Game-Based Learning Shows Promise

“Game-based learning” is an educational approach that the Horizon Report 2011 sees as something that will take a deeper hold in the next two to three years.  That means that it is being utilized in educational contexts around the globe, but widespread usage is still to come in the future.  Game-based learning consists of games that are both digital and non-digital and that can be used to learn or educate.  They can be simple problem-solving and group building games all the way to highly interactive goal-oriented games.  The Horizon Report outlines 3 main categories of gaming: 1) Non-digital games (i.e. word search), 2) Digital games that are not collaborative (i.e. Number Munchers!!!), 3) Digital games that are interactive/online (i.e. Massive Multiplayer Online games).

Since learning happens as a latent effect of game play for entertainment, (i.e. I have worked with students who know a lot about World War II and Cold War politics because of war games), if we can combine the ‘play’ aspect of games and the educational objectives of the classroom, students can have a lot of fun and learn at the same time.  By utilizing a massive multiplayer online (MMO) format, you can set up learning situations akin to how a lab is set up, but have it be in a virtual world where chances for great opportunities increase exponentially.  Instead of dissecting a frog in a science class (which has a host of negative implications), you can be on a marine biologist team in an MMO context and have an avatar that gives birth to a whale….for example.

Along with helping to educate students, using games can be a very exciting way to assess student learning.  Right now, the only thing I can think of that I’ve been able to do is use Jeopardy for reviews and assessments, and the students love it!  Using Smartboards or Prometheans and who knows what else, we can make much more interactive gaming to review and assess.  Furthermore, the results of these games can go into a database or some type of digital tool so teachers (and administrators?) can guage student progress (similar to the ideas behind Google data-mining).

Along with basic education and assessment, there is a very interesting way to use this type of technology that has yet to be touched on in this discussion.  I watched a documentary recently where this big company has teams of people who work together everyday and have never seen eachother in person.  They use avatars and meet in virtual worlds.  While this is not inherently game-based, it utilizes the foundations of the Multi Player Online Games that have been taking the world by storm.  An example of this use could be to have an online class situation where instead of reading forums and commenting, we would have to work together with certain goals in mind and then rate our partners.  The teacher could then review the transcripts and see how students are doing.

Similar to a reading guide to help students through a text, we can use games where students have to find clues and what not to reach certain (educational) objectives.  They will be on their computer switching between the game and other online resources, their textbook, notes, etc. in order to win!  There are already Alternative Reality Games (ARGs) that focus on crisis control among other situations.

All told, we are living in an exciting time where we can truly tap into students background and knowledge, while at the same time taking them to the next level.  We are lucky to be a part of education during this time.

For further inquiry:

1) The Education Arcade:


2) Using the technology of today in the classroom today:


3) How Video Games Are Infiltrating—and Improving—Every Part of Our Lives everyones-a-player.html


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