When I Hear the Word ‘Gaming’ I Think:

Photo Credit: włodi via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: włodi via Compfight cc

When I look at this image, I think of my cousins who spent their youth playing Game Boy, my parents seeing the addicting nature, and forbiding me to play any sort of computer or digital game. By the time I was old enough to make my own choices, I just wasn’t interested.

Perhaps this disinterest carried over from my youth because gamification in education is one of those topics that I just never got around to disecting. I’ve heard about it for a few years now as various colleagues have discussed it in passing with me. Yet I still just seemed to postpone taking the time to actually understand it further. Now that it is one of my assignments and I’ve been forced to dig deeper, a revelation occured. Gaming doesn’t necessarily mean just computer or digital games (even though that still is a part of it!).

Gaming is in Our Nature

One of my favorite finds was this YouTube video revealing that games are and always have been a part of our lives whether or not we know it.

What games did you play growing up? What games do you play now in your daily life? As a child I played numerous imaginary games with my dolls pretending to hop from one imaginary stone to the next to avoid the “creatures” from getting me. Of course there’s also the may clapping games that you play with your friends whether you’re on the bus or in the playground. Many of these clapping chants still exist and are being played to this very day!

One of the moments in this video that stood out to me was when he labelled “Pulling Grass” as a game. Whenever we have a fire drill, our students line up on our field. We don’t have grass but turf with little bits of black rubber ‘dirt’. Whenever we gather there you can hear teachers whispering to their students to stop playing with the black rubber pieces. At the same time, we all know asking students to sit perfectly still and in silence is a big ask! Naturally, many of the students start playing with the one and only thing that’s in front of them. Yet as teachers we naturally try to instill the seriousness of a fire drill as we bark under our breath “stop playing with that!” Can we actually expect them to ignore this natural human instinct toward games?

Gaming in Education vs. Gamification of Education

I am far from being able to elaborate at length about the difference between the two, but if I had to take a stab at it, I would say that the former has to do with bringing in precreated games that happen to fit or match with the curriculum. However, the latter seems to be more of the adoption of a philosophy, where the ideas behind gaming are used to remodel curriculum.

Something else that jumped out at me as I learned more on the topic was this idea of ‘consumption’ vs. ‘production’. Going back to my first image of gaming, I always imagined it to be more about consumption. After all, my cousins spent their entire weekends glued to their games! My college boyfriend used to disappear from campus whenever he had a long enough break to go and play Counter Strike. These are the images of ‘consumption’ that have stuck in my mind for years. How could something so addicting be useful? It turns out, that I am immediately more interested in the topic if it involves ‘production’, where students either played a game to create OR created the game itself. With this idea behind it, playing of games serves as research to understand the gaming world better so that we can bring these concepts into the creation of games for learning.

Take for instance, the app Floors which allows you to draw your own video games without any knowledge of code! But, if you’d like to incorporate the learning of code into this process, well there’s always Scratch. Even if we move away from technology, teachers are always finding ways to play games that teach certain concepts with their students, for instance, playing a version of “I have…who has…” in math. What if students were allowed to then create their own versions of this game? I really like the idea of students learning concepts through games and then applying this new knowledge by creating a game of their own!

The 21st Century

At the end of the day, my image of gaming still looks something like this…

Photo Credit: Jim Sneddon via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Jim Sneddon via Compfight cc

But now I’ve realized that sometimes it could look like this…

Photo Credit: dimitry ryzhkov via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: dimitry ryzhkov via Compfight cc

Or maybe even this…

Photo Credit: University of the Fraser Valley via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: University of the Fraser Valley via Compfight cc

At the end of the day, we’ve all been gamers for as long as we can remember, whether we’ve known it or not. Moreover, games in education have always been around. We are just taking it all into the 21st century!

3 Responses

  1. This week made me think a lot about what a game is too. I don’t think it’s just adding points and ideas to something that’s already going on (like substitution). I do think it’s something we need to do to change the way all of education works to engage students in something meaningful and fun (I mean who doesn’t like games right?).

    Thanks for this.

  2. Hi Pava,
    Your post hit home. I feel about the games very similar to you. Something addicting and something I want to stay clear of. This week’s reading made me think differently on games in education and for some reason I keep going back to the games have to be digital but they don’t. Games help children learn things just like songs do. As an art teacher I am just trying to figure out how to bring it into my classroom.
    Thanks for the post, when the great firewall of China cooperates with me, I will watch the youtube video. Also I love the look of your website, it is visually pleasing and easy to read.

  3. Hi Pana

    You made a great point that we are naturally drawn to playing games. I love watching the kids at playtime inventing different scenarios, giving each other roles and acting out in their imagined worlds. They even invent problems and then try to solve them…it’s just amazing. So if we could harness that into digital games which steer children onto specific learning paths, constantly adapting to their needs and giving them both support and challenge, it would transform teaching and learning.