Game-Based Learning Talk

A quest to transform education through game-based learning

Posts Tagged ‘gbl

Minecraft and Crafting To Learn

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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).


Written by randyfuj

January 11, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Posted in Education

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Educating Teachers in Game-Based Learning

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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?

Educating Teachers in Game-Based Learning


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:
  • 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 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!

Written by randyfuj

October 27, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Competition vs. Collaboration in Game-Based Learning

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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).


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.

Written by randyfuj

September 20, 2011 at 10:43 am

Posted in Education

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Planning A Game-Based Learning Virtual Academy

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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

Game-Based Learning Virtual AcademyWHY 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.


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.


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
    • Sandbox games (e.g., Minecraft, Gamemaker, Scratch, etc.)
    • Virtual worlds (e.g., Second Life)
    • Alternate reality games
    • Augmented reality games and other mobile games
    • Non-digital games
  • 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  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!

Written by randyfuj

June 23, 2011 at 12:22 pm

Game-Based Learning – Recent News

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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.

Written by randyfuj

May 11, 2011 at 10:04 am

Posted in Education

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