The focus on this week second task is on game-based learning as the best example of good case of active learning. The reasons given are brief and clear: “It encapsulates many principles of active learning, such as engagement in an authentic context, learning by mistake-making and reflection, experiential learning, collaborative learning and learning by problem-solving”. Apart from the word “authentic” that I would discuss, I agree with the list. But is it enough? In my opinion: “no”, because the issue is not that some learning occurs but to be able to tell what learning occurs and, even better, that an intended learning objective has been reached. For this, it is not enough to engage the learners in an active play.
Let’s take the case of the proposed games, of which I tried two: the adventure game Lost in the City and the strategy game Westward. After 15 minutes of play (recommended), I stopped, I stepped back and I tried to respond to the question: “What do you think you could learn playing this game?” The only response I could offer is that we could learn how to play these games and that it may take some time. Then what we could learn once being reasonably familiar with the game is not obvious, although there could be a general statements (I prefer to leave the floor to a knowledgeable other): “The game “Lost in the City” is interesting as an exercise in following directions and solving puzzle” (@James Kerr), “Westward […] felt as though it wrapped entertainment around learning very well, and could present learning in an engaging way” (@James Kerr). Yes, but which learning? James Kerr refers to “The Oregon trail” as a similar game. If I got it well, it is both a role-play and a simulation game of a period in the history of the US (as a matter of fact, following a link from the wikipedia page of “The Oregon trail” one reaches “Westward!” and learn that it is an online adaptation of it – but may be not to confuse with Westward – without an exclamation point).
So, before being lost (or loosing my reader, if one happens to reach this line), I must tell what I learned today from activity 3.2. The first thing is that I learned a bit how to play these games which I didn’t know before; and indeed, while playing, I cant’ help learning. The second thing is that one cannot say clearly and precisely what can be learned when playing a game; almost every learning is possible from learning how to play, learning some attitude, some skills and serendipitously some content or know-how which could have a meaning and a utility outside the universe of the game. The analysis is almost impossible.
Hence, the reasonable approach is to question the game from the perspective of the learning outcome one targets. I will come back to this point with the week 3 activity 3.3.