This is part of the commencement speech that I presented at California State University, Fullerton on May 19, 2012 to the graduates of the master’s in instructional design and technology program.
First, let me give you a few statistics about gaming today. We know that videogames are popular, but let’s just see how popular.
- 72% of all American households and more than half of all adults play videogames
- The average age of videogame players is 37 years old
- 42% of gamers are female
Now, let’s get to the good ones:
- 99% of boys and 94% of girls play videogames, boys for an average of 13 hours/week, and girls for an average of 8 hours/week
- By age 21, the AVERAGE American will have spent more than 10,000 hours playing videogames
– The equivalent to 5 years of work at a full time job
– Almost the same amount of time a child spends in the classroom from kindergarten through high school
- Gamers worldwide are playing videogames for a total of 3 billion hours each week
So, you can clearly see that games are really, really popular. But why are they so popular?
FAILURE IN GAMES
I’d like to segue here to the main topic of my talk today. On this glorious day – one in which we’re here to celebrate one your life’s greatest successes – I would like to now talk about a topic that is near and dear to my heart these days. And that topic is failure.
What? You’re probably thinking, “This is blasphemy! Why is this guy up here talking about failure on a day when we’re here celebrating all of our success?”
But, here’s the thing, videogames are all about failing. In fact, when you’re playing a videogame, you’re actually failing around 80% of the time.
How many of you here have played Angry Birds? Remember the very first time you tried the game? You probably sent the first bird way past the structure. Then, on your second shot, you probably fell way short. Then, finally on your third one, you probably hit the target but didn’t get all the pigs – and so you lost. You failed.
But then, a cool thing happened. The game said “You Lose” and the pigs grumbled at you, but then you got to try again. And again. And again. Until, you finally figured out how to get all those grumbling pigs. Then, you happily moved on to the next level. And then the next level. And then the next level.
And then, later on, after two hours had gone by and you suddenly realize that you were supposed to have run a couple of errands and read an article for your lit review, you find yourself happily at Angry Birds, Level 21 despite the fact that you just spent over one and a half hours failing at something over and over.
So, here’s the thing – in a game, it’s OK to fail. Games are a safe environment in which to fail, over and over, and it’s perfectly OK. Each time you fail, you keep learning a little bit more about what not to do.
In fact, there is no such thing as failure. You can think of every failure as really just a partial success. Even your complete and utter disasters are not really failures because you know exactly what not to do the next time.
Sometimes, games make failing even fun. In some action games, when you fall off the ledge and die, there’s this big, spectacular “You Lose” animation – sort of like when the Coyote misses the Road Runner and falls off the cliff in a grand cloud of smoke.
You see, by providing a safe environment where it’s perfectly OK to fail, games are rewarding perseverance and effort, and so that’s why you see yourself spending two hours playing Angry Birds – and it’s a big reason why games are so popular. Also, this safe environment where it’s OK to fail makes games a non-threatening way in which we can learn.
In fact, in games, sometimes the best strategy is to try to fail on purpose. In Angry Birds, usually the first thing that I do is to shoot all my birds in a straight line to see if the brute force method can knock down the structure. Almost all the time, this doesn’t work, but sometimes it gives me a clue about where a weak point in the structure might be so I can try a new idea the next time.
But, can you imagine if your kid takes this strategy of failing on purpose in school? “Yeah Mom, I got an ‘F’ on the quiz on purpose just so that I could figure out what the right answers were later on.”
Unfortunately, schools these days are not a safe environment where it’s OK to fail. In school, if you get an “F” on anything, it’s there on your permanent record – forever! It makes it really hard in school, then, to take any risks, because one slip up and you’re done.
In games, however, take all the risks you want. Try out a new, creative, out-of-the-box solution. Games encourage this type of thinking. School, unfortunately, tends to encourage the uniform, get-the-right-answer type of thinking.
So, imagine a school where it’s not only OK to fail, but where your failures are appreciated by everyone because they provide learning moments that everyone can learn from. Wouldn’t this be something? InUtah, there’s a private school that’s started a Mistake Club, where they give points to members each week on a 1-10 scale – the bigger the mistake, the more you earn. At the end of the year, they give an award to the person who accumulates the most points. Isn’t that something?
