“A good games is a series of interesting choices.”
What has really sparked my attention in OLTD 508: Mobile and Game-Based Learning is James Paul Gee's learning principles he has derived from video games. I learned that the educational importance of games lies not in the games themselves but in their underlying learning principles. Design is also important and just because it is a game does not make it a valuable learning tool. Games must be designed with learning principles and brain-based learning research in mind. I like how Gee identifies three overarching learning principles which serve as the umbrella to the 50+ principles he derives from his game research. These three umbrella learning principles now inform my thinking on teaching and learning: the empowered learners principle, the problem-solving learning principle and the deep learning principle. As I teach, plan and assess I consider these learning principles and feel they improve the integrity of my practice.
For the first time in my life, besides a brief obsession with Super Mario Brothers in my early teens, I've experimented with playing video games. I embarked on this journey reluctantly and it wasn't until I found Games for Change that I really engaged and found myself enjoying online gaming. The games available through Games for Change have been designed to support learning with a variety of foci: economics, art, health, conflict, etc. Of the games I explored, most adhered to Sid Meier's premise that "a good game is a series of interesting choices". Most games (especially the popular and award-winning games) embody important learning principles such as James Gee's overarching ones: empowered learners, problem-solving and deep learning principles.
Part of my video game journey included several hours trying to "get" Minecraft - and I don't get it. One of the biggest challenges I have with this game is not being able to see the big picture and really, zombies and creepers don't spark my imagination, even if they are out to kill me. This is not to say that I don't think it is a good game.The creative and survival mode offer differentiated goals and I've seen examples of outstanding creative projects built in Minecraft including an entire skytrain system. I explored not only the game of Minecraft but also my feelings associated with the game. One of my thoughts was: "Something must be wrong with me because I don't like/get this game." I spent time thinking about this and realized that this is a common theme when it comes to popular culture. Minecraft is all the rage right now. But what if you are a student who doesn't like or get Minecraft? How might this affect your self concept? My time with Minecraft reminded me of the importance of providing choice. As as teacher I ask myself what do I want my students to learn? My answer always includes critical and creative thinking, problem-solving skills and a deep understanding of important concepts. Student can show the development of these skills and understanding in a variety of ways. They can also practice these skills and understanding using a variety of tools. OLTD 508 has encouraged me to explore and offer games as one of these tools.
Gee, James Paul, What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, Palgrave Macmillan: New York, 2003 http://mason.gmu.edu/~lsmithg/jamespaulgee2
Gee, James Paul. Principles on Gaming. Retrieved March 27, 2014 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4aQAgAjTozk