Games are normally considered to be ‘fun’, though recently there is a growing interest in how gameplay can promote empathy, encourage reflection, develop problem solving and creative skills through “serious experience” (Iacovides & Cox, 2015)
Recently I had the privilege of listening to Rachel Bolstad and Dan Milward talk about “Games and the future of education” at a CORE Education breakfast.
For those of you, like me, who are exploring using games as part of learning, this was a great place to start. For teachers who haven’t used games as a tool for learning, or who have never played games, the first thing is to have a go!
In this video, Rachel talks about her research into the environment that games and simulations present for thinking differently about learning, and about what students and teachers might be doing. She suggests one of the best ways teachers can pick up ideas and explore their own use of games in the classroom is by connecting with others and sharing — I invite you to add your thoughts, findings, and ideas as comments on this blog.
But before we begin, let’s clarify our terminology:
What is a game?
Game:a form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck.
Is game-based learning the same as gamification?
- Gamification is taking a learning process and applying game principles (e.g. point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to it.
- Game-based learning (GBL) is taking a game and using it for learning. GBL is aimed at teaching a discrete skill or specific learning outcome, rather than being a complete pedagogical system.
Many of us have used games in the classroom to support learning, but how do we move from using games at the simple drill and skill end of learning to thinking about how students can use games to be creators rather than receivers of knowledge?
Learners and teachers as game users ➜ Learners and teachers as game creators
Using games for learning ➜ Using games (and game-thinking) to transform learning
The development of entertainment and commercial games with really engaging and immersive environments provides a huge opportunity for exploration, problem solving and creativity.
What’s going on in these game environments? What is it that keeps people in them and motivated and engaged and exploring?
- The experience of ‘effectance’ or the immediacy of feedback to the player
- Repeated cycles of suspense and relief, curiosity, and an increase in self-esteem
- The fascination of becoming part of an alternative reality and playing a new role in simulations of spatial environments and/or interesting narratives.
“Enjoyment is the reason for players to begin, sustain, and repeat exposure to digital games.” (Schoenau-Fog, 2011)
James Gee describes key element of video games as, “a series of problems that you must solve in order to win.”
In this video, Rachel and Dan talk about using games to deepen and enrich thinking – both through playing and through creating them.
Game-based learning and gamification are both trying to solve a problem, motivate, and promote learning using game-based thinking and techniques.
“After choosing a game, you have to play it. Really play it. Play it all the way through and make sure you know it intimately. When you engage with the game, you not only try to see the game from the perspective of your students, you also understand how the game presents the material. Before students play, teachers can introduce concepts in ways that resonate with the game. After students play, teachers can refer back to the game’s particular way of conceptualising an idea. When great teachers use the games to introduce and/or reinforce material, those games become another extremely effective classroom project or activity. In order to do this, teachers need to play the games themselves. Or even better, when time permits, play alongside your students.”
Jordan Shapiro et al, Mindshift guide to digital games and learning
I tried playing Never Alone. Nuna and Fox are in the Alaskan wilderness trying to find the source of a powerful blizzard. I made Nuna and Fox run and jump across icy gaps and snowy outcroppings, using each one's unique abilities to get through environmental mazes along the way. Fox can jump high, climb walls, and summon spirits to help them reach trickier spots. Nuna can push or pull objects and use a bolo weapon to shatter icy obstacles. Short videos called cultural insights unlock as you progress. People from the Cook Inlet community talk about what it was like to grow up in the region's unforgiving cold. Playing the game made me feel like I'd learned something about the people and history of southwestern Alaska. I think students would both enjoy solving the problems and learn things along the way. Having students with their own devices makes a huge difference to introducing games.
Whether you decide to implement a discrete learning game to teach a specific skill, or to gamify your entire learning process, hopefully the end-result is a more engaged and successful learning audience.
“I was the teacher who said no games in school because I was afraid people wouldn’t take me seriously if we were using games……….The one piece of advice, is that you’ve got to play.”
Marianne Malmstrom – EDtalk
It’s time to give games a try!!!
Iacovides, I. & Cox A. L. (2015). Moving beyond fun: Evaluating serious experience in digital games. Proceedings of the 2015 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI-2015). New York: ACM.
Latest posts by Jane Armstrong (see all)
- Creating an innovative learning environment in a single-cell classroom - September 13, 2016
- FASD – An invisible disability - April 27, 2016
- Moving beyond fun: Game-based learning - July 16, 2015