Over at Tony Karrer's eLearning Technology, he has an entry titled Learning from Sports Games where he writes how a video game (MVP Baseball) has helped his son learn the rules of baseball.
My son has been playing MLB '07 The Show, a similar baseball game, and one thing that struck me was that in the tutorial section, the player is put into a number of game situations where he must bat and field. The situation is specific to the player. So, my son plays first base, every once in the while, he is in the field and the ball is hit to the first baseman so he practices what he needs to do. The ball isn't hit to center field or the pitcher. It is hit to where my son can get specific practice.
Situated practice for an actual situation. Great use of video games for learning. In fact, as my son moves through the Spring Training the system has the following message:
"Fast forwarding to your career player's next event." Now that would be a great learning strategy.
As developers and designers of learning events, we should have our learner "fast forward" to specific tasks they need to complete to be successful on the job and then provide specific, guided practice to them in a virtual environment.
In Tony's post, he refers to a blog entry by Tom Crawford called Rules of the Game. In that entry, Tom talks about how the football sensation Amobi Okoye learned to play American Football.
As Tom states:
When Amobi came to school in the U.S. he had apparently never heard of (or at least certainly never played) American football when an assistant coach encouraged him to try out. While he had the physical abilities, he didn't understand the rules of the game. So what did the coach do? Gave him Madden Football (a very popular video game series from Electronic Arts) and told him to go play.
Amobi's coach is not the only one to use this tactic. In fact the great coach Joe Paterno has been using this trick as well (as reported in a 2005 issue of Sports Illustrated). I wrote about it in Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning
Joe Paterno has been coaching the Penn State football team for over forty years. One trick he has adopted is providing his quarterbacks and receivers with copies of the Penn State Playbook on PlayStation 2 memory card. The players put the card in to the game Madden 2006 and practice plays and run routes virtually. This allows them to be better prepared to run routes and make moves during practices and on game day.
In a similar vain, doctors at the Virtual Reality Medical Center in San Diego use the racing game Midtown Madness to treat patients who have a fear of driving after traumatic car accidents.
On the medical front, a colleague of mine told me he invited a friend who was a surgeon over for dinner one night and was explaining to him about his new Nintendo Wii system and, almost embarrassingly mentioned that he had a game that mimicked surgery called "Trauma Center." Once the surgeon started playing the game, they couldn't get him to eat dinner...he was hooked. He really enjoyed the similarities to actual surgery.
And studies show that surgeons who play video games three hours a week decrease mistakes by 37 percent in laparoscopic surgery and perform the task 27 percent faster than their counterparts who do not play video games...so, you want your surgeons to play games.
Tom Crawford also writes "It makes me wonder what commercial-off-the-shelf games we could be using to help our employees understand the rules of the game."
Interestingly a multiplayer on-line game might just do that for people trying to learn business from a macro-level. You chose a company name, an industry and start producing products but you also have to worry about competitors and other players who will try to out produce you and steal your marketshare. You can borrow money, open additional businesses and try to climb to the top of your industry against others trying to do the same thing. The game is called Industry Player Business Simulation Game.
I like the idea that you compete against others just like actual businesses. You get animated employees to help you make decisions and move along through the process.
Video games have a lot to teach us about how to create effective learning...use the rules and parameters of actual situations to challenge the learner to perform actual tasks in virtual situations. Give the learner "game situations" in which the learner must apply specific knowledge to a specific situation. Use the parameters of actual situations to provide guidance and instruction to learners. Find a video game that contains concepts you want to teach and give it to your learners.
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