The Atari 2600-the extent of my gaming experience. It started and stopped there. Given my limited experience with computer/online games (I don’t check in on foursquare; I don’t play candy crush, words with friends, or angry birds.), this week’s focus on gamification and game-based learning has really challenged me and has caused a lot of tension for me.
It’s not my hook but I have to give it a go
When Rebekah Madrid said in her Learning2 talk that “gaming doesn’t hook me”, I cheered! It doesn’t hook me either. I just don’t get it. I can think of a thousand things I’d rather do than play a computer game (Jane McGonigal‘s staggering statistic that people spend 3 billion hours a week playing online games is unbelievable to me-who has the time to play online games?!). But, when Rebekah went on to say, “most of us became teachers to share our passions, but sometimes, we have to spend a significant amount of time learning about their (students’) passions, and being honest about it … being learners in the spaces where they are passionate, even if we are really uncomfortable”, I knew she was right. I always tell my students that when you’re uncomfortable and feeling a lot of tension, the best learning can happen. The tension can push you forward and feed your curiosity to find out more. This is where I find myself now-in a state of utter and complete uncomfortableness-wondering how I’ll ever be able to move my gaming experiences beyond Donkey Kong and Frogger.
Gaming and connections to my life
The more I learned about the concept of gamification (adding game-like concepts to a learning process), the more I started to make connections to my own life and my beliefs about teaching and learning. I drew inspiration from Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk, “Gaming Can Make a Better World” and drew parallels between what she says gamers are good at and my own life.
As a keen CrossFitter, my workouts are gamified and the leaderboard at the box is an example of gamification. At CrossFit, there’s a great sense of:
- community and trust (you always cheer on the last person to finish)
- optimism (you have the feeling that anything is possible after a grueling session)
- productivity (you’re able to accomplish so much after a workout)
- epic meaning (epic basically describes CrossFit sessions!)
McGonigal argues that gamers are also good at these four elements and once they see the connections between games and real-life problems, they will be able to change the world.
Teaching and Learning Parallels
The Institute of Play has a nice explanation of the history of games and learning. I believe we (children or adults) learn best through inquiry, exploration and discovery that is self-driven. So, of course, when I look at the idea of gamification through my beliefs about learning, it makes sense. The Institute of Play has another good explanation, “why games and learning”, that resonated with me. I especially like the fact that they refer to games of all types: board games, physical games, puzzle games, online games, console games, mobile games, etc.
In the paper “Play As You Learn: Gamification as a Technique for Motivating Learners“, Ian Glover makes the point that “the act of gamifying an educational experience alone is not
enough to make the experience rewarding, instead it should serve primarily to make something that is already rewarding more rewarding – perhaps by encouraging learners to invest more time than they otherwise would.” I love this statement, as I believe it is a warning for us not to go overboard in gamifying everything. As with all aspects of life, learning and teaching included, there needs to be a balance in approach. Gaming can help to motivate learners, but as teachers, we have a responsibility to ensure that we nurture a learning community which fosters curiosity, creativity, inquiry and lifelong learning.
While researching gamification and game-based learning, I came across the idea of using badges quite often. Once again, I really don’t get it. Badges? In the articles and blog posts I read, they were referred to as the “old sticker chart”. Really? The old sticker chart? As a way to motivate learners? What happened to inquiry and self-directed learning? What happened to fostering curiosity and passion? Surely, there must be another way to motivate learners. So, for inspiration, I watched one of my favorite Ted Talks again. Dan Pink on motivation. Watch it and then let me know what you think about using badges.
I don’t mean to be so hard on the idea of badges, but I seriously can’t wrap my head around how they would motivate learners. They just seem like a big electronic sticker book to me.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and any experience you may have with using badges. Like I said, this is a serious area of tension for me, so I’m keen to learn more and find out more about the application of badges in teaching and learning.
Moving beyond Donkey Kong and Frogger
I’m still wondering how I’ll move beyond my experiences with gaming to those my students love and play. I’m certainly open to the idea of using game-based learning (still not so sure about badges, though!) and I know that I have to give it a go. I have to play a few in order to understand (even just a little!) the world in which my students operate. If you have any ideas to help move me beyond the Atari 2600, please let me know!
Some articles I found thought provoking
MindShift: “Dan Pink: How Teachers Can Sell Love of Learning to Students”
- The same principle applies to the big trend in games and learning, which sometimes results simply in rewards for rote knowledge and memorization. Games have the potential to make math more relevant or engaging, Pink said, but if they lead to standardized thinking about getting to the one right answer, that can be problematic. It’s the carrot and stick thinking vestigial of a bygone era. If the only aim of a game is for points and badges, the game has little benefit for the player. For a game to be compelling and a good source of learning, it should be capable of providing rapid, robust, regular, and meaningful feedback. Social gaming, such as Minecraft, is one instantiation of this kind of salient feedback, Pink said.
Edutopia: “Game-Based Learning Units for the Everyday Teacher”
- GBL can be more rockstar when using technology, but it is not a requirement. No, GBL is not simply using games in the classroom. It is about making a rigorous unit of study a robust game, not just one day, where multiple games and challenges are used to explore concepts and learning targets in depth.
Edutopia: “Get Your Game On: How to Build Curriculum Units Using the Video Game Model”
- You must use the Understanding By Design principles to effectively plan the GBL unit.
TeachThought: “A Six Step Process for Adding Gamification To Your Classroom”
MindShift: “Girls and Games: What’s the Attraction?”
- Game developers and academics who have been studying the elements that go into making games more attractive to girls found that those very same qualities are also important components of learning. For instance, girls are more drawn to games that require problem solving in context, that are collaborative (played through social media) and that produce what’s perceived to be a social good. They also like games that simulate the real word and are particularly drawn to “transmedia” content that draws on characters from books, movies, or toys.
A game I could use with my students
Digital Passport from Common Sense Media