Game Design, Gamification, Learning Design and Assorted Other Strangeness

Is Your Class A Game?

Is Your Class A Game?“People learn through play” is a statement that almost every teacher, psychologist, educational theorist and even politician can agree on.

Play teaches a wide range of skills mostly in the area of procedural knowledge (how to do things) rather than declarative (how to explain things). It is an area that is under-served by the tell-then-test model employed by most education systems. It reduces the psycho-social moratorium, and by reducing the cost of mistakes allows people to learn from their mistakes. It has been linked to creativity, social engagement and a wide range of positive psychological features.

A game can be defined in many ways, but in relation to play, it could be seen as a “repeatable unit of play” that people choose to engage in. The rules that bound a game allow it to be repeated with different players or in a different context. This allows the player to explore other potential solutions or to make mistakes in a low risk environment.

If we turn our attention to the features of a class. It should have a specific goal (pedagogical/social). It will have rules in place for how the students can reach that goal and it should have some method of seeing when the goal has been reached. More importantly (at least for this disscusion) the class is repeatable with other students to try to bring them to the same goal. So a class can be viewed as a “repeatable unit of learning”.

Is the class a game?

This is where we start running into trouble. Teachers often have a strong negative gut reaction to the proposition. Games are seen as often something frivolous, something that carries the connotations of not being important or not a proper field of discussion for those involved in education.

As has been disused in other posts, games are very serious business, and the way to leverage what they bring to learning is a field in desperate need of further study. The semantics of the word “game” is getting in the way of a deeper understanding of the world around us.

Some teachers find it more comforting to talk of the classroom as a “Game like” environment. This allows them to distance themselves from the semantics associated with a game, while still using games as an analogy for examining the classroom. This different way of looking at education offers new potential solutions to old problems in the classroom—like those of engagement and discipline.

It can be argued however that not only is a class a game but, from the perspective of it being a repeatable unit of play, it should be.

Featured image credit: William Warby

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