Games in learning_sonja_ang


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Games in learning_sonja_ang

  1. 1.   Games  &  learning:   Games  as  frames,  mechanics  and  structures  of   learning  (Dec2013)     "There  is  no  reason  that  a  generation  that  can  memorize  over  100  Pokemon   characters  with  all  their  characteristics,  history  and  evolution  can't  learn  the   names,  relationships  of  all  capitals  option  allows  you,  and  the  nations  in  the   world."     Marc  Prensky  (Digital  natives.  An  important  point     emerging  from  the  Digital,  2001)     The  school's  mission  is  to  organize  and  provide  official  training  that  leads  to   qualifications.  Education  must,  however,  take  account  that  the  whole  society  is   changing  due  to  the  technical  and  digital  culture  influences  that  also  change  the   learning  environments  and  learning  habits.     Games  are  an  organic  part  of  youngsters’  lives.  Games’  influence  in  learning  and   working  is  visible  already  today  in  the  forms  of  edutainment,  gamification  and   game  mechanics  driven  motivation.  But  what  does  it  mean  to  learning?     This  short  paper  was  originally  written  in  Finnish  in  January  2013.  The  purpose   was  to  give  teachers  an  overview  of  games  and  inspire  them  to  find  different   ways  to  utilize  games  and  game  mechanics  in  learning.      
  2. 2. What  is  a  game?     Let’s  start  with  what  is  a  game.  Games  journalist  Tadhg  Kelly  wrote  in  his  blog:   “Games  are  belief  engines.  Games  are  canvases  for  stories  in  motion.  Games  are  a   challenge  and  a  learning  activity.  Games  are  ideas.  Games  make  life  better.  Games   are  addictive.  Games  are  pressure.  Games  are  motivational,  inspirational  and   educational.  Games  are  fun.  Games  are  emotive.”         A  game  is  based  on  a  set  of  rules,  a  selection  of  interaction  methods,  character   roles,  objects  to  interact  with  and  a  possible  background  story.  The  rules  of  the   game  are  part  of  the  game  mechanics.  At  the  heart  of  the  game  is  an  interactive   feedback  structure:  when  a  player  does  something,  it  causes  a  reaction  in  the   game  and  gives  immediate  feedback  to  the  player.  The  confrontation  between   good  &  bad  is  one  common  way  to  build  up  the  dynamics  of  the  game.  A  player   has  to  do  something  to  overcome  the  enemy,  to  save  the  world  or  defeat  the   threat.  A  game  is  typically  an  endless  loop  (like  Tetris)  where  a  player  tries  to   improve  her  performance  or  a  linear  story  (like  Final  Fantasy  games).              
  3. 3. Game  driven  learning     "Game-­‐based  learning  involves  the  use  of  board  games,  card  games,  video   games,  simulations,  model  building,  role  play  and  other  competitive  activities   where  students  are  engaged  in  play  that  teaches  them  an  important  concept   that  is  part  of  their  curriculum.  Many  games  include  an  element  of  fantasy  that   makes  the  learning  process  truly  appealing  to  students.  The  use  of  such  games   serves  a  dual  purpose:  the  content  of  the  game  helps  to  improve  the  knowledge   of  the  students  and  the  process  of  playing  the  game  develops  their  skills."     David  Stuart  (,  2012)     In  the  context  of  games,  learning  typically  refers  to  games  as  media  (media   education),  game  mechanics  (motivational  factors),  games  as  educational  objects   (learning  from  games,  learning  by  playing)  and  the  role  of  games  in  youth   cultures.       Game  mechanics  can  be  used  to  create  supportive  and  inspiring  educational   content.  Games  can  also  motivate  and  provide  an  inspiring  learning  context.   Games  offer  more  active  role  for  learners  in  the  process.  At  its  best  the  game-­‐like   learning  brings  flexibility  to  learning,  which  supports  various  types  of  learners   (slow  fast,  visual,  etc.),  and  different  ways  of  understanding  things.  Games  also   help  to  make  problems  concrete  and  easier  to  understand  from  different   perspectives.     What’s  good  in  games  (for  learning)?     1. Limits.  The  game  structure  provides  a  safe  environment  and  a  context  to   experiment  on  some  concrete  topics.  It  does  not  matter  if  you  fail,  you  can   always  try  again.  