Something wicked this way doesn’t come

In the debate about which technologies are more or less important in the lifecycle of classroom learning, it’s worth pointing out that the introduction of Internet based tools and practices also introduces digital-culture. Games will introduce game-culture. Are we ready for either? are we rushing into games simply because we’ve rage-quitted the digital-culture debate.

Digital-culture has strong ties to identity, it is un-surprising that while on on hand students are told to write a blog, they also must accept that Facebook is outlawed. No real explanation is given, no real discussion – as discussing it serious will amplify how facile the ban-solution is.

For example, how many students post “I’m blogging about the villains of the Roman Empire” on their Facebook wall? when they must constantly annexe their academic ‘me’ from their digital ‘me’. The fact this wall-post might reach a wider audience, perhaps even a valid authentic one and lead to additional blog-readers and comments is negated and therefore separated – both by the teacher and the student.

Facebook is not for school, it’s for the rest of your life …. hmmm, which one do kids think is more important?

The more we do, the more complex it gets. Today’s leet-users of Web2.0 are radically more experienced and dynamic than 2006. In short we exasperate the problem simply by talking about it.

Games present a further dilemma. They are not only emerging from digital-culture, but from game-culture. If you’re not arriving at ‘games would be good’ from that culture, it’s a problem, just as not approaching Web2.0 from a digital culture has proven to be.

While the digital-teachers might be toying with the idea of gamification, they also need to consider what that culture will release into the classroom.

Seymour Papert commented “game designers have a better take on the nature of learning than curriculum designers” and that in reference to eLearning games that it is “downright immoral to trick children into learning and doing math when they think they are just playing an innocent game.” 

How exactly are these level ups, achievement badges and XP points lowering risk. From what I can tell, games are the next biggest risk after porn – go on type in games and see what the filter says.  I have some questions about these ‘gamified’ classrooms …

James Gee suggests “Good video games lower the consequences of failure; players can start from the last saved game when they fail. Players are thereby encouraged to take risks, explore, and try new things. In fact, in a game, failure is a good thing. Facing a boss, the player uses initial failures as ways to find the boss’s pattern and to gain feedback about the progress being made. School often allows much less space for risk, exploration, and failure.”

How can we identify the learning processes that occur during game play and does this help us establish what is being learnt?

Van Eck warns “we run the risk of creating the impression that all games are good for all learners and for all learning outcomes, which is categorically not the case”.

Is this particularly true of gamification where there is no actual game being played, (apart from the that pretends innovation happens when you say ‘level up’ not’ well done’)?

My point is that just because a game uses levels or badges to reward players, simply adding these to a Blooms progression and renaming scores as achievements neither honors digital-culture or game-culture. In fact it might have a negative effect in that students who play games will *roll-eyes* and be further de-motivated. If you are going to use game based learning – then start with using a game, not a metaphor for a game.


One thought on “Something wicked this way doesn’t come

  1. Hi Dean, I’ve been meaning to ask you your opinion of “gamification” since it popped up recently on my radar. Guess I’ve got your thoughts in this post. You seem to echo my concerns about it as opposed to GBL.

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