Personalization of Learning Teaching and Learning

Agency Through FortNite? Sure. Why not?

December 12, 2018

Fortnite, and other games like it, require students to practice “teamwork, collaboration, strategic thinking, spatial understanding, and imagination,”  Stanford Graduate School of Education experts say. 5th graders would agree, although they didn’t realize it at first.

I’ve been working with small groups of teachers to critically examine student agency, and how it is developed, nurtured, and grown in the learning environment. In one of our meetings, 5th grade teacher Dan Dahl shared with us that he has a group of students that love Fortnite. He asked them, “So what do you do when you get stuck in the game?” Students were quick to share their strategies:

  • Look at YouTube videos to see how others completed the task
  • Ask a friend who may have already beaten that level
  • Practice the skill needed in the online “playground mode”
  • Try other skills to see if the task can be accomplished other ways
  • And of course, keep trying!

When Dan asked students what strategies they might use when they are stuck with a math problem, it took a moment…

tenor

and then…

Oh snap! GIF

The connection was made – the strategies students were using to find the path to success in Fortnite are the same strategies they could use to find the path to success in their academic life, too.

For some, it was a #mindblown moment.

Thing is, many of our students already exhibit agency, which is the capacity and propensity to take purposeful initiative. They just don’t always get the opportunity to do it at school. It’s up to us to connect those dots and provide meaningful ways for students to take their own initiative to learn.

(Postscript: For those of you who are enraged at the prospect of 5th graders playing Fortnite, deep breath! We are not endorsing violent games in elementary schools… just engaging in conversations to better connect and understand the passions and joys of our students.)

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  1. I love that teachers are taking what kids are passionate about and trying to make those important connections to how they think about their other learning tasks. Bravo!

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