Clark Quinn, in his book Engaging Learning (Pfeiffer, 2005), points out that the same elements that make learning highly effective are also the ones that make up highly engaging experiences. And that modern computer games, being highly engaging, share those elements: clear objectives, a relevant frame of reference, challenging, interesting and interactive.
Quinn says, "Doing good engagement is hard, as is doing good education. Doing both together is even more difficult, but even if the effort is double, the product is more than doubly worthwhile.
Hard Fun. Quinn goes on to say that "Learning can, and should, be hard fun." Serious games, when done right, are hard and challenge the learner. When the player fails, they learn something about why, are motivated enough by the story to try another approach, and ultimately get rewarded in a fun way.
Deep Learning. Highly engaging learning games also work because they have the potential to assist in deep learning. Dr. Merrilea Mayo of The National Academies has presented it this way:
- Learning by doing: Players make decisions that have consequences; they actively participate in the game environment.
- Learning by experimenting: Players can safely try out multiple solutions, explore and discover information and skills.
- Life-like learning situations: Virtual worlds can provide environments that respond the same way the real world responds, allowing the player to transfer knowledge and experience between the two.
- Believing in abilities: Rewards and levels in games foster the belief you can achieve goals. This generates a positive attitude towards overcoming obstacles and increases the player's success rate.
- Clear objectives: Well-defined game goals allow players to make more progress toward learning objectives.
- Team learning and skills: Multiplayer games allow for group problem solving, collaboration, social interaction, negotiation, etc. Players learn not only from the game, but from each other.
- Learning without limitations: Game environments naturally transcend barriers of language, geography, race, gender and physical abilities. Players who are self-conscious in real life because they are "different" have no way of being set apart online.
How can we verify the potential skillsets that are identified in the above statements?
What sort of ways can we effectively measure 'before and after' states that might clearly indicate learning has occurred?
What different types of games have you personally had first hand or observed experience of that might cause you to be able to believe that adaptive skillsets are being demonstrated?