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Irreconcilable Differences with 'Gamification vs. Education-Irreconcilable Differences?'

Justin Marquis wrote a piece called Gamification vs. Education-Irreconcilable Differences? over at OnlineUniversities.com.  Please read it.

But there are several, major flaws in the thinking, at least as I see it, that are worth pointing out.

First, the title has at least two intellectual flaws in it.  First, the article is about serious games and education, not gamification and education.  Second, the piece is not about irreconcilable differences at all, but differences that should be fairly straightforward to reconcile.

Second, a bit further down, a little nit.  "To many, games and education seem nearly... diametrically opposed."   I believe this is a dated sentiment.  Game-like experiences are being sought after in the classroom, but are facing many challenges.

Third, he wrote: "the real problem for game developers to overcome is their failure to acknowledge and address the issue of educational standards and accountability."

Here are just some of my problems with this statement.
  • Game developers, such as EA, are overall ambivalent about the education market in general.  A different category, serious games developers, are more interested in the education market.  
  • Even serious games developers question the appeal of the straight academic marketplace.  Most of the teachers I know vastly overestimate the appeal of the academic marketplace to all but the largest of vendors.  
  • Those serious games developers who do exist in the academic marketplace, such as Muzzy Lane, are utterly obsessed with educational standards.
Then he again (in his quote "While I may not personally agree with standards-based education -as it appears most interested in gamification do not – it is none-the-less the way that public education functions.") uses gamification when I believe he means serious games. (The two overlap, but not substantively  Frankly, gamification - the application of motivational and engagement techniques honed in computer games for non-game environments - is perfect for standards-based education.  Serious games - media that presents relevant content in a game format to develop competence and conviction - is still pretty good, but not a perfect fit.)

Then JM writes, "If game developers continue to ignore (or remain ignorant of) educational standards, there will be no real way for GBL to become an integral part of education."

Again, there are many problems with this statement. Here is just one.
  • There are many, many reasons why GBL (again, different from gamification, and what I am calling Serious Games) has a challenge to become an integral part of education.  This includes availability of computer infrastructure, platform variations, budgets, control by text book companies, standard APIs, licensing models, and teacher training are just the beginning. To give (often small or medium sized) serious games companies some tasks to run off and do and come back when done, especially when the completion of the task brings them only slightly closer to some degree of real business is so, so, teachery!  Essentially, the statement is, "Go spend your resources meeting our archaic needs.  If you do that to our satisfaction, then we may start our own process to make our environment hospitable to your offerings.  Or we may not.  But it will take years and years on our end, regardless, once you are done to our satisfaction."
Then,  JM writes that the gaming industry (which again, should be written as the serious games industry) needs to prove their products positively impact learning outcomes.  Once again, many sims have done that, and continue to do that.  Are these sims incredibly successful?  Of course not, for the reasons mentioned above.  One of the obligations of the education industry is to reveal what tests they would accept as proof.  

Perhaps the most teachery of all statements is "Once the gaming industry demonstrates that it is serious about supporting learning, education can embrace gamification and eventually open up to the possibilities of the less structured, more open, fun, and engaging model of learning that is the real power of GBL."  This statement is finger wagging, abdicating of responsibility, and ultimately inaccurate.

Because the reality is much more encouraging.  So many academic institutions are appreciating that game interactions as a media form as powerful as the written word, but optimized around a completely different skill set.  They are proactively researching and exploring this critical areas.  Even standard bodies are not sitting back, waiting for some mythical Holy Grail of perfect proof or killer app, but are actively working with serious games developers, to bring forth this next wave of education.   

The real message should be: Serious Games and Education - The Revolution is Only About Three Years Away.

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