A Spoon full of Sugar Makes the Medicine Go...


This weekend my family and I wanted to have a nice wholesome movie night. Our daughter, Mila, is five years old. We decided that we would look up a classic movie. We landed on Mary Poppins because it is one of my wife's favs, I didn't really remember any of it, and my daughter loves to sing so it seemed perfect. We all settled into the couch, with our freshly popped popcorn and that was that... Or so I thought. Not long after the movie began, my mind started to think about game inspired course design as it invariably does. I noticed that at first glance, Mary Popins was making chocolate covered broccoli. This is the term, some people give to the bad implementation of gamification. You know the ones, when you are just using it as a management tool or slapping hollow points and badges on things that is chocolate covered broccoli. She starts by singing her way through countless, tedious choirs with the children and then works similar magic on the master of the house.  However, IF you look deeper you will notice she didn't give the children chocolate covered broccoli. What she is giving them is a magical experience. The children, with the help of Mary Poppins, start to see the world around them in a different way. Life becomes fantastical, where joy and happiness can bring about any change you want in life.

This makes me think about a classic misunderstanding of gamification. It isn't that we just need to make "bad" tasting things a little better by adding a spoon full of sugar. What we need is to approach our classroom, and the lessons that happen in them, with a positive attitude. We need to create experiences that students will remember and want to engage in. Put plainly, what we need is a bit of magic.


The children in Mary Poppins, just as the kids in our own classroom, had gotten bored with the routine of life. They could anticipate what was around every corner. Once Mary came, each day was a new surprise. As teachers, we, like all good explorers, make a plan, plot a course, and work toward that goal. What the kids want and yearn for the feeling of wanderlust and adventure of the explorer. Surprise and wonder can be powerful assets in creating a meaningful experience in our classrooms. So, we need to remember those aspects of exploration as well as the planning and preparation aspects.

Turning our classroom into Mary Poppin's world isn't as hard as you might imagine; for she lived in the same one as us. The course we need to plot is one of adventure and surprise. Creating a classroom with fantastical possibilities and endless adventure. Let your students fly, gain power ups, explore the wonders that are in your classroom. Now Mary had her magical suitcase and umbrella; you will need to find the tools that suit you and your class to harness the power of creativity of your students. Create an adventure that sucks them into what they are doing. Allow them to get lost and even re-discover your content. I truly believe that when students EXPLORE the world around them, their talents and interests illuminate our content the most! So get creating, your students are waiting for you!


Join the #XPLAP community on Twitter, request access to the Facebook community, and share out your magical moments with your students. Learn from others, who are on the adventure of game inspired course design with you. Daily, there are inspirational posts on the #XPLAP twitter feed. Additionally, there are tons of new ideas coming out of the growing community of educators who are creating a the New World of education, one spoonful at a time.

Please post your magical moments below. Have an idea for a way to shake up the class, spread the word here!