Sunday, August 07, 2011

Gaming's Elements Make for Good Learning
"What is gaming but an on-going assessment? "  These words by James Paul Gee in his Edutopia interview on Grading with Games caused me to take a moment's notice. He's right, you know. Gaming is a directional process where a player eyes an ultimate goal and then exhibits the behavior that will result in attaining that final goal. Along the way, the player's success is evaluated by the game and feedback is provided in the form of success (or lack there of.)

A gaming environment can provide a great number of opportunities to improve learning. A 3D GameLab write-up aggregates the list of these characteristics. These characteristics are specifically collected in reference to games but the value comes when we consider how this can be applied to learning situations:

1. Choice
Provide students with an opportunity to select their path through the game/learning situation. This may mean which quests to complete or which media are used to complete them.

2. Failure
Failing is learning. Try something new and see if it works. The key is to create a situation where failure doesn't have long-lasting penalties. Immediate feedback to the success of a new tactic will provide the formative guidance that the player/learner needs to master the skill.

3. Progress Bars
Players/learners need to have feedback on their progress. Tom Chatfield suggests that using something like a progress bar to share advancement with the player/learner can build engagement and motivation. An example of a system that does this most effectively is the Aleks Math System.

4. Multiple Long and Short Aims
Successful games contain both long and short-term goals. I just finished playing Army of Darkness. It is a game with 50 levels. The long-term goal is to ultimately win by "leveling out" (beating all 50 levels.) Each level is its own short term goal and provides on-going feedback about my success in using the warriors and weaponry at my disposal. This holds true with learning situations. The end goal needs to be in mind to provide relevance but the sequential formative goals provide the feedback that makes it interesting.

5. Rewarding ALL Successful Efforts
While the goal of a learning situation is to master the material/skills, getting there is full of failure. Gamers/learners need to receive some recognition for the work they have completed even if it hasn't lead to total success. This can be a difficult thing to design for the typical learning experience but it needs to be considered.

6. Prompt and Meaningful Feedback

All of these characteristics are connected with prompt and meaningful feedback. It should be immediate and provide some sort of direction as to how a failed attempt can be improved.

7. Elements of Uncertainty/Awards
This is an interesting quality. In experimental psychology, we call this intermittent reinforcement. There is no specific "number of times" that something must be correct to receive an award. This can be quite appealing to the human psyche. That is why casinos are filled with humans playing slot machines because there is no certainty when they will "pay off" but the reward is enough to make it interesting.

Games provide such intermittent rewards by having periodic benefits (i.e., helpful wizards or increasing the treasure chest by 5%) occur to help the player. Teachers provide this sort of untimed reward with gold stars or classroom currency that are distributed to good workers at the whim of the teacher.

8. Socialization
 Learning is a social event. It can be an opportunity for like learners to collaborate with peers and mold responses together. When you are working with collaborators, you are receiving the constant feedback and support that we have described as so important to successful gaming/learning.

What do you think is important?  I think that the most important item that can be taken from this list is feedback. Gaming is a self-correcting journey to an identified goal and it is all based upon immediate and helpful feedback so that the gamer can modify his/her behavior to best achieve success.

What is your idea on this? 

*This posting was prompted by an assignment from 3D GameLab.
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  1. I am confused as to why the "Business" of education hasn't produced a myriad of educational games to choose from. My hope is that they are in development and just trying to make sure they get them right.

  2. CAMprinc1;

    There are some educational games that have been developed. Unfortunately games have a bad rep as being frivolous. The gaming process provides opportunities that will support learning.



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