Yesterday, in an ASUGSV preconference webinar, Michael Moe, Lauri Järvilehto, Marja Konttinen, and Tom Kalinske discussed how education around the world is at an inflection point, and what we can expect.
Games have always been engaging and instructional. A game is nothing more than complex problems waiting to be solved. For example, Lauri’s young daughter knows 140 Pokémon by heart, but it’s questionable that that will be a skill that will prove useful later in life. The issue has been that fun games are typically low efficacy for targeted knowledge and skills acquisition, and games that were designed primarily for learning have been boring. And gamification, trying to lay game-like elements over traditional learning activities, has shown some but limited utility.
While the technology for engaging video games has been around for a while, we are just starting to learn how to harness play scalably, in order to create learning opportunities that are both engaging and that teach to learning objectives.
A great game puts you into flow. It’s challenging enough to remain interesting, but not too challenging to become frustrating. When you are accomplishing, growing, and develop a sense of competence you are hooked. When you first feel a task is impossible, and then realize you can and then have solved it, you experience fiero. The human mind is conditioned to play, and play becomes a game when people start seeing how well they are doing; great games involve others as a team and/or as competitors. In games, we become conditioned toward action -> fail –> learn -> succeed -> reward, a pattern inherent in the growth mindset, persistence, and grit.
Both schools and learning content are changing to adapt to game-based learning.
Games for learning have to be able to stand on their own as fun, challenging games, AND they have to have learning goals. Game developers are finding that they need to interact closely with subject matter experts during game design in ways that previous instructional designers never did. It’s not enough to find the formulas and algorithms that underlie the field; the game has to incorporate what makes the field fun and challenging. When you are playing a game, and your adrenaline and heartbeat go up, when the game makes you cry and laugh, the experience and learning are deep and personal. A great learning game ignites the same emotional attachments in the game play that practitioners experience when they practice.
On the other hand, learning through a game is not like learning from a book. Games aren’t linear. Players have a degree of agency not normally experienced in school. Games generally have multiple outcomes and multiple paths. Early adopter teachers have been using video games like Minecraft and World of Warcraft to teach for years, and we are starting to see their best practices filter through to other classrooms.
Examples of how the game-based learning is evolving include
- Big Bang Legends from Lauri’s and Marja’s company, Lightneer, which is a problem solving game around particle physics.
- Minecraft and MinecraftEDU, now from Microsoft, which engage kids to build, program, and problem solve
- And TeacherGaming which is surrounding engaging commercial games with educational activities so that they can be utilized by teachers.
It’s great when kids (all of us really) are so absorbed in what we are doing that we don’t even realize we are learning. This happens in great games, and also in problem-based learning.
And if you’re interested in problem-based learning, maybe join us on Edchat Interactive Thursday March 9 as Kevin Brookhouser discusses how to implement 20Time learning.