Gamification and game-based learning (GBL) has captured my imagination as a teacher and driven my professional development over the past several years. I find GBL so fascinating that I have elected to take three different classes at BSU related to gaming in the classroom. Now, this year, I am piloting the use of Minecraft Education Edition in my 6th grade classroom. Watching my students flourish as a result of their gameplay has offered incredible insight about the motivating factors of GBL and why it can be such an effective way to reach our students.
From a student’s standpoint, the appeal of games is huge. According to Knewton Infographics, over 5 million people play an average of 45 hours worth of games per week. As a teacher, why not leverage games to benefit learning? There has long been debate over the true merit of educational games (called “serious games”) when compared to games created for recreation (called “commercial games”). However, it is possible to transform the purpose of commercial games by changing the context in which the game is played. This is called contextual transposition. According to a Haiku Deck presentation authored by BSU professor, Dr. Chris Haskell, “Contextual transposition occurs when one changes the context of a tool or experience in order to achieve something that the game designer did not intend.” This applies to the use of Minecraft in the classroom, because Minecraft was originally created as a commercial game. Microsoft has adapted it for use in the education setting, but its purpose (to create, build, survival, and/or thrive) remains the same.
The relative advantage to using Minecraft and other games for learning is increased student engagement. Since many students love playing games, it makes sense to utilize them in the classroom. Another relative advantage of game play is that it makes content more relevant and memorable for students. The concrete elements of gameplay can help students retain greater amounts of information based on their virtual experiences. When students are tasked with creating games, both their level of engagement as well as their feelings of ownership increase even further. In an article published in Educational Psychologist, Kafai and Burke contend that creating games is the ultimate constructivist learning activity. They cite the work of Papert and Piaget to support their claim, reminding readers that games allow students to play as well as learn from a personal perspective.
Personalized learning an important key to educative success. Even now, at the age of 35, I vividly recall playing two digital games when I was in elementary school: Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego? To this day, I can describe the challenges of westward expansion and trace the route of the Oregon trail. I guarantee that I would not be able to do that without exposure to Social Studies content through gameplay.
The Gamification of Education Infographic. (n.d.). Retrieved October 23, 2017, from https://www.knewton.com/infographics/gamification-education/
Using Commercial Games in Education. (2015, Nov 30). Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.haikudeck.com/using-commercial-games-education-presentation-GWPwqgtm9n
Kafai, Y. B., & Burke, Q. (2015, October 02). Constructionist Gaming: Understanding the Benefits of Making Games for Learning. Retrieved October 23, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4784508/
Author: Jessica Pack
California Teacher of the Year. CUE Outstanding Educator 2015. DIGICOM Learning Teacher Consultant. 6th Grade Teacher. Passionate about gamification, Minecraft, digital story-telling, and fostering student voices.