Monday, March 8, 2010

Games/Learning/Billy Madison

I think this was one of the first Rated R movies I ever saw. I was 9.

I really cant describe the movie if you haven't seen it. I'll say it like this, if you haven't seen it, watch it. Right now. Then come back to this blog and read about how I will connect this to games and learning. Go ahead. I'll wait right here for you.

I know, funny movie right?! And what about that penguin? Great stuff.

The main part of the clip we are going to focus on is the bit with the date game. So Veronica asks Billy the year of events and as we saw his incentive is pretty clear. That in itself is a game learning ecology. Granted, it doesn't use any technology but it does answer the questions and theorems postulated by the authors this week in P574.

Gee asks:
How can we make learning in and out of school, with or without using games, more game-like in the sense of using the sorts of learning principles that young people see in good games every
day, when and if they are playing these games reflectively and strategically?

Squire wants to change school culture:
Organize curricula around driving questions of personal relevance to students and open-ended,
genuine intellectual merit

Quest Atlantis "makes learning fun" (Barab et al.)

Gee talks a bit about how games build investment and identity, Squire & Barab both talked about intrinsic motivation, and Billy exemplifies all of these. Furthermore, Billy became a better person, increased his sociability, and learned a heck-of-alot in using these mini-games to train for the academic decathlon.

Personally I think games are great in classrooms. I created a rhythm based clapping game for taking attendance with my 7th and 8th graders last year. This game obviously wasn't designed for learning but it did do the following: it allowed for production, interactions, and customization. It warmed up the students and built up there self-esteem. But the whole time they were fully aware that they are playing a game to take attendance.

The shortfall of games not addressed in the readings is that students sometimes fail to transfer out the skills they learned in the game. What I mean by that is best summarized by Schwartz, Bransford, and Brown.....but I'll paraphrase. Learning that remains as a "sequestered problem solving" concept is not as preferable as a concept that becomes "preparation for future learning". For example in the Ander City worked example students become "expert statisticians". Within their context and using transformational play students assume the role and perform the calculations. I know that students will naturally discover mean, median, and mode in context but my question naturally goes to this, if I ask one of those students to find the median of any given number set, can they do it?

Then again I guess that's the million dollar question of all learnign environments. And where most research is likely taking place.

I do agree that games can support learning, and promote all the beneficial cognitive skills that go along with it such as problem solving, and systems thinking but just like any technology, it must be the right tool for the job.

An overlooked and never mentioned piece to video gaming in classrooms is tech support. Therefore, my model this week will be a tribute to my old tech support buddies, Ryan & Richard.


  1. I love the focus here on preparation for future learning. It may be that engagement with games leads to learning experiences whose full scope is neither measurable nor visible, at least in the limited time frame of educational research. But I've noticed that gamers often have a different approach to problem-solving and the world in general than non-gamers do. It's not clear which approach is more productive, but certainly there should be a way to engage in deep research into this. But giving students 10-20 hours' worth of game play, followed by a set of assessments, doesn't seem likely to measure very much.

  2. I really like the way you managed to connect video gaming in education with Billy Madison. Besides I enjoyed the video ;)

    I think you are right about the shortfall of any type of game brought to the classroom: students will develop skills while playing them, no doubt about that, but it does not necessarily mean this will prepare them for future learning.

    On one hand, yes, the technology chosen needs to be the right tool for the job. On the other hand, I think it also needs to be used in an appropriate way to make it worth it. In other words, after all these readings, I'm more inclined to think that the right technology can only support well planned/designed classroom activities.