Monday, October 28, 2013

Learning by Gaming, what's that about?

Recently for my Emerging Instructional Technology course we've been discussing how learning can occur through gaming; most of

Our class discussion last week covered this hot topic. The challenge was posed to the class (full of college-aged and adult students) to download a free game, called Kingdom Rush, and play it for three hours. Some of my classmates were thrilled at the idea of playing a game for three hours--not this girl. I'm not much of  a "gamer", so I wasn't really looking forward to starting the assignment.

BUT. I sat down on my futon and downloaded the full version of Kingdom Rush (I think it was $0.99 or something along those lines) and began to play on my iPod touch. I started figuring out the game and the purpose without thoroughly reading the instructions. I played for a while and then I read the objectives, strategies, and options of the game. It turns out that I really enjoyed it! I continued playing for about and hour and a half, took a break, and played more. It was a great Monday afternoon.

Basically the idea behind Kingdom Rush is that you're battling against all kinds of creatures that have immunity to various types of weaponry. So far in my quest I've gotten access to Arrows, Artillery, Wizard's Magic, and Militia. Once you kill enough creatures that are trying to attack your territory, you can upgrade your weapons to beat the creatures faster and easier. Once you beat all the waves of enemies, you win the battle and can move on to the next one! The game has a lot of rewards included and leveling up, which makes me want to continue playing to reach the next goal.

So... what does this mean?
Gaming can serve as a really excellent learning experience if you play it right. While I was doing my reading, I learned about this concept called flow, which means that we are fully absorbed in an activity. I read this article called the 9 Characteristics of Flow, and I really liked it. Point number three hit home with me during my Kingdom Rush experience; there was enough challenge to keep me interested, but not so much that I ever became discouraged.

If this works for me, a 22-year-old female college student, to keep me engaged in something totally unfamiliar and unknown, how can we transfer it to the education world? I've been looking at the concept of gaming in a metaphorical sense. By that, I mean we need to keep students challenged but not so challenged that they give up. We need to provide rewards and a chance for students who are advancing more rapidly than others to "level up". We need to provide clear goals to our students--they need to know the purpose of each and every lesson.

I really enjoyed this gaming experience, contrary to my beliefs before participating. I think the concept of learning by gaming is making serious headway in the modern day of education. Students want to be entertained, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be benefiting from it! We're setting up a cool environment for learning by using gaming techniques in the classroom.