Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

4 Take-Aways from a Great Conversation on “Games in Schools”

Steven Cherry from IEEE Spectrum’s “Techwise Conversations” , just interviewed Jessica Hammer, a former game designer who’s now a graduate research fellow at Teachers College and a founding member of the EGGPLANT game research lab there. It’s a great conversation on games in education!! (love Steven’s questions!)

Games in Schools: Making “Ender’s Game” a Reality

Next year, a film version of the 1985 science fiction classic Ender’s Game will hit movie theaters. By then, the book’s premise—that students learn through playing games, largely teaching themselves and each other—will have had another year to leave the realm of science fiction and become a reality.

People have been saying for a while that we should take this idea seriously. A 2003 article in Wired, for example, argued that “when kids play video games, they can experience a much more powerful form of learning than when they’re in the classroom.”

Is this a real trend? And is it one we should encourage? A 2011 article in the journal Academic Exchange Quarterly took an objective look into those questions, as you can see in the paper’s title, which was “Gamification in Education: What, How, Why Bother?”[PDF] In it, the authors, Joey Lee and Jessica Hammer, both affiliated with Teachers College at Columbia University, here in New York, say, “Today’s schools face major problems around student motivation and engagement. Gamification”—which they define as “the incorporation of game elements into nongame settings”—“provides an opportunity to help schools solve these difficult problems.”

Some take-aways from Jessica we can’t agree more:

Teachers are crucial in game-based learning

…it’s going much too far to say that we don’t need teachers anymore, especially if we hope to reach a wide variety of kids, of learners, of all ages.

I’ve worked with a group of players who play history games. They get extraordinarily interested in doing historical research, and there’s no supervisor, there’s no teacher figure in that group. They’re doing this because the game puts them in a situation where doing historical research is a pleasure, not a duty or a demand. On the other hand, if you try to learn just from games, without a teacher to help you reflect on, understand, and process what you’re doing, you’re going to have a much harder time engaging in what we call “transfer,” so, transferring what you’ve learned from the context of the game to other contexts, whether that’s the school or to your everyday life. So the role of the teacher is actually critical.

Playing games should be an autonomous activity

… there’s some great research coming out of Michigan State, run by Carrie Heeter, that shows that when you force people to play games, they actually don’t experience it as a game… that if you force people to play, it is less like play, and you don’t gain the benefits of play. (note: so playing games could be only one option of learning activities offered in schools, or … read next idea)

Enhance the design of school-based systems by learning from game design

So that’s one of the things that Dr. Lee and I have been talking about is “gamification,” as opposed to just games. So can we take lessons from game design to enhance the design of school-based systems to reward students in different ways? …

Motivation engine for MOOC

Think about playing something like Call of Duty or World of Warcraft. You’re spending a lot of time caring about what the game tells you to care about, so games are brilliant at that. So it seems clear that these online learning courses would like to borrow that kind of deep engagement and deep motivation.

Read and listen to the full interview here for yourself.


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2 Responses »


  1. 4 Take-Aways from a Great Conversation on “Games in Schools” | i+I+D in Education: Gamification, Augmented Reality & Partners |
  2. 4 Take-Aways from a Great Conversation on “Games in Schools” | A New Society, a new education! |

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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