Games are not like Web2.0, they started with critical mass

It was suggested to me that games are not that practical in the classroom, that there is too much to do already, and finding times to play games would be nice, but unrealistic.

So I’d like to be realistic, and put forward that most commercial games are dripping in common types and principles of learning theories. Broadly speaking, research into games consistently identifies behaviourism, cognitivism, humanism and constructivism. There are clear relationships between these theories, game types, game functions and player interactions. At the same time pedagogy is cited as a major component of successful game-based-learning,

For the most part, instructional designers know little about game development and video game developers may know little about training, education and instructional design.

In relation to multi-player games, experiential learning theory presented by Kolb (1984) puts forward the principle that this form of learning  “requires no teacher and relates solely to the meaning-making process of the individual’s direct experience”.

So while to the left we have instructional designers, and to the right game designers – emerging in the middle are people intent on linking the two – not through novelty or token gestures, but seeing games as fundamentally being player-game and player-player interactions.

Inside most games, there is no ‘teacher’ role as teachers might see themselves. During a game session, meaning is constructed, transmitted and applied in social transactions. The function of the teacher, is not to teach, but to be an allotelic function on the game – to create game play where by players act according to outside goals and sources of motivation, embedded in the rules – and to facilitate that transaction. There is absolutely no reason to believe that these rules or transactions would not include the need to demonstrate knowledge or comprehension of mathematics, science, literature or language for example.

What I think is happening more and more is that teachers who see game based learning as a viable pedagogy are often interested in both game design and instructional design. This is perhaps an often not metioned by-product of Web2.0, as most teacher exploring Web2.0 are by neccessity exploring instructional design, often though play.

It seems logical that these people want to create and use game-worlds. To them a game-world is a natural and perhaps necessary evolution of online/distance learning – and quite often they describe their work though in humanstic terms and use a new learning theory – connectivism – to get together and make these things. It’s the ultimate robot-building-challenge, seeking the ultimate level up.

Think it’s too ambitious? I don’t, after all Gamers just solved a decade’s old medical problem in ten days. When gamers get funding, they get organised, when they get organised they put all that collective power to highly purposeful work. So the best way to not achieve this is simply not to give gamers money.

The challenge for games right now is not to get into the classroom, but to find ways to function away from them using the topologies that already exist. They’ll keep doing it while ever these networks of player-designers feel games are being excluded from the classroom.

Games are not like Web2.0, they already have a critical mass and experienced learners willing to volunteer. They are called kids – and when kids start teaching kids, in worlds created for that purpose … then are pushing third generation educational gaming in exactly the right direction.

Virtual School isn’t school shovelled into an LMS, it has the potential to be something all together more stunning.