Now, you might be thinking, “wouldn’t all this failure have an effect on our kids’ self-confidence?” And this is a valid concern in today’s world where we’re constantly concerned with our kids’ self-esteem.
SHAME AND EMPATHY
How many of you have seen a TED Talk by Brene Brown (there are two of them)?
Brene Brown is a social researcher at theUniversityofHouston. If you haven’t seen her talks yet, please google for “brene brown TED talk” and watch both of her 20 minutes talks on there about vulnerability and shame. Her talks are excellent and they may even change your life. Really!
In her talks, she speaks about this “epidemic of shame” that we have in today’s society. Everyone today seems to feel shameful about something for one reason or another. Maybe it’s because of things like:
- School, where we don’t feel smart enough,
- Or, glamour magazines that don’t make us feel attractive enough,
- Or, social media like Facebook that makes you feel like all of your “friends” are having this great life compared to yours
For some reason, we never feel like we’re ever good enough. And, Brene Brown calls this an epidemic of shame. She also says, however, that the antidote to shame is empathy because empathy counters the growth factors of shame, which are secrecy, silence, and judgment.
Failure can fuel the epidemic of shame if we don’t know how to handle it. Empathy helps us handle failure by letting us say, “I made a mistake” – which leads to learning – instead of “I am a mistake” – which leads to shame.
And this is where games come in. Games are a place where you can say, “I made a mistake” over and over, but then you learn from these mistakes. You never think, “I am a mistake” just because you shot your Angry Bird way over the pig structure.
Games also foster empathy from all the social support you get from other gamers, whether it’s in an online multiplayer game or from a sibling that’s watching you play.
So, to answer my earlier question, “wouldn’t all this failure have a negative effect on our kids’ self-confidence?” The answer is no, it can have a positive effect. Failure is actually good for our kids’ self-confidence and self-esteem if we can show kids that FAILURE LEADS TO LEARNING AND NOT TO SHAME. Games can help show kids how to think this way – and how to develop what’s known as a growth mindset.
How many of you are familiar with Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset?
Carol Dweck is a professor of psychology atStanfordUniversity, and she distinguishes between two types of mindsets. Those with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and other traits are fixed at specific levels. On the other hand, those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence and other traits are not fixed at specific levels but instead can be developed through dedication and hard work. Brains and talent are just the starting point – how you develop them is up to you.
People with fixed mindsets will do well on things until they come up against, say, a difficult math problem. If they are unable to figure out the problem right away, they simply conclude, “Hey, I’m just not smart enough to do that.” People with growth mindsets, on the other hand, will get stuck on the math problem, but instead of giving up, they believe that they’ll eventually be able to learn how to do the problem if they just keep at it.
Carol Dweck’s research has found that a growth mindset promotes perseverance, resiliency, motivation, productivity, and a love of learning.
And what do you think is a great way to develop this growth mindset? Yes, it’s games – and why? Because games show you that you can always improve if you keep on trying. Why do you think it’s so common to see a kid spending hours and hours trying to get through a difficult level in a game? He’s developing that growth mindset by failing over and over but, at the same time, constantly learning from his failures.
So, as you can see, failure is so important to all of us. Failure can help us become better people. It can help us develop empathy, lose shame, raise our self-confidence, and give us a growth mindset.
Pretty much any successful person in this world has had to deal with failure on the path to success.
- Steven Spielberg was rejected three times from the USC film school.
- Albert Einstein couldn’t speak until he was four and didn’t read until he was seven, and he was the only one in his graduating class that wasn’t able to get a teaching position because no professor would recommend him.
- Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. He later stated in his famous Nike commercial, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I’ve been entrusted to take the game winning shot, and I missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
So, class of 2012 here today, think back over the past 18 months and ask yourselves – were there some times when you had to overcome failure to get through this program? I’m guessing that all of you had your share of failure – mine was rewriting my lit review about a dozen times! I commend you all for getting through those failures to make it through to today.
