How to incorporate learning into video games in 3 easy steps


In “Videogames and learning: Individualization, simluation, and complexity”, Scott McLeod talks about three core ideas:

  1. the individualization of learning
  2. the simulation of authentic experiences
  3. intellectual complexity

(Okay, so they may not be easy, but there are 3 of them!).  Three notable quotes from each of these ideas are:

the individualisation of learning

Video games are structured so that learners constantly operate at the outer edge of their competence. Participants are continually challenged but the challenges are not so difficult that learners believe they are undoable. [Dr. James] Gee refers to this as the regime of competence principle.

….This motivates them to move forward because the next step is always in sight and is perceived as being achievable.

the simulation of authentic experiences — and I very much his addition of the adjective ‘authentic’, here:

Right now even the most popular education-oriented games (e.g., Reader Rabbit, JumpStart, Oregon Trail, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?) have been notably simplistic compared to commercial virtual worlds such as Second Life, EverQuest, and World of Warcraft. I believe that education-oriented simulations will be much better at stimulating deeper, richer learning than the textbooks, videos, and learning games of today.

….Reframing video gaming technologies as productive simulations rather than time-wasting games will go a long way toward fostering acceptance among educators. Simulations have a long history of use in K-12 classrooms.

and finally intellectual complexity:

Most of the people who denounce video games … haven’t actually played them – at least, not recently….Indeed, video games are not games in the sense of those pastimes – like Monopoly or gin rummy or chess – which most of us grew up with. They don’t have a set of unambiguous rules that have to be learned and then followed during the course of play. This is why many of us find modern video games baffling: we’re not used to being in a situation where we have to figure out what to do.

….Playing a video game is, in fact, an exercise in “constructing the proper hierarchy of tasks and moving through the tasks in the correct sequence,” he writes. “It’s about finding order and meaning in the world, and making decisions that help create that order.”

I love his wrap-up

When our students, nearly all of whom have grown up immersed in video game experiences, complain about school not being interesting or engaging, they’re not just looking to be entertained (as many teachers claim). They’re looking for learning experiences like they have at home that are individualized, authentic, and intellectually complex. Figuring out how to make that happen in our K-12 classrooms is the challenge for us as leaders as we consider what forms 21st-century learning environments need to take.

So instead of merely complaining that the junior youth ‘spend too much time playing computer games’, maybe we should be asking ourselves ‘How can we make their computer gaming experiences more productive?’.  Of course, the wrap-up reminds me, of a previous post ‘“Technology should help us or entertain us”, where I ask the question: “So, how do you think that educators develop ‘edutainment’, that is, educational materials  that are both helpful and entertaining?”

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