Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I Have No Game

First off, I will admit after researching I know little more about gamification in education and the intrinsic and extrinsic motivators (had to look them up) than when I started. I got overwhelmed quickly when my kindergarten coding square didn’t work. I am pretty sure my urge to cry and throw up was because I am already sick but I can’t be sure. I did come back and figure out what I was doing wrong 2 days later.

I should have gotten my four year old to help me the first time. I am a video game failure. I am the person people give the controls to when they want a game to be over. To pick two games to use in my Prek-2nd grade art class, I go old school and low tech- 7 up (we don’t have 7 up either, it’s 4 or 5 up) and Telephone (You see boys and girls when I was a kid they had these devices called telephones and there was etiquette and whispering…). I am sure that is not what this blog is supposed to be about.

But I take heart:

Game Face: Motivation

Games use “intrinsic motivators like challenge, control, fantasy and curiosity, plus extrinsic motivators like cooperation, competition, recognition so teachers can nudge students toward being inspired to learn.” (Mark Relf, speaking at CompTIA'sAcademy Educator Conference in Phoenix quoted by M. Peterson, 2014.) People over all over the world are spending 3 billion hours a week playing video and computer games. If the game requests I get on Facebook are any indication this number should be higher. Even I came back and completed my code. “Gamification is the use of gaming principles in the field of education in order to get students involved, engaged, and excited about learning.” (Pappas, 2013). We do employ online educational games, best guess rewards, trivia and riddles, and the occasional traditional game in the art room and throughout the school. We offer Nintendo Wii reward parties for high level AR goals. Being a primary school art room, we have play and creativity incorporated into our lessons. 

Last November, we made turkeys and bull’s eye targets. We had target practice with a mini Nerf football. Girls and boys were evenly matched in skill. This year we dressed our “Jive” turkeys up and did “The Hustle” under a disco ball. 

I am not competitive or anything but most of them couldn’t keep up with me. Neither of these activities is quite a game but they sure are fun. We are moving constantly. There is little time a student has to be in one place. Our video gaming capability is low in the art room because of connectivity issues in the room and the lack of access to devices. I do my best to incorporate technology in the art room even in the trying circumstances. One of our best guess games is to guess how long a technology glitch will take to fix. Honestly, we have 45 or 30 minutes a week to get creative in art so I don’t feel the need to apologize if we don’t have game time every week. The thought of gamification with my art students ages 3-8 years old makes me ponder a few thoughts: Why not just get our hands on art instead? or Why don’t we just go outside and play? I don’t imagine taking away creativity and play for the sake of being glued to a screen. It has to mean more than that. With games, there is mindful and mindless.

Artists and Gamers Have Similar Motivation

Creating something from scratch, making artistic choices, improving artistic skill through practice and moving to a higher level of creativity in art are similar intrinsic motivators to gaming. Extrinsically, cooperation and recognition are important components for young artists. Are artists’ competitive? Yes, some want to be the best. It is irksome to some that it is not measured. I do give out art rewards once per semester. I used to have Art Student of the Week and Art Class of the Week. It was hard to keep up with the rewards I funded myself. More often than not, the honors were not announced weekly. We have art portfolios on Artsonia bringing recognition to our artists. It makes me keep up with our competitive stats. Without grades, we remove the fear of failure in our art class. By removing their fear of failure, we encourage students to be creative and learn much like gaming.

Game Time, Double Team

I am especially fond of activities that combine Art, Science, Math, Language Arts, Citizenship and a healthy dose of competition. I see ideas and see the art class in them. I see an idea and see the game in it.

Here’s an activity that can be a game.

How many magnetic objects can you find in the tray? An individual can compete with classmates or work in teams to find the most magnetic objects. Math is used counting the objects. Color and shapes are used in the activity. We take turns like good citizens do. We study the science of magnets and put them to work. It looks like fun so I want to line up and try it. I like the idea, in art and games, students aren’t afraid to fail and learn outside their comfort zone. I have told you I am a video game failure but I’m really not. I love to play games for the fun and skills of it. I take a chance not fearing failure. I am able to come back and try a better way the next time. Now that’s good gamesmanship.

Bonus Points:
Are video games art? My answer is yes. There is artistry in the skill of creating games and images. If they weren’t art, no one would play them. The eye would move elsewhere.


Amanda0480. (November 15th, 2011). [Blogger Post]. Jive Turkey from Finding My Marbles. Retrieved from http://amanda0480.blogspot.com/2011/11/jive-turkey.html.

Beyre83. (March 9th, 2014.) Just Dance Kids 2014- The Hustle. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CZ2DeP__Q8.

Code.org. (2014). Artist Stage 1 puzzle. Retrieved from

Howcast.. (2014). How to Play 7 Up. Retrieved from http://www.howcast.com/videos/296638-How-to-Play-Seven-Up.