As you go forward, I hope you continue to experience failure in your lives – and to acknowledge that failure, appreciate that failure, and learn from that failure – and then, I’m sure you will be celebrating many more successes – just like the one you are celebrating today! Thank you.
craft /kraft/ tr.v.: to make or produce with care, skill, or ingenuity
After about 100 hours of playing in Minecraft over the past couple of months, I have two conclusions: 1) As a gamer, it’s a lot of fun, and 2) As an educator, it’s a lot of fun – to learn! And, much of this fun comes from being able to create things – i.e., crafting.
There is so much educational potential using Minecraft. You can have students learn practically any subject at all by having them craft in the game – all it takes is just some creative instructional design thinking.
For example, you can have them learn about:
- History – have students research a historic event and have them recreate it in Minecraft
- English – have students write about the above historic event and critique how the Minecraft version compares to the actual event
- Math – have students build a replica of a historic landmark to scale
- Physics – have students build a roller coaster and do experiments on velocity and acceleration
OK, those are just a few examples off the top of my head. But, as you can see, the educational possibilities are endless! The Minecraft world is your oyster.
I’m planning a Minecraft workshop this summer at a local community center with middle and high school students. The objective of the workshop will be to have the students learn about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II. I plan to have the students collaborate to create replicas of an internment camp and then create short machinima to highlight their creations.
I decided to craft my own internment camp to use as an example for the workshop. Interestingly, I found that I not only had to learn history (research on how the camps looked) but also had to apply some algebra skills in order to get the camp proportions just right. So there you go, history and math in one quick lesson.
I also learned a lot about how to “craft” a screencast to display my Minecraft creation in a video. At first, I considered using FRAPS because I read it’s supposed to be the “industry standard” when it comes to recording gameplay – but it costs $ and I’m not sure I’ll be doing a whole bunch of these screencasts. So, I ended up trying out a host of other free screencasting programs, including:
- ScreenCastle – online tool that worked great but the quality was too low
- Taski – crashed Minecraft when I clicked Record
- Camstudio – failed to launch for some reason
I ended up using WeGame, which worked perfectly (despite the annoying setup routine where it scanned my hard disk for installed games). WeGame is super easy to use – just press F6 to record and F6 again to stop. Movies are saved in AVI format, and you can record your voice as you go through your game.
Here is the walkthrough video of the internment camp that I “crafted”:
So, hopefully this post has inspired you educators to go ahead and craft away – inside the game, outside the game in making things like this screencast walkthrough, and, most importantly, in designing fun learning activities for your students.
BTW, for any educators interested in joining a Minecraft server with other educators, please see this post. Also, here are a couple of good sites for educators interested in Minecraft: Massively Minecraft Network (community out of Australia) and The Minecraft Teacher (blog).
In the article “Bringing Game-Based Learning to Scale (pdf),” Merrilea J. Mayo from the Kauffman Foundation says this about game-based learning (GBL):
“…the question arises as to why a wildly popular medium in other spheres has not gained a greater foothold in both formal and informal education.”
In other words, what will it take to get GBL pedagogy to finally “take off” and become a standard and accepted way to educate our students?
TEACHER EDUCATION PROGRAM IN GBL
One of the biggest obstacles to wide-scale acceptance of GBL in our classrooms is the lack of proper training for our teachers. In order for GBL pedagogy to really take hold in K-12 education (and in higher education), we need teachers who are knowledgeable and skilled in teaching via gaming activities.
According to this Education Week article, “virtual schools are exploring how to become providers to teachers as well as students.” As a logical extension to my virtual game-based learning online academy, I have started to lay the groundwork for an online teacher education program to train teachers on the design and implementation of GBL activities in a classroom or online setting.
The program will be geared toward both pre-service teachers in teacher education programs and also in-service teachers and administrators as professional development in GBL.
