Tuesday, January 20, 2009

How Video Games Do a Great Job of Assessing Students



I was at TIES today listening to 3 great presenters on video games in education. Colin Maxwell, Roxana Hadad, and Seann Dikkers spoke about teaching video game design as well as what video games teach kids. Seann Dikkers did a great job of sharing his research at UW-Madison on gaming. He talked about how video gaming deals with losing. Old games like PacMan had music at the end to make you feel defeated, but gaming designers have designed today's games to encourage kids to retry things multiple times until they figure it out.

He used the terms little l and Big L losing. In other words, kids are willing to go through a series of small losses if they know they will figure it out in the end. He talked about high stakes testing and traditional education models as Big L losing. We don't give kids the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. We don't allow time for the "messiness" of learning. I couldn't agree more. Imagine a classroom where students are encouraged to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them, and try again until they get it right.

Dikkers also referred to the Pause button and Save button idea as key educational concepts. Kids need to pause the process when they get frustrated and come back to it later. They need to Save their progress and make learning a continual process throughout their education.

Finally, Dikkers spoke about the fact that in video games, we don't teach a bank of knowledge upfront. Instead, students are able to find the needed content when it becomes necessary. This is opposite of how we teach. We give kids content and tell them that they may need this information someday. Given the accessibility of information, we need to move to a different model.

We don't need to play video games to learn from them (although I think there are many great uses for playing and designing games in the classroom.) We can create classrooms that use the same concepts as video game design. For example, video games use a concept called looped mechanics. This means that the game learns how good the player is and adjusts accordingly. The game spirals up, getting more difficult as needed. In effect, it gives ongoing formative assessments and "teaches" the player at their level. Here is a short list of ways we can use video game theory in our classrooms:

  1. Give ongoing formative assessments to constantly adjust the level of challenge for our students.

  2. Don't teach everything upfront. Give your students a challenge and help them access the content as they need it.

  3. Use little l losses as an opportunity to encourage your students to try again and learn from their mistakes.

  4. Make losing fun so kids will be more willing to make mistakes and take risks. (Use music or video clips or games to lighten the blow of losing.)

  5. Use media rich lessons to engage students.

  6. Build in communication tools into lessons so students can collaborate.


If you would like to learn more about gaming in education, here are a few websites to check out:

gamingmatters.org

http://www.educationarcade.org/

http://www.marcprensky.com/dgbl/default.asp

http://www.edutopia.org/james-gee-games-learning-video

http://mason.gmu.edu/~lsmithg/jamespaulgee2

*Image courtesy of http://whyfiles.org/255videogame/images/civ_screenshot.jpg

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