Reading this article by Oblinger has made me think further about education games and the gamification of learning and education. Games engage us and motivate. They have a powerful potential which could enable students to learn information, skills and change attitudes and ways of thinking.
They provide an opportunity to be involved in a collaborative community in which older or more established players act as mentors for novices. The community share ideas, solve problems, socialize and work together to move things forward. Players are required to accept a set of values so they can integrate with other members of the community.
This is all very well but how does this link to digital citizenship. I looked very closely at the iste nets standards for students. They state that being able to use technology is no longer enough and that today’s learners must be able to use technology to analyze, learn and explore. Under 5b Digital Citizenship they state that students should display a positive attitude towards using technology that supports collaboration, learning and productivity. 5c Digital Citizenship states that learners should demonstrate a personal responsibility for life long learning and 5d exhibit leadership for digital citizenship. I would argue that using games does all of this. Games allow learners to take on leadership roles whilst collaborating with others in the virtual environment. Being engaged, as many gamers obviously are, illustrates that life long learning is more than just a label but a true possibility. And finally that the opportunities through games for collaboration and learning are endless. In fact most of the 6 standards would be able to be achieved through game play.
However it is here we need to be a little more circumspect. The key is how the teacher utilizes the game and for what learning outcome. Just like another tools thought needs to be given as to how it is going to blend with the curriculum and to what effect? Can it be blended successfully with the current educational tool kit?
Other question the gamification of education raises are;
1. What happens to internet addiction when study and learning are linked closely to games?
2. Is the hardware up to the job? is it appropriately configured and available for extended hours? Is the right equipment available such as headphones and working mics?
3. Are all the other networking tools that gamers need available? Networked communication systems are a must. (Chat, IM, e-mail?)
Games are still in an early stage of evolution. Although they can be effective learning environments, not all games are effective nor are all games educational. Games are now being designed based on learning theory and research. Their effectiveness rests on the massively multiplayer immersive worlds they create, where learners “learn to be” and a social network surrounds the learner. The time has come for games to be reintegrated with education, ending a longstanding rift between work and play. Oblinger (2006)
Are we ready for this change or do we remain rooted in the smoggy industrial past? Is the recent interest and push for games based learning based on research? Is it the educational tool of choice or just a current fad? Further reading and learning required!