Prompt: How might a teacher apply even ONE characteristic of games and game environments (choice, progress bars, etc.) to a typical unit or module of instruction?
Failure Is Not An Option: It's Imperative.Of all the various characteristic of gaming, I think the attitude towards failure is not only the easiest one to change, but will have the greatest effect on student performance. Think about the current classroom environment that is so focused on having correct answers that even teachers are cheating on standardized tests for students. There is no learning in knowing the answers: the learning comes with the attempts to find the answers. Let's pretend that the current educational environment will allow us to change this focus on "the right answer."
The classroom needs to become a place to fail, not to succeed. For games, the challenge of discovering the answer is why we play: why we fight that fight over and over, try that race again and again, or keep doing that puzzle until we've solved it. Imagine an environment where we marvel at the attempts, not the final grade. Teachers become tools for learning, not dictators and police officers.
I've written about this before, but in theatre, the very nature of rehearsal is failure: you try things, some work and some don't. You go back and attempt to discover more things that work... celebrating your successes, sure, but using the failures as food for more attempts. I'm pretty sure if we turned the classroom into rehearsal for "performance" on the standards, we'd be taking a step in the right direction.