David Warlick – Video Games as Learning Engines

David started by saying that he was happy that this presentation wasn’t about web 2.0 or 21st century learning, but these tools were a huge part of the presentation, which is a natural progression. His handouts and all information for this presentation are on a blog called At Your Service. We also simulated a Twitter chat that will be posted to a wiki after the presentation.

Three disruptive and converging conditions in today’s teaching and learning:

  • The future is unpredictable. We don’t know what we are preparing our students for.
  • Our students are networked.
  • We’re working in a new information environment.

What is a video game?

  • competitive
  • challenging
  • fun
  • uses a different environment
  • exceptionally tasty patterns of reality
  • have roles and rules

Games today are a whole experience – a culture. As they advance, video games don’t get simpler, they get more complex because the brain demands it. The mind at play craves complexity, so how do we put student minds at play.

The most needed skills in the workforce according to a recent study are: professionalism, teamwork, oral communications, written communications, critical thinking/problem solving.

Video games as learning tools are something that educators are just starting to explore. Our students come to us with brand new learning skills and we have to tap into them and change the assignments we give. An easy read on this topic is How Computer Games Help Children Learn by David Williamson Shaffer.

This generation of students are competitive, risk taking, sociable (even games that you play by yourself, the game is social in nature), believe in the role of luck, and self-confident.

Many games come with no manual, so kids have to figure out what the rules and roles are. They have to get past the level “boss” in order to advance. These skills are important to kids futures in the workplace. Many times kids see the teacher as the level boss who tried to stop their advancement. Teachers should be the strategy guides that give kids the “cheats” that help them move forward. The “cheats” are the curriculum or learning standards.

There is new movement towards designing games that are built around real world issues, for example, Food Force. This free game can be downloaded and asks players to help get food to hungry people.

We’ve all heard the quote about students having to power down when they go to school. Does this mean that students believe they have to stop thinking when they come to school? Playing some of these video games is more intellectually stimulating than anything done in school.

Can video games save education? What does this new research mean for educators? Video games and social networks are valuable learning experiences, but how can we harness the power of that learning and use it in the classroom? Maybe we need to look at the kinds of experiences kids have playing games and bring those same experiences into the classroom.

Side note: The digital divide between the technology haves and have nots is going to have more impact than we know right now. Other countries are working on a plan to have broadband internet access for all citizens, while we are not.

The video game culture has expanded into urban games where people are playing games in real situations. Here’s an example.

Playing the information – research as a video game. Players amass points by making responsible and effective use of information found on the internet.

Cheating in the video game culture – players try to win the game by cheating or changing the rules.

Another byproduct of the video game culture is that you can play the game through your digital editing software and make a video using the video game characters and setting. This is called machinima.

Our generation sees information as a product, but the kids now see information as raw material that they can do something with.

Do teachers need to become video game creators? Probably not, but wouldn’t it be great if we could take rules and roles concepts of video gaming and create more authentic assignments for our students? It’s definitely something to think about. We’ve been trying to use real world situations and problems with our research projects, but maybe incorporating some role-playing and rules in a more thoughtful way would help us to make research more engaging for students.

To get started:

  • start a gaming club
  • allow students to discuss gaming with you
  • connect with the serious game effort
  • recruit the digital natives on your faculty to help you
  • listen to the players around you
  • Great last thought: Education that is targeted at you, but doesn’t include you, isn’t worth sitting still for.