Playing games has been something I’ve always enjoyed. As kid I spent countless hours playing Zelda, Metroid, Wrath of the Black Manta and Techmo Superbowl (I still play this when I get together with my brother) learning the secrets and always checking my friends Nintendo Power for tips and cheats. That said, I also played games outside from typical sports to water fights to night games (hide-n-seek but at night). Today I tend to play board games with family and friends and digital games on my computer or iPad. Currently, I have been playing World of Padman (an open-source first person shooter), Minecraft, Portal and a variety of games on the iPad.
In the past two years, I’ve been reading about Game-Based Learning and have begun revisiting my interest in games. I play games regularly, which generally means for a few minutes a day. On the odd day I may spend 30 minutes. The driving interest for this is the students I am surrounded by. They love games. Most of them talk about Minecraft, Star Quest, Adventure Quest, Pokemon and many others. Student interest and engagement in games is incredible and I want to leverage that in the classroom. I’ve experimented with gamifying class assignments and having students use a game to create and present projects (such as the Boston Tea Party in Minecraft). I see a lot of skills being taught in games and think as the Horizon Report has indicated (see page 18), that game-based learning will continue to be adopted in education and learning.
James Paul Gee is certainly one of the first names that come to my mind when I think about learning and games. I am currently reading his What Video Games Have to Teach about Learning and Literacy. Though I do wish this were in kindle or iBooks format (I prefer searchable text and less weight in my bag) it is a fantastic insight into why playing games is educationally relevant. Also, his website has loads of his publications available in pdf to download. Another great resource is Jane McGonigol she has written a book that is currently in my queue called Reality is Broken: Why games make us better and How they can change the world. Her TED talk is inspiring and give me more reason to continue to setting aside time to play games.
I’m looking forward to spending more time with Minecraft and learning from the students in our upcoming Middle School Minecraft Club. I am learning something new about Minecraft everyday from student conversations in passing, in class and at break time when some of students play in their Minecraft worlds. Over the winter break one of our student’s sent me a download link to the documentary about Minecraft called The Story of Mojang. In the email, the student told me that the creators of the documentary decided to pirate their own filmand make it available and so it was okay that he sent me a link. It was an excellent documentary and made me think more about what Matt Barton pointed out, in his review on Gee’s book What Video Games Have to Teach Us, that Gee’s
“basic thesis is that good videogames do a really great job of teaching kids how to play them. The best games aren’t simple passive enjoyments, either–these things require complex thought and make substantial intellectual demands on their players. They also allow players to indulge themselves in make-believe realities and identities.”
Minecraft is a complex game and players invest hours in reading through the Minecraft wiki and watching tutorials on Youtube because they think Minecraft is fun and engaging. How can we transform and redefine our school curriculum to make learning this exciting?