Educational games offer a number of pedagogical and educational advantages. They can promote communication and socialization between students (Kulle et al., 2010), offer opportunities to set and achieve goals (Raymer, 2011), provide safe spaces to fail and try again with different strategies (Raymer, 2011; Schenker, 20120; Seker, 2012), and they are “just plain fun” (Schenker, 2010). Yet designers – of games and instruction – are faced with the challenge of creating “serious games” that engage, educate, and seem relevant to learners (Wimpenny et al., 2012). Games for games sake won’t help our students learn, and games that are nothing more than gussied up quizzes are not very engaging.
Gaming has been a pebble in my shoe for quite some time. I’d love to include more games in my instruction! My kiddos know they struggle with reading, and that is why they see me. Motivation can be an issue, so anything I can do to make learning fun while still being meaningful is important. Mid-spring this year I played Memory with my sixth graders, where they had to match an affix with its meaning. The day after we played one girl said, “It was so much fun, it actually made me want to come down here.” My biggest stumbling block is: how. How do I make a game out of reading? How do you make a game out of fluency practice? Are there any games out there that focus on comprehension? What reading games have you found – either off- or online – that your students have enjoyed?
Globalization and Rich Media
As infrastructure and device accessibility continues to spread around the globe, the challenge of designing content becomes increasingly complex. Design choices like font, color, even delivery medium will read differently in different cultures (DeBortoli et al., 2001). For example, in Asia, orange is considered spiritual and “life-affirming,” while in the U.S. it is seen as the color of “road hazards, traffic delays, and fast food restaurants,” (DeBortoli et al., 2001, p. 4) – a far cry spiritual enlightenment. Designers will need to weigh these choices carefully, so that their message and purpose isn’t lost in cultural interpretation.
Fortunately for me (or not) my school is not incredibly culturally diverse – our learners’ differences tend to be differences in economic stability, learning preferences, and disabilities. So while color choice will not necessarily sink e-Learning content, delivery style and medium will weigh heavily on the success of e-Learning. Rich media – combining text, video, audio, and interactivity (granitestatecollege, 2012) – can help e-Learning succeed. I may prefer a certain media or technology, but it may not be the most helpful for my struggling readers. Research by D’Arcy et al., (2009) raises the possibility that there is no one “ideal instructional medium” (p. 62). Instead, we should be combining a wide range of media (i.e. rich media) which interact with the context, tasks, instructor, and students to create positive learning outcomes (D’Arcy et al., 2009). For example, if I’m teaching compare and contrast, a written text explaining how to do this would not be beneficial for my kiddos. A quick video to introduce the topic, followed by some modeling with a short text, then some guided practice in an article that uses images AND text to compare and contrast the main topic would be a much better use of instructional time.
How have you incorporated rich media in your design and/or teaching?
The million dollar questions is now: will technology replace teachers? In terms of content deliver, possibly. Yet communities across the country are recognizing the need for individuals to band together to create an environment of resilience and support for our students. Can e-Learning do that? Can a computer? As a means of communication and research, yes computers will be important to these future communities. However, I don’t see teachers disappearing completely. We may not be standing in front of a chalkboard lecturing, but we will be matching students with the right content – texts, videos, games, even other people. We will be community leaders, mentors, coaches, resources, and models of resilience. “School” may not take place from 8-3, five days a week in one building anymore, but students will need a place to gather and socialize, get help with their work, and participate in sports, arts, and all the other extracurriculars that form the basis of their passions. For the students (and families) who need a place to be during the work day, the traditional school model may remain, but the goings-on within that school will change. This document from the Tacoma Public Schools in Washington outlines what this new school may look like, and how it aligns with their values of community and 21st century learning.
D’Arcy, C.J., Eastburn, D.M., & Bruce, B.C. (2009). How media ecologies can address diverse student needs. College Teaching, 57(1), 56-63.
De Bortoli, M. & Maroto, J. (2001). Colours across cultures: Translating colours in interactive marketing communications. Proceedings of the European Languages and the Implementation of Communication and Information Technologies (Elicit) Conference. University of Paisley.
granitestatecollege. (2012, March 7). Rich media – Part 1: What is rich media? [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AvuKcFWJWSc
Kulle, H., & Edvardsen, F. (2010). Educational games : Design, learning, and applications. New York: Nova Science Publishers.
Raymer, R. (2011). Gamification: Using game mechanics to enhance eLearning. Retrieved from http://elearnmag.acm.org/featured.cfm?aid=2031772
Schenker, J. (2010, September 22). TEDxNextGenerationAsheville – Jonathan Schenker – “School Mods: Gaming The Educational System” [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=auP-eq17U1g
Seker, R. (2012). Gaming in eLearning. Retrieved from https://www.bluevolt.com/blog/gaming-elearning
Tacoma Public Schools. (2014). A vision for the elementary learning environment: guidelines for building planning and design. Retrieved from http://www.tacoma.k12.wa.us/information/departments/planningconstruction/Documents/TPS_VisionForElementaryLearning.pdf