Wednesday, March 19, 2014

#ASCD14 Jane McGonigal Why Gaming is the Future of Learning.

Jane McGonigal Learning is an Epic Win: Why Gaming is the Future of Learning

Part one:

My 11 year old daughter Grace, is a gamer. She loves simulation games. She plays a lot of Minecraft and Sim games. It is interesting to watch her play these games. When she plays Minecraft, she often interacts with one of her friends in a Minecraft world. And while she is engaging in this digital world with her friend she is usually talking with her on FaceTime. Quite a different gaming world then the one I grew up with. 

I see how engaged Grace becomes when she is is playing creating and manipulating in these worlds and I just have to wonder...why we can't do this sort of stuff at school. After listening to Jane McGonigal gaming is something we should strive to incorporate into our learning environments.

99% of boys and 94% of girls under the age are gamers. The boys are averaging 13 hours a week of game playing while the girls are averaging 8 hrs of gaming a week. A more incredible number; by the age of 21 these gamers will have played 10,000 hours of games. The age of gamers is dropping. 92% of two year old kids play digital games. These are some big numbers.

All this gaming will change the way kids began to think and interact with the world around them. There is no doubt in my mind that gaming will change the way kids want to learn. Every game is a learning game. You need to learn how to play the game to master the game. The way kids are doing this is interesting. When it comes to games kids are self-learners. They will collaborate with other gamers and they will search for tips and tricks online to help them succeed and master the game. Are we seeing this type of learning in out classrooms? Are our students self-learners? Or do they just wait until we give them the information they need to be successful in our classes?

There are a lot of contradictions in the research and in the headlines about gaming and the impact it is having on people who play.  Why? According to McGonigal and her research there are two types of gamers: the ones who play games to escape (Self-Suppression) and those who play with a purpose (Self-Expansion) . Escapism is the idea of people playing games to escape from their world and the problems around them. The problem for educators is school is what most kids are trying to escape from. Playing with a purpose is different in that you are playing with the goal of winning. Or maybe you are playing that mindless game to help you calm and think clearly. But their is a purpose.

How can you tell the difference between the two types of gamers? You can't tell by looking at them you have to ask them why they are playing the game.

Characteristics of self-suppression gamers:
  • play to escape life
  • more challenging my life becomes the more I play games
  • more depression, anxiety, and isolation
  • fight or flight
  • gaming ends up making life worse
Characteristics of self-expansion
  • play with a purpose
  • the more challenging my life gets the more challenging are the games I play.
  • more ambition
  • more happiness
  • more support
  • calm and connected
  • gaming helps make life better

Brain research helps us to understand how game-based learning can change behavior. Here is some of the research McGonigal shared. You have to be playing to have the experience. The stimulation comes from the playing and not the watching. Gee, I wonder how much watching our students do in our classrooms? The motivation center of the brain becomes highly active when the gamer committed to achieving a goal. And the Hippocampus is engaged and that equals memory and learning.

So why aren't gamers learning in school? Maybe because it is not an active and engaging environment. Why is that gamers typically fail 80% of the time in games but continue to press on, but fail once in school and they give up? Maybe because in the game world you learn from your mistakes and play the game again and you play it better. In school, you only have one opportunity to be successful with an activity. No chance to learn from your mistakes.

image from Grace's minecraft world.

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