Making learning fun

Gaming is one of the things I like to do although, as my children have grown and my career as an educator has taken new dimension, I don’t get to do enough. I’m secretly waiting for my boys to get old enough for an x-box or Wii and then look out! I have always considered gaming to be something that was separate from the learning I did because, well, it was gaming. I must admit that I spent a fortune playing Defender and had a Pong, Atari, Sega, Genesis then moved up to a computer where I’ve been playing ever since. Now with the melding of system play with internet, I’m looking forward to getting in some serious action although I’m worried my reflexes won’t respond to what my mind is telling them to do.

One thing that has always bothered me is when people try to create learning games. I didn’t mind the early Apple II games that came out because, really, the games like Defender and PacMan weren’t much different. But then gaming began to advance and learning games didn’t. So when people finally decided to get into the learning games, they tried to copy some of the games. Let me tell you, it’s mighty boring shooting bad letters, I don’t care how you dress them up!

Now, just recently I had the pleasure of serving as an educational expert helping students who were doing a project which involved the possible use of Massive Multi-player Educational Games for learning. What intrigued me was the whole idea of taking the gaming idea and creating situations where students would be required to use skills they are learning while they play. The Horizon Project, a multi-classroom and international cooperative learning experience, brought together students from many different countries all working on part of the Horizon Report that looked at the impact technology is having on society. Vicki Davis asked me to participate, for which I am very grateful, as an expert panelist, assisting students with their research and writing. Their final project really does a great job of exploring the use of MMEG’s in learning. Check it out here. However, my point is that we seem to have arrived at a point where creators are realizing that gamers do not want to sacrifice their experience for learning. If they are not having quality experiences, doesn’t matter what learning is taking place.

The article World of Borecraft by Justin Peters does an excellent job of exploring how gamers want to have experience and then work on the learning. Create the game that draws them in and build learning around it otherwise you will end of with more letters in bad costumes. The whole idea is to begin with the concept for the game and then see what learning objectives can be met through the interaction of the person and the game. For example, in W0W, collaboration is very useful and important but not all the time. In fact, one must grow to understand when collaborating will be of benefit and when it will be costly. Not all things require collaboration and not all collaboration is good for you. I have recently stumbled across another MM game that deals with the Fall of Rome. I am hoping to bring this into the context of the social that I am teaching. Now, I have to play it more, I was rather busy this past few months but it sure looks like something that will be educational and fun! What a combination.

Another area that I’m looking to develop is cooperation between different classrooms around the globe. One of the things that I thought would be interesting is to bring the students who are interested together and see how they might be able to cooperate and participate in a MMOLG. What would they need to overcome and what strategies would they use. I figure this is more appealing than seeing how they might do homework together!  I know that there are a few teachers that have expressed interest – especially some involved in the teach2.0 wiki. If you are interested, drop by and add your name by using summer07 to get in.


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