Michael Williams

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Games that teach and make you learn new things.

What do you do in any game you play? You learn what the game is, how to play it and how you personally can be better at the game.

Well what if instead of shooting zombies, or racing your friends, building a city, you are learning a skill for a job, or grasping a topic more fluently for school, maybe you just want to up your A game. Well you already do this, just with more focus towards the game's core design, meaning the game designer is teaching you how to play his game through his game via tutorials, hands on play and rewards inside the game mechanics.

Ask any gamer, and they will tell you the wealth of useless knowledge they have about any given favorite game, including items in game, their abilities and attributes, the Npcs ( non player characters ) and the many levels or maps in the game known by heart. Imagine if we could take this same principles and overhaul our education system.

How would this be done to teach say Chemistry, Social behaviors, Geography, Math, Science, Nanotechnologies, Manners?

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    Apr 19 2013: This is absolutely wonderful! I just got done having this exact same conversation with a couple friends of mine. I am an aspiring indie game developer (only a friend and myself right now). I have been tinkering with the concept of a MMO style gaming platform for schools for a few years now. The idea of using gaming and education in conjunction with each other is, in my opinion, the next step for how we can interact with children's education today. The thought that I had was beyond just the local construct of "America's education" but a platform that could unite the entirety of the world into a platform that could work together.

    I've been a bit of a wallflower here myself, more time spent reading and watching than joining in, but this topic is something that really fascinates me. Some of the the talks that stood out to me for working more along this concept:

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      Apr 19 2013: Sweet goals, I wish we had this kinda technology when I was in school suffering, LOL. Honestly your idea sounds like it's the next means of how we will conduct education, maybe even coupled with another idea I have here ( Internet 2.0 ( a Virtual New World ) ) may be just what the education system needs, a consistent, persistent Dedicated location where everyone in the world can gather and learn from one another in the oh so many ways we humans know how to and constantly keep devising.

      Seems we need to make the world connected to get anything done the way we want, which is a trillion different ways that all mesh together like some sort of Hybrid Learning construct.

      I love it. The Future looks bright, * dawns cool shades *
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    Apr 17 2013: Michael, if you are new to TED, take a look at the talks at this link: http://www.ted.com/talks/tags/gaming
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      Apr 17 2013: Not new, just a long time wallflower, with too much to say and can't step on my words any longer. :P

      Thanks for the video link, loved the Legos for Grownups, we are thinking in the right direction.
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        Apr 17 2013: Glad for your participation here.

        My one reservation about the strategy of using game psychologies in learning is that it would be best for people to be motivated to learn intrinsically over a lifetime without its needing to be made entertaining in that particular way.
  • Apr 23 2013: Michael, I will answer your question with two questions and an explanation of the questions.

    The first question is: are things that are taught in games as they're done now "useless?" For example, puzzle games teach organization. A puzzle game called Fold.it actually taught some things about protein folding. Many Roleplaying games predominantly teach responsibility, the need to cooperate for the greater good, resource management, ethics, etc. Strategy games teach resource management and, in many cases, both diplomacy and history. These are just some examples of things that are learned through games, or at least good games.

    The second question is this. Could a lot of people complaining about games just be asking the wrong questions to try to understand? I mean, just based off my experience and observation of teachers, schools or parents dealing with games, there's things that are often missed. For example, teachers tried to punish students for playing Magic the Gathering, even though the game properly utilized can be used to teach math and statistics and the game had won an award from MENSA for its intellectual merit. Dungeons & Dragons was also used as grounds for punishment, even though the game can be used to teach ethics, narrative theory, storytelling, creative writing, collaboration, mythology, etc. These are just some examples due to limited space.

    I do agree that various mechanics would be helpful to revitalizing the education system. However, in order to effectively do that, more teachers need to see and understand what game mechanics are (probably through play themselves). A lot of the problem regarding games is the fact that a lot of teachers, administrators, parents, and anti-game advocates just don't understand what a game can be - whether in regards to story, mechanics, design, etc. It would also require the teaching of critical thinking, which would be a great thing whether games were incorporated into education in some way or not.
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    Apr 17 2013: The guy who created the Atari 2600 has a new educational system of learning games that he is developing. He believes that if we can tie concepts across the disciplines to video games, students will be engaged to learn. I don't have the link, but his site is called BrainRush.
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      Apr 17 2013: Thank you! This is certainly along the same topic lines, and very refreshing, such a giant leap for education for all walks. It's something that we just aren't connecting that intertwines fun and learning, when those two fundamentals combine, the possibilities are endless.

      we can teach people ANYTHING via a properly engineered game, this game of life, has taught me that much.

      * Grins *
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    Apr 17 2013: I agree games need to be more educational and the some gaming companies are working on it.
    Currently there some crowdsource games that help advance science plus history games and educational games are out there, but they are by no means high end games.
    But I think the gaming industry is growing up, and will evolve games into ones that are more productive and well as entertaining.

    I thing they could use real places and name, instead of made-up places and names, for zombies killing grounds. But there could be legal issues with that, so historical places I think would be better.
    Through considering how badly the History channel is butchering Viking history with its TV series, maybe it best if they don’t.
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      Apr 17 2013: I agree, open source is the only way this will really take effect. At least the ideas that is.
      An as for the factual correctness aspect, yes that is a very important factor, since victors normally wrote history askew. So we'd need to be very vigilant with things being correct.

