Game Design and Writing

Two Great Tastes that Taste Nearly Identical

Welcome back to my blog-shaped game! Now that you’re Level 2, I’d like to take a moment to talk about the difference between formative and summative activities and approaches to education, and where games fit in when it comes to these approaches. We’ll start with a bit of review, of what I mean when I say formative and summative — most of you professional educators might want to skip down a bit.

This would be a very summative assessment.

There are plenty of sources about summative and formative assessments and activities. Here’s the short-short version. A formative assessment is one that gives in-progress feedback to the teacher and helps determine what a student needs to move forward in her or his learning of material. A summative assessment is one that is used to determine the outcome of that learning often used for “high stakes” assessment like capstones, final tests, and entrance exams.

If you take a look at those definitions, you may come to the conclusion that I have. Of the two, formative assessment is where the learning happens, which makes them more valuable to the student. Furthermore, a good formative assessment shows where the student needs help in the immediate and where their proverbial educational journey should lead them next, which makes them more valuable to the teacher. So formative assessments are a Good Thing.

Now that we’ve (hopefully) established that, I’d like to introduce you to Karla Rempe. She’s a fellow teacher and member of the Greater Madison Writing Project. She’s got a blog dedicated to the idea that one can use writing as a tool to learn, not just as a way to assess knowledge of a subject.

What does this have to do with the multiplayer classroom? It might look like I’m advocating the use of formative assessments as your daily work within the multiplayer framework. That’s a fair guess — the idea of using exclusively formative assessments as every assignment kinda tickles my educational fancy. But that’s not where I’m going with this.

When you adopt the multiplayer classroom (or just a little piece of it, which is okay too), it will be a learning process for you. Heck, it’s been a decade and it’s still a learning process for me. As I mentioned last time, part of what you’re doing is designing curriculum that takes advantage of the multiplayer experience. And in doing so you’ll also be designing a game.

The little Venn bubbles in which curriculum design and game design each reside are nestled snugly in the bigger bubble called Writing. Karla’s blog is all about using writing to learn. I think it’s safe to consider the design of our curriculum is writing (I know it’s not a well-supported assertion, but this is a blog, not a thesis). Since the process of writing can teach, we can use the process of designing our curriculum to learn to create better curriculum. It’s a win for our students and ourselves.

Next time, I’ll talk about one of the ways that humans respond to things games do that make games seem so magical. Meanwhile, feel free to brag to your friends about how you’ve achieved Level 3 in Mr. Pavao’s Blog: The Game.

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