Everyone  fails  in  games.  Even  the  best  ones.   2. All  the  key  ingredients  at  hand.  Relevant  source  materials  and  necessary   objects  to  solve  the  problems  are  all  at  hand  in  a  game.  A  player  just  has  to   adapt,  solve  the  puzzles  and  connect  the  dots.   3. Cooperation.  Both  game  development  and  game  play  are  social  activities.  In   game  development,  you  have  at  least  the  following  parts  to  tackle  on:  game   design,  story/dialogue,  art,  sound  design  and  programming.  If  you  do  not   want  to  use  computers,  game  design  and  development  can  easily  be  done  on   paper  or  with  cards,  clay,  sounds,  words...     4. Examples.  Games  use  a  lot  of  examples  to  make  it  clear  what  a  player  has  to   do  in  a  game.  Sometimes  it  first  shows  how  things  could  be  done  and  then  a   player  can  try  the  same  by  herself.  As  a  teacher,  you  could  develop  your   examples  and  recycle  ideas  to  make  it  easier  for  the  class  to  get  started.   5. Co-­‐creation.  Let  the  pupils  do  the  design  and  implementation.  Teacher’s  role   is  to  frame  the  context  of  the  learning  objectives  and  make  sure  all  key   ingredients  are  at  hand  and  included  in  the  game.  
  4. 4. 6. Different  perspectives.  The  same  thing  can  look  very  different  from  other   perspectives.  Take  advantage  of  it.  Use  roles,  introduce  limitations  that  force   the  group  to  take  different  viewpoints  to  the  topic  and  be  critical.   How  to  learn  from  games?     A  game  is  an  ideal  form  for  teaching  something  new.  A  game  defines  the  setup  of   a  specific  problem  in  a  form  of  a  story,  or  otherwise  in  a  limited  context.  The   main  objective  of  a  game  is  well  defined  in  the  beginning,  and  intermediate   targets,  obstacles  and  opponents  or  other  challenges  are  introduced  to  the  player   along  the  way.  All  of  these  “frames”  help  the  learners  to  understand  and  become   motivated  of  what  they  should  be  doing,  when  and  why.       When  I  was  at  the  grade  school,  I  together  with  many  of  my  classmates  was   doing  cross-­‐country  skiing.  We  had  a  skiing  table  attached  to  the  class  room  wall.   The  table  was  a  simple  poster  where  we  could  draw  a  horizontal  line  based  on   the  length  (kilometers)  of  our  daily  cross-­‐country  skiing.  We  added  a  few   millimeters  to  the  line  day  after  day.  The  poster  was  on  the  wall  during  the   whole  winter  season.  It  was  a  fierce  competition  even  if  there  were  no  concrete   rewards  or  prizes.  At  least  I  do  not  remember  any  of  the  prizes.  For  me  the   bigger  reward  was  the  actual  competition  and  a  possibility  to  see  your  own   advancement  on  the  wall.  The  other  students  were  my  opponents  and  I  fought   for  the  victory.  I  did  a  lot  of  skiing  that  winter  and  also  cheated  some  extra   kilometers.  But  so  did  many  others,  too.  It  was  not  that  serious  –  more  of  a  play   or  a  game.  It  was  about  trying  to  be  the  best  but  also  seeing  your  own  activities   over  a  longer  period  of  time.  At  the  end  it  was  just  a  piece  of  paper  on  the  wall   but  oh  boy  what  a  game  it  was!     Today  online  service  Muuvit  offers  similar  type  of  a  tool  to  motivate  children  to   do  some  everyday  sport  (see  picture  below).  For  us  the  skiing  table  was  a   valuable  tool  to  measure  the  success.  Muuvit  developers  told  me  that  for  many   kids,  the  tiny  Muuvit  notebook  also  has  very  big  value  the  its  owners.  But   different  from  the  skiing  table,  Muuvit  is  about  contributing  to  a  common  goal.  It   is  about  collaboration.  A  total  amount  of  minutes  the  class  has  exercised  during  a   week  is  summed  up  at  the  end  of  the  week.  Instead  of  competing  against  the   classmates,  the  class  is  competing  against  other  students  around  the  world.  The   evolution  from  skiing  table  to  Muuvit  notebook  is  very  much  in  line  with  the   recent  development  of  digital  games.  Besides  competition,  playing  is  more  and   more  about  collaboration  and  learning  from  the  peers.  Minecraft  and   MinecraftEdu  or  Supernauts  are  all  great  examples  of  that.          
