Since 1998, Maya Kadakia has taught at Cherokee Heights Middle school and currently teaches Language Arts and Social Studies to seventh graders. Maya incorporates the themes of respect and social justice as core elements of her curriculum, and makes broad use of popular culture to engage students. Maya is a Master’s student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in Multicultural Education at the University of Wisconsin - Madison , where she focuses on the inclusion of popular culture in curriculum. She also obtained her undergraduate degree in Education from the University of Wisconsin - Madison , with a minor in French. Maya presented her work at the Games Learning and Society conference in Madison, WI in 2005, the Hmong: From Laos to Wisconsin Conference in Madison, WI in 2005, and the International Education Conference in Madison, WI in 2002. Additionally, she developed curriculum and co-created a conference for educators with UW-Madison’s Peggy Choy.
Setting the Stage for Student Engagement: Morrowind in the Language Arts Curriculum
Walk into almost any middle school classroom and the students are half-awake, barely functioning and bored or off-task and hyperactive, greatly reducing their capacity to learn and participate in the curriculum. Increasing student engagement is a priority for educators at all levels in an effort to better serve our students. In order to effectively remedy the lack of student engagement, these questions remain: Why aren’t students engaged? What do engaged students look like? How do they participate in the curriculum? How does a classroom of engaged students feel? How do we get them there?
This study begins to delve into these questions regarding student engagement. Many students fail to see the connection between success in school and success in society. Students participate in web-based technologies that most schools can’t realistically access and that many teachers don’t understand. There is a major disconnect between the lives, interests and realities of young people and the curriculum and technological capabilities of schools.
In an effort to connect with students, Morrowind, a role-playing video game, was incorporated into my seventh grade language arts class. Character creation, setting and moral choices leading to persuasive writing, all typical language arts curriculum content, were introduced with Morrowind. This study builds upon my action research from 2004-2005. This year, I videotaped lessons in addition to writing observational notes, having students write reflections and fill out surveys. Data suggests that the use of a video game increased student engagement and motivation.
So what do engaged students look like? They are
often sitting up with their eyes open, an inherent energy is evident in
their forms. Their remarks are thoughtful. Students listen
to each other and ponder one another’s interpretations. Discussion
is not dominated by the opinionated few because greater numbers of students
participate. There is a tangible energy in a room filled with engaged
students. This energy, sought by many, attained by few, and difficult
to quantify, can be acquired, in part by listening to students and their
interests and providing them with culturally relevant curriculum.
This workshop, geared for K-12 educators, explores the role of video games in the classroom. Jim Gee opens the session with an explanation why video games are relevant to education. Brock Dubbels, a middle and high school educator, offers an example of using video games in the classroom. Richard Halverson presents practical considerations for games in schools from an administrative perspective. This session concludes with time for questions and sharing of ideas.