"If You Can't Beat 'Em, Join 'Em"

As a teacher at a 1:1 school where every student has an iPad, it is not uncommon to have to encourage self-discipline for our students regarding closing the gaming apps on their iPads for the more educational ones, especially during class.  Before winter break, I witnessed and spoke with students about their addiction to the game/app Clash of Clans.  Given the opportune moments over break, I decided I wanted to find out why my students were so incredibly addicted to this particular game.  Boy, it didn't take long.  Given the wait-time of specific investments in the game, coupled with limited resources and an unlimited amount of goals and wishes regarding making one's village better, stronger, and more equipped, this game is the perfect combination of strategy and addiction.  

But something amazing happened by taking the time to learn this game to keep myself generationally relevant and also have another way to connect with my students' interests: I found an incredible educational tool at my fingertips.  Had I not been willing to explore something of great interest to many of my students, I would've missed an awesome opportunity.  As I was teaching myself this game (and frankly becoming equally as addicted as my students), I realized that many Economic principles can be explained and/or illustrated through the use of this game.  Topics and new vocabulary that typically are a boring part of the first unit of my semester-long Economics class suddenly became more interesting.  What better way to explain scarcity, shortage, and opportunity cost than by making students use Clash of Clans as a lens to frame these new concepts?!

As I begin 2016 halfway through my seventh year of teaching, my challenge for myself is to find new and innovative ways to teach the content I have been teaching twice a year (and a few times in summer school) since 2009.  If I'm honest, though, that is a goal of mine every year.  What makes it different this year, is the challenge now includes finding those new and innovative ways to teach content by listening to my students' ideas and interests.  Trust me, you can't imagine my students' faces when I told them on the first day of class that I wanted them to download a game for class.  And this game has become a useful teaching tool that has not only excited me, as a teacher, but has also fostered buy-in and interest from the people in my classroom that matter the most: my students.

Cheers to a student-driven, innovative teaching year!