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Monday, November 23, 2009

Interviews: Questions and Answers

Lately it seems as if I have been doing a number of interviews, I was interviewed over at The eLearning Coach on the topic of Games and Simulations. Stop over and check out the interview. It was a lot of fun. Also, here is the second part of the interview (it was so long it became two parts.) Also, check out the other interesting content on the site. Some good stuff.

I also received an email with some interview questions. Here is a glimpse at some of the questions and answers from that email.

Why do you think parents disapprove of the idea of videogames in classrooms?

Parents only hear about the “bad” aspects of video games and a number of video games do have offensive language and content but so do books. Some of the most offensive subjects and written word has been captured in books. Do we ban all books as bad? No. We ban certain books but the rest we view as positive. We need the same focus on video games. Some are bad but many aspects of games are good. Parent just don’t know about those aspects because they are not as well publicized.

What are the differences between game-based learning and traditional learning methods used in schools now?
Many academic environments are not situated to take advantage of interactive learning opportunities; instead, they focus too much on one-way communication. The instructor lectures to the students. In that environment not a lot of information is retained by the learner. Other times, students are forced to do rote memorization which can be boring. Games can disguise rote memorization and make it more palatable for the learner. For example, games are played over and over again for a higher score, to beat someone or to reach the next level. We know that distributed practice (or spaced rehearsal) is an effective learning technique and a well designed game naturally embodies that concept more so than a traditional classroom lecture or homework assignment.

Another advantage of gaming over a traditional lecture is that games focus on problem-solving. In many classroom environments, time constraints and the need to keep every learner on the same page minimizes the opportunity learners have of truly engaging in problem solving. Games allow learners to engage in problem-solving on a regular basis.

Immediate feedback is another advantage. Games provide immediate feedback unlike a test or a quiz which requires time for an instructor to grade and return. Games also tend to motivate learners more than text on a PowerPoint slide that is presented in a typical classroom.

What are the problems with traditional learning methods?
The instruction all has to progress at one pace, students don’t get enough of a chance to practice problem-solving. The traditional methods don’t teach students to work with multiple variables and to see pattern recognition.

What can change if schools start to participate in game-based learning?
I believe we can raise a generation of problem-solvers and innovators. We can’t solve today’s problems with the education of yesterday. The classroom model has been around since the 1800’s and is appropriate for an industrial society but we are now an information society and we need a new focus. Games will our children to think on their feet and to aggressively confront issues with a sense of urgency.

Nolan Bushnell, the father of videogames, says “Everything can be done through a game. The learning and the exercise.” He continues to say that games teach much more than any teacher can. “They teach to work in teams, whether it is with another person or a simulation. They teach experiences and creative thinking and encourage students to learn by themselves.” Nolan concludes, “Students will learn if they just continue to play their videogames.”
Do you agree with Nolan Bushnell’s statement?

I agree to a large extent with his statements, I think I would modify to focus on educational games. I think “bad” games can teach some pretty bad stuff so to say all video games are good no matter what is like saying all video games are bad no matter what—-neither statement is true.

Games are an instructional strategy for teaching content but are not a panacea. While many good aspects of video games are ignored and should be highlighted and leveraged more in educational institutions, we cannot abandon all other types of learning in favor of games. An intelligent balance of instructor-led instruction, games, simulations, hands-on experiences and peer-to-peer interactions is necessary. A mistake too many people make is to see any one solution or technique, like video games as the answer to all educational problems. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. So, the “everything can be done through a game,” is, in my opinion, going a little far. But I do agree that learning and the exercise or application of the learning can be learned through the game but, more is needed. Practical, hands-on elements and working side-by-side and being able to see another student and work shoulder-to-shoulder is also important.

Bushnell also wants to create a “Game-Based School” where children learn from only games. What do you think the pros and cons of a school like this would be?
The pros would be the problem-solving focus and the motivation. The cons would be, as mentioned above, one cannot learn everything they need to know at all times through a game. Many more dynamics are needed. A game centered curriculum can be successful if other elements are also included. Again, a one dimensional solution to educational problems is short-sighted and is wrong.


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