Teacher as Game Master

Tabletop roleplaying games (RPGs) get a bad rap, and they get it unfairly. Outdated stereotypes either scare people away or justify scared people trying to scare others away. It’s silly. Tabletop RPGs are little more than collaborative storytelling where there is one person directing the spine of the story and other people each working on building a character within that story.

Honestly, that sounds like a bunch of writing buddies bouncing ideas off each other…except they’re working on the same story…and playing with dice whose shapes are based on natural crystalline structures. Those nerds!

The most important player in the set-up, though, is the person in control of the story’s spine — the Game Master, commonly called the GM. (Yes, different systems call this person different things. For the purposes of this post, I’m using a generic term.) The GM determines the major plot points of the game’s story and then guides the players through those major points, all the while allowing the players free reign to explore the world and develop their characters and throwing the occasional obstacle in their path to help them grow and to help keep them engaged in the story. But the full richness of the story comes about through the collaboration of the GM and the players.

There’s something in this that could be taken and applied to education. If we could step away from the current lecture-based curriculum and move toward a more project-based system (and there are schools already exploring this idea), the teacher becomes the GM – guiding the learners through a project, enabling them to explore and grow, and providing obstacles appropriate to their necessary growth. Rather than lecture or tell everything, the teacher then becomes a facilitator and encourages the learners to develop their curiosity, research, and creativity skills to successfully create their projects.

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