Sunday, April 7, 2013

Game-Based Learning

I have recently developed interests in game-based learning, which is the use of games, simulations, or gamification to enhance learning experiences. My interests concern how educational and serious games and simulations can be used to enhance learning experiences in formal learning contexts in and out of the classroom or in informal learning contexts, how casual games (e.g. Angry Birds)--those that were not designed primarily to target and develop a certain kind of knowledge or skill--can and do facilitate learning to different extents and in different ways, and in how analyzing the success of both kinds of digital artifacts--in terms of both popularity and effectiveness in facilitating learning and development--can inform instructional design practices. I am also interested in flow and the ways that one can be said to have learned from gameplay.

I think the video below about Ntiedo Etuk's philosophy and mission behind DimensionU is a good orientation to the spirit behind game-based learning approaches to enhancing learning experiences with games, simulations, and gamification:

In this video, Ntiedo Etuk talks about the importance of play and motivation to the ability of learning activities to engage young learners in ways that allow them to learn and have fun. Etuk thinks that children who play in game or simulation-like virtual environments appreciate the opportunity to learn and play in environments where failure is an option, are less likely to give up in the face of failure, and are often determined to experiment or learn in order to beat the game and achieve levels of mastery. Etuk sees DimensionU as combining games and learning in ways that motivate kids to want to learn by both using extrinsic motivators and developing an intrinsic love of learning. I am not sure that I like the DimensionU games or think highly of their effectiveness, but I do like the aspects of Etuk's mission and approach.

In another video from Good Magazine, Future Learning Short Documentary, Etuk says,
"How do you motivate a kid? How do you keep a kid engaged--how do you keep them interested? That is all psychology. When the gamers went and they created the best video games that ever existed, they didn't sit down and say, 'Hey, you know, what is the cognitive science behind this?' They didn't do that. They just did it. They created it. And now all the cognitive scientists are coming back and saying 'What did you do because that's actually one of the most motivating, engaging media we've ever seen,' and the video game programmers all said, 'I just created something that I would want to play.'"
I think this quote is really important and that Etuk is right about the importance of content that learners want to interact with, but I worry that there is not enough instructional design behind the DimensionU games. I don't think extrinsic motivators or gameplay alone are sufficient for facilitation of learning and development, and I plan to keep my eyes on how DimensionU includes more features that enhance that balance the development of intrinsic love of learning and interest in subject matter with all their points, rewards, leader board spots, and competitions.

If you want to see other recent, creative approaches to enhancing learning with gameplay in and out of formal learning contexts, check out the other Future Learning videos below:
Also, if you are interested in studying more about gamification or game-based learning, check out the following Coursera MOOC courses:

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