Mark Relf Profiles. (2014). Retrieved from
He’s the first one.

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. (2014). Creative Life Quote. Retrieved from http://designlov.com/to-live-a-creative-life-we-must-lose-our-fear-of-being-wrong.html.

Peterson, M. (August 11, 2014.) Gamification Engages Students with Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivators. CompTIA, IT Careers Blog. Retrieved from http://certification.comptia.org/news/2014/08/11/gamification-engages-students-with-intrinsic-and-extrinsic-motivators.

SonshineKids. (August 11, 2011). Magnet Attraction. Retrieved from http://www.sonshinekidscdc.com/2011/08/magnet-attraction.html.

wikiHow. (2014). How to Play the Telephone Game. Retrieved from http://www.wikihow.com/Play-the-Telephone-Game.

York, V. (2014). Disco Ball. Retrieved from author’s photos.


  1. Hi Valerie- Have you seen the site Coloring with Leo? http://www.colorwithleo.com/games.php It has some great early childhood games that teach shapes, forms, patterns, puzzles, etc. It's definitely best for Kinder, but maybe some 1st graders as well. 2nd would be ok with it if they got past how "little kid cartoon" the character is. They may be useful for you.

    Also, this isn't a game, per se, but if you want to work on movement and flow, I do Cosmic Kids Yoga with my kindergarteners to teach movement and gross motor functioning, as well as practicing listening skills. It also is great for involving kids' imaginations.

    1. Kate,

      I do like Coloring with Leo but we currently do not have access to computers for the kids in the art room. I might try to snag a few iPads for a formative assessment using Leo. The kids will like that. I will see how Jack takes to it at home. I know it's bad but with one iPad we use it mostly to photograph our work and upload to Artsonia. I will check out Cosmic Kids Yoga. Do you know 10 years I was told to be "careful" using yoga in the class because some parents might object? I had one object to kid's music and dancing in the class too. Five years ago my friend and I were in demand for leading yoga after school for teachers so things change. Thanks for the suggestions. I think I got overwhelmed with the list of all requirements for games. I really don't have time to program games for hundreds of children. I don't have the resources either.There are plenty online games that are educational and fun to keep a variety but time required is something else.


  2. Valerie,

    I think if I had a a limited time to teach art in a classroom, I would zealously guard that time for art!

    Hope you're feeling better. I've been sick here too.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and explorations!


    1. Melissa,

      I do think art time is precious. In the past, when I studied art therapy I learned people stop developing their art skills at age 9 unless they have access to the arts and encouragement. Where we are they don't offer art to all students after 5th grade. Our high school art teacher is only half time and they were putting students in her advanced class who had not taken art since 5th grade.They also gave her 30 plus students per class with seating for 24. I taught middle school art and the stools in the room were so ridiculously uncomfortable. To me this shows a lack of respect and appreciation for the value of art in students' lives. I have some students who are pulled from every single one of my classes and that's the primary level. It is hard to measure student progress when they are not there to progress. Yes I keep exploring and finding ways to better our experience. We did the most with gaming in summer school ( taught kindergarten ) and when we had an after school program ( also kindergarten). I did tutor a student but times are tough and our parents can't afford it. The student I tutored ( 3rd grader at the time) wanted straight drawing but we used the computer to get inspiration for what he wanted to draw. My nephew is showing me the Windows Surface laptop right now. It does everything. This is what his school got 6th graders. I think I am going back with him.


  3. Ok, truth be told I don't think that the kids should spend much time playing games in your room. The art is the game. That is the fun.

    Still I couldn't help but to look for something that might be fun and art related. For me, I would use this as part of the whole group to teach and have the presentation be interactive, not take the time for individuals to work on. What do these kids do when they have computer? Could you pass games along for them to do during that time. I generally stack my computer time with things to do, but I know other teachers are always looking for ways to use the time.


    On here there are 15 different games that teach different aspect about art. Hopefully there is something useful there for you.

    Smithsonian has some different things too, mixed in with the rest of their education games.


  4. Chris,

    We borrowed the NGA CD which had several games on it so we wouldn't have to use the Internet connection. When I borrowed it, I was promised a kids' computer station but that never happened so we haven't used it and it is about time to send it back. They now have an app for the iPad so I will check it out.

    The Smithsonian link has some easy games they would like and do themselves.I will see if I can find a way for them to try it in free moments. It is hard to manage independent technology for them while teaching the art, supervising clean up and assessing their work.I know I don't have an more trouble than anyone else. I want to integrate technology where it can enhance instruction rather than have it as a distracting reward where most of the kids are left out.