  5. 5. These  two  examples  nicely  highlight  the  motivational  factors  behind  playing   games.  A  game  is  played  with  a  certain  set  of  rules,  goal  and  opponents  or   challenges.  The  opponent  can  be  another  game  character,  but  also,  for  example,   the  time  (Tetris,  Bejeweled),  another  player  (MarioKart,  chess,  World  of   Warcraft)  or  a  model  performance  (Singstar).       There  are  a  lot  of  great  things  to  utilize  from  games:     1. Games  are  difficult  and/or  challenging  and  the  players  are  failing   constantly.  By  failing  over  and  over  again  a  player  will  learn  how  to   overcome  certain  challenges  and  accept  failure  as  part  of  learning.  That  a   part  of  the  games’  charm.  Games  can  be  used  to  identify  learning   problems  within  a  certain  topic  and  carry  out  experimental  training  and   learning  because  game  play  is  about  snack  size  achievements.  A  player   will  advance  from  one  waypoint  to  another.  If  a  player  gets  stuck  there   are  clearly  some  challenging  tasks  or  problems  to  focus  on.       You  do  not  need  to  worry  about  errors  because  "it  was  just  a  game".  Students  learn   by  making  mistakes  and  making  mistakes  is  about  experimentation,  not  about   humiliation.  In  games  the  failure  can  be  a  shared  emotion,  something  the  whole   class  can  strive  to  improve  and  adjust.     2. The  structure  and  the  rules  of  a  game  keep  learning  interesting.  The   games’  progression  makes  it  interesting  to  learn  more  and  more  through   waypoints.  The  player  encounters  constant  challenges  to  achieve   something  on  the  way  toward  the  ultimate  goal.     This  relates  to  the  idea  of  learning  by  doing.  Everyone  can  make  games,  find  ways   to  make  the  topics  and  learning  objectives  easier  to  understand.  By  playing  games   with  others  the  value  of  learning  from  the  peers  will  become  stronger.  Also  by   doing  things  also  the  level  of  participation  and  commitment  is  strong.     3. Games  are  interactive  experiences:  the  player  is  involved  in  the  creation   of  events.  Actual  participation  in  doing  things  makes  it  more  personal  and   increases  the  feeling  of  ownership  making  the  experience  more  valuable,   more  memorable.     Making  things  concrete  is  making  them  personal:  games  offer  the  chance  to  try  out   different  roles,  approaches,  situations,  solutions,  identities  and  perspectives.  When   the  topic  is  connected  to  personal  interests  it  is  easier  to  understand  and   remember.     4. Games  force  players  to  be  active.  A  game  requires  players  to  progress  and   follow  a  certain  structure.  The  interactive  structure  of  a  game  makes  it   more  addictive  and  challenging.     If  a  player  does  not  do  anything,  nothing  happens.  Games  make  it  natural  to   interact  or  react.  The  it  is  not  only  about  the  most  active  students,  it  is  about  
  6. 6. introducing  active  participation  as  part  of  learning.  If  a  student  does  not  do   anything,  hardly  any  learning  will  happen.     5. Try  out  games  for  role-­‐play:  observe  which  roles  each  one  will  take  and   how  they  act  in  their  roles.       Different  learners  &  different  kinds  of  learners'  needs  can  be  catered  in  games.   Games  offer  a  set  of  flexible  components  that  can  be  adjusted  based  on  the  learners   /  players  roles.       6. Games  emphasize  motivation  factors  like  competition,  progression,  co-­‐ creation,  social  aspects…  A  more  versatile  skills  management,  for  example   critical  thinking,  problem  solving,  logical  reasoning,  decision-­‐making  and   fantasy.     Think  of  individual  and  interpersonal  motivations  and  how  to  bring  those  to  the   learning  process.         Could  commercial  games  be  used  in  teaching?     A  game  can  break  down  learning  topics  into  snack  size  pieces,  and  help  to  look  at   a  subject  from  different  point  of  view.       Commercial  games  can  also  serve  as  tools  for  learning  outside  the  classroom.   Finnish  academic  Pekka  Kuusi  in  his  book  “In  this  human  world”  (1982)  listed   eight  special  human  characters  that  define  human  behavior:     1)  Communication  and  language,     2)  Love  and  socializing,     3)  Competition,  power  and  war,     4)  Data  and  science,     5)  Skill  and  technology,    
