Professional Learning Games: The Network That Plays Together Stays Together

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dee for three by romsrini, on Flickr

Each March there is a special time that captivates me. For a Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday I follow games from teams that I’ve never heard with players that I’ll never see again. There is something about the drama of a game. I’m not really into basketball, I prefer football, hockey, and baseball before basketball. However there is something that captivates me about this tournament.


What if a single elimination tournament came to professional learning? That is the idea behind the first ever educational Professional Learning Game (PLG) on Twitter. The person behind this is Rodd Lucier, you may know him as the Cleversheep, who also pioneered synchronous education professional chat on twitter with educhat well before the dozens or hundreds of current incarnations that live in twitter land today.

What is it?

The 31daygame is the first ever education Professional Learning Game. Where participants use twitter to “make a forced choice between the two competing ed’n themed videos. Which is the most compelling?” Over 31 days, the tournament will take place on twitter with the winner of each day moving on to the next round. (Here is the tournament bracket).

Untitled by Jess Rivera, on Flickr
Why it matters:

First, it is time to stop taking ourselves so seriously. The game context is interesting, and may keep the attention of people, who like me, enjoy tournaments, sport, and gaming. Are we going to have to make a choice? Yes. Will that hurt feelings? I hope not. I can take myself too seriously, especially online. This game is a way to bring playfulness into professional learning and do it in a social context. Lets adapt a saying from my childhood which was, ‘the family that plays together stays together’. What if we developed the principal that “the professional network that plays together stays together”?

The droids we're googling for by Stéfan, on Flickr

The second reason this matters is that it helps to uncover and expose us to more valuable content and ideas. Have you noticed that the internet is a huge place? There is too much to see and miss lots of this ‘stuff’? A professional learning game that forces us to choose between two items means that we need to consider both items. Ever tried to google search for ‘education videos’? I have, it is brutal. But if I play the 31 day game, I’ll be seeing 32 different piece of content (about something like education videos) that may be useful to me in my practice.

Her rash hand in evil hour by valkyrieh116, on Flickr
The professional learning game doesn’t just expose us to content, it helps find interesting content. Curation, which is often discussed by Jeff Jarvis, is something that the online education community needs. How do we cut through the clutter of google to find items of value? Must we rely on traditional educational curators, like publishers, researchers, and government organizations? In the information age, there is a greater need for curation. A professional learning game that harnesses the opinions of other educators may be a helpful curator and make online content more accessible to a wider audience of educators.

Finally, the most important thing about a professional learning game is that making a choice leads to reflection and professional understanding. The question, especially since the votes are in public, becomes what do I value and why? Am I willing to publicly commit to a choice, and what does that say about my professional identity? The criteria for making the choice is based on the purposefully ambiguous term: “compelling”. Since the criteria is not defined clearly externally, it is within each of us. As we vote, we uncover our own criteria that we value that is exposed when we make a choice.

So this March you will find me sitting on a couch with some popcorn kernels in the bottom of a bowl, and a laptop open beside me. I’ll be watching games involving 2 teams I’ve never seen before in the wee hours of the morning fueled by a half empty glass of Coke Zero and the adrenaline from the game. However, the laptop will be on the 31daygame. I’ll be watching education videos, making choices, reflecting, uncovering new learning and all while I’m playing a game.