Tuesday, 17 May 2011

When Will Educators Get Serious About Gaming?

In a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, Bruce Dixon asked, “What's holding [games based learning] progress back? Is it that gaming, by its very name, cannot be taken seriously by the wider education community, or indeed the wider community in general? Is it possible that gaming is only now starting to reach a level of "maturity" and sophistication from an affordable technology perspective, that it can finally provide what might be to be "serious opportunities for learning"? Or is it something that might be seen as driving what could be called subversive pedagogy?


Whatever the reason, it's time we thought beyond the fundamental research around the value, impact and opportunities game-based learning provides, and spent some time trying to leverage the evidence we do have be presenting it to a much broader community.

I certainly agree with Bruce on this last point and I shared some evidence in a recent blog post (Proof of the Pudding).


I like to think the problem is an issue of evolution rather than revolution. Specifically, rather than  parachuting commercial games or gaming styles into classrooms, we need to consider what teachers actually want. I think that is a teaching resource that delivers outcomes where traditional approaches might not be suited.

As a consultant and lead designer at games-ED I have delivered over 40 classes using games based learning. I have also delivered over 300 workshops using serious games.

During this time I have:

1. Run classes with commercial-style games where it was hard to extract learning, although there was a lot of engagement. There was also technical difficulties due to graphic cards.

2. Developed and delivered a single player game that was designed to work in the classroom. This was more successful in terms of learning outcomes, although again it was difficult to drag students away from the game.

3. I have developed and delivered collaborative games based learning where a whole class takes on different roles in a simulation. This approach fits into standard teaching practice with natural breakpoints for reflection and scaffolding. It delivers curriculum outcomes and improvements in personal learning and thinking skills.

Much of the research done on games based learning has been on commercial games (or games developed in the style of commercial games) rather than purpose built games based learning. It is this fact that is highlighting some of the technical and pedagogical issues surrounding the adoption of games based learning. I say this, as our experience does not fit the research. I would say the two most important issues around the adoption of games based learning are sales and marketing. When the big players start putting their weight behind the approach things will change.

So, on that note, if there are any large education resellers out there, who want to link up with a  games based learning company, I might be able to help :) Pin It

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