I’ve been teaching for a while now (20 years) and today was the first time that I felt old. I was investigating how games can be used for assessment and one of the passages said, “Many people who don’t play video games, especially older people, are sure to say that playing video games is “a waste of time” (Gee, 2003, pg 19). I don’t think of myself as old but I have long felt that playing video games is a waste of time. To reinforce how strongly I feel about this I make my children (7 & 9 years old) earn their computer time with the following requirements.

This actually hangs on my fridge!

As I continued to read, annoyed by being categorized as old, I started to make some connections to the new vocabulary. The author used the phrase semiotic domains which are “any set of practices that recruits one or more modalities to communicate distinctive types of meanings” (Gee, 2003, pg. 18). In my best estimation I teach a semiotic domain — cooking. Cooking is a certainly a set of practices and it uses written language, images, symbols, sounds, smells, tastes, graphs, etc. to communicate distinctive types of meanings. For example, the definition of something as simple as fruit is different in a cooking domain than a biology domain. We use sounds and smells to indicate proper cooking.

I was starting to feel a little more confident and even started to consider whether I could find a natural way to use a game based assessment in cooking. A great place to start would be with recipes. There are a lot of choices and consequences related to following a recipe. The choices and their related consequences are the “procedural rhetoric” (Bogost, 2007, pg. 3) of a game.

This is my plan

I will create a game that asks students to cut a baking recipe in half and make decisions as they “make” the recipe. The decisions that they make will lead to acceptable or unacceptable baking outcomes. For example, usually when you ask someone to cut something in half, all parts get cut in half. However, in baking when you cut a recipe in half the baking temperature typically stays the same. The students will have to look at the content as though they are a chef.

I can use this game to assess students understanding of baking principles such as measurement and mise en place which have meanings that are specific to baking and different in other contexts. Also, I can assess whether the students are thinking like a chef with this game. If they make decisions that are contrary to those a chef would make then they are not “being a chef”. In the end of the game they will reach outcomes that reflect the decisions that they made along the way. From those outcomes I can make inferences about the success of the previous lessons and determine whether we can move on or spend more time reviewing this topic.

As always when I am creating an assessment I need to line it up with my Assessment Design Checklist. My checklist requires that the assessment connects to the goals of the unit or course. Reading a recipe and adjusting a recipe are goals of the course so this certainly matches that requirement. Another requirement on my checklist is that the assessment should inform future learning. Since this assessment will be used to determine whether to move on or review the topic it completes this requirement as well.

Now, I have to turn this plan into an actual game based assessment. If I can do that successfully I won’t feel so old anymore. I’ll share my product when it’s complete…hopefully very soon.

P.S. I may be looking at games a little differently but I’m still not changing my at home tech policy. We have to take these things one step at a time!

References:

Bogost, I. (2007). Persuasive games: The expressive power of videogames. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 

Gee, J. P. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan. 

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