In the digital age, the work we do is increasingly fluid and improvisational, and yet our learning models haven’t really changed since the Industrial Revolution—a time when education was designed to pump out good factory workers, not creative thinkers.
Aran Levasseur, a tech writer, PBS contributor, and former teacher, says that epistemic games are the key to creating the next generation of creative problem-solvers. Epistemic games are essentially simulators. “The player learns to think like professionals by playing a simulated game of such professions as management, engineering, journalism or urban planning,” Levasseur writes for Mindshift.
Simulation games allow learners to face real-life situations and explore various solutions to challenges.
One such game is Platform Wars, designed for MIT students. Players take the role of an senior manager in charge of marketing a new console. Factors like price and the number of games available on the console determine how the fictional market responds.
This kind of learning is far more dynamic than reading case studies or hearing a lecture. It combines the excitement and engagement of video games with the factual lessons of a documentary. As Levasseur says, these games “allow students to role-play professions while learning skills that they apply in the game.”
Games can help children learn in a world where there are no right or wrong answers. They teach problem solving and strategy in such a way that students immediately see and understand the results of their decisions. Epistemic games also familiarize learners with real-world culture and language.
“Any profession is structured around a culture that is composed of skills, values, knowledge, identities and an epistemology that anchor how creative professionals operate,” says Levasseur. Learning games can increase familiarity with these structures and better prepare students to grow up and take on the challenges of the workplace.