Academic Insights: TCS Grade 9 Program

This year’s Grade 9 cohort will be the first group of intrepid young learners to experience “gamification” of the skills necessary to succeed in the rigorous, extensive and well-supported academic programming that is a hallmark of the Trinity College School experience, through the use of the Classcraft system. The vision is to use the engaging features that video game developers regularly use in game design to support the development of learning skills, personal knowledge and management skills, interpersonal skills and the exploration of opportunities. Students who participated in the First Connect offering in the summer have already experienced this kind of game play as the program addressed topics such as the house system, accessing support through advisors, and details about eating times and safety protocols.

More crucially, the Classcraft platform is predicated on the fulfillment of challenges which are collectively known as “quests.” Each quest functions to underline not only the importance of process in skill development but also that young learners must be active participants in constructing their knowledge and understanding. In short, as we attempt to cultivate intrinsic motivation in the pursuit of learning, we are looking for inspiration and modeling from the gaming industry to facilitate engagement in what are indispensable, but perhaps not always engrossing, activities for the Grade 9 learner.

By invoking the familiar mechanics of game play to develop prerequisite skills for future academic success, the hope is that more moments of “time on task” are created and that students begin to see the transferability of the learning gleaned through teaching and learning gaming. While students will be collecting “experience points” and earning “special powers” for their avatar in Classcraft, the adults involved in the Grade 9 program will intentionally and systematically be looking to extend opportunities for participation in classes, the promotion of academic behaviour and cultivation of 21st century skills.

Look for your Grade 9 child to have the core tenets of the research and attribution process supported by a quest in Classcraft. And, please, consider this an invitation to suggest other skills (to me directly at mharding@tcs.on.ca) you would like to see explicitly incorporated into Grade 9 year group programming.

- By Mr. Mike Harding, Grade 9 coordinator