Felix Jacomino

Today I walked into a classroom where half the students were out of their seats and the volume coming from inside could be heard down the hall!

So, what's your first reaction to that statement?

Was it...

  • How terrible!
  • What school? (So I know not to send my kid there.)
  • Hand that teacher a classroom management book!

Or was it...

  • Tell me more.
  • What was the noise all about?

My hope is to paint a picture of my experience in a way that if your reaction fell in the first set above, that you begin to think differently about what deep and authentic learning can look (and sound) like.

I was visiting one of our campuses in the hopes of getting to know a couple of colleagues and their programs a bit better. The Makerspace teacher, Rick Funes, showed me the room used by his students for most maker projects and shared several videos of them in action. There was no shortage of footage that captured students having a great time solving problems, working together, embracing failure as an opportunity, and celebrating successes. Be sure to follow Rick on Twitter to see some of his students' awesome experiences and projects.

m-labWe then went upstairs to the room with half the students out of their seats and quite a commotion going on. So, what was it all about? MATH! Complaining and screaming about it? Nope. It was totally the opposite. Students were in teams and they were taking turns demonstrating their understanding of a math concept. Notice I did not write, "writing the correct answer." Getting the answer right was the first part, the teacher then asked, "why is that the right answer?" to which the student would then explain why 0.70 = 70%. When a boy in the opposing team said, "I would have just written .7 without the 0 after it," that became the new focus and every student was engaged. Every student? Yes. Every single one! #EduGoals

What was really fun to see was how the students were assigned their math problems to solve. Whoever's turn it was would walk up to a whiteboard projecting exactly what you would expect in a math class.... at HOGWARTS! The look, feel, fonts, design... all of it was Harry Potter themed. But it gets better... the student had to pick up a magic wand which magically made the problems on the board begin to shuffle. Once the wand was placed back down, the shuffling would stop and their problem would be assigned. The cheering and excitement was that of a quidditch game as was the actual control under which it was all happening.

So, was it Dumbledore leading this class? Not quite. The real wizard here was Andres Joubert (follow him too) who is on the math faculty here at Gulliver where I work. Andres is a Gamification Guru and Rick is a Maker Master. The two of them will present a session titled Gamifimaking (or was it, Makerfication?) at the top notch EdTechTeacher Innovation Summit this February in San Diego.

The more I get to witness the amazing teaching and learning going on at Gulliver, the more I find myself thinking, "I sure wish school was this fun and engaging when I was a kid." At least it's not too late for these students... or yours!


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