  7. 7. 6)  Myths  and  religions,     7)  Beauty  and  the  arts,  and     8)  Economy  &  social  order.       All  of  these  can  also  be  seen  as  game  genres.  Love  simulations,  sport  games,   world  creation  and  management  games,  fighting  games…  Game  titles  ranging   from  Civilization  to  Myst  and  from  Tetris  to  Heavy  Rain.  Games  imitate  certain   parts  of  life  and  are  inspired  by  it.     Majority  of  commercial  games  are  developed  to  entertain  us.  In  the  sense  of   entertainment  products,  games  are  similar  to  books,  films  or  television  series.   They  are  aimed  to  inspire,  entertain  and  in  some  sense  educate  and  inform.   Media  literacy  enables  people  to  analyze  and  create  messages  in  wide  variety  of   media  modes.     If  you  want  to  utilize  learning  games  and  take  a  one  step  towards  more  concrete   examples.  Marc  Cunningham  (2010)  has  collected  17  of  the  teaching  of  the   available  commercial  game  examples,  how  it  is  used  in  teaching:       But  if  you  want  to  do  something  on  your  own  and  create  games  with  the   students,  read  on.            
  8. 8. So:  how  to  get  started?     "Playing  should  be  fun!  In  our  eagerness  to  teach  our  children  we  studiously   look  for  "educational"  toys,  games  with  built-­‐in  lessons,  books  with  a  "message."   Often,  these  "tools"  are  less  interesting  and  stimulating  than  the  child's  natural   curiosity  and  playfulness.  The  play  is  by  its  very  nature  educational.  And  it   should  be  pleasurable.  When  the  fun  goes  out  of  play,  most  often  so  does  the   learning."     Joanne  e.  O ppenheim  (Kids  and  Play,  ch.  1,  1984)       Motivation  works  as  a  source  of  energy  and  controls  the  behavior  (control  and   regulation).  Games  can  give  a  different  viewpoint  to  topic  of  everyday  life,  or   lessons  learned  in  school.  Motivation  in  games  is  about  intrinsic  motivation.   Intrinsic  motivation  factors  include  the  acceptance,  curiosity,  socializing,  and   improving  your  own  skills  and  competition  and/or  revenge.  The  games  evoke   emotions.  Emotions  are  an  important  fuel  for  commitment  and  getting  things   done.     But  if  you  do  not  know  anything  about  games  -­‐  How  to  get  started?  Let’s  start   with  the  fact  that  you  are  not  doing  Mario  or  even  Tetris  as  your  first  game.   That’s  for  sure!  Here’s  my  keep  these  in  mind  top  6:     1. Forget  3D,  massively  multiplayer,  and  technology  mumbojumbo.  Instead   think  about  the  game’s  rules,  structures  and  mechanics.  Think  about  what   kind  of  game  is  in  question  (e.g.,  problem-­‐solving,  adventure,  martial  arts,   simulation)  and  think  about  how  the  game  will  be  carried  out  (an   interactive  computer  game,  a  board  game,  a  card  game,  game  prototype,   animation,  dice  game,  character  play...).   2. Think  small  –  What  is  the  small  idea  or  experiment,  what  subject  or  thing   would  you  like  the  students  to  learn?   3. Define  and  write  down  the  learning  objectives   4. Chop  the  greatest  challenges  and  learning  goals  into  smaller,   intermediate  objectives  –  into  snack  sized  pieces     5. Recycle  and  copy  game  ideas   6. Keep  the  official  ratings  and  games  separate.  Rewards  are  important   but  it  cannot  be  an  official  evaluation  of  the  tasks  carried  out.     Here  are  two  examples  of  game  “frames”  based  on  these  six  starting  points  you   can  use  to  generate  games  with  the  class.  The  following  examples  are  very  rough   ones  just  to  highlight  the  thinking  behind  using  games  as  structures  and   chopping  learning  objectives  into  measurable  snack  sized  pieces.        
