Brief Intro: INTE5320 is broken down into 8 two-week cycles. The first in the series, titled “Introducing Games & Learning”, focuses on content easily predictable by the title. Here is the return of “Stuff I Read” and I will continue to post these updates on a bi-weekly basis. My posts will also be more focused on one particular article in the form of a scholarly critique (or more, as called for).
Stuff I Read:
What I Think About It (Kalir)
In the final chapter of Teacher Pioneers (2016), author Jeremiah Kalir provides a thorough conclusion of the previous sections with a focus on the relationship and similarities between gaming and education. While summarizing the content of the other chapters, Kalir identifies the pitfalls of a narrow approach to education as a game as well as the ways in which games could revolutionize education for the better. My decision to select this article stems from my professional commitment and passion for effective teaching and learning. Since beginning my education three decades ago, I have consistently identified the concepts and content I encountered in a classroom setting as “difficult” or “easy” without necessarily accounting for why or how a different approach would have better results. Since becoming an educator in libraries, I continued these observations on my students and grew inspired to experiment with different approaches to pedagogy through games.
The content of the chapter illustrates the concept of gaming as inextricable from learning by identifying the aspects of a game present in formal, traditional education (i.e. classroom). School environments are comparable to games in that they are conditioned to prompt attitudes, condition responses, and promote values in all who are attending. Contextually, school is likened to a “puzzle” game in which there is only one right answer to every question. In attending school, many students are not “players” of their own volition whereas participants in a game are willing to be a part of it. According to the author, recognition of school as a game in a social setting is essential in order to unlock the gaming potential of education.
Throughout the text, the author stresses the role of social and cultural context in games and learning. In order to illustrate the importance of these contexts when implementing game-based education, Kalir refers to a chapter on Minecraft as an example of a game designed with and implemented for various educational goals and purposes. It reveals the abundant potential of games to apply to a multitude of academic purposes. Accordingly, gaming in an educational setting empowers the teachers to improve education through design and research.
The complex nature of how technology and social dimensions of gaming impact learning is apparent. Kalir describes this impact as varying “socio-technical formations” and identifies the contrast between textbooks and video games as an example of technological shift in learning and games. For the author, the textbook represents the historically constrained model of education. Textbook publishers and other professional stakeholders tend to perceive video games as “leveled-up” textbooks as a one-size-fits-all solution to addressing learning needs. As academic resources, video games can provide an effective means of assessing student (or player) knowledge and development. Accordingly, some educators fear that their roles will be diminished as technology continues to impact the classroom. The potential of gaming to positively impact learning and transform the role of educators illustrates the social and cultural forces inherent in gaming and learning design.
Kalir’s text raises several questions about the future of education how games can transform and enhance the quality of learning. For teachers and other educators, the biggest question concerns the impact of video games in the classroom as “textbooks” on their professional roles. As video game usage in school ascends, what role will the games and teachers play in assessment? Another interesting question raised is the level of agency for teachers in their classrooms. Will teachers acquire greater autonomy and agency as technology in games advances? Overall, this article explicitly reveals the power of gaming to transform learning, but still leaves several questions unanswered about the specifics of the impact.