Tuesday, 30 October 2012

InformED


One of our readers has pointed me in the direction of a great website: informED!  It is full of fantastic features about education and learning and is well worth a look.  I have picked out a couple of their posts that are of particular interest to me below, but there are loads more.

‘15 Ways to Engage Students and Prevent Online Drop-outs’ by Miriam Clifford.  This post offers tips to engage students and prevent drop-outs including: plan interactive exercises, [use] different types of technologies and develop a ‘collaborative code of conduct’.  It is easy to see then, how games based learning could help, in these ways, to increase engagement and reduce drop-out rates.



‘Educational Psychology: 20 things Educators need to know about how Students Learn’ by Andrianes Pinantoan.  This feature relates to my recent blog post, ‘Games Based Learning Supports Multiple Learning Styles’.  It explains that there are seven learning styles:

  1. Visual: Using sight
  2. Auditory: Using songs or rhythms
  3. Verbal: Speaking out loud the information
  4. Kinesthetic: Using touch and taste to explore the information
  5. Logical: A more mathematical approach to concepts
  6. Interpersonal: Learning in groups
  7. Intrapersonal: Learning alone

The article then gives comprehensive advice on how to use this knowledge to encourage successful learning.  It also covers other tips such as using technology and creating space.

‘How to Ignite Passion in your Students: 8 Ways Educators can Foster Passion-based Learning’ by Miriam Clifford.  This great post gives lots of ways to encourage passion and engagement from learners including: allow time for collaboration and allow time for play.  Again, it is easy to see how games based learning can foster this passion-based learning when incorporated with the other strategies.

The site also talks about trends in the education industry.  This is very interesting and gives some more insight into the future of education (adding to my blog post: ‘The Future of Learning Technologies’.

The site is definitely worth a look.  I always appreciate hearing about these fantastic websites and new products, so please do let me know if you have found anything particularly inspiring.  And as always please follow @paulladley on Twitter, games-ED on Pinterest and like games-ED’s Facebook and Google+ pages for blog updates and anything inspiring I find that I want to share with you.

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Monday, 22 October 2012

Outstanding Lessons and Games Based Learning


For anyone who doesn't know, or who doesn't live in the UK, ‘Ofsted’ stands for The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills.  They essentially inspect schools (and other children’s services) and grade them based on various criteria.  This has a considerable effect on the school’s reputation.

The top ‘grade’ you can achieve through Ofsted is outstanding and teachers and schools all over the UK are striving to achieve ‘outstanding lessons’.  But what does this mean exactly?  How can games based learning help more lessons to be outstanding?

Outstanding lessons will obviously vary greatly depending on the lesson being taught.  However, what is common to achieving this standard is the quality of teaching and learning.  Ofsted say that outstanding teaching includes “a focus on pupils making exceptional progress as a result of inspiring teaching, from teachers having excellent subject knowledge and the innovative use of new technology” (information from http://www.teachingexpertise.com/articles/outstanding-lesson-11943).

In other words, one of Ofsted’s main criteria for outstanding lessons is the innovative use of new technologies.  This, in itself, would be a good reason to use games in lessons.  However, if we look at the criteria more closely, we can see how games based learning can tick more than one box.

Outstanding teachers must fulfil the following criteria:

  • Subject expertise and flair
  • The involvement of every pupil in the learning process
  • Intelligent questioning involving every pupil
  • The use of a wide variety of resources as appropriate including new technology
  • Involving pupils in the learning process and developing independent learning.

For me, it goes without saying that teachers should have a reasonable level of subject expertise.  However, subject flair is a little more interesting and perhaps more difficult to prove.  One cannot impose passion for a subject on teachers but a good way to exhibit it may be to use a related game in lessons.  Being up-to-date on goings on in their field and finding new ways to instil knowledge that they find interesting is impressive and games exhibit this.

Good learning games should also involve every pupil in the learning process.  Games can tap into multiple learning styles (‘Games Based Learning Supports Multiple Learning Styles’) meaning that all children should be able to access the learning at some level.  Collaboration is also a great benefit of learning games.  Although some technology limits the amount of players, the ideal situation is for all pupils to be learning collaboratively from one game (see the pedagogy page of our corporate website).

The next criterion is intelligent questioning involving every pupil.  In my blog post ‘Unorthodox Uses of Games in Education’, I talked about a teacher using Angry Birds to teach his pupils.  Pupils built catapults to launch real life angry birds and all the while the teacher asked them questions about the physics behind what they were doing.  This can also be done with computer based learning games.

