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Posts Tagged ‘game-based learning

Keynote for SIM GE 2016 Conference: Don't Play Games with Gamification.

I deliver a keynote this morning and am part of a panel in the afternoon on the broad topics of game-based learning (GBL) and gamification.

My keynote is about an hour long, but the messages, cases, and experiences boil down to these points:

GBL and gamification are not a dichotomy, but distinct.

  • There are overlaps between GBL and gamification, but there are also distinctions. Educators who are thinking of implementing GBL strategies or gamifying experiences should know what these are so that they do this well and do it right.
  • They need to do this because others have gone before them by conducting research and reflecting on critical practice. Not only should they stand on the shoulders of giants by giving credit where it is due, those that do not know their history are also doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

My keynote will merely skim the surface and probe the waters at strategic points, so I provide some readings in this curated list.

I plan on using a few go-to tools and one infrequent one.

My regular tools are Google Presentation as the main platform with TodaysMeet, AnswerGarden, and Padlet for a backchannel, crowdsourced word cloud, and case studies respectively.

I am opting not to use Google Presentation’s new Q&A tool because I want a more active backchannel. I also have some good questions from participants thanks to a pre-conference poll I conducted with Google Forms.

The tool I use strategically is AirServer. Most institutional wifi systems block it and I resort to bringing my own mifi device. But the room walls are often thick and/or the venues recessed deep enough to prevent good 3G or 4G signals. This time I might have a workaround thanks to some helpful folk at the venue.

I use AirServer only when it is sound to do so. In this case, I want to show real mobile games and a gamification app in real time. I have static screen captures as backups, but these are about as effective as looking at movie stills instead of the movie itself.

I plan on backchannelling the event on Twitter after I am done speaking and the organiser has decided on the hashtag #simgeconf. I almost abandoned TodaysMeet in favour of just using Twitter. But something tells me that the attendees are not quite ready for Twitter.

Video source

I loved watching this video of a few mothers trying Minecraft for the first time.

It is one thing to read opinion pieces of the game, particularly in the context of education, and another to experience it for yourself. Then once you try it out, it is one thing to have a taste and it is another to immerse yourself and keep at it.

Despite the short exposure to the game, I like how one mother told her child to move aside so that she could do something in the game. That is a step closer to immersion. Csíkszentmihályi would refer to this immersion as flow. We might refer to it as being in the zone.

This is experiential learning and learning-by-doing at its best. These are natural extensions of who were are and that is one reason why games like Minecraft are so successful.

I have said it before and I will say it again: If you cannot reach them, you cannot teach them. If you want to teach the learner, you must first be the learner.

This is not just about gaming. It is one thing to observe a child playing; it is another to be the child playing. It is about taking the child’s perspective and having an educator’s empathy.

If you do not do something new like playing Minecraft, you will not know why it appeals so widely or how to leverage on it. The first step is the hardest. Take it and do.

BTW, I played Minecraft (mobile and PC versions) with my son and created several videos of what we learnt together.

It is sometimes said that the most difficult learners to teach are teachers. As a teacher educator, I should know.

Most people would say this is because teachers are adult learners. But for me, the only difference between andragogy and pedagogy is that adult learners have more life experiences.

Experience is a double-edged sword. It can be used to cut apart every new experience that comes their way. But it can also provide rich context for new seeds to take root.

I have been conducting game-based learning experiences for the last seven years. I rely on off-the-shelf and mobile games to facilitate topics such as:

  • self-directed learning
  • collaborative learning
  • change management principles
  • game-based learning

While the topics are different, I use exactly the same games and the same five or six learning stations. I walk the talk that you can teach just about anything with just about any game. A tool might define a task, but it is the tool master that determines what it does.

That said, I have noticed different behaviours among the many groups of people I have tried to influence (teachers, managers, leaders; folks from schools, institutes of higher education, military, private sector).

The group I just worked with was an interesting bunch. This was a group of teachers from one school who have been identified as change agents. They are a mix of classroom teachers, managers, and leaders. I am hoping to work with them later in their school to effect change.

They were with me for the last three weeks to experience ICT-mediated change management principles. I used games as a context for change and a shared experience from which to extract change management principles.

After the first session, I noticed that the teachers who arrived earlier than their colleagues would start playing games at the stations without being told to or even without permission. I was not miffed, of course, because that is one things games do: They pull people in, and as a result, participants learn something whether they want to or not!

One week, I heard one participant tell his peers that he looked for a few of the games online and played them on his own time. The school is paying me for my services, but you cannot really pay for that kind of response.

I take offense at people who are dismissive of activities that are “all just fun and games”. Learning can and should be fun. But fun does not mean that it is easy. Ask any of my workshop or course participants and they will tell you I put them through mental and emotional wringers!

Games are a natural extension of learning and to dismiss our nature is to deny powerful opportunities to teach and learn.

One of my favourite quotes is: We do not stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing. It has been attributed to a variety of famous men: Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Lee, and Bernard Shaw.

