“If everything in life is a game, then we need to choose the games we play carefully.” – Szymon Machajewski, USA

Szymon Machajewski has two passions: education and technology. By combining them both, he and his students are innovating together every day, both in person, and online.

“Teaching and learning today involve tools, which are online,” says Machajewski. “This is true for online and classroom courses. I use Twitter, YouTube, Blackboard, and other tools to create collaboration in engaging learning environments. Young professionals in most fields, not just the technology area, must adopt online tools to create personal learning networks and pursue learning throughout their careers. That’s why online teaching excellence is important in courses of all delivery methods.”

In 2014, Machajewski won a Blackboard Catalyst Award for his course “Introduction to Telecommunications.” The Blackboard Exemplary Course Award highlights technologically rich, engaging, well-designed, and pedagogically sound courses that showcase best practices for the user community. Machajewski previously received a 2011 Blackboard Catalyst Award for Innovative Development.

But the defining moment in Machajewski’s career thus far? When his students were the award-winners.

A team of students in my Mobile Applications Development and Security course participated in an experiential learning competition called the Armen Awards,” says Machajewski. “We took third place, next to two very competitive projects. Creating a learning environment around a practical project while following a strict curriculum was a very challenging and rewarding experience. The collaboration of the team and the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards for all involved were unforgettable.”

Enjoy today’s Daily Edventure with Szymon Machajewski.
What’s the biggest obstacle you or your country or region has had to overcome, or will have to overcome, to ensure a quality education for students?

Student engagement in introductory Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) courses is a major national problem with important consequences. Students change majors away from STEM. A recent report by the US Department of Education showed that 48 percent of bachelor’s degree students between 2003 and 2009 left the STEM fields.

A White House report shows that students leave STEM for many reasons, including uninviting atmosphere, weed-out classes, and courses without demonstrated relevancy. Student engagement is shown to be linked statistically to the rate of student graduation. These problems may affect the nation’s ability to compete in the technology industry and affect growth of STEM educational programs.

I believe that gameful design of course instruction may be one way to address the problems of engagement in introductory STEM courses. I developed a mobile app to track experience points in an introductory STEM course, which facilitates detailed feedback on failure and exploration of content. It creates a gameful learning community across semesters to mentor new students and generate the feeling of flow for a diverse population.

In terms of education innovation, what are you most excited about for the future? What is your biggest hope for today’s students?

My research lens is that of gameful design. Viewing problems as parts of a game provides a necessary emotional perspective. If everything in life is a game, then we need to choose the games we play carefully. Then, the games we decide to play, we need to play not to win, but to enjoy a well-played game.

Teaching a course can be a well-played game, both for the instructor and for the students.  The key is to find exciting things for the instructor to be engaged in, since the energy and engagement in a course needs to be reciprocated between faculty and students. Finally, just like in a video game, students need to be encouraged to fail and their progress in the class needs to have detailed feedback in both success and failure states. Grades become milestones only, not the main objective of the course.

About Szymon Machajewski
Affiliate Professor

Grand Valley State University

Allendale, Michigan, USA

  • Blog URL: wordpress.com
  • Birthplace: Poland
  • Educational background: DBA | ABD with Management of Information Systems
  • Website I check every day: Twitter
  • Favorite childhood memory: Playing soccer
  • Favorite book: The Art of Failure by Jesper Juul
  • Favorite Microsoft product, tool, technology: Minecraft
  • What is the best advice you have ever received? Don’t take yourself too seriously.
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