The final criterion involves developing independent learning.  This is really about motivating and inspiring pupils.  It is unlikely that children will become enthused about a topic if the lesson is uninspiring and involves a dull presentation with written exercises to follow.  This is the bulk of most education.  Children can become enthused by a topic and want to learn more about it on their own.  If you make something fun, i.e. by using a learning game, surely they are more likely to do this.

Outstanding lessons are judged on teaching practices, but they are also judged on how the students behave in a lesson.  The key factors (from http://www.teachingexpertise.com/articles/outstanding-lesson-11943) include:

  • Are the pupils highly engaged?
  • Do they move from listening to being positively motivated?
  • Do they learn and make progress?
  • Do they obviously enjoy the lesson and have fun, and are they keen to discuss what they have learned and what they might be doing in the next lesson?
  • Do the pupils ask appropriate (and challenging) questions?
  • Do they show a keen interest in the tasks?
  • Are they proud of their work?
  • Are the pupils involved in deciding any part/content of the next lesson on the topic?

Most (if not all) of these criteria can be met with the use of games based learning as part of the curriculum.  Games are excellent for engaging and motivating students and providing fun and enjoyment (see blog post: ‘Motivation, Motivation, Motivation').  A teacher observing one of our games-ED lessons said:  “The children were fully engaged for all the session and the ‘buzz’ in the room was one of real active learning” (from 'Marrying up to the Situated Learning Theory').  Children also talked to their parents following the session about how much they had enjoyed the learning simulation and what they had learned.  This is obviously a step up from the usual question of “What did you do today at school sweetheart?” being met with the response, “Stuff”.

Games are also a great way of showing progress.  Many games have some sort of score, ratings, badges, achievements and so on to show progress.  A teacher overseeing one of our games-ED lessons commented: “[The children] were genuinely interested to see the impact their purchases had made on the town. They were disappointed to see the results/consequences of their purchases in Year 2 and were keen to rectify them in Year 3!”  One of the pupils in the primary school also commented, “I liked finding out what score you got at the end and looking at the improvements.”  Playing a game multiple times enables you to clearly see skill / knowledge development.

From our experience of running our learning simulations in lessons, all of these criteria can be met.  If you want more of an idea of how learning games can help you achieve outstanding lessons, have a look at these previous blog posts, ‘Marrying up to the Situated Learning Theory’, ‘Proof of the Pudding’ and ‘Proof of the Pudding Part 2’ and have a look at our corporate website: games-ed.co.uk.  There are some demos of our products on there too, if you are interested.

There are obviously other factors that are important for outstanding lessons and using learning games in every lesson would be considered inappropriate.  However, it is extremely easy to see how using games in lessons can show evidence of outstanding teaching.  And more than simply providing evidence, games could achieve these outstanding outcomes for students and make real improvements to the standard of lessons and their learning.

Please follow @paulladley on Twittergames-ED on Pinterest and like games-ED’s Facebook and Google+ pages for blog updates and other interesting games based learning bits and bobs.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Games are Good for You!


Have a look at this amazing infographic from our games-ED Pinterest account (originally from frugaldad.com).  Please do follow us by the way, I’m always finding interesting games based learning snippets from around the web.

Some key points:

  • Video games can improve early literacy in 4 and 5 years olds, especially letter recognition and story comprehension.
  • More than 100 Fortune 500 companies, like IBM, Cisco, and Cold Stone Creamery, use some form of gaming for training purposes.
  • 50 million real galaxies and celestial bodies were classified in the game Galaxy Zoo's first year.
  • Kids who played Tetris for 30 minutes a day for three months had a thicker cortex (believed to process coordination and visual information) than those who didn't play.

Click the image below for more interesting research findings and statistics.


Click to view full size Infographic.


Also check out this phenomenal article from Cracked.com: ‘6 Acts of Real-Life Heroism Made Possible by Video Games’ (please pardon any strong language).  Games are not only improving, but saving lives.


Please follow @paulladley on Twitter, games-ED on Pinterest and like games-ED’s Facebook and Google+ pages for blog updates and other interesting games based learning bits and bobs.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Games Based Situated Learning and Sustainaville


Welcome to the first blog post in this series!  I spoke briefly in my previous blog post about how pixelfountain and games-ED use Games Based Situated Learning (GBSL) as the theoretical underpinning of our products.  In this series of blog posts, I will explain further what I mean by this and offer a case study of one of our products in particular: Sustainaville.  This learning simulation is typical of our approach although all of our products are underpinned by the same theory.  The series draws material from the Games Based Situated Learning paper written by the other author of this blog, Paul Ladley.  The full paper can be found on the resources page of our corporate website.