- Evaluating and Using Videogames, Educational Games, Online Games, and Non-Digital Games in the Classroom
This is the area that most people think about when they hear the term “game-based learning.” This course is about evaluating all types of games to ascertain their relevance and effectiveness in student learning:
- Commercial, off-the-shelf videogames that have potential educational value, such as Civilization V for history and Portal 2 for physics
- Made-for-education games, such as DimensionU, Conspiracy Code, and Lure of the Labyrinth
- Sandbox building games, such as Minecraft and Terraria
- Online educational game “collections,” such as Primary Games Arena, BrainPOP, and zondle
- Non-digital games, such as conventional board games and card games
- Evaluating and Using Game Design and Development Tools
Having students design and develop their own games is a powerful way to have students learn not only about the technical and creative aspects of making a game but also about content-specific topics (such as history or math) that needs to be embedded in the game. Popular game creation tools include:
- Designing and Implementing Educational Alternate Reality Games and Other New Media Games
In this course, teachers will learn how to design and develop their own educational alternate reality game or other new media game that does not require programming skills nor a large development team to build. As they design their games, teachers will learn strategies about how to use game mechanics and storylines to ensure that the game covers relevant academics standards.
- Utilizing Gamification Elements in the Classroom or Online Course
Using game elements and principles to turn a class into a more game-like setting can be a way to help motivate and engage students. In this course, teachers will learn about the pros and cons of using gamification strategies, such as the use of badges and point systems, in the classroom or online course and ways in which they can implement these strategies.
Ideally, I would like to integrate this program into one or more existing teacher education programs in a higher education institution. There are not many online teacher education programs (yet), so this program could provide an online component to complement existing brick-and-mortar programs.
Regarding professional development for in-service teachers, this program can start up fairly quickly with one or two online workshop in GBL, and then eventually expand into a series of workshops and/or full courses. Again, it would be ideal to be able to partner with existing schools of education, but another avenue might be to form a nonprofit organization to focus on offering professional development.
I would also be open to partnering with any existing teacher education programs or projects related to GBL. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below if you would like to collaborate or become involved in some way in this program.
Otherwise, if you’re just interested in GBL and/or teacher education, please feel free to post your comments below. Thanks a lot for your interest and feedback!
Game /gām/ (noun) A form of play or sport, especially a competitive one played according to rules and decided by skill, strength, or luck. (Oxford English Dictionary)
Can Competition and Collaboration Coexist in a Multiplayer Learning Game?
Games are, by definition, competitive, whether you’re competing against yourself, other players, the game itself, or some combination of these.
Competition in game-based learning (GBL) is beneficial because:
- Competition motivates players, leading to higher engagement levels
- Competition encourages teammates to motivate each other
- Losing a game can lead to greater learning as long as it leads to more reflection and critical thinking instead of disillusionment
- Players can learn good sportsmanship skills from winning and losing.
However, in today’s educational world, competition might not be good for students because:
- Competition can increase hostility between students
- Competition weakens the intrinsic motivation to learn the educational content because of the focus on winning
- Losing can lead to lower self-esteem.
To learn more about using competition in education, please read this excellent online resource.
On the other hand, collaboration is considered a good skill for students to learn.
Some of the benefits of collaboration include:
- Teaches teamwork and other social skills
- Gives a greater sense of purpose by being part of something bigger
- Provides motivation to help your group succeed
- Prepares students for real-life collaborative work.
In multiplayer games, such as World of Warcraft, collaboration is essential to succeed in various game tasks. New social games, such as The Sims Social, highlight collaboration among players as essential game features. Even in a single player game, collaboration is beneficial when another person is watching and giving advice about, say, how to catapult the next angry bird.
However, too much emphasis on collaboration could possibly detract from the fun of the game (see example below).
COMPETITION AND COLLABORATION IN A MULTIPLAYER LEARNING GAME
Most of the time, you would design a game to have enough competition to motivate but not so much to detract from learning collaborative skills. If you put too much emphasis on competition, the focus goes on winning and not on helping others. On the other hand, if you put too much emphasis on collaboration, you run the risk of turning a fun, motivating game into a boring group school assignment.
For example, say there is a three-person team robotics game where each team has an hour to make its robot do something. If the emphasis is on competition (winning), it’s likely that one person does everything and no collaboration takes place. But, if the main emphasis is on collaboration, such as having the rules state that every person must be assigned to one of three tasks, then the game may start to feel like more of a group work assignment than a competitive game.
