Are you getting the full picture?

This week, Cog Diss got a mention on! – and rightly so. Its daring idea.

In translation; Peggy Sheehy and Lucas Gillispie’s project to use World of Warcaft in learning was talked about in Are game’s in education just for ‘fringe’ Web2.0 teachers? –  even more mad than the Second Lifers?

Not really, recent reports and academic research suggests that social games are more influential to youth online than social media. They not only play them, but use them to create new information.

Play has long been recognized as important to learning. Vygotsky notes that ‘the influence of play on a child’s development is enormous … allowing the child to function a head taller than himself ’. He maintained that involvement in these activities adds a dimension to learning that is not afforded in the curriculum.

Teachers often have a nostalgic view of video games – using them in learning requires conceptualising how much of their design immediately affords the development of 21st Century skills. They are perhaps the unseen co-curriculum that will ensure kids develop these skills regardless of the classroom.

The games industry reports that gamers are almost 50/50 male and female – and games are social. The stereotype images of lonely, disconnected teens with low social skills and a love of gothic art is today a myth. Wii-fit is an excellent example of how games are not actually promoted as being social, fun, mainstream and good for you.

Picture 1No one enjoys a boring game or one that’s ‘stupid-hard’ – you can’t beat it because the way its designed is ‘stupid’ – bad interaction; confusing instructions; poorly thought out puzzles and problems.  Players give up, find a cheat or once beaten, never to return. The casual gamer sits down and grind through a game for a few hours occasionally, where as ‘serious’ gamers are  drawn to much deeper narratives. There are many comparisons between being a learner and being a gamer – and why not – gamers are learners.

Why games promote meta-cognitive learners

A massively multiplayer online game (MMO) involves tactics, statistics and navigating a graphical interface. Players must be adaptable, co-operative, problem orientated, critical and selective. Tasks that may seem futile at first, become significant later; more immediately appealing ones yield little lasting reward. To maximise efficiency (and fun), players use ‘collateral media’ to improve their performance and understanding through reading and writing wikis, blogs, forum and email lists. The media with the most authority is ranked by relevance though comments and ratings. Resources may be discovered through ‘search’ but authority comes from referral inside the knowledge-networks.

Being social in game play is the only way to access expert local knowledge – and players co-opt constantly to achieve their goals. There is an emphasis is placed on making personal knowledge public. This is supported by a strong emphasis on reflective practice – that builds personal reputation inside the community. “I know how to do that, go to 40,50 locate the trader – give him the note and he’ll give you the key”.