No matter who said it, it is something I believe in. It keeps me mentally fresh and open to change. I do not just think about change, I live and breathe it. People see that and I think it is infectious. That is why I believe that important things cannot really be taught. They must be caught.

Mention video game-based learning (vGBL) to someone and look into their eyes. Some eyes will roll, some will glaze over, some will dart about, and some will widen.

The eyes that roll or glaze over belong to the skeptics or the uninformed. The eyes that dart about may belong to those who have some idea what vGBL is and they might be thinking about vGBL concepts or issues.

The eyes that widen in surprise typically belong to parents; the eyes that widen in excitement belong to their kids.

Karl Kapp curated what is arguably a few of the best current videos by leading names on game-based learning. I embed one here on Quest to Learn.

Video source

An even better resource is Kapp’s article in Learning Solutions magazine that was a rebuttal to someone who wrote an earlier article that “games don’t teach”.

I think that these two resources go some way in educating various stakeholders on the benefits of vGBL if they are open enough to contemplate them. When they do, the mindset of games as a waste of time might eventually become a quaint belief system that is best left in the early years of the 21st century.

In an inservice teacher course I offer to middle managers, I help participants uncover principles of change management by relying on the flipped classroom and video game-based learning (vGBL).

But I have discovered that we can only do so much over so little time. So I am thinking of offering two more electives. Here are two possible blurbs…

Flipped classrooms for middle managers in schools

The flipped classroom is not a new concept. However, it has recently gained some traction in classrooms across the globe because of new possibilities afforded by rapidly evolving technologies. Proponents of flipped classrooms cite increased learner engagement, more timely feedback, and deeper learning due to better use of learner time. But these outcomes are not guaranteed. Participants of this module will uncover theoretical principles of effective classroom flipping and balance these with the rich body of pragmatic advice offered by classroom flippers worldwide. As this module targets middle leaders, an emphasis will be placed on planning and implementing flipped classrooms at cohort level or school level.

Video game-based learning (vGBL) for the middle manager

The 2012 Horizon Report (K-12 edition) highlights game-based learning as a trend that will become more common in education in the next two to three years. However, vGBL is poorly understood and even more poorly implemented. For example, common perceptions about vGBL include using games for low level drill-and-practice, focusing on content-only learning, and that vGBL requires elaborate gaming setups. Participants of this immersive module will uncover principles of effective design and implementation of video game-based lessons as well as emerging issues on vGBL. They may also discover how to augment traditional instruction with game-based strategies. As this module targets middle leaders, an emphasis will be placed on planning and implementing vGBL at cohort level or school level.

When I read Why Games Don’t Teach, I had three immediate reactions.

My first reaction was that it was titled to provoke and provoke it did. The comments it drew from informed readers added real value to the article.

My second reaction was: They do not teach in the traditional sense. The third was: Of course games do not teach. Teachers do.

Attempts to disqualify games, especially well-designed ones, as poor analogues of teaching might be poorly informed.

Ask a gamer what s/he learns after (not during) a gaming session and you might be surprised what they learn.

They learn more after the experience and not during because they are given the time and space to reflect. The gamers’ examples of what they learn might not be about academic content. Instead, they might cite a new skill, an alternative source of information, or a new perspective.

The teacher must design the experience and seed or draw out the learning from the gamer. If s/he does not do this, the game does not teach and neither does the teacher.

So games teach? I am convinced that the answer is yes, but not in the way you might expect and in more ways than you can imagine.

A few weeks ago I shared how I started playing Clash of Clans with my son on our iPads. I reflected on some learning opportunities then. I have a few more now that I have played the game thoroughly.

One thing I do not really like about the game is that a much stronger village of warriors can attack mine and decimate it. But this is an opportunity to analyze my defensive strategies. I have reconfigured my village several times as a result.

As my son and I shared the same experiences, this gave me an opportunity to discuss the term “underdog“. I asked him if he knew what it meant. Initially he just pictured a smaller dog under a larger dog!

Then we talked about how we were able to successfully defend against strong attacks by being smarter. My son may not have the life experience of being an underdog, but he can now relate to what it feels like to be one (perspective-taking) and how to overcome problems (strategic thinking).

Speaking of strategic thinking, the game now provides instant video replays of how someone successfully or unsuccessfully attacked my village. I can also visit someone else’s village to see how they lay things out. These process artefacts provide insights into an opponent’s strategies and give me the opportunity to reflect critically.

When someone attacks me, I can take revenge by tapping on a button. Like all other games, we learn from failed attempts to defend or attack. The failures do not demoralize and instead motivate us to do better. The element of competition and even the need to get even drive us forward.

I can also form a clan with other players. My son and I formed an exclusive clan and we provide warriors for each other so that our armies are stronger in attack or defence. We have to anticipate what the attacking or defensive needs are, build our own capacity, and request what we need from each other. Sounds like 21st century work to me!

Whether we defend or attack, we have to analyze a stronghold for weaknesses. This is an opportunity to do gap analysis. We then attempt to fill that gap or exploit it.

I could wait for life to deliver its lessons to my son, but I am not waiting. I play mobile video games with him and together we visit life lessons in a fun and non-threatening way.

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