We are all playing a version of the Name Game already — matching faces with names at work, at parties, at business lunches, sometimes frantically trying to remember who is Jerry and who is Gary. Playing the game poorly in any context can be embarrassing. But the stakes are never higher than in the classroom. That’s why Dr. Michael Lockett, a curriculum theorist at MSU, conceived the Name Game. That’s also why he teamed up with Nate Lounds, Joe Fitzgerald, and John Schilling, his colleagues from IT Services Innovation and Development to bring this new tool to MSU faculty. He hopes that when the Name Game rolls out this fall on D2L, MSU faculty will see the pedagogical values underlying what is, on the surface, an engaging matching game.
Pedagogical research confirms what common sense tells us: people feel a sense of welcome and warmth when addressed by name. When an instructor uses a student’s name, it becomes clear to the student that they are an individual worthy of individual focus and attention in that classroom.
“The first time a teacher addresses a student by name is a critical moment in their relationship. It changes things for that individual relationship, but also for the classroom dynamic generally,” says Michael. “The swifter you can make the classroom a community, the better it is for all of your learners.”
According to Michael, this is doubly important in academic contexts where expressing oneself can feel risky and vulnerable, such as discussion groups. In many classrooms, student success is directly correlated to engagement with their peers and instructors. But that can be difficult for many students, whether due to inexperience, large class size, or simple shyness. The Name Game gives instructors an intuitive, powerful tool to jumpstart that most crucial of relationships.
Michael has practiced a form of the Name Game for years, printing and cutting out the pictures and names of his new students each semester. Then it dawned on him that if he gamified and digitized his habit, the entire MSU faculty would benefit. But he knew that if people were to adopt it, it would have to be extremely easy to use.
“It was really important to us to have a tool that faculty didn’t have to do anything to activate,” says Lockett. “It can be a chore to sort through a lot of text if you’re pressed for time. We had to make it accessible and user-friendly. Nate, John, and Joe have done an amazing job making a really elegant and simple application.”
The Name Game will be populated on the homepage of D2L this fall. It is installed by default, and using it is simply a matter of pressing a single button. Lockett hopes that even in the midst of instructors’ busy lives, they’ll experiment with the game.
To Michael, the Name Game isn’t just about sorting one’s Garys and Jerrys. It is about communicating a commitment to seeing people as worthy, valuable individuals. It is about taking the time to recognize the unique humanity of every student and welcoming them to your discipline with the simplest of gestures.
Look for the Name Game on D2L in the toolkit in the right side column.
Watch the demonstration video.