  9. 9. EXAMPLES:     Example  1:  City  at  war  (history,  communications)     Building  of  a  game  in  a  co-­‐creation  fashion  can  go  like  this:     1.  Start  with  defining  the  game:   • Type  of  a  game:  problem-­‐solving  adventure  game  (combined  with   memory  &  puzzle  features)   • The  rules  of  the  game:  The  game  will  be  played  in  a  classroom  when   every  student  sits  on  his  or  her  own  places.  The  players  are  dealt  10   playing  cards  each.  The  cards  can  represent  traps  or  be  memory  cards   that  help  to  advance  in  the  game.  The  game  uses  a  dice.  By  rolling  a  dice   the  players  will  advance  in  the  game.  Players  need  to  solve  different   challenges  to  advance  in  the  game.   • Mechanics:  there  are  traps,  bonuses  and  penalties  (cards),  aimed  at   increasing  the  randomness.   • The  plot:  It  is  year  1939  and  the  city  of  NN  (your  city)  is  being   bombarded.  Your  home  is  in  the  middle  of  the  crisis  region.  Find  out  how   to  avoid  the  bombs  and  help  others  to  find  a  way  out  of  the  crisis.     2.  Start  with  a  small  idea:     The  game  is  a  memory  game  played  in  the  classroom.  The  idea  is  to  discover  the   history  of  the  homestead  and  make  the  history  more  tangible.     3.  Learning  objective:     •  To  concretely  understand  critical  reasons  and  implications  of  war   •  A  comprehensive  understanding  of  local  history  and  its  legacy   •  Discussion  skills     4.  Milestones:   (a)  Understanding  of  the  point  of  time  of  the  War.   (b)  The  effects  of  the  war  on  the  civilian  population  and  living  conditions.   (c)  Play  through  one  short  period  of  the  wartime  to  better  understand  the   longer  timeframe.     5.  The  game:     The  idea  is  borrowed  from  the  game  Monopoly.  The  game  has  memory,   knowledge  and  trap  cards.  Memory  cards  express  the  experiences  of  the  local   inhabitants  of  that  time.  Knowledge  cards  give  details  of  the  war  and  its  impacts   to  the  local  community.  Traps  add  the  aspect  of  randomness  and  challenge  to  the   game.     6.  Rewards:   Use  a  game  to  make  learning  more  concrete  and  enhance  the  actual  learning   experience.  The  prize  comes  from  the  gameplay  itself.  The  students  will  not  be   graded  based  on  their  performance.        
  10. 10.     Example  2:  Flower  picking  (biology,  sports,  locality)     1.  The  definition  of  the  game:   • Type  of  game:  collect  and  compare.   • Rules:  each  plays  alone  or  in  a  team.  They  will  collect  plants  by  taking   photos  of  the  plants  with  a  camera  or  a  cell  phone  (camera).  In  the   collection  they  will  find  out  which  flowers  or  plants  they  have  collected   and  write  a  description  of  them.   • Goal:  try  to  get  as  rich  collection  of  pictures  as  possible,  complete  pre-­‐ defined  collections  and  find  rare  plants.  Get  rarity  and  victory  points   based  on  the  collection.   • The  plot:  the  story  is  about  setting  up  a  plant  information  bank.  The   students  need  to  help  in  localizing  the  plants.     2.  Starting  with  a  small  idea:     The  game  is  flower-­‐picking  game  and  is  played  with  a  cell  phone/a  camera.     3.  Learning  objective:     •  Examination  of  flora,  learning  about  different  plants  and  their  role  in  the   ecosystem   •  Learn  about  the  impact  of  pollution,  soil,  seasons…   •  Understanding  of  regional  biodiversity     4.  Milestones:   • Collect  a  diverse  array  of  plant  and  flowers  in  a  plant  gallery.   • Sort  and  identify  common  and  regional  plants.   • Give  a  more  detailed  presentation  of  the  collection  or  generate  a  game   to  be  played  with  other  students  (instead  of  a  presentation)  to  support   learning  from  the  peers.     5.  The  idea  is  borrowed  from  the  Pokemon  games  (“Gotta  Catch  ‘em  All”).     6.  Players  will  be  rewarded  in  a  form  of  a  leaderboard  and  achievements.  Players   will  get  special  points  based  on  rarity  of  the  plants,  the  biggest  selection  and  so   on.     NOTE!   Consider  utilizing  different  viewpoints  or  playing  personas  in  games.  Different   views  help  to  understand  some  topics  better.  Cooperation  is  a  nice  way  to  change   the  dynamics  of  a  game.  The  students  no  longer  compete  against  each  other  but   collaborate  and  try  to  achieve  something  together.     The  game  can  also  be  just  a  structure  where  a  student  will  add  the  story.  If  the   students  are  into  snowboarding,  Harry  Potter,  anything…  they  can  use  their   hobby  as  the  background  story  and  that  way  make  the  learning  objectives  easier   to  understand.  That  way  they  will  also  understand  the  possibility  to  apply   certain  common  topics  to  different  contexts.  
