As we have discussed in the past (‘Ten Reasons why GBL works in Education’, ‘Boys will be Boys’, and ‘Kinect Games Based Learning’), we believe that games based learning supports different learning styles. These are typically understood as visual learners, auditory learners and kinaesthetic learners (learning by doing). This infographic (pictured below) gives more information about each learning type and some useful learning suggestions based on the characteristics common with each type of learner.
One of the reasons that games based learning works so well is possibly because (amongst other reasons) it makes use of these different learning styles. In particular kinaesthetic learning can occur through the use of learning simulations. In these cases, a real world scenario or situation can be played out and the learners can ‘learn by doing’ actions in a safe environment.
Some people question whether learning styles under this model should be used in instructional design. At pixelfountain and games-ED, the key learning theory that underpins our work is Games Based Situated Learning (GBSL). This goes further in saying people can learn better by ‘learning by being’ (see ‘Games Based Situated Learning’ and 'Learn by Doing AND Learn by Being’). This is again extremely related to simulation based learning as people can put themselves into the position of a character in the virtual city, hotel, economy and so on. For us, supporting VAK is a by-product of our instructional design amongst other benefits and is not the starting point.
What is interesting about the infographic though, is that it suggests that 27.8% of people are predominantly kinaesthetic learners. This makes up the biggest proportion of learners. They suggest the next highest proportion learn best through reading / writing, followed by aural and visual. This could mean big things for games based learning, if accurate.
However, what is important is how the games are used. If you have a workshop or classroom full of people, they are unlikely to all share the same learning preferences. Additionally, some people may learn different things in different ways or need a combination of stimuli to really understand something. It would be foolish to plonk people down in front of a game and expect them all to become experts in that topic.
This is where workshops and full lesson plans are important. Games based learning is often misunderstood as people fear that the learners will fail to see the point of the game and may just play to win and then forget what they have learned. This does not have to be the case as tailor-made games (as opposed to commercial games) can avoid this. However, another way to anchor and reinforce learning and capitalise on peoples learning styles is to offer additional activities (see ‘Six Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning’). These could be as simple as a brief introduction on the subject and a few questions at the end. However, they could also involve mini games and exercises before and after the main game. This also serves the function of ‘waking people up’ and getting them enthused and engaged. This is the innovative approach that pixelfountain and games-ED take (this page from our website explains perfectly what I mean).
A recent New York Times article talks about ‘Harnessing Gaming for the Classroom’. It discusses several reasons why games based learning is so exciting and why it works. It also discusses some general trends of games and technology being used in education. It is definitely worth a read and explains how people can learn things by physically doing them rather than reading or thinking about something. They give the examples of improvisation on the piano or catching a baseball. They suggest that in the future, school children will be able to turn into the thing that they are studying and become immersed in a virtual world related to what they have become. They give the example of becoming a molecule and this would make molecules more exciting as that molecule is you. This really is immersive learning at its best. However, current games and simulations offer a pretty good alternative for now (and for relatively cheap).
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