When I play this game I am so extremely focused, yet relaxed and comfortable because I am fully confident in my skills and ability to win the game. My adrenaline is pumping and my mind is going a million miles a second — I love playing this game!

I had never really thought about why I feel so good when I play. As a result of this assignment I spent a little time considering what makes game so fun (and dare I say addictive?) for me. Not only do I feel fully confident in my previously honed skills, I am also comfortable with the need to adjust to new moment-by-moment challenges. I see this concept elaborated on in the video of Jim Gee when he describes principles of problem solving that are related to the world of gaming. He says that “early problems set the player up for later success” (Thorn, 2013). Since I had already learned how to solve the early problems of color/suit coordination and proper number order used in each type of card pile, reacting to the later problems of number/suit/color variation presented by my opponent was easy for me to overcome. Or as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi puts it, “there’s concentration, clear goals, feedback, there is the feeling that what you can do is more or less in balance with what needs to be done, that is, challenges and skills are pretty much in balance” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2002).

Playing this game also highlights my strengths, such as attention to detail. It also involves repetitive fine tuned movements with a definitive, achievable goal, which is also an area that brings me a lot of fulfillment and satisfaction. Other tasks that I would put into this category of flow include clerical work, such as data entry/synthesis, mass mailings where envelopes need to be stuffed and sealed, and knitting. I am highly motivated to find and perfect the best way to streamline and fine-tune the movements needed to accomplish a specific tangible goal. And it doesn’t hurt when that goal is rewarded (either by winning the game, breaking a previous personal record, getting a “great job!” from an authority figure, etc). Additionally, when I am thoroughly prepared for public speaking or even teaching (I’ll admit it, I can often afford to be MORE prepared), I also feel I am in a semi state of flow.

As I consider the elements that engage me in a flow state, I wonder how this should affect my personal learning network (PLN). Honestly, I did not consider the activities in which I feel flow to be a part of my PLN. Perhaps I thought of my PLN as a place like schools where flow is traditionally underemphasized or even deemphasized. I wonder how different my PLN might have looked had I considered this assignment before doing Activity 1. The nice thing about my PLN is that I can always add to it and enhance it throughout my career. It’s worth taking another look at and seeing if I can include these areas of personal interest on the list. Unfortunately, reading is NOT a place where I feel flow, so for me, a PLN filled with links to blogs, web pages or newsfeeds is not very inspiring. I want interaction and hands on experiences to learn. I’m more likely to enjoy a phone call with a peer or engaging in a Twitter Event than reading a blog. There is certainly room for more creativity as I keep developing my PLN.  I still have a lot to learn, which is what I love about being a teacher. I always have more to learn.

R.F. MacKay talks about the needs that are “crucial for human learning,” namely, “persistence, risk taking, collaboration, [and] problem solving.” I agree with him. I think playing games (even board and card games) has really taught me how to use these skills well. I also must mention that I have always had a very negative view of video games. Hate may be too soft of a word to describe how I have felt toward video games in the past. However, I believe my mind is beginning to open up a little toward the usefulness and even hidden genius within the world of video games. MacKay also says, “The crucial thing with books is that you learn to read like a writer, you think about how it was designed. The same things are absolutely true about digital media. Giving a kid the game won’t work. You have to get the kid to play like a designer. You have to interact” (Stanford, 2013). This idea of learning to play the game like a designer really intrigues me. I had never thought about it like that before. With that idea in mind, I can begin to appreciate the educational value of gaming, especially when it comes to producing the types of 21st Century skills we have been discussing in Module 3.

Another important element to be considered when employing games to enhance learning is making sure that the student is shown that they are responsible for their learning. Csikszentmihalyi highlighted one school that did this by video interviewing students throughout the academic year asking them about what they want to learn and how they are doing it. They then watch these videos and get to see how things have progressed (Csikszentmihalyi, 2002).  As a teacher I think this concept could be used in a variety of ways. For instance, I could create a “learning tree” on a classroom wall. At the beginning of the year each student can write down a “seed” or a goal for what they hope to learn or accomplish. Throughout the year, we will revisit the tree and add different components, such as a stem/trunk, branches, leaves, flowers. Visually having a representation and reminder of what kids are learning and where they are going is a great way to keep them focused and reminded of their responsibility to learn. Perhaps there could even be a game based way to integrate this concept.

Engaging my students, and even myself in a state of flow seems like a noble and difficult task. I like the idea of learning in a state of flow, however I am intimidated by putting it into practice. I hope to spend more time learning about and putting into practice concepts I have discovered in this unit. Even though it’s intimidating I look forward to seeing how these concepts are played out in my own classroom.
What do you think about the idea of “Flow” in your classroom? Have you had any successes? Any failures?

References

Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002, April 11). Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Motivating people to learn.
Retrieved October 10, 2016, from Edutopia,
http://www.edutopia.org/mihaly-csikszentmihalyi-motivating-people-learn

Stanford. (2013, March 1). Using games as an educational tool provides opportunities for
deeper learning, panelists at Stanford event say. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from
http://news.stanford.edu/2013/03/01/games-education-tool-030113/

Thorn, C. (2013, November 13). Jim Gee principles on gaming Retrieved from
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aQAgAjTozk

 

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