Campus wide, College of Education, Faculty

Gaming in the classroom

By Jan Joslin | July 14, 2021

On the first day of her Technology for Teachers class, Dr. Jennifer Zakrzewski greeted her students dressed as a computer nerd and welcomed them to their technical support role for a fictional tech company.

Dr. Jennifer Zakrzewski teaches gaming in the classroom to better engage with CSU students
Dr. Jennifer Zakrzewski seeks ways to connect with her students, whether that be through dressing like a nerd or teaching technology to better engage with CSU students. Photo provided

Zakrzewski, assistant professor of education, said the students had no idea what was going on at first. Concerned about her students during COVID-19, and the isolation issues they were having, she sought to help them have some fun in a dark time.

She had read the book Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera the summer before and was determined to bring gaming to the classroom as a way to keep students engaged.

In the Technology for Teachers class, she divided the class into teams of four for the semester. The teams had competitions, worked on team building activities, completed tech tickets related to what they were learning in class, and learned to create bitmojis to use for their class pictures.

The teams were formed based on the students’ majors, and they collected badges for completed tech tickets and for activities outside of class. “It was a way to help them stay engaged, especially the online students,” said Zakrzewski. “It pushed them beyond what they were learning in class, and it was great to see some of the relationships that formed.”

While some of the activities might have seemed silly, Zakrzewski said future educators learned to engage more with the technology and learned not to be afraid of it. She has found that members of Gen Z are strong in social media skills but not with academic technology. She quickly gets them up to speed with working in live documents and other skills they will need in the workplace.

Instead of strictly teaching students how to use different technologies, Zakrzewski teaches them how to engage with technology and figure it out. She said sometimes students are frustrated that she just doesn’t tell them how to use tech. But there is a reason for her method. “What they are learning from me will be obsolete by the time they are in the classroom,” said Zakrzewski. “I encourage them to figure out what they are going to do for their lesson and then find a technology that fits.”

Technology for Teachers helps future educators become comfortable with technology and get to the point where they can experiment with it. Turning the Technology for Teachers classroom experience into a tech support game proved Zakrzewski’s point that technology can be used effectively in education.

It also had the added benefit of helping the students in her online and in-person classes interact with their classmates. One student who was struggling with online classes during the pandemic said Zakrzewski’s class was the thing that kept her going.

Zakrzewski is already planning for fall semester with a totally new idea including what she will wear on the first day of class. 

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