Unleashing their inner superhero. Adding meaning and purpose in education with the help of video games!

I work with a student who is in high school but does not attend any classes.  This student is bright, perceptive and capable, but found little, to no meaning in attending school. The subjects and skills had no relevance to what he was interested in or needed. It is through my conversations with him that the following perspective has evolved.

I find some of us are much better than others at “playing along.” Girls, especially, feel rewarded by doing what is expected of them. Therefore, many kids go through the hoops of education without getting very much in return except for a “well done” from parents and teachers. Nothing intrinsically satisfying though.

The difference between school and video games is that video games are purpose-driven, while school is a collection of random chores. 

Last time I chatted with “Lynx” we were talking about how students need to feel in danger in order to access to their super powers. Which inspired this meme:

Today, we were basically talking about how every person has an alter ego – a super hero. This is the person who plays make-believe or video games. A bad-ass version of ourselves. The person we imagine telling our boss where to go, or the person who saves the day when someone’s in danger. We all suspect that they are in there and are just waiting on the situation in which we are forced to use them: like the moms who pulled cars off their children.  The problem is, life doesn’t work like video games and therefore, our alter egos stay tucked away until we finally stop dreaming of being them.

Ready, Player One? This is what all kids dream about – playing the hero!

What I think education needs to do is to give children a chance to be heroes in every day life. No, don’t dangle a child off the side of the roof hoping one of your little super heroes will save them. I mean find something that the child feels like it’s worth fighting for. Maybe as a class you decide to write your local city Councillor and petition for a new slide at your park. Maybe you have pen pals in retirement home or in another country that you write to.

Instead, what we give students are the equivalent to chores. Add this. Draw this. Summarize that. We take the meaningful context away, so students don’t feel like any of it matters to their own life. The reason for completing these tasks is to avoid getting into trouble, not to accomplish something difficult. What if we phrased math questions as real life problems to solve – meaningful problems, not “How many bananas would be on each tree? type of questions”. Math is entangled with every subject and every atom! Watch this Ted Talk for inspiration and ideas.

The problem, of course, is that these are not tasks that can be completed in a “period.” These types of problems take time to identify and to solve. There will be lots of failure along the way.  There will be no exemplar or instructions to follow, often. These things scare teachers and administrators who want to know how to assign marks to tasks. They don’t fall under a single subject’s curriculum. How can we do this?

Just like we set aside time for genius hour, maybe the class sets aside time each day to work on it together? Community Hour? Start with questions. What do you want to know about? What problems are you not okay with? In high school, it should include things that relate to finding a career or developing skills that will be useful on a resume (or in an interview).

I haven’t got all the answers yet, but I do know making school more personally relevant and meaningful is imperative to kids well being, sense of self, and intrinsic enjoyment!

One last thought from Lynx, who is very involved in video games, was that these characters in video games taught him a lot about morals and values. (Check out these League of Legend characters with full backstories and meaningful quotes.)  In video games, characters can be healers, tanks (take a lot of damage), DPS (do a lot of damage). These help students identify and define their own alter egos. They identify with these heroes and help shape the hero in themselves. It’s up to us to teach them how to embrace this side of their nature.  To give them something important to fight for. Maybe a good activity at the beginning of the year is to find out which character they identify with, create their own personal version of this hero, and use this to inspire their future actions. “What would my hero do in this situation?”  Great for moral development as well. It’s so much easier to roleplay someone other than ourselves! I always tell students before they give a presentation to pretend they are someone else – that this is an acting assignment. This gives them permission to let go of some of their personal angst and insecurity and role play a stronger version of themself!

Maybe together we can brainstorm ideas of relevant tasks we have done with our students.  Imagine if instead of learning about global issues we brainstormed ways to solve them? What of instead of global issues we started with something closer to home? Community issues? School issues? Personal issues? Government issues? Environmental issues?

Please share your thoughts and ideas below!



Bowling on a curve: A classroom analogy

A bowling metaphor for the classroom.🎳

We often bowl down the middle leaving the pins standing at either side of the lane (leaving students needing the most support & most challenge standing).

We need to change our aim. 🎯

Find out how here:

Canadian Citizenship Week: Oct 9-15, 2017

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What does it mean to be a Canadian? Citizenship Week is here!

