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Posts Tagged ‘vgbl

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This MayTree tribute of the original Wii console music reminded me of the workshops I used to conduct on video game-based learning (vGBL). And, yes, one of the stations included a Wii. 

That reminded me of the challenging lessons that video games might offer to teachers and educators. For example: 

  • Learning by doing and iterating
  • Destigmatising failure because it is necessary for improvement
  • Putting tests (do this) before content (what to do and how to do it)
  • Negotiating ill-defined outcomes and problems
  • Cheating is often OK especially when players learn to cooperate
  • Creating content and sharing it openly for critique and improvement

Such are lessons only if we are willing to learn. I fear that only a few have learnt and even fewer have applied vGBL.

First, some context.

When I integrate video games in my courses or workshops, I do so not to deliver content but to provide participants with shared experiences from which to generate discussion, critique, and reflection.

I can use the same games for topics as diverse as self-directed learning, collaborative learning, mobile learning, video game-based learning, and change management.

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While I can model this process of video game-based learning (vGBL), I realize it is very difficult for others to emulate because I have made the process uniquely mine.

This got me thinking about the possible categories or levels of vGBL. The taxonomy I am about to suggest is no way sequential or prescriptive, but there is an inherent value system.

I may add to or subtract from my framework in future. For now, there are four types of vGBL: 1) backward, 2) basic, 3) intermediate, and 4) advanced.

A harmful implementation of vGBL is drill-and-practice disguised as video games.

These sorts of games often require students to apply a fixed set of rules repeatedly for game rewards. These rewards have nothing to do with the content mastery and focus on extrinsic motivation instead.

For example, if the student gets an arithmetic problem right, a racing car moves forward or a squirrel gets a nut. This is similar to giving a child a sweet every time you tell them to be polite. They do not learn why it is important to be polite; they learn they get rewarded for doing something.

This sort of implementation perpetuates the wrong idea of vGBL and gives vGBL a bad name.

To dissuade teachers from adopting this strategy, I get them to experience drill-and-practise “gaming” from a learner’s point of view. When they reflect on how boring it is, I ask them how their students feel. It is a powerful lesson in taking a learner’s perspective.

Mention vGBL and most teachers think about how video games might be used to motivate their learners and/or teach content in their classrooms.

While there are some great games that might do these, this approach is potentially harmful and not sustainable in the long run.

Using games to motivate is one possible reaction to needing to teach content that is boring. To borrow a phrase from other thought leaders on GBL, this is like getting kids to eat chocolate-covered broccoli.

However, gaming merely to motivate is like applying a superficial bandage to a deep-seated injury. It does not address why there is a disconnect between teaching and learning.

Video games worth learning from are also costly. They take a long time to create and cost a lot of money. Given their development time, they also run the risk of being irrelevant by the time they are ready.

It is unlikely that teachers will find a game that addresses their context, scheme of work, or administrative standard. There will invariably be some social or pedagogical customization.

When teachers take parts of video game experiences and integrate them into their lessons, they breach the level of intermediate vGBL. They may start to operate outside the boundaries of what the game was designed to do.

One teacher might use a game like Civilization to teach historical principles. Another might use Angry Birds to seed a discussion on terrorism (watch this short segment in my TEDx talk).

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Yet another form of intermediate vGBL is taking advantage of mobile and location-aware games outside the classroom. This MindShift article is a good example of what I mean.

I should add that the mobile-assisted “learning journeys” that some schools here put students through are neither location game-based nor learning-oriented in their implementation.

This form of vGBL is like design thinking.

Teachers might experience games and then deconstruct them to identify what makes them effective. I do this in my workshops by asking participants this question: How might you incorporate game-based learning without playing games in class?

Elements that emerge from effective vGBL like failing forward or just-in-time/just-for-me learning are principles that I draw out from workshop participants. Then I challenge them to integrate one or more principles into their teaching.

This form of vGBL is challenging. If participants are teachers, advanced vGBL focuses on challenging, changing, or improving pedagogy. If advanced vGBL is designed for students, the focus is higher order thinking skills, metacognition, or value systems. Game play and content is almost secondary and a means to those ends.