      I agree with your History channel reference, I am waiting for Ancient Aliens to make a cameo in the Viking Show and say something along the lines of ( flips hair out of face ) Maybe the viking gods were Ets who just wanted to cause some chaos and play in the snow? I liked both shows but quickly did they start reaching for content.
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    Apr 17 2013: Let's see if I can link this link to the ten most popular online games on the official Nobel Prize site: http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/
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      Apr 17 2013: Thank you, will have to spend some time here as well.

      It's the notion of how playing a game with other people and those other people's natural desire to want to help others learn how to play in order to have proper competition or allies to play with that I am more curious about. Online Games I suppose should of been more mentioned in my idea submission.
  • Apr 17 2013: What you are refering to is (rather ridiculously) refered to as 'Gamification'

    It's taking the mechanisims that keep gamers hooked and using it in a non-gaming way.
    There is a lot of theory behind what intrinsicly motivates us, when we get dopamine released and the slighly scary way that games create reward loops to keep your dopamine releases consistent and give you withdrawles when you stop. I'd suggest you do a search for Gamification and see what you find.

    Game mechanisms have been sucessfully used for diet plans, excercise plans and online or offline learning but much more in marketing!

    If you'd like to know more feel free to email me. I work in elearning and gamification is big news in education right now.
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      Apr 17 2013: I must point out that this: ( What you are refering to is (rather ridiculously) ) is a hurtful statement, please if you cannot say something nice, don't say it at all. My mom told me that, you can thank her if you want.

      Now, in regards to the rest of your post, I agree motivation is Dopamine related, some games create this, others create learning loops. You are forced to learn about said subjects in order to progress to the next stage, these are not Educational games I am talking about, and to be completely honest, not what I am referring too. Educational games can be very dry and boring, due to how they approach subject matter. The reason games like Bf3 and EVEonline become multimillion dollar hits isn't due to their Educational aspects, it's more or less throwing people inside a world and having them learn about it with other people at the sametime. Thus you are actually having users play Teacher / student roles, as well are promoted to create new ways of playing inside the game that wasn't originally meant.

      It's more the secondary and third aspects of gameplay I am talking about that teach and reward us through learning that needs to be harnessed and not the logical notion of Games fun, put textbook with pacman and call it an educational game.
      • Apr 17 2013: Sorry Michael, I meant the word 'Gamification' is ridiculous not the concept. I guess I think it's ridiculous because it's looking at the mechanisms behind it that date back further than games themselves.

        If you are genuinely interested in how you can use the aspects of games in a learning environment I would strongly suggest this free course on coursera

        I and a few of our elearning designers have used this course and I feel it is one of the best free resources to learn more about game mechanics and how to use them outside of gaming. The theory applies just as easily to any classroom learning too and there are several examples of this throughout the course.
        Hope it helps and you can put it into practice for your ideas.
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          Apr 17 2013: All good, no harm, no foul. We all have perception and sometimes it's not working for us. :)

          I am genuinely interested, just not actively heading towards such, just as a Gamer myself, from experiences I just don't like to see things wasted, and if we have millions of people learning how to play these extremely challenging online games today, why aren't we using the same core mechanics in education.

          Coming from someone who has Adult ADD and who was ADD as a kid, I can say our school systems just aren't that engaging. Yes of course you have that special school or teacher who is the exception, but for the majority of the system, it's broken and needs to revamp itself to better relate, engage, and focus students in more interactive learning roles.

          Get rid of test taking as a means to show knowledge learned, Get Rid of Dittos and worksheet and for the love of all things natural, PLEASE stop teaching via MEMORY, who the hades decided memory was this important in regards to eduction? I could of just played Guess who all day. Since memory without constant use becomes forgotten.
      • Apr 17 2013: Totally agree! I failed everything in school! Very dyslexic.

        Maybe that's how I ended up working in education! To try and put it right! BAck in the classroom I used to try and turn everything into a game and the students loved it... if nothing else they all learned a lot more when they were having a good time!
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          Apr 17 2013: This is probably the best example I could of given about the Games that teach, is not to make the subject matter more interesting, but to use a game to bridge the natural divide people have communicating ideas and confusion about said idea.

          Games help establish a rule set, foundation and non judgmental forum that allows for relation of subject matter to the game for better understanding and data processing.
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          Apr 17 2013: I have known many teachers who went into teaching because they struggled in school either academically or socially and believed that history would help them understand and reach those who have the greatest challenges in learning.

          My teaching strategy has always been to create an adventure, with challenges and surprises.
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    Apr 17 2013: If this interests you, you might want to do some research into educational games, which have been around and popular for a very long time! Of computer games, in math I remember some with names like Logical Journey of the Zoomibinis, Treasure Math Storm, and Algeblaster, though there were/are many more. The one I remember right away in science is Gizmos and Gadgets.

    If you include board games, you will see an even greater number. Thinkfun has some great ones about spatial reasoning and logic. Gridworks has an online version now (it's a logic game).

    And don't miss the 10 most visited online games on the Nobel Prize site: http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/
    Happy investigations!