How playing Team Fortress can help your teaching

Finally the time has come to go back to our parents and rub in their faces that all that time spent playing video games was useful for our future. I bet I am not the only one having an amazing portfolio of insults when fighting, am I?

Anyway, today we talk about Team Fortress and the guy who had the genius idea of connecting it to teaching. Surely if you have been teaching, you have noticed that there are some patterns in students' behaviours, class after class. The following classification can help teachers understanding who they are dealing with and how to promptly react to students resistance to learn.

Classroom Fortress - The Nine Kinds of Students

Apparently the University Board does not share the wise Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal's philosophy about teaching math:

The right approach to teaching math.
The right approach to teaching math. (courtesy of SMBC comics)

As a consequence, you have to commit to teaching and do a lot of self-reflection when you get the feedback at the end of the course. If you are part of the teaching staff at the Science Campus of University of Helsinki, you will be happy to know there is a Teaching Services Unit that can give you feedback and help improve your teaching skills. The "Classroom Fortress" presentation by Matt Might not only gives us a tool for orientating among different students' approaches, but also shows us how some communication "tricks" - such as connecting beloved video games and teaching - engage the audience and even help remembering contents (if you consider I recalled about such presentation by myself after half a year...). In my experience this works very well with students and it makes teaching less frustrating also for you. When I had to teach Coriolis force to 15 year olds, I started with:

"Guys, do you remember that Simpsons' episode when Bart calls New Zealand to ask if the toiler water rotates in the same way?" (*)

Done. I had their attention for at least 5 minutes, more than enough to explain something and then jump to the next "attention-magnetic-sentence".

Good teaching takes time and effort, but even if you do not care about other people learning, it makes your time in front of an audience more pleasant and constructive, don't you think?


(*) If you know fundaments of physics and you started already to plot revenge against me for such connection, hold your horses. I know Coriolis force have nothing to do with it, but it's a good pickup line for students attention on the matter anyway and I always took the care to explain such misconception later in my lecture.

Paola Elefante

Digital Scaling Project Manager at Plan International. Proud mother & wife. Shameless nerd&geek. Feminist. Undercover gourmet.

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