While gaming has shown promise in academic circles, education-specific games may not be the best products for the classroom, according to an eCampus News interview with two game-based-learning professors.
According to Sherry Jones, philosophy, rhetoric, and game studies instructor, University of Colorado, Denver, educators who use gaming in their classrooms are either passionate gamers in the first place, nongamers looking at games as a way to teach concepts, or nongamers who hire designers to build educational games from scratch. She found that the most successful games in the classroom were the ones available to all consumers, such as Angry Birds or World of Warcraft.
“Educational games designed specifically around a concept, especially custom-built ones, impose a certain way of teaching a concept on game designers, whose job it is to make games fun and interesting,” Jones said. “Educational games can be inflexible and very boring to play. Students don’t like them and then the whole process falls apart.”
She suggested that instructors need to spend more time finding out how games work and how they can work in the classroom. Karen Novack, instructional designer at Front Range Community College, Westminster, CO, said faculty should inform students why a particular game was chosen and provide them with the learning objectives of the game.
“Anytime you use a commercial game, or really with any kind of change, you get resistance, and because we’re higher-ed, our students run the gamut from 16-year-olds who are getting early college credits to retired adults,” she said. “So you need to be explicit with students about why you’re using these games in this course and how learning this game will benefit their education.”
Faculty must also be willing to get it wrong from time to time.
“Present the class with the game and the parameters they need to go unpack the game,” Jones said. “Survey the class to see how they liked it and if the game was more effective in assessing their understanding of the concepts. The best way to determine if it’s going to be effective is to do it.”