“It is paradoxical that many educators and parents
still differentiate between a time for learning
and a time for play without seeing
the vital connection between them.”
~ Leo F. Buscaglia
You might not think it but I’m at Summer Camp right now. Amidst the usual daily activities a teacher engages in – enthusing, encouraging, counseling, creating, critiquing, cleaning, scheduling and caffeinating I’m also playing computer games alongside some friends old and new and learning about game-based learning through Boise State University’s 3D Gamelab initiative.
I’m not new to game-based learning thanks to Indiana University’s Quest Atlantis and some dabbling with Second Life. This Summer Camp is an opportunity to Beta test Boise’s CMS that has some striking features. In the image below you will see my scorecard which charts my progress though the course. I earn experience points in learning the design tools, understanding the pedagogical approach of game-based learning whilst also gaining points in my stumbling forays into World of Warcraft for schools and other online games.
Milarepa's 3D Gamelab score card
One of the key champions of Game-based learning is the visionary James Paul Gee. A task on the Mechanics of game-based learning asked me to view an interview he gave to Edutopia and comment on three key areas. But first I’d like to share four of the salient points from the interview.
- Future focused education needs to allow students to solve problems, think creatively, create collaboratively and innovate rather than churn through standardised tests.
- video games are one significant way that young people develop skills in problem solving
- video games are a continuous assessment that provides immediate feedback and a sense of progress
- School textbooks are really game manuals that need to be used to support game ‘play’ but we tend to implement them as if they were the games themselves –
Clearly, Boise has listened to Gee’s passionate call for game-based learning to be taken seriously.
These are the three questions I was asked to reflect upon.
1. How might a teacher apply even ONE characteristic of games and game environments (choice, progress bars, etc.) to a typical unit or module of instruction?
Choice is essential, particularly when working with adolescents. They crave ownership of their own lives. Also, choice can pertain to choice of one might learn a concept of skill, so we can cater for different learning styles here. For example, when teaching about figurative language one could write clear instructions or provide diagrams or embed Youtube videos or even ask students to create their own understanding to be shared with others.
2. What reflections or thoughts do you have about Jim Gee’s notion of the paradigm shift? How will it change your school or institution?
I am an early adopter of game-based approaches. The greatest challenge is to have teachers see the value of games as means of sharing content as so many teachers are sadly content driven. Games also require flexible completion times given that one can play and replay to achieve mastery. Schools that have set hours for curriculum might struggle with this notion. It would certainly change the school if we were asked to make time for games across the board.
3. What unique insight can you take away from this discussion?
The consideration that text books are game manuals was a radical notion. Having just started playing World of Warcraft for this course I completely agree with Gee’s ideas on this. I baulked at the game-manual when presented with it despite its glossy appearance and reading it was a nightmare of technical language that bored me. Playing the game gave me a reason to refer to the book when I got stuck which caused a wonderful shift in my thinking.
The 3D Gamelab has a lot of offer. More on this later. But right now, having completed this Blog post I’m off to submit it and claim my prize of
b) enthusiasm for the methodology and
c) 50 experience points!