    As you say, art is a game and fun so we do not suffer too greatly. If we develop our creative minds in the process they will be able to transfer their skills to technology and learning. As an adult I am going throughout the process and learning from younger colleagues, relatives and students.They are younger and faster so if I can do it, they can too and take it farther. Gaming can be a state of mind. It is a way I get through tedious or multilayered projects. If you are learning and having fun, gaming and creativity is there. Thanks for looking on our behalf. I also appreciate the understanding you and others have of the process and journey of art for young kids. Art is not something you can understand, appreciate and be adept at without doing it. It's hands on. Art can help you in all other areas but not all areas can help you with art. One title sticks with me, Art is a Way of Knowing (by Pat Allen).


  5. Valerie,
    I enjoyed reading your post and appreciate your perspective on the topic. I liked your point regarding "cooperation and recognition". Sometimes with video games a learner can become isolated. The activities you described are dynamic and promote movement and working together. I know that providing recognition can be time consuming and costly. My school gives out "tiger tracks" to acknowledge respect, responsibility, and/or achievement. Students can earn tracks and submit them for a weekly, and monthly drawing. Although it is just a slip of paper, I notice a sense of pride (even with 9th graders) when they earn one and are praised by a teacher.

    I agree with you that video games should be considered art. Creating a video game requires patience, creativity, and problem solving. A few summers ago I filled in for an instructor at a camp called "gamemaker". Gamemaker https://www.yoyogames.com/studio is a free program where users can learn to write code and make their very own games. I was a bit of a novice with making my own games, but I was amazed with how our campers communicated and collaborated with each other to produce games that were fun.

    1. Kevin,

      Gamemaker looks really interesting.I have my 11 year 6th grade California nephew with me this week. He is my game tester. What do you think of this and why? I am a little jealous of his school issued Windows Surface laptop that bends like a pretzel to become a tablet, touch screen, etc. They have great devices but they have sites blocked as our students would. I use his computer to find out if what I am looking at would be available in my classroom if I had a student device to access it. My nephew, his brother, 7 and sister, 3 are quite nimble with computer games but not really interested in the art or the programming of them. Gamification seems a part of the daily life and my nephew carts his laptop from class to class with Internet access. He uses it to access homework, grades, school info, etc. at home but he assures me it is not a flipped classroom as they do their work in the class, not researching or viewing videos before. They all have the dependency to the technology I do but they can drop it at a moment's notice to play in the snow, have target practice with my Dad, and basically run around like they have been let loose from somewhere. My son lives for this fun. I like the idea of gaming or technology camps as I picture kid's canoeing then going inside while it is raining to develop a white water rafting game. Fantasy I know but imagination is a great tool. My son likes to say he was using his imagination when he gets in trouble because he knows I appreciate a great one. I like to be creative with letting him choose his consequence too but he realizes none of the choices are good when his choices aren't.


  6. Hi Valerie,

    Again, I relate to your post because my relationship with online gaming is more tragedy than success. However, my daughter continues to use my attempts as comedic sharing with her friends so it’s not a total loss.

    Be aware that your technology game - best guess - how long to fix a technology glitch is placed worldwide in classrooms and board rooms. Too bad there isn’t a leader board for global tech fixes...wonder which country would win?

    Your post made me realize that gaming is fun learning whether online, or whole body turkey “jive;” your “students are engaged, involved and excited about learning” (Pappas, 2013). Success - you have cracked the code connecting fun and learning while mixing hands-on and technology.

    You are lucky to work with an age group where fun and games are accepted and enjoyed. Older students use their “cool attitudes” to shield them from appearing to enjoy many learning experiences. In my post, I used an example of a business game for college students and I was very impressed with their intensity of play. Groups would meet for an average of an extra three hours a week to develop their company, product and brand. The competition was fierce but friendly. I heard there was an attempt at corporate espionage during the semester, but that could have been a rumor too.

    The result was the same as in your classroom; as Pappas wrote. “students are engaged, involved and excited about learning.” Those results are what every teacher wants and gaming is another tool to get success.

    thank you,


    1. Lauren,

      I am lucky we have kept our competitions and fun. It is not hard to do when the games are silly in context but they develop real skills. No one brags too much about being the best disco turkey trotter.Hard to believe, right? I try to pick something that we are equally out of sorts about but I give them choices and I stick my neck out as well.

      Both examples, Sumdog and Glo-bus sound ideal for the classroom dynamics they serve.I don't know how well I would do with competing for points and rank with students around the world or corporate espionage. I will let the others do the nail biting. I would be interested to see groups working for goals vs. individuals. My son loves taking a turn at Angry Birds even though his turn is a matter of seconds. He likes to see them launch backwards into the ground. We take turns. He has fun so to each their own gaming fun no matter their skill or lack their of.