Click for Sustainaville demo.

Index:


The first part of the series will introduce briefly some of the theories that underpin our products and games based learning at large.  The main focus of this series is Games Based Situated Learning, which we have discussed before, but several years ago and very briefly.  I will also try to uncover whether Situated Learning can actually occur through games and simulations, i.e. is that situated enough?

I will then introduce one of our games-ED products: the learning simulation Sustainaville.  I will explain the simulation and how it is used in a workshop including the plan > do > review stages.

The final and main part of the series will essentially be a judgement of Sustainaville using some theoretical principles outlined in the first part of the series (put forward by Jan Herrington and Ron Oliver, 1995).  This checklist can be used to judge other serious games and learning simulations in a similar way.  We will back up our judgements with both qualitative and quantitative feedback from our workshops.

Games Based Situated Learning - A Contradiction?


Situated learning / cognition considers how knowledge is acquired in the context of authentic activity, defined as the common activity of experts or ‘community of practice’.  Situated cognition considers that "representations are not at the center of the mind, but rather emerge from the interaction of the mental processes with the environment’, Clancey (1991).  This notion overturned previous theories that explained the human mind as a biological computer.   Knowledge is not the sum of what is currently held inside a person’s head, but the real-time formulation of understanding combining what was previously known with new experiences.   Brown, Collins and Duguid (1989) state that ‘A concept will continually evolve with each new occasion of use, because new situations, negotiations, and activities inevitably recast it in a new, more densely textured form. So a concept, like the meaning of a word, is always under construction’


A critical aspect of the situated learning model is the notion of the apprentice observing the ‘community of practice’.   Over time, the inexperienced novice moves from the periphery of community to the centre where they participate as experts.  This process of enculturation occurs by means of involvement in authentic activity (real world / simulated as opposed to analogous activity) and interactions with experts.

The theory has moved away from the rigid apprentice model, and has been reconstituted as a classroom learning theory.  A situated learning experience has four major premises guiding the development of classroom activities (Anderson, Reder, and Simon 1996; Wilson 1993): (1) learning is grounded in the actions of everyday situations; (2) knowledge is acquired situationally and transfers only to similar situations; (3) learning is the result of a social process encompassing ways of thinking, perceiving, problem solving, and interacting in addition to declarative and procedural knowledge; and (4) learning is not separated from the world of action but exists in robust, complex, social environments made up of actors, actions, and situations.

These four premises differentiate situated learning from other experiential forms of acquiring knowledge. In situated learning, students learn content through activities rather than acquiring information in discrete packages organized by instructors. Content is inherent in the doing of the task and not separated from the noise, confusion, and group interactions prevalent in real work environments. Learning is dilemma driven rather than content driven. Situations are presented that challenge the intellectual and psychomotor skills learners will apply at home, in the community, or the workplace (Lankard 1995).

David Stein puts forward that “situated learning uses cooperative and participative teaching methods as the means of acquiring knowledge. Knowledge is created or negotiated through the interactions of the learner with others and the environment. Subject matter emerges from the cues provided by the environment and from the dialogue among the learning community. The structure of the learning is implicit in the experience rather than in the subject matter structured by the instructor.” For Stein, Situated Learning in the classroom integrates content, context, community, and participation.

To sum up, the main tenets of situated learning theory are:

  1. Information must be given in a relevant context or setting.
  2. Learning must take place within social interaction and collaboration.

On the surface, Computer Based Situated Learning seems a contradiction in terms. Hummel (1993) maintained that ‘instructional designers who apply situated learning theory by implementation in electronic media should realize that they take an important step away from this theory ... courseware becomes the learning environment and not the authentic situation’ (p. 15 Jan Herrington and Ron Oliver, 1995).  But, the consensus has moved in favour of the feasibility of using computer methods to simulate authentic activity (Herrington and Oliver).

In fact, in some situations it is only possible to simulate such as emergency situations.  In terms of authentic activity, simulation maybe as close as it is possible to get to the real thing.  It is not just emergency training where simulation provides the only option.  For example, it is only through simulation that young people are going to experience many scenarios that occur during adulthood. Logistical and cost barriers exist, but time is a key problem. Game can compress time and can simulate events in a different time period.

