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Refocusing game-based learning

Posted on: May 20, 2017

Teachers want video games that focus on content and vendor-developers try to deliver.

They are both barking up the wrong tree. They are trying to do the same thing (deliver content) differently (getting students to play video games). And they are doing this more expensively and laboriously.

Video game development takes a long time and costs a lot of money. Once developed and published, you typically cannot change content easily. The content also becomes irrelevant quickly, possibly when the game is released.

So what are video games good for? How might educators integrate them or leverage on them? This resource and video provide some clues.


Video source

With video games, we should be:

  • Focusing on nurturing positive and lasting values.
  • Developing thinking and communication skills.
  • Taking advantage of what games do differently and better than classrooms, books, and conventional teaching.
  • Leveraging on how they provide context and immersion.

Well-designed games reach simultaneously into the lizard and human parts of our brains for dopamine fixes and intrinsic motivation. Well-designed games do not just engage, they empower.

Such games are often not designed for schooling or education because they do not follow all the old school rules.

  • Gone are stating objectives first.
  • Instructions and directions are often missing.
  • Testing happens early and continuously.
  • Games encourage uncovering, discovering, risk-taking, and learning from mistakes.
  • Cheating, modding, collaborating, and teaching one another are essential if one is to progress.

If educators want to take advantage of games, they must know how games work and adapt to those rules, not the other way around. To do otherwise is to try to do the same thing differently and students will see through that immediately.

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