The 12th annual Games for Change Festival is happening this week, and we’ve been watching the events every day. One of the focuses of G4C is learning, because learning is one of the best ways we can bring positive change to the world.
I’ve gleaned a few important truths from speakers at the festival (supplemented by my own teaching experience and training); Michael D. Gallagher, president and CEO of the Entertainment Software Association; Morgan Spurlock, documentarist; Jesse Schell, game designer, author, CEO of Schell Games, and Professor at Carnegie Mellon University; and Peter Vesterbacka, Sanna Lukander, and Lauri Jarvilehto of Rovio.
1. Any game can be a learning game.
2. We don’t need to gamify or funify learning; learning is already fun. We need to make learning actually happen.
3. We don’t know what the future will demand of young learners; it’s our duty to equip them with the tools they need. The most important tool they will ever need is a love of learning.
4. Students who are praised for being smart are less likely to continue making an effort; if they succeed, they have no reason to continue, and if they fail, they assume they will never succeed. Students who are praised for working hard are more likely to continue making an effort, because it is effort that leads to success.
5. Intrinsic motivation is better than external motivation. A game leads to better learning when the learning itself is the award, rather than coins or points.
6. We want to foster learning games that are seen as entertainment, not as medicine.
7. Learning takes place best when it is okay to fail and make mistakes.
8. Learning must be safe, both physically and virtually. It must be safe from bullying and safe from ridicule, and it must include privacy safeguards.
9. Choice is essential. We all learn differently from each other, and sometimes we learn differently depending on the context. There must be choice in how to pursue learning.
10. Learning takes place best when people appreciate one another. This includes appreciating both similarities and differences. In fact, we must celebrate those similarities and differences and never ignore them.
11. The environment must be inspiring for learning to take place, whether it is a digital or physical environment. Sitting in rows of desks, staring at fellow learners’ backs, is not an inspiring environment. Dull text on a screen is not an inspiring environment.
12. It doesn’t matter how learning is facilitated as long as it is facilitated. You can educate as long as you want, but if learning does not take place, you have failed in your mission.
13. Learning that takes place in a disciplined environment can be effective learning, but if the discipline is too strong or too painful, the learner will also come to avoid learning when that discipline is taken away.
14. Learning takes place best when learners can create, co-create, and participate.
15. The question isn’t if games can be used to facilitate learning. Games already are facilitating learning every day. The question is how we can understand the impact of that truth and do everything we can to make sure that impact continues to grow.