Monday, September 20, 2010

Putting the Game into Learning

The other day, I read a fascinating New York Times article about a focus on gaming at New York City School, Quest to Learn. According to the article, excitement fills the air at this school. Students become so engaged that they lose track of the clock. Anybody who has seen a child or teenager on an XBox 360 knows without question that these games hold some kind of magic. I've seen children who could not sit for two minutes and write a school essay sit for eight hours and write tricks for scoring higher points at these games. Don't think that this process of deciphering games is easy. It requires deep critical thinking.

So last night I started thinking, what can curriculum developers learn from gamers? What is it about gaming that makes it so engaging when typical school learning is far from engaging? I came up with a short list of ideas:
  1. Games give immediate feedback.
  2. Games offer the challenge of getting to the next level.
  3. Games provide competition, both against oneself and against others.
  4. Massive multi-player role playing games provide opportunity for creativity.

This list is by no means exhaustive. But, if I am correct with this list, an obvious next question would be "How can we incorporate these characteristics into the classroom in meaningful ways?" I don't have all the answers. However, I am confident that these attributes of games can be infused into the classroom.

It's important to note that I specifically did not include anything about technology on this list of game attributes. I am a strong supporter of using high quality technology to enable students to fulfill specific objectives in the classroom. But the truth is that many classrooms do not yet have enough computers for all students. Nor, are there enough high quality educational resources to take advantage of technology.

So, instead what I am urging is that we consider how to extrapolate engaging characteristics from games and infuse them into the classroom, with or without technology.

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