The Next Stage of Edugaming
While many have thought the blog aspect of my portfolio had been long abandoned, I have merely been biding my time and diligently playing around with the ideas floating in my head and I feel it is now time to make the announcement I’ve been waiting for since starting my portfolio.
Today is the first day of the pre-planning phase of a colossal endeavor I have been referring to as “The Next Stage of Edugaming”. Many of you have probably played an “educational game” at one point or another (if you haven’t). Not once have I ever heard the words “Wow, this educational game is really fun” spoken by a student, a teacher, or a parent. Why? Well to be blunt, they aren’t fun and they never will be. Almost every educational game created is little more than a glorified drill with a couple fancy lights. They often stem from an incredible ignorance of both the education and gaming sectors. Authentic learning does not come from mindless repetition and a timelessly fun game takes more than a couple input commands from the player. If Edugaming is to survive, then we must admit the current course we’re on will not work. It is time we seperate “educational games” from “edugaming” and develop a philosophy that better understands the nuances and subtleties of both worlds. Rather than cramming a specific educational skill into a game (a la Number Crunchers), we should instead carefully examine what aspects truly make a game fun to play, then meticulously find a proper place we may incorporate these aspects into education, while still maintaining opportunities for authentic learning. This goes beyond video or board games. All games have certain commonalities that make the player want to come back for more and if we can find these traits and use them, our students will want to come back to learn more.
It is my hope that, through a lot of research, coding, and graphic design (will definitely need help on the last one), Edugaming can become much more than it is today, mostly seen as a token add on in most classrooms. My prototype for this will be an interactive platform that treats the whole concept of school more as a fun game. When all of the components have been completed, I expect to have a completely redesigned classroom, both in philosophy and in space, allowing students to both achieve curriculum standards and pursue their own learning, all while, here’s the kicker, wanting to for the enjoyment of it. The first step in getting there is a big one so without sugar coating it…
There must be a complete overhaul of traditional assessment – Games assess players much differently than teachers assess students. With letter and number grading, what you’re essentially telling a student is “This is the best anyone can do for this assignment”. What often happens then, is the student factors in the requirements of a high grade and the desire for such a grade to determine his/her personal involvement with the subject matter, which can end up being quite low as a result. Games take a different approach, telling the player “Using this information or set of equipment, how high of a score can you get?” Games directly challenge the player, giving them a task that can never fully be completed, but always improved upon. If you didn’t perform as well as you want, try again with a new strategy. Games encourage experimentation, which is paramount to authentic learning, in contrast to the rather formulaic, linear assessment of schools today. What I intend to do then, is first create a system of assessment based off gaming principles and subsequently translate that system as best as I can to a traditional form of assessment. After all, the report card will still have to say A, B, C, D, or F (much to my protest).
Secondly, The psychological aspects of gaming need to be brought in to the classroom – This was sort of hinted at in the above section but gaming has an entire world of psychology it incorporates to engage the player, from it’s use of operant conditioning to it’s unique variation on the Hierarchy of Needs, games are fun and stimulating because they utilize these techniques properly. Again, educational games offer very little in terms of mental stimulus but by carefully examining what makes particular games fun (examples such as World of Warcraft, the Call of Duty franchise, or Pokemon), I hope to identify and combine these techniques to provide students with incentive to learn both the things the government wants them to learn as well as the things they themselves want to learn about.
Lastly, The structure must be modular – Particularly in the early stages, few teachers, even gamer teachers, will be willing to adopt such a philosophy immediately and completely. Thus, the platform (where students and teachers will interact with the overarching game, such as a website) must be able to accommodate as much or as little immersion as the teacher deems necessary, whether it be for one unit of study, one subject, or the whole year. The system should be easy to move into, out of, and return to.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of everything I’d like to talk about but those will have to wait for a future update. It is now time for shameless plug time. While money is not an issue at this time (research is still free for the most part), I am lacking in manpower. If you, or someone you know, is working in any of the fields listed below and would like to donate a little or a lot of time, mostly for discussion, please feel free to contact me via Twitter @nwgnr, I’d be happy to hear from you.
– Game Design
– Education (Teachers especially)
– Developmental Psychology
– Gamers and/or Students
Hopefully things will get moving shortly and I’ll continue to use the blog as things develop.