Good learning is good gaming

The crucial distinction between interactive and linear entertainment is agency, our ability to alter the world around us or our situation in it. When we act, our action has effects.Games are all about driving the ambition of the player, rather than taking them along for the ride.

Whether or not you ‘like’ games isn’t important. What is important is that computers used in the classroom have far more affinity with interaction that linearity. They differ from print and video as these rely on static things such as

– always controlling the order of events
– controlling the timing between events
creating fixed narratives and characters

To that end, tools often preferenced in ‘class’ are those which provide intentional-control, making sure the learner experiences it in the way the teacher intends. This was once considered ‘good’ eLearning. The current revolution in games isn’t so much technological as it is emotional – and that has had a big impact on what we expect from all ‘online interaction’. Designers are getting far better at creating agency that drive more satisfying emotional experiences (Amazon, Apple, Google, Xbox). It’s no shock that tools which create agency are the most disruptive to people used to control. Learning designs which create interactive, non-linear, agency experiences are the only eLearning we should be releasing – if we’re also talking about critical thinking and problem solving.

If not, then make sure the drill and skill, mastery app is solid enough to teach the skill, but for goodness sake, please don’t put kids on Mathletics and claim it’s something more while you mark paper.