When I started this unit, I had two very definite views of game-based learning:
- Game-based learning is high risk in the vocational education and training (VET) environment and should be used very carefully within a narrow context, and
- Gaming, gamification and game-based learning are three very distinct concepts with rigid definitions that I knew how to explain to teachers.
This unit has been the most engaging and rewarding unit I have ever studied. I have learnt so much and it completely disintegrated and changed both of my strong-held views above.
I discovered that game-based learning is NOT high risk for the VET environment. In fact, there appears to be an immense appetite for ANY engaging content within my organisation. When I shared the first draft of the Have a Great Day game with the Hair and Beauty teachers they were so excited and asked if they could use it straight away. I explained it was just a simple, superficial swipe at the topic of environmental sustainability in their industry area but they claimed they had nothing that was engaging or relevant to use thus welcomed anything that was digital, engaging and game-based. I know they will be using this game from next week.
My reflection post March 16, 2019, outlines how reading Kapp (2012) replaced my preconceived notion of gamification and allowed me to deconstruct and then rebuild my understanding during the unit of game-based learning, gamification, serious games and more.
Learning about flow and the importance of the narrative in games and how this applies to an educational context were two major light bulb moments for me. I can now see the end game is to try and tap into just a snippet of the immersion and engagement that my 14 year old son demonstrates on the PlayStation, who would sit there all day if I allowed him to. How do we get that kind of immersion and engagement in education?
The importance of flow in games became more evident as the unit and associated readings progressed (Jackson & Eklund, 2006). It is now apparent to me how important flow is for educators and game-based learning (Wood, Chappell, Davies & Mark, 2004).
I have always advocated that any educational technology employed should be intuitive for both the teacher and the student and that if extensive training, manuals or onboarding is required then we have chosen the wrong technology. I can now see after this unit that the same holds true for games and indeed game-based learning. Just like an LMS, if the user needs to receive extensive instructions on how to navigate and play the game, this interrupts from the narrative and flow of the game and will reduce immersion. Snoman Gaming (2014) agrees that a well designed game doesn’t need to teach you how to use it and that the story should unravel through your actions rather than have someone tell you how to play.
Another illumination during this unit was the realisation that while the gaming sector is a multi-billion dollar industry, the educational slice of gaming is miniscule and lacking funding and attention. Many educational games and links in this topic were 10-20 years old, flash-based and obviously created on a thin budget. The next progression of my professional development and understanding in this unit was the realisation that the less “educational” a game seems and the more engaging and immersive it is, while secretly being educational, the more successful it will be. Minecraft is the perfect example to demonstrate this hypothesis.
The final reflection I would like to make on this amazing unit relates to a comment made by a fellow student during one of the tutorials. The student said they needed an “adult platform” to develop their game in. I would like to contend that the technology is not primary, nor should it dictate the level or design of a game. The learning design and pedagogy surrounding the activity, while merely utilising a technology tool, is quintessential for effective, engaging and immersive game-based learning. I have successfully used Kahoot, Flipgrid, powerpoint and more with staff and adult learners, all of which could be classified as K-6.
I have never enjoyed a unit more. I read every single reference. Watched every single video. I have loved every minute of this unit and hope to continue my studies in this area as it is so new to VET.
Thank you June.
Jackson, S. A. & Eklund, R. C. (2004). The flow scales manual. Fitness Information Technology.
Kapp, K. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: game-based methods and strategies for training and education. John Wiley & Sons.
Snoman Gaming. (2014, October 14). Good Game Design – Shovel Knight: The “Teaching without teaching” Principle. [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYvPdEyTXUc
Wood, R. T. A. G., Chappell, M. D., Davies, D., & Mark, N. O. (2004). The structural characteristics of video games: A psycho-structural analysis. CyberPsychology & Behaviour, 7(1), 1-10.