A well designed simulation that has been modelled on expert knowledge, which offers collaborative learning in the form of blended delivery provides a powerful experience that does not merely engage the learner, a benefit in its own right, but anchors the learning process by contextualising it with ‘real’ scenarios. Games based situated learning moves away from the pure “apprentice model” of learning but it still stays true to the key tenets with little modification, as shown below:

  1. Information must be given in authentic simulated context.
  2. Learning must take place within social interaction and collaboration.

Herrington and Oliver, who have written extensively on situated learning and multimedia, suggest that to marry up to the theory, programmes need to:

  • Provide authentic context.
  • Provide authentic activities.
  • Embed expert performances and model processes.
  • Provide multiple roles and perspectives.
  • Support collaborative construction of knowledge.
  • Provide coaching and scaffolding.
  • Promote reflection to enable abstractions to be formed.
  • Promote articulation to enable tacit knowledge to be made explicit.
  • Provide for integrated assessment.

These are the criteria by which we will judge our learning simulation Sustainaville (see next blog post: Introducing our Games).

games-ED (Games Based Learning)


This is the second blog post in the series.  Click back to the index if you are lost.

games-ED current products can be described as resource management games. They are played in a classroom environment on a single computer by the whole class. The games narrative is structured around a relevant context such as a community – they are situated. The class is spit into sub-teams that have to collaborate to achieve common goals such as improving the community.  Sustainaville is one such game.

The games have been used in schools, college and universities and are built on tried and tested adult learning products.


Using the Game in a Lesson
The game plays over a number of rounds (simulated years). The rounds are sub-divided into three phases (plan > do > review). The rounds progressively speed up, as the learners get to grips with the task at hand.

The class is divided into sub-teams. In Sustainaville, the teams are: Local Authority; Education, Learning & Skills; Health; Third Sector; Housing; Utilities; Transport and Enterprise Partnership. Each sub-team is presented with a mission outlining their objectives. Ultimately, the sub-teams work as one team with one score.

It is important to note that the game based lesson sits within a games based learning pedagogy. In essence, pre work, taught material, follow on exercises and assessment wrap around the game based lesson. As Francis notes (2006), games need to sit within broader games based pedagogy in order that a game might be effectively used in classroom contexts.

Phases of the Game Rounds (Plan > Do > Review)
Each round of Sustainville has three phases: plan > do > review:

PLAN:

  • Investigate the main graphic, which shows a virtual community with problems such as air and water pollution, congestion, poor housing, unemployment, poor health and rising waste.
  • Investigate report screen that help learners to make decisions. The reports show cause and effect and will enable the learner to see the impact their decisions.
  • Learners consider cross linkages with other sub-teams and understand that they can achieve more if they work together.

DO:

  • Having looked at their reports and developed a plan, the sub-teams can invest their budgets by making purchase decisions.
  • Negotiate with other teams and choose win-wins to create a sustainable community.
  • After all the budget decisions have been made, the sub-teams present their decisions to the whole group explaining what they have bought and why.  
  • The purchases are input into the game by the teacher.

REVIEW:

  • The round is updated to the next year.
  • The learners consider the impact of their decisions (improvements made to the community):
  • The main graphic changes: wind turbines, less pollution, recycling facilities and more housing.  
  • The sub-team reports change.
  • The score shows how the teams have performed as a whole group. The educator gives feedback on their performance, and the learners can reflect on the decisions they have made. 
  • The learners now need to plan what they want to achieve in round 2.

See the next post in this series for how Sustainaville Marries Up to the Theory.


Marrying up to Situated Learning Theory

This final part of the series uses Herrington & Oliver’s ideas (described in the first part of this series) as a design checklist for our product Sustainaville.


Authentic Context
The Interface must map to the situation where the authentic activity would normally take place.  In addition, the learning should be complex and sufficiently large in scope to provide realism when problem solving.

In Sustainaville, learners are presented with a dynamic screen that shows the virtual community changing. The game play itself maps to the real world as learners play the role of decision makers (sub-teams in the overall game) in a virtual community.

Feedback from primary school students:

  • “It is harder than I thought to run a town.” 
  • “When you could see the town from the past years how it changed.”
  • “Sometimes there is a disaster that you don’t know.” 

Over the workshops there was also between 67% and 88% improvement in understanding of sustainable development.

Authentic Activities
Along with an authentic context, the programme should enable learners to participate as though they are the experts.  It is through simulated authentic activity that the learner becomes immersed in the process of learning.

In Sustainaville learners are assigned objectives. They have to develop strategy, deal with incidents, make decisions on how to use resources and negotiate with other sub-teams.  These authentic activities and context interplay to produce a rich learning environment.