Ideally though, you should strive to design games that use competition to improve collaborative skills:
- In basketball players, the desire to win forces players to collaborate better to play as a team
- In charades, in order to win, partners have to learn to collaborate better to understand each person’s non-verbal communication patterns
- In the videogame Rockband, competition spurs on better collaboration in order to get a higher score.
So, when you are designing or evaluating a multiplayer learning game, make sure you take some time to reflect on the balance and interdependency of the competitive and collaborative elements in the game. These elements could very well be the key to the game’s ability to engage AND educate its players.
Transform education? Yes we must!
— Sir Ken Robinson in a Huffington Post article
Today, there are several reasons why the timing is right for educational transformation to take place. The main reasons include:
- The Academic Achievement Gaps – Not only is there the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” in this country, but there is also the global achievement gap between U.S. students and their international peers.
- The Economic Downturn – Business innovation often occurs during times of economic hardship. So, it stands to reason that educational innovation should also occur in today’s era of drastic budget cuts in education.
- The Internet – Nearly every industry today is being transformed by the Internet. Businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies are all changing to adapt to an Internet-connected world. Traditionally, education has been slower to adapt to new innovation, but we’re now starting to see the Internet’s impact on education, especially with the rapid growth of online education.
We need new educational innovations from large institutions all the way down to individual educators to help us revive of our stagnating educational system. As an individual educator, I am embarking on a new venture in order to help transform education. My plan is to create:
A game-based learning (GBL) virtual academy for college-age students
WHY GAME-BASED LEARNING?
The Horizon Report 2011 has selected GBL as one of six “emerging technologies” that will impact learning in the next five years. GBL activities have many educational benefits over traditional learning methods, including:
- Better motivation for students because of the engaging and “OK to fail” GBL environments
- Better assessment, including more frequent formative feedback, which is important for the multitasking “videogame generation”
- Games can provide a situated learning environment in which students can learn through authentic experiences
These benefits can lead to the better learning of subject matter, critical thinking and problem solving skills, and other 21st century skills (creativity, collaboration, etc.).
Online education has arrived. Today, there are over 4 million K-12 students and over 13 million higher education students who participate in online courses (see the Ambient Insight report for details). At its current phenomenal growth rate, online education will soon become a standard way for people to learn throughout their entire lifetime – in school, at work, and even after retirement.
And, we’re only just starting to learn how to teach and design effective online courses. We’re also just starting to see the many benefits of online education. In a few years, I’m pretty certain that we’ll see a lot of new, innovative techniques to make online learning an even more effective way to learn.
WHY COLLEGE-AGE STUDENTS?
There are several reasons that I am targeting this segment of learners, including:
- This year, California community colleges may have to enroll 400,000 fewer students because budget cuts have eliminated several courses
- The 30% high school dropout rate in this country has created a massive number of potential students for a program that can teach valuable learning skills
- GBL brick and mortar schools already exist in K-12, such as the Quest To Learn school in New York, so I would like to make this type of program available to the adult student population, many of whom probably grew up playing video games.
GBL VIRTUAL ACADEMY CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY
The subject matter curriculum for the GBL virtual academy will cover the general education courses because there is the greatest demand for these courses at the community college level. In the future, the curriculum can expand into practically any subject area where there is a demand for learning.
Courses will feature various GBL activities that will be designed or selected to promote efficient learning and deep understanding of topics and learning skills. These activities and programs include:
- Playing learning games
- Designing and developing games in order to learn through the game creation process
- Creating game-related multimedia
- Adding game elements to the learning system, such as experience points and achievement levels for assignment completion and discussion board participation
In order to fulfill this vision to create a GBL virtual academy, I’m starting with a single prototype course and then evolve into a series of courses. Here is an overview of my implementation plan:
- Start with a prototype course
- Expand to a program of multiple courses in a specific subject area
- Explore becoming a certificate program
- Expand to multiple programs of other subject areas
- Investigate becoming a standalone school or aligning with an existing educational institution
Of course, I’ll have to develop a formal business plan, which will address issues such as feasibility, market analysis, sustainability, and growth areas – but, that will come later. The first step is to build a prototype course (currently underway), implement the course, and then reflect on how to expand.
