Light Offerings

Is the computer the ultimate Digital Age game for learning?

Posted by jturner56 on March 2, 2014

I have observed over the past two decades the foci of computer power for learning  shifting firstly from schools to home in the late 90s, and then to mobile devices towards the end of the first decade of this century. What I more recently have observed is the growing embedded relationship between digital and the brain, particularly in the young, but across all age groups.

Neuroscient researcher Jay Giedd summed it up well:

The way adolescents of today learn, play, and interact has changed more in the past 15 years than in the previous 570 since Gutenberg’s popularization of the printing press (Giedd 2012)

There is a danger for schools and systems that continue to externalise this as an optional consideration for curriculum, school structures and decision making.

What does this have to do with computer games? Well, in considering Klosowski’s Psychology of Gamification (2014), what struck me was the close relationship between school education and gamification. Consider

  • Gamification uses game mechanics in a non-game context to reward you for completing tasks.” And school does what?
  • Gamification, like learning, works best when there is
    • Autonomy
    • Value
    • Competence building

Way back to when Logo programming and Appleworks supported engaged, personalised, competency building, I could provide examples across the years where well designed digital learning tasks have led to levels of engagement and focus that the computer gaming industry aims at. Of course education has enjoyed neither the money nor expertise that business and entertainment have. So the game setters, the teachers, remain integral, but their understanding and pedagogical skills need to continue to evolve.

Because in the Digital Age the computer is the ultimate game+

  • bestowing autonomy, value, competence
  • personalizable, yet challenging to break beyond, add value
  • linking learning into ever changing environments
  • opening the door to creating the future we want

The digital environments and tools available have thrown up, and continue to put forward, opportunities to use the game-nature of digital to support learning. Context matters. So does connection as the social brain takes on more consideration.

There is, though, a danger in seeing this or that game as a solution, rather than the evolving relationship between gaming and Digital Age learning. A danger exemplified in the Open University’s (2013) Innovating Pedagogy

There is increasing interest in the connections between games and education. When implemented as ‘edutainment’ or ‘gamification’ of learning, teaching practices can gain superficial elements of entertainment and reward. This may encourage learners to continue, however misses the power of digital games
for engagement, reflection and self-regulation. (p5)

So as the relationship between the brain and digital evolves, will schools create learning experiences utilising gamification that embrace and respond to Digital Age needs? Or hold on to outmoded industrial priorities?

If the Climate Change debate is any guide, the worry is it will be the latter until the gurgler beckons.


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