Educational games are not just about the playing, but about the construction of the game, said Michelle King from The Environmental Charter School in Pittsburgh, PA. As one of the leaders of the game-based learning session at the AAP PreK-12 Learning Group’s Content in Context (CIC) conference, King was trying to get attendees to understand that playing a classroom game isn’t just about who wins or whether or not a specific standard was addressed. Game-based learning is about the entire educational process and understanding how each part of the game from set-up to conclusion helps students make a connection between the skills they are practicing and the real world.
Additional highlights from the panel, which also included Leah Potter, Senior Instructional Designer for Electric Fun Stuff, and Ryan Schaaf, Assistant Professor of Educational Technology at Notre Dame of Maryland University:
- Research has shown that games increase metacognition (how you think and learn), boost collaboration and empathy, which make them attractive for education. And the gaming market has grown.
- However, developers should be aware that games and gamification are two very different notions. The former involves students actually learning through the game play; the latter just applies elements of game mechanics, like badges and points, into instructional tools.
- Right now, the industry is at a challenging point. Developers know how to make a small amount of quality games, but don’t know how to sell them.
- The marriage of learning goals and game mechanics doesn’t come easily without blood, sweat, and tears. Content drives design, which requires an investment, and can drive the prices. Schools, though, don’t often understand the time and expertise needed to develop a game. As developers, we need to ask: Is, developing this game worth it? Will it fit into an existing school curriculum? Will schools and teachers use it?
Education used to be about scarcity; you had to come to a specific place to get knowledge, commented King. But now, you can get information anywhere. What teachers do now is help students build society. Games offer us the ability to resee the world, said King, through relating the learning experience to the the context of the students’ lives.