Know is a verb. Knowledge is a noun.

When immersed in writing for my Masters of Education program I begin to wake in the morning with ideas that are trying to crystallise. I find that I need to jot them down or else they become ephemera. I woke this morning with two ideas annoying me. An in-world problem and a real-world problem, both competing for my waking time.

A Real World Problem:
To generalise, educators as a whole do not really understand games, gaming culture and therefore Games Based Learning (GBL). I count myself as one of these educators. To understand games, gaming culture and by extension the possibilities of GBL requires us to develop an understanding of a culture that is possibly new to us. To develop a working understanding is hard work as it requires a process of immersion and exploration. If we take the plunge by immersing ourselves into this strange culture by playing games we become immigrants, rookies, NOOBS or apprentices. So, typical of immigrant behaviour we attempt to understand this new culture through the lens of our own world view of education, formed by past experiences. Evidence of this is seen in attempts to analyse GBL through the lens of familiar frameworks such as Blooms Taxonomy or the SAMR Model. I am not sure this way of ‘systemising’ GBL by referring to old frameworks is the way to go, although it’s great to see those old frameworks stretched and tested by new possibilities. These activities perhaps support Gee’s comments about schools locked in endless and pointless battles between traditionalism and progressivism (Gee, 2005). Such an approach also seems at odds with the magic of GBL where a more holistic approach to learning is built and learners are forced, quite rigorously, to problem solve as part of a wider community. With regard to the SAMR model, I would have thought that such an approach was totally unnecessary in the field of Games Based Learning? What is perhaps useful as a point of reflection is the TPACK model but only when the model promotes reflection on the influence of context on learning, such as the model proposed by TPACK.ORG.

However, the lack of dedicated frameworks to support the evaluation of educational games and simulations is reported to be a significant impediment for their uptake in formal education (De Freitas, 2006). So to overcome this perceived impediment perhaps new frameworks need developing. De Freitas does present a four dimensional framework, that many educators will not be familiar with – viewable online: How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Importantly what this framework introduces is the “context where play/learning takes place…” (De Freitis, 2006 p, 253). The important observation here is that educators should (if we must) look for or develop frameworks that allow us to view learning in a more holistic fashion rather than as tools to support us in our understanding of a hierarchy of learning behaviours (e.g Blooms) as we throw content at learners.

A Different Type Of Problem:

Avatar, Wilson NoMesk

Avatar, Wilson NoMesk

This second problem is much more exciting. My Eve Online avatar, Wilson NoMesk, is required to complete a training mission by deploying probes that will guide him in an exploration of a solar system. The difficulty is that he must at first develop the necessary skills needed to complete the mission. How does he do this…from a textbook? From a manual perhaps?

In his blog post titled Got The Manual, Can’t Play The Game, Matt Ives explores a perspective of formal eduction where students are given content but no authentic context to use that information. Wilson, is being exposed to a completely different type of pedagogy. He is placed in an authentic context before being given the content to learn. So how does Wilson go about acquiring the appropriate skills. The answer is that he hunts for information both inside and outside of the game. These differences remind me of the idea that Know is a verb before it is a noun: Knowledge (Gee, 2005). The philosophy the Gee expresses here is that any domain of knowledge, is firstly a set of activities and experiences.

What I woke to this morning was my mind working on two different topics. The first exists within a context of learning about GBL in a M.Ed program, supported by some pretty smart learning design. In effect, I am on a mission to a hunt for information. The second issue that is troubling me exists in a game scenario that is just as authentic and also has me searching for information, but this time so that I can assist my avatar in his gaming world (did I get that right?). In both cases there is a strong reason to learn.

I am going to paraphrase Gee again (Edutopia, 2012): When people are thinking because they have to get ready to take an action that they want to take and they want that action to succeed, they will think really well. But, when you ask them to think about stuff but there’s no action they are going to take and they don’t really care what the outcome is, they think really poorly.

That’s enough learning for today. 🙂


De Freitas, S., & Oliver, M. (2006). How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated?. Computers & Education, 46(3), 249-264.

Edutopia (2012) James Paul Gee on Learning with Video Games [Video File].Retrieved from

Gee, J. P. (2005). What would a state of the art instructional video game look like. Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 1(6), 159.

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  1. “When people are thinking because they have to get ready to take an action that they want to take and they want that action to succeed, they will think really well.”

    This is why there have been such rich and complex systems of information built up around and in games (particularly MMOs). Learning has real and immediate ramifications on in-game play. Contrast this with traditional learning where “the point” is often shrouded in mystery or confusion or because it will be helpful with a future career, and you can see why there is a disconnect in passion between formal and informal learning.

    Education has a lot to learn from gaming culture (and vise-versa, in some respects too).

    Great post, Simon.

    • Middle Years students are always asking “Why are we learning this.” As educators we learn to say “It’s important….blah, blah” As Gee says games do not present information out of context. I didn’t put it in the post but i love his comments on facts that resist out of context memorisation.

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