Wednesday, January 10

How to be a Cutting Edge Education Theory Expert using Computer Games

Do you want to be a cutting edge educational expert on computer games? Here are the two, key principles.

Point #1: There is Value in "Doing Something With Feedback"

Argue that computer games are fabulous because players do things, and learn from their mistakes.

"But what if someone argues back," you are thinking, "that people also learn from gardening, changing a light bulb, running a lemonade stand, driving from one place to another, making dinner for friends, and doing just about any hobby, or really, anything."

That's easy. Just bring up scalability, in terms of big numbers (computer games now make more money than box office receipts -or- the average person plays 24.3 hours of computer games a day) or zoom into concepts, taking advantage of big words (they are utilizing advanced task analysis or cognitive anything). These will help.

Point #2: There is Value in "Getting People Together."

Argue that multiplayer environments are incredible because the get people together. And once people get together, they share ideas, they network, they pass concepts to and from each other, they are involved in unstructured learning. Information is fresh, current, real.

Again, I know what you are worried about. People already get together all of the time. They get together in car pools, subways, cafeterias, and water coolers. When people get together, they tend to talk about their families and television shows.

So again, use big numbers (YouTube sold for 1.6 billion dollars -or- one quarter of all Internet users use facebook and myspace) or big words (social networking and points economy).

Paydirt! "Getting People Together" in order to "Do Something with Feedback"

The first two arguments work well by themselves. You can become a well respected thinker just on those two alone.

But if you want to be a real-thought leader, an intellectual giant among ants, put the two together. Now you are in World of Warcraft territory. The only limitation to your success is how big and academic you can make the adjectives. Now you can use phrases like "social cues" or "orchestrating strategy."

You are now ready to usher in a new paradigm of education. You are cutting edge. This will change everything. (And, best of all, if you are too lazy to actually come up with new ideas, just look up "group challenges" or "ropes course" or "little league" or "chess club" or "corporate outing" and cut and paste from there.)

P.S. If you want some proof, use the "volume" logic. It goes something like:

One: generically, games and web sites involve some form of learning and/or at least information.
Two: some games/sites generate a lot of traffic. Let's call one "site x."
Three: Most likely, there are big name corporations that spend advertising dollars to expose themselves to this "site x" traffic and eyeballs. Let's call one "corporation y."
Four: educational theorists just connect the statements and say: "corporate y" gets this new model of learning and education. See, they have a big presence in "site x".


Clark Aldrich said...

Obviously, I am a huge advocate of immersive learning simulations. Hopefully, my argument here is taken to be against lazy vagueness, not necessary innovation.

Anonymous said...

Hi Clark,

Excellent ideas there. I find I hate the hyperbole found in some GBL publications - yet I'm almost forced into using the very same hyperbole any time I try and get funding for a project. It would certainly be easier to pretend I think everything is rosy and just quote the big numbers...

Meanwhile, most of the major experts on games based learning have at some point argued, as you put it, "that computer games are fabulous because players do things, and learn from their mistakes."

Henry Jenkins is usually on fairly solid ground but said All games are educational!
And I've seen other authors regularly make great claims for the benefits of teaching with games while ignoring perfectly valid (and probably cheaper) alternatives... as I've commented once or twice.

Anonymous said...

This is rather... biting. I can't help but wonder what inspired it.

Regardless, I know the field needs people to say this from time to time... and it's important that it sometimes be a supporter saying it (so that a reaction against lazy vagueness is not merely dismissed as nay saying).

Personally, I know I can easily fall into these traps myself when I discuss these ideas - especially with educators. Luckily, vagueness isn't necessarily wrong... it's just... lazy. But I appreciate the reminder to advocate with care.

Anonymous said...


Since I was about four paragraphs in before I realized what you were doing, you did well. And you highlight the risk of Greenspanian irrational exuberance that all vigorous advocates have, in any learning-enhancement area.

Daniel's point about needed to use hyperbole himself rings true with me, because in detailed with senior managers and other decision-makers, I find they have as much interest in how learning really works as they do in the Treaty of Utrecht.

That said, I believe I owe it to them to stress that learning X by doing Y works because people are A, B, and C -- grappling with realistic problems, deciding under pressure, learning from feedback, whatever it is.

E.g., if you're working with telesales staff, key factors might be (a) no visual feedback, (b) prospect's response to cold call, and (c) ability to quickly decide go / no-go (go to next call).

A simulation (or a workshop exercise) ignoring those factors may be rich, fun, engrossing, but ultimately irrelevant.

Clark Aldrich said...

Daniel, I agree that hyperbole does seem necessary, at least to get attention.

Hi Mark! Yes, you know me too well. Definately the result of hearing one more bandwaggoning presentation.

Hi Dave, I agree.

Lisa, congrats on almost being done. Funnily enough, I strongly believe immersive learning simulations are underhyped, not overhyped.