Because I have the experience, background, knowledge, and most importantly, the desire to build this new type of educational system. I have several years experience in the videogames industry as a game developer, several years experience designing educational programs, a master’s degree in instructional design and technology, an MBA degree, and I’ve been a gamer since the days of early Nintendo. Also, I am an associate dean at an international university, where I’m working on creating curriculum for a new program.
Of course, there are probably many people who are much more qualified than I am to take on this type of project. However, games and education are in my blood, and marrying the two to build a GBL virtual academy at this point of time just feels like it’s the right thing for me to do to help make a difference in education.
If you’re interested in becoming involved in this project in some capacity, please post a comment or email me at email@example.com. I’m looking to partner with experienced educators and game designers who understand the strengths (and weaknesses) of game-based learning design/implementation and have a desire to start something new and exciting.
Otherwise, if you’re just interested in GBL, please feel free to post your comments here as I post future updates on this project. Thanks a lot for your interest and feedback!
Assessment in game-based learning (GBL) programs can be far superior to your typical weekly multiple-choice test.
Games are all about constant assessment. Games do not actively “teach” – they don’t say “here is some knowledge for you to remember” – but rather they provide constant challenges and then give you feedback on your decisions, and that is how you learn.
So, in order to better understand how to design effective GBL programs, let’s take a look at some characteristics and considerations of assessment in GBL.
GBL ASSESSMENT CHARACTERISTICS
More formative feedback
“The most valuable assessment for instruction is the continuous, deeply engaged feedback loop of formative assessment” – quote from EdWeek article.
- Games can provide a greater amount and better quality of formative feedback than a traditional classroom. Instead of say, weekly classroom quizzes, games provide constant feedback at the appropriate times in order to keep students in their primary learning zone, thereby leading to better engagement, motivation, and flow.
- Formative assessment in games provide students with a low pressure learning environment that encourages risk-taking and even failing. In a traditional classroom, formative assessment tends to be a higher pressure event in which students need to get it right the first time.
- The greater amount of formative feedback can allow teachers to provide scaffolding support at the appropriate times. For example, DimensionU games provides a daily gameplay log that teachers can review to see what type of support to provide to specific students.
Better assessment than traditional methods
- In games, assessment is integrated with the learning instead of being a separate activity (e.g., quiz) after the learning (e.g., lecture).
- Good educational games can assess 21st century skills, such as critical thinking and creativity, in better and more engaging ways than, say, a grade on an essay paper. For example, in the epistemic game Urban Science, players receive feedback throughout the game on their decisions regarding the urban planning of a city.
- Games can provide more opportunities to assess higher level thinking. For example, Portal 2 presents a number of (physics-related) challenges that require problem-solving skills and creativity in order to pass on to the next level.
GBL ASSESSMENT CONSIDERATIONS
- How is feedback in the game mapped to the learning objectives?
- In a collaborative game, does the game assess both individual and group achievement?
- In a game-like learning environment, such as in the upcoming 3D GameLab classroom system, what are the effects on learning assessment?
Learning Objectives –> Assessment Design –> Game Design
In educational game design, you just can’t start designing the gameplay from the get-go. You need to start with the learning objectives, which means that you have to consider assessment design before jumping into game design (even though the game design is probably more fun!).
So, take some time to understand the various characteristics and differences of GBL assessment, and it will help you to design stronger, more effective GBL programs.
And, please feel free to assess this article in the comments!
Here are some news and articles on game-based learning from the past week:
Multiplayer High – Why MMOs can be a good learning environment.
Gamifying Education – Entertaining and informational video about ways to improve education using game design techniques.
Non-Conventional Game Interfaces – Three videos about game UIs.
Integrating Game Design Principles into Instructional Design for e-Learning – Notes on GBL elements and characteristics.
Six Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning – Nice explanation of some GBL principles.
Video Games: A New Frontier in Pedagogy – Article about Dr. James Paul Gee’s thoughts on GBL.
Can Learning Really Be Fun and Games? – Article and video about third grade class using GBL.