A couple of weeks ago, I was invited up to Dundee to present at Game To Learn 2. It was a good day, and I saw some excellent presentations, notably by Daniel Livingstone, Michelle Hoyle and Greg Hodgeson, who is doing some very interesting things to support learners as game creators.
I presented a talk entitled ‘Is there really a place for fun and games in adult learning?’ and, because my slides each contain only two or three words at most, wanted to use this post to share the main ideas rather than simply linking to the slides. I will necessarily be summarising my main points here so I apologise in advance for the impending crass over-generalisations.
- Games are good for learning because they a) support active learning; b) increase engagement; c) provide playful spaces to learn from failure.
- However: a) Education is an increasingly expensive and serious business, learners increasingly see themselves as ‘customers’ buying a ‘service’ who want ‘value for money; b)Adult learners expect lecturers and seminars, they a strategic learners who want to learning in the most efficient way possible. They don’t all play games and certainly don’t all want to use them for learning; and c) Computer games are expensive, difficult to use in practice, and we fight media hype about violence, sexism and addiction.
- Learners do want learning to be fun, although they are also prepared for some hard graft. Fun to them means: a) actually doing something; b) an enthusiastic teacher with a passion for the subject; c) social interaction; d) freedom from pressure. (Findings from a recent series of interviews I’ve undertaken that I am in the process of writing up formally).
- So games are good for learning and learners want fun (which isn’t necessarily about games, but certainly doesn’t exclude them) but they also want value for money and to learn in the most effective way. How can these be reconciled?
- By not trying to push game-based learning as a mainstream activity for adult education. There will always be great examples of enthusiastic individuals or fantastic projects, but these are not replicable on a large scale, and it isn’t even appropriate to try until we have a much more established evidence base. We need to build on – and systematically evaluate – these examples of good practice.
- We need to focus on learning from games, not learning with games, analysing what games do well – what makes them so powerful for learning, so compelling and enjoyable – and applying these techniques to adult education. This is not simply gamification, but about using game principles to transform how teaching and learning is carried out in our institutions.
Recordings for all the keynote presentations are available online (somehow they managed to capture my best ‘sucking a lemon’ face for the still and I’m too scared to actually view the presentation myself).