In the last entry, I talked about Design overall when it comes to creating a maintaining a Gamified course. Today, I'll be talking a bit about the second portion of the QUEST model: Understanding. I'm skipping over the "Questions" element since they're rather similar to typical "Essential Questions", a concept I'm sure most teachers are already familiar with.
In the "Understanding" type assignments, students get briefed on the scope of the unit, and receive direct instruction that will be needed for the rest of the unit. In my English class, this includes cultural background of a given story, notes on how to read a sonnet, or other types of writing, perhaps a review on how to construct a thesis statement. Whatever the subject matter, these lessons should be concise, yet potent. You're not here to give students a complete history of Shakespeare, iambic pentameter, or speech presenting, merely give the basics. The rest will be learned by doing. In an "understanding" lesson, students typically watch a flipped video I've created on their laptops in class. Of course, this doesn't have to be done online, direct instruction could work just fine too. There's several advantages to doing video lessons in class though. The first is that, as a teacher, I'm free to answer questions, but also free to circulate around the room, make sure everyone is on task...and the students can work through the video at their own pace. A lot of the Flipped Classroom advocates will ask you to do the videos at home, but I find it more valuable they do them in class. Another advantage to the online instruction is that it allows students to work ahead at their own pace. Students who need less "understanding" can breeze through it and won't be waiting on me to deliver a key lecture. Of course, videos aren't even required in my class. Some students prefer reading the textbook and looking things up on their own online. This is just fine too. As long as they get that key knowledge before starting.
I've done a number of different things to assess the understanding portion. Sometimes I give the students a guided notesheet. Other times I ask them to write me a reflection, or journal entry, and sometimes I leave it completely up to them. "Prove to me you've watched this video" are my only instructions. The key for the Understanding portion is simple to check formatively if they're on the right track and give them flexibility to take notes in their own way.
If you're interested in some examples, check the "CP12" tab at the top of the screen and explore some units. my videos are not the best, but they get the job done and give students the primer for the real work in the following sections.