Play + Relate + Create = LEARN!
Dolphins have brains very like ours and both eyes facing forward, and they’re mammals just as we are. Okay, we can’t find objects we mislay or hidden objects in games by echolocation as dolphins do (although some people have learned to do that, too), but we can certainly learn through play and relationships as dolphins do! Take a look at this video about dolphin learning processes.
Wouldn’t you love to learn the same way? Well, in fact, we do! (Just don’t try to take your Xbox underwater.)
Learning Games – Learn Like a Dolphins
Immersive Experience: Yes, the dolphins really do immerse themselves in the experience, but so do we.
We learn through all kinds of experience, of course, but games—especially learning games—provide a structure in which we learn. Diana Oblinger’s 2006 paper titled “Simulations, Games, and Learning“1 reminds us that “It is important to emphasize that games and play may be effective learning environments, not because they are ‘fun’2 but because they are immersive, require the player to make frequent, important decisions, have clear goals, adapt to each player individually, and involve a social network.”3
Who hasn’t experienced greater effectiveness in some process through teamwork? Just like the dolphins, we work well in teams. In 2007, Science Daily reported that “A two-year study of college students at The Pennsylvania State University (PSU) shows that students learn better and develop higher-level skills by participating in cooperative (team) activities, compared to traditional classroom teaching methods.” Whether it’s a job task with our work team, a household chore with the family, or a team learning challenge, the mere act of communicating with others stimulates our learning. We watch each other’s expressions, talk, encourage, call time-out, succeed, fail, regroup, rethink … and learn. That same study’s author, Dr. Elsa Sanchez, noted that “lectures are far less conducive to facilitating higher levels of thinking, such as application of concepts and analysis and synthesis of information” and that “Using cooperative activities also allows students to practice skills that will enhance their future careers, including communication, conflict resolution, creativity and time management.”
Creativity: Then there’s the creative aspect of learning. Whether the games are on the ground or online, all games stimulate our creativity. There are usually many paths to the ultimate “win” – just as in real life. Everyone doesn’t have to learn the necessary facts or tactics in the same sequence as everybody else, although, as a team, we eventually coordinate what we know and how we perform the skills we’ve learned. As Mike Shumake observed in his 2012 article, “Game-Based Learning: A Paradigm Shifting Opportunity for Innovation,” a single game can teach several topics: “A creative role-playing game that addresses areas of each [curriculum] might start with five students on a gaming team with the teacher as the architect, a player who is in charge of enforcing the rules and defining how the world reacts to the characters’ actions.” As learning game producers know, the more skillful learners become at the game’s techniques, the more the learners take control over their game environment and activities; we build that flexibility into the games to encourage the learners’ ownership and creativity in the learning experience. That, to circle back to Oblinger’s observation, is what makes the games immersive and the learning so effective.
Whichever way you learn, may it always make you jump for joy!
What did you find useful in the posting? What more would you like to know? Please share your comments.
- Diana Oblinger (2006). “Simulations, Games, and Learning.” Accessed at http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ELI3004.pdf on 06/11/2012.
- Rafe Kotter defines fun as “the act of mastering a problem mentally” in A Theory of Fun for Game Design; see http://www.theoryoffun.com/.
- 3. Richard Van Eck, “Digital Game-Based Learning,” op. cit.