What is Gamed-Based Learning?


The interest in game-based learning has accelerated considerably in recent years, driven by clear successes in military and industrial training. The US military, in particular, is using games and simulations to refine skills across the range of their training needs, from basic training to field medicine, to IED removal, to advanced operational strategies. Developers and researchers are working in every area of educational gaming, including games that are goal-oriented; social game environments; non-digital games that are easy to construct and play; games developed expressly for education; and commercial games that lend them selves to refining team and group skills. At the low end of game technology, there are literally thousands of ways games can be applied in learning contexts. Role-playing and other forms of simulated experiences have broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines, and are another rich area for exploration.

Still a few years away, but increasingly interesting, is the notion of creating massively multiplayer online (MMO) games expressly for learning, along the lines of games created for entertainment (e.g. World of Warcraft) or for both training and entertainment, such as America’s Army, created by the US military. MMOs bring many players together in activities that require them to work together to solve problems; they can be collaborative or competitive. They are often goal-oriented in ways that tie to a storyline or theme, but high levels of play often require outside learning and discovery. What makes this category of games especially compelling and effective is the multiple ways participants can be engaged — with other players, with the “back story,” in social contexts, and more — and the time they are willing to spend on task pursing the goals of the games.


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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Making the assumption that social networking is possible in a museum because of the availability of 3G or wireless connectivity, I see opportunities for collaboration and gaming activities between virtual visitors and in-person visitors, and perhaps learning might ensue. I’m not as clear about the use of a virtual environment or MMO as described above, but perhaps it could be applicable if for instance the virtual visitor could guide the in-person visitor using information only they have available through the MMO environment. The goals of a treasure hunt game (for instance) might also be different for in-person visitor who could collect a real badge or token upon success, in a similar fashion to the rewards offered in the highly successful junior ranger program in US national parks http://www.nps.gov/grca/forkids/beajuniorranger.htm. The virtual visitor would also have to have a reward or goal, perhaps “winning” would open up new aspects of the online experience or a new section of the MMO. Treasure hunts or similar spacial orientation discovery games that involve solving problems together would be a unique way to build meaning and facilitate learning for these two kinds of visitors. This all assumes a framework of interaction though social networking aware MMOs. Perhaps Second Life for the virtual visitor. The in-person visitor could use a connected smart device but would take advantage of the real place of the museum. - mike.kelly mike.kelly May 1, 2010
  • Some museums, especially science centers, are already working with game-based learning. And our agency is seeing increased applications for game applications. The National Academies of Sciences Board on Science Education will soon release a report on Games and Simulations in Informal Science Learning.- marsha.semmel marsha.semmel May 2, 2010
  • This is already in place in many museums. often done in partnership with organizations expert at creating the games and the museums serve as content providers. Entire schools like Quest to Learn in NY are built around game design principles. - elizabeth.babcock elizabeth.babcock May 2, 2010

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • your response here
  • another response here

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • This could have an impact on the way schools are able to partner with museums, and blur the distinction between formal and informal learning. If the game was a role playing game, with a dungeon or game master perhaps this master could be a teacher or the museum’s curation team, or education director. This might be appropriate games with directed K-12 oriented learning goals. In self-directed learning style (informal learning) games, there could be myriad gaming goals crafted to the learning desires of adults. Overall gaming could leverage the physical and virtual nature of collections and their use as pivot points for learning. It also might impact learning inside the physical museum by giving visitors another reason to understand museum collections and exhibits. - mike.kelly mike.kelly May 1, 2010
  • I think that current neuroscience research points to games as powerful and effective learning experiences. If museums are serious about their learning mission, they need to find ways to embrace gaming in their portfolio of experiences. Look at Jane McGonigal's work about the impact of gaming on participatory learning. Games add a level of engagement that too many museums lack.- marsha.semmel marsha.semmel May 2, 2010 - ninmah ninmah May 5, 2010

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

Whyreef on Whyville.net--virtual coral reef create Field Museum
Asian Carp Invasive species game create by Field Museum, lauching mid May 2010- elizabeth.babcock elizabeth.babcock May 2, 2010

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