How Do I Play This Game?

By Lauren Quinn, Co-Founder & Head of School

I’ve always liked playing games. Board games, word games, PE games. Video games- not as much, but I do still love a good game of Mario Kart. I love it for a variety of reasons but mostly because I find it fun, challenging, and deeply entertaining. I laugh just watching the little characters go all over the road, bumping into various obstacles, all the while trying to reach the finish line.

Just as there are many different reasons to play Mario Kart, there are many levels in the game design itself. There are different speeds, different races, and different treasures to collect along the way. Video game creators understand that there needs to be multiple access points for a wide range of individuals, based on their motivation for playing and their particular skill level- if they want their game to be user-friendly and enjoyable.

A new player may be driven by curiosity. What is this game and how do I interact with it? What happens when I press these buttons? What happens when I don’t press these buttons? What if I go in reverse? What’s around the next corner? Their goal may be to simply to learn how to drive.

A player with some experience may be driven to improve. How do I play this game well? How can I go faster? How can I get to more challenging courses? Their goal may be to win races, “leveling up” as they go.

A seasoned player may be to driven to excel. How do I master this game? How do I hone my skills and take advantage of everything this game has to offer? Where can I find the “bonus” treasure? Their goal is achieving excellence at the highest level of difficulty.

In many ways, our Learning Design at The Village School is similar, with many different levels to meet the needs of each unique learner in our community. There are different speeds (self-paced), different levels (badge levels/freedom levels), and different treasures to collect along the way (leadership badges, personal growth).

“The systems and processes we build allow a self-choreographed dance to play out for each person – between external and internal motivators, private and public competition, individual and group work, freedom and responsibility.” – Laura Sandefer

As parents, it’s important to see these systems and different levels of “playing the game” (and motivations for doing so) and trust that our learning design is built to support each child right where they are in their own journeys. It is all too tempting, particularly for the “Type-A’s” among us, to see all of the challenges on Journey Tracker and feel the need to push our child to check all of the boxes. It can be frustrating when you ask a question about something like “personal growth goals” and they don’t know how to answer. It can make us fearful. It can fill us with anxiety. It can make us wonder if we’re missing something- if they’re missing something.

I get it. Trust me, I do.

However, if they’re just learning how to drive, perhaps this is perfectly okay. After all, why should they be concerned with the “bonus” treasure if they need to simply keep their eyes on the road in front of them for the time being?

Because what we want for our young learners, more than anything, is to love learning- to find it fun, challenging, and deeply engaging. We want them to laugh while bumping into obstacles, to embrace challenges, to get back on the road when they go off course, and to “level up” when they decide they’re ready.

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