Feedback from primary school students:

  • “It was like you were a proper business man.”
  • “I liked making the decisions on what to buy and how much to buy.”
  • “I will take away… planning, working together, making the right decisions.”

Over the workshops there was around a 57% improvement in decision-making skills.

Modelling of Processes and Expert performance
At the core of games-ED products sits the algorithm. It is the algorithm that fires out numbers in response to delegates’ decisions. Purchases in the game alter parameters, which in turn alter other parameters. The algorithm and the interface / activities that surrounds it represent the model of the reality. The algorithm is developed with the aid of desk research and interaction with subject matter experts.

Multiple roles and perspectives 
A situated learning environment provides the learner with the opportunity to investigate multiple roles and perspectives.  Roles and perspectives are brought to the fore in Sustainaville by the placing of delegates into sub-teams. Each sub-team has its own report (perspective), but at the same time the whole group is scored collectively (big picture). These sub-teams need to work together to achieve the overall goal (a constructed understanding). It is this pluralism of thought that the learners need to balance to gain a fuller understanding.

Feedback from primary school students when asked ‘what key learning messages will you take away?’:

  • “That when your managing somewhere you need to make sure people are happy and that little things can be very important.”
  • “That people have harder jobs than I thought.”
  • “We need to keep the environment healthy and public transport is better than cars.”


Collaboration
From the perspective of the situated learning theory, the decision to run Sustainaville as a whole class exercise rather than as standalone software makes sense and adds real value to the experience of learning. The sub-teams need to work together as one team and it is those that do so, that go on to post high scores.

Feedback from primary school students:

  • “I liked that we worked together to make the community good.”
  • “I liked it when we had to work in a group and play a game to improve the area.”
  • When asked ‘what key learning messages will you take away?’: “Work together, make group decisions.”

There was between a 41% and 61% improvement in group working after playing the game.

Game collaboration can have wider benefits. “Social interactions and relationships were seen by some of the interviewed teachers as having been positively enhanced by game-based learning activities in the classroom.” Ben Williamson, Futurelab 2009.

Reflection
A situated learning environment should allow learners to reflect upon a much broader base of knowledge to solve problems. The game anchors the discussion, but the delegates are encouraged to share experiences and knowledge. At the end of the session and after each round, the class is asked to think about the experience from different points of view. The learners are encouraged to build abstractions. Follow-on exercises, either completed as homework or in the next class, allow the learners to further consolidate their understanding and reflect on what they have learned.

A pupil from one workshop responded on his questionnaire that he would like “To do this in citizenship lessons.”

Articulation
Dialogue and articulation of knowledge occurs amongst learners (sub-teams), at the class level and can be educator-led. These conversations, not the technological interactions, should account for the majority the lesson.  In a workshop, the educator’s role is to encourage debate. A key question, as the learners’ decisions are keyed into the simulation is, “so what were you thinking when you made those choices?” The group can be encouraged with, “so what do the rest of you think about that?”

The learners often go through a process of transformation and feel able to participate in a way they could not have dreamed of before.  This is in part because of the inclusive nature of the exercise, but also because democratising nature of the game - games have a leveling effect: prior knowledge is only partially useful and game format may allow previously disengaged or under performing students to succeed.

A class teacher observing one workshop commented: “The children were fully engaged for all the session and the ‘buzz’ in the room was one of real active learning”.

Feedback from a primary school student when asked ‘what key learning messages will you take away?’: “How to discuss and think about decisions.”

Coaching and scaffolding
‘Many designers of interactive multimedia believe their programs should be self-contained ... Situated learning sees the teacher’s role in coaching – observing students, offering hints and reminders, providing feedback, scaffolding and fading, modeling, and so on – as integral to the learning situation’ (Herrington and Ron Oliver, 1995).

The role of the educator in Sustainaville is crucial. The teacher acts rather like the conductor in a orchestra, keeping the process flowing and providing scaffolding and stimulus as and when required.  The educator plays the role of the expert, as described in traditional situated learning. To enable the educator to do so, the software supports them. Contextual help is provided, by clicking on screen elements, to enable the educator to discover what makes up the particular element and its current value in the game.

A teacher overseeing one workshop commented: “the children were able to work [the purchase items] out with peer support or asked for clarification from an adult”.

Integrated assessment
Rather than considering the assessment as an add-on to the course, it should be integrated into learning itself.  Integration should not merely be a case of placing multiple choice questions within the learning sequence, instead the learning and assessment is one and the same thing, creating an authentic experience.

The score in Sustainaville