Last week, another video game took the world by a storm - Pokemon Go. What makes this video game different is that it is the first mobile game that blends the real world with computer graphics. For most players, it will be their first experience of augmented reality – which is going to be next big thing in computing (Rob, 2016). This is how far the gaming industry has come in terms of making the experience for gamers more “real world”.
Leveraging gaming technology
Gaming has led the way in many other areas of technology like user engagement, virtual reality, multi – user environments, etc. which businesses and organizations have leveraged to use to their advantage. For example, the automobile industry was one of the first to experience technologies like Computer Assisted Design (CAD) and Computer Assisted Manufacturing (CAM). These programs are used to test car designs and how they respond to different driving scenarios. The designs are refined in the virtual world before auto makers spend a cent building the actual cars (Tynan, 2016). Also, QVIT an online clothing store, allows shoppers to create avatar to try on outfits to increase sales.
If business all over the world have leveraged gaming technology in so many different ways, why can’t educational institutions use it to their advantage in the classrooms? Many gaming companies hire psychologists to devise engagement strategies. A typical video game is made up of levels. The first few levels of a video game are pretty easy to win and, the player is moved to the next level, rewarded with in game virtual money or, upgraded weapon, etc. However, the longer an individual plays the harder it is to get to the next level (Tynan, 2016). This is called reward interval or ratio. If the interval is too long the player gets frustrated and quits on the other hand if it is too short, the player will feel that it is too easy and not challenging enough. Optimization of the reward intervals comes from the work of B.F Skinner, and other behavioral scientists (Tynan, 2016).
Engaging learners through gaming
Video games are increasingly adaptive to the learning pace of the players. They are designed to be learnt rather than to be won. Only once a player learns the tactics and skills to play is he/she able to move to the next level. That probably explains the trend that 90% of children play video games, 70% of adults, and older adults are the video game players of tomorrow!
Parents of younger kids usually worry about the time they spend playing a video game as, the speaker Ms. Daphne Bavelier spoke about in her TED talk on Your brain on games. However, what they don’t know is, it has been welcomed as a tool to engage learners. In 2014, Microsoft acquired one of the most famous gaming platforms on the market – Minecraft. Earlier this year, they announced the release of Minecraft Education Edition, as they believe that gaming is the future of learning (Tynan, 2016). Other examples of gaming for learning include, companies like Cisco, who implemented a game – based learning program to help employees and contractors improve social media skills. After integrating gamification into their Online Leadership Academy, Deloitte witnessed an increase in the percentage of users (46.6%) returning to the site on a daily basis within 3 months (Tynan, 2016).
Video games can help teachers teach with impact
As companies see the benefits of increased engagement through games, the number and variety of learning applications will continue to grow. However, game – based learning is popular not because video games are extremely effective teaching tools. It is because they are scalable, replicable and extensible (Shapiro, 2015). They are also becoming increasingly inexpensive as technology continues to advance and usage increases to build and distribute. Using video games as classroom tools can help teach with greater impact (Shapiro, 2015). Video games can be exceptional teaching tools as they can respond instantly to different learning styles of students which, teachers may not be able to do.
Video games have a meta-cognitive function build right in. The term increasing used in education psychology is the ability of learners to think about their own thinking. It provides them with control of their own intellectual capacity (Shapiro, 2015). This matters in education because strong meta-cognitive functions lead to good academic skills. Learners recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and adapt or iterate their performance. Video games help build strong meta-cognitive skills as there are two “I” s one the player who holds the controller and, the other the avatar within the game. This distance allows gamers to think about their actions like an outsider looking in (Shapiro, 2015).
Game - based learning is not new to academia
If you think about it, game – based learning is not new to academia. For example, we have always used play therapy with children like building sand castles, climbing trees, playing the piano, etc. where the whole time they are exploring and learning about the world (Shapiro, 2015). Games have always been known to strengthen meta-cognitive functions if, they are played under the guidance of a mentor or teacher. Also, academia can be understood like a video game: something students play again and again, practicing and improving with each new attempt (Shapiro, 2015).
So, games are setting the pace as an increasing useful teaching tool. The question is, are we are future instructors or educators paying attention?
Rob, C. (2016, July 14). Pokemon Go: Trailblazer that could redefine mobile games. Retrieved from www.bbc.com: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36793515
Shapiro, J. (2015, March 30). How Video Games In The Classroom Will Make Students Smarter: Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/jordanshapiro/2015/03/30/how-video-games-in-the-classroom-will-make-students-smarter/#1e76a2281828
Tynan, K. (2016, May 2). How Gaming Is Shaping the Future of Work. Retrieved from www.hbr.org: https://hbr.org/2016/05/how-gaming-is-shaping-the-future-of-work