Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Disconnects Between Serious Games Wins and Report Cards for Students’ Classroom Skills

Challenging educators get the most from Serious Games in the classroom

In my prior post Serious Games Embed New Metrics, I had surfaced one major challenge of institutionalizing Serious Games in Education: “How do we measure success when facing discontinuity?

As potentially every education program, every curriculum, can be reshaped over the next few years by the use of Serious Games, I anticipated that traditional standardized measurements of varying levels of comprehension within a subject area will tend to become obsolete for a variety of reasons, among them:

• The concept of grading is static whilst gameplay is dynamic
• Games don’t separate learning and assessment: they give you feed back on the learning curve you are on
• Subject areas are often four-walled whilst gameplay cuts across multiple disciplines
• Grading mirrors the past, thus inhibiting burning platforms
• The above can produce mixed report cards for students’ classroom skills: grades may be falling whilst gaming skills are rocketing
• When facing discontinuity, the first thing we want to ensure is that we are creating, not destroying, value.

The Value Creation concept is often difficult to convey but once we agree upon what constitutes value and the Value Metrics to be used it becomes one of the best anchors for discontinuity.

The rule of the thumb is that value metrics are dynamic, moving targets that are often better expressed in “deltas” – variations between the prior status and the aspired one, which fits beautifully to disruptive changes and is quite similar to game players’ level-up.

As stated by James Paul Gee in the video Big Thinkers: James Paul Gee on Grading with Games, via Edutopia, quite an eye opener:

“Standard skills are not good enough to survive in a developed country - people need creativity and innovation. The form of schooling we engage in now - basically privileging those who know a lot of facts but can’t solve problems with them - is on its last legs."

"Future schooling shall stress the ability to solve problems collaboratively - you work in a group in which the group is smarter than the smartest person in it.”

As gaming is all about problem solving and not about knowing a lot of facts, here is a head start:

Value of Collaborative Problem Solving

How do we measure and subsequently institutionalize the value of collaborative problem solving and critical thinking?

How do we reward collaborative effort continually while also providing occasional unexpected rewards?

Value of Failure In Pursuit Of The Next Level

One of the most profound transformations we can learn from games is how to turn the sense that someone has ‘failed’ into the sense that they ‘haven’t succeeded yet.

How do we reward the value of failure in pursuit of the next level or the epic win?

For Teachers: The Value of Video Games Shaping Classroom Curriculum

How do we measure the increase of students’ engagement in the context of a Serious Games-based curriculum?

As reported by the New York Times On a Hunt for What Makes Gamers Keep Gaming, in the past, puzzles and games were sometimes considered useful instructional tools. The emperor Charlemagne hired a scholar to compile “Problems to Sharpen the Young,” a collection of puzzles like the old one about ferrying animals across a river (without leaving the hungry fox on the same bank as the defenseless goat). The British credited their victory over Napoleon to the games played on the fields of Eton.

But once puzzles and gaming went digital, once the industry’s revenues rivaled Hollywood’s, once children and adults became so absorbed that they forsook even television, then the activity was routinely denounced as “escapism” and an “addiction.”

Understanding why players become so absorbed and focused, that they seem to be achieving the state of “flow” that psychologists used to describe master musicians and champion athletes, but the gamers get there right away instead of having to train for years, is part of the challenge educators shall face to get the most from Serious Games in the classroom.