I love this Teens React video by the Fine Bros.

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I must remember to add it to my list of reflective resources for participants of my game-based learning workshops.

They might ponder on questions like:

  • What is the effect of failure in this game?
  • Why to the teens persist?
  • When and why do they stop?
  • How is the teaching and learning different from what happens in a traditional classroom?
  • How do you transfer these game-based principles to teaching (and even if you do not play games)?

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Can video games alone make you smart? Maybe.

Can video games, game-based learning, and educators who know how to leverage on them make learners smarter? I think that is likely.

Can the same combination change the face of education? I would like to see that happen. I am trying to make that happen.

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I loved having a studio-like room where I could conduct sessions using video games and gaming as tools and strategies.

When that room got repurposed, I asked for the collaborative classroom nearest to my office. I could probably use any of the 68 collaborative classrooms on the ground floor of NIE, but I have a cart of goodies to push around!

The video shows how I set up a session and how I facilitate a typical class. I forgot to record the dismantling and the post-lesson consultations. The latter are to prepare the next group of learners to lead the next topic.

I will be using this video at a symposium to provide insights on how to leverage on game-based learning. I am also planning on sharing this in our Blended Learning in Collaborative Classrooms series.

Many, many thanks to the video team members who helped set up cams to take some of the footage (I took some of my own). In particular, I am grateful to Niko Chen for her editing and quick post-production work.

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Before I conducted the video game-based learning workshop earlier this week, I was most worried about whether the participants from Korea would understand me.

Despite having a translator in their midst, I was not sure if the translations would be accurate or if certain terms would translate well.

In hindsight, my worries were unwarranted.

The translator was excellent and it was obvious that the group got the messages by uncovering them over the week. They learnt what off-the-shelf video game-based learning was and how they might use game-based learning principles without actually playing games.

I do not attribute this to my skills as a facilitator. As with most classes, the factors were external.

I had a very motivated bunch. It might have helped that they had spent a lot of money and come a long way to learn something, but I think they were very driven intrinsically.

I also had to slow down, wait for a translation, listen, and then carry on. I had to economize on my words. This ensured that conversations were succinct. This gave me more time to think and act reflexively.

The language barrier was an opportunity to do things differently. My perceived barriers turned out to be a good thing. It is funny how so many things in life turn out that way if you are open to change.

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.

It’s that time of semester for me to resume teaching.

First up on my list is the elective MLS118 which starts tomorrow. It’s meant for school ICT heads and is just labelled “Information Technology” in the handbook.

I don’t like the sound of IT because communication is missing. IT, like PowerPoint, has a transmissive feel to it. ICT is more about two-way communication and leveraging on opportunities to collaborate.

I have gone further by defining my course as being about Planning, Articulating, Leading and Sustaining Change with ICT. It’s a mouthful so occasionally I abbreviate it to Enabling Change with ICT.

I used Edmodo, QR codes, Skype and various Google Apps last semester to promote change via social, open and mobile forms of learning. This time around I am simplifying the assignments and bringing in video game-based learning (vGBL).

Why vGBL?

Rather than just read, talk, share or videoconference about change, I would like to my participants experience elements of change. By doing so, I hope that they will be better able to relate to the concepts of change and adopt/adapt models of these concepts in action. It’s about making concepts real.

To provide these shared experiences of change, we will be playing various video games. (I normally do this with preservice teachers for the ICT course.)

I will also bring in mobile gaming. I will require my participants to play with Angry Birds and Tiny Tower. I’m guessing a few already do!

These games are deceptively simple and addictive. But they will also reveal elements of systemic change if my participants think deeply enough.

Here are some questions I am thinking of asking my participants to reflect on:

  • Why do you think you were asked to play those games?
  • What might students learn from such games?
  • How might teachers incorporate such games into teaching?
  • How might teachers integrate GBL into their teaching without playing games?
  • What do these games have to do with change?


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