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Game Based Learning

The approach is closely related to constructivist concepts of learning, which hold that by reflecting on their own experiences all learners actively construct their own understanding of the world based on both their previous and current knowledge. Constructivism asserts that the teacher should not supply the knowledge required by students as a ready-made product. Children do best by creating for themselves the specific knowledge they need, rather than being instructed in what they must know. The teacher is a guide and mentor.

Research shows that most people learn best when they are entertained, when they can use creativity to work toward complex goals, when lesson plans incorporate both thinking and emotion, and when the consequences of actions can be observed. The past twenty-five years has produced a substantial body of psychological, educational and development literature highlighting the educational potential of digital games. However, this enthusiasm is tempered by the recognition that the majority of commercial 'edutainment' products have been largely unsuccessful in harnessing this potential to effective educational use.

Key design guidelines for achieving intrinsic integration in digital learning games include:

  • Deliver learning material through the parts of the game that are the most fun to play, riding on the back of the ‘flow’ experience produced by the game, and not interrupting or diminishing its impact.

  • Embody the learning material within the structure of the gaming world and the player's interactions with it, providing an external representation of the learning content that is explored through the core mechanics of the game play.

  • Rather than pursue learning by listening and/or by reading fact-filled and not-too exciting textbooks, engage students in an immersive world has to perform a set of complex actions to achieve desired learning goals.

The advantage of this approach is that learning through performance requires active discovery, analysis, interpretation, problem solving, memory, and physical activity and results in the sort of extensive cognitive processing that deeply embeds learning. The educational value of the game-playing experiences comes not just from the game itself, but from the creative coupling of educational media with effective pedagogy to engage students in meaningful practices.

On a cognitive level, play encourages the development of our concepts about the world. By toyingwith objects and ideas through playful experimentation we develop an understanding of the physical world and our place within it. As yet, effective educational games are in their infancy. But as games increase in complexity and freedom, they will be able to accommodate many different playing styles and personal goals, mirroring the inner dynamics of the player’s personality.

The problem of narrative, of integrating a linear storyline within an interactive game is widely acknowledged as one of the most intractable problems in the field of games design. Although many techniques exist and will attract developers and gamers for a long time to come, none of them solve the hardest problem; creating a truly dynamic narrative, of creating virtual worlds or ‘Mixed Realities’ (e.g. outdoor and indoor) where, although the themes and imagery in the world remain consistent, the actions of different players lead to utterly different and credible outcomes.

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