Since 2003, teachers at the Elisabeth Morrow School in New  Jersey have been combining learning and play to pursue 21st century learning goals.

But what is 21st century learning? Marianne Malmstrom, a technology professor at the Elisabeth Morrow School, has put together a useful report on how she sees 21st century learning and games intersect.

It isn’t just teaching kids how to use technology, she says. It’s “all about learning how to learn.” Our schools and our workplaces are becoming increasingly fluid, and teaching kids the skills of “creativity, critical thinking (problem solving), communication, collaboration and character (citizenship),” will be crucial to raising the next generation of thinkers. These five skills were identified by Pat Bassett, the President of the National Association of Independent Schools.

Malmstrom calls the effectiveness of games “unexpected.”

“A well-designed game engages the player in a constant cycle of learning,” Malmstrom writes. “As players master each new level, they are skillfully guided to tackle more complex tasks. The challenges are carefully structured to build skills by having players apply previously gained knowledge to new problems.”

The Elisabeth Morrow School uses games like Minecraft, World of Warcraft, Lego Universe, and Quest Atlantis to teach 21st century learning skills. These were chosen for safety and complexity, and all allow students to meet in multiplayer virtual worlds to complete quests. Students must work together to solve problems, with each student bringing a unique skill set to the table.

“It is amazing to watch how freely they share their newly gained knowledge. There is a constant buzz, as students move about the room helping each other and sharing what they have learned.”

(Source: Marianne Malmstrom)

This article was written by

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.