  11. 11.    
  12. 12. So  what’s  the  problem  teacher?     Games  could  be  a  great  addition  to  the  primary  teaching  methods,  but  often  they   are  not  used  because  of  the  following  issues.     -­‐  Curricular  requirements:  schools  follow  the  curriculum  and  the  learning  is   based  on  books  and  lectures.  Games  cannot  be  found  in  the  curriculum  because   their  efficacy  has  not  been  proven.  True  but  this  is  about  to  change.   -­‐  Attitude:  games  are  bad  for  us.  This  idea  is  typically  based  on  stereotypes  or   some  extreme  cases  that  exceed  the  threshold  of  mainstream  media.  Try  to  think   about  games  as  a  motivating  learning  structure,  not  as  Grand  Theft  Auto.   -­‐  Information  technology  is  not  the  only  option:  if  playing  on  a  computer  or  a  cell   phone  does  not  sound  like  a  good  idea  or  the  access  is  limited  to  computers  or   cell  phones  are  banned  in  schools,  just  use  pen  and  paper.   Teachers  do  not  play  games:  Teachers  do  not  generally  have  an  extensive   knowhow  of  games,  which  makes  it  harder  to  come  up  with  good  ways  to  utilize   games  in  schools.  Forget  digital  games  for  now.  Think  about  games  as  structures.     -­‐  Evaluation:  the  gaming  skills  are  not  considered  to  have  any  value  in  school’s   context.  Do  not  evaluate  gaming  or  edugames  the  same  way  as  more  traditional   learning.   -­‐  Evidence  is  missing:  educational  games  are  not  yet  broadly  used  so  there  only  a   few  practical  examples  to  copy  and  try  out.     There  is  still  a  long  way  to  go  in  order  to  make  it  easy  for  teachers  to  adapt  and   adjust  existing  learning  game  examples.  BUT  by  experimenting  with  games  your   class  can  be  an  important  source  of  information  for  other  schools.   Inspiration     There  are  some  more  traditional  educational  games  that  could  be  used  as   inspiration.  For  example:     •  MinecraftEdu:   •  The  Traveler  IQ  challenge:­‐iq   •  Expedition:­‐ adventure/expedition/play   •  World  heritage  destinations:­‐ quizzes/mankind-­‐world-­‐heritage-­‐destinations/play   •  The  life  of  the  ice  age  (BBC) life.shtml   •  The  Victoria  times:  women's  right  quiz: html   •  The  China  game:   •  Educational  game  portal  (in  different  subjects  and  grade  levels):   •  Game  portal:  
  13. 13. Literature  (used  as  a  source  for  this  summary):   •  The  Use  of  Games  in  Education  (,  2012):­‐games-­‐ education.html#ixzz2Gp0TAvxM   •  Moving  learning  games  forward  (MIT,  2009):   IBM  future  visions  (2013)­‐reveals-­‐ its-­‐top-­‐five-­‐predictions-­‐for-­‐the-­‐next-­‐five-­‐years/       If  you  are  interested  in  using  free  game-­‐development  tools  and  making  actual   games,  you  might  want  to  check  out  my  presentation  on  “Everyone  can  design   games”  on  Slideshare:­‐can-­‐design-­‐ games-­‐girls-­‐game-­‐clubs.