What do you want from technology?

It’s an important question that anticipates a broad response. But we have to ask it more often, in order assess the kind of learning-outcomes we want for ourselves. Sadly some people assume we want the same now as when they started asking the question in the early part of the decade. And why not? they’ve had some personal wins from that message, so long live the message.

Whether people in a room agree with the speaker’s message, the act of being in the room creates affective learning outcomes according to theory. If we orbit the same, see the same, do the same – then we can’t be shocked when change is the same – slow and un-responsive.

When I talk about games,  I don’t expect anyone to rush out and become a gamer or use them as their primary method of teaching with technology.  I’m okay with the fact that people do talk about them later however. To me, the encounter does have a visible impact on attitude, motivation and goals. This appears true in our game.

In our Massively Minecraft game, social game-play targets direct attitudinal or preference changes in the kids and parents. For example. “Even though this game is retro-looking, I like making my own things” – some player

It also indirectly focuses motivational changes. For example. “I’ll log in to make something with my friends, rather than work on my own” – some other player

We are learning to pay attention to what they players want – though play. This leads back to the idea that being exposed to technology shapes individual’s feelings and belief. As games are a subset of technology – exposing teachers to them is a catalyst to evoke affective learning outcomes in the teacher – about games and technology broadly. Here’s three reasons games work in professional development (of anything).

  • Teachers who don’t ‘like’ technology, can play games.
  • Games are inherently humanistic behavior.
  • Games are a good way of introducing technology to teachers.

So how come every keynote in Australia this year hasn’t once attempted to play games with teachers – or kids?

We’re thinking about this. Massively Minecraft amplifies five elements that good game design targets – receiving, responding, valuing, organising and internalising. All these things impact direct and indirect behaviour in the players.

This seems to make sense, perhaps even the basis of structuring learning episodes. Gagne said that “what a learner actually encodes is a representation of the model person they make as a choice of action.

This creates planned behaviour. The stronger the attitude towards something, the more likely these attitudes will influence the behavior.

Game-designers know that goal-setting improves performance, and that this is more motivating if failure isn’t catastrophic. When we ask about technology, we have to be acutely aware that perceived self-efficacy influences motivation and in turn effort and persistence. Positive experiences result in development of knowledge, skills and understanding (even if you die sometimes trying).

This leads us to ask questions (and argue over) what to introduce to Massively Minecraft.

We broadly agree on about six points.

  1. rules,
  2. variables,
  3. quantifiable outcomes with social-value,
  4. player effort,
  5. attachment of the player to the outcome,
  6. negotiable consequences.

The way to teach and assumed role of technology isn’t this in the classroom. Even if we take the widely agreed (and recycled) attributes of games (fantasy, goals, sensory stimuli, challenge, mystery and control) – it’s no shock to find that handing out badges for ‘level ups’ under a predominantly Blooms regime is like putting lipsick on a pig.

From all of this – the one thing kids want in our game is ‘control’ and this is critical if the player is to influence their learning environment. (feedback received, pace of play, movement in the space). Control allows the players to progress – but more importantly these progressions become increasingly personal, leading to what Gagne was talking about – encoding.

Games are simply at better at encoding than many of the classroom strategies in popular use – and they are not faithful in any shape or from to ‘constructivism’ or other theory. Think of them as being far more like opportunists with a dry sense of humor.

Stop asking ‘are games useful’ and begin to admire the fact that game-designers are having tremendously more success than teachers when it comes to engaging use of technology.

I can accept that education doesn’t like games as thier specific learned knowledge, skills and attitudes make games the least likely candidate to improve performance in the current regime of testing and assessment. Call of Duty won’t let you pass Modern History.

What I can’t accept is the almost universal decision in schools to ban anything online called ‘game’ and sit around and do nothing more.

Massively Minecraft is a game community that’s free to join.