Citizenship Week is being celebrated across Canada from October 9 to 15, 2017. As we continue to mark Canada 150, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada wants to hear from you! Join many prominent Canadians who will be taking to social media to reflect what it means to be a Canadian and celebrate citizenship!  Share stories of your citizenship journey, photos of your citizenship ceremony or videos with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #CitizenshipWeek.
Everyone is invited to show their pride during Citizenship Week and attend a special citizenship ceremony in your area. Details of where ceremonies are taking place, as well as information on how to organize a reaffirmation ceremony can be found at Canada.ca/celebrate-citizenship

Teacher Resources

Teacher guides have been developed in partnership with IRCC and CBC. The guides include grade-specific (grades 1-12) classroom activities which are built around expanding knowledge and awareness of Citizenship. They are available now to download for free on  Curio.ca Curio.ca is CBC and Radio-Canada’s online subscriber-based streaming service developed expressly for the Canadian educational community.
Also, during the entire month of October,Curio.ca’s Canada 150: Immigration collection  will be freely accessible to the public. Learn how immigration is one of the central themes in Canadian history.

Online Citizenship Resources

IRCC is proud to provide tools to help your students learn about Canadian citizenship.
·Canada Day 1   explores the multifaceted experiences of newcomers, from their first day to how Canada became their home, from Confederation in 1867 to the present day.
·Francophone Immigration in Canada: a part of our history explores how, from the banks of the Atlantic to the shores of British Columbia, Francophones have had a huge impact on Canada’s history.
To learn more about what IRCC learning tools and resources are available, contact IRCC>Outreach-Rayonnement.IRCC@cic.gc.ca
This message is being sent from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada as a resource for educators.

Waterloo Museum Field Trip Options

2016/2017 Education Programs:

Mini Museum Goers – Pre-school Program

Early Learning/Kindergarten Children are introduced to the gallery museum and community outings through fun activities on a variety of themes. Choose from program themes such as; Collecting, People in our Community, or Jobs and Working. Available January to April only. 1.5 hours, maximum 40 children.

Continue reading

National Film Board: Black History Month

Diversity and Dreaming Big

Give your students an amazing opportunity to make their mark both in a diverse workplace and within their own communities. In our newest Virtual Classroom, highly accomplished Black professionals and community leaders—including Olympian and broadcast journalist Rosey Edeh and Toronto’s Poet Laureate and Governor General’s Award-winner Dr. George Elliott Clarke—will prepare participants to reach for their career goals with confidence, ambition and the support of outstanding mentors. They’ll also advise students on giving back to their own communities, sharing inspiring stories from their own experiences with an exciting variety of not-for-profit groups.
Taking place during Black History Month, this virtual classroom event is a joint initiative between Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the National Film Board of Canada and Toronto Heritage. It will celebrate the achievements of Black Canadians and help nurture respect for diversity. Students of all cultural backgrounds will be enriched by our virtual classroom: They’ll learn about the barriers members of Canada’s minority communities often face and about the outstanding contributions of Black Canadians to our society.
Students can send questions in advance to shape this discussion with an Olympian, a leadership trainer in the financial sector, a lawyer and a family doctor—each passionately committed to diverse community initiatives for Black youth.
  • The conversation will be moderated by Dr. George Elliott Clarke.
  • Students can participate from anywhere in Canada, on February 19,  2015, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EST,
  • we stream live from Regent Park, Toronto—one of Canada’s most multicultural neighbourhoods.
  • Subscription fee: $50, or a special rate of $40 for CAMPUS subscribers.
Register today to set your students on the road toward a brilliant career!

The Dangers of the Single Story: Chimamanda Adichie

This was one of the issues I started off my grade 8 year with: the single story.  To summarize, when you don’t tell your own story, you a) allow other people to tell it for you, or b) don’t get it told at all.

We  talked about “HIStory” and the lack of a “HERstory”, and how the winners, or those in power often get to write history. I think it’s a valuable video for getting students to feel empowered and to take action.  For example, if you don’t vote, then you allow others to decide your future for you.

Also, in writing, it reminds students to write from their own personal experience.

Our lives, our cultures, are composed of many overlapping stories. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie tells the story of how she found her authentic cultural voice — and warns that if we hear only a single story about another person or country, we risk a critical misunderstanding.

Inspired by Nigerian history and tragedies all but forgotten by recent generations of westerners, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novels and stories are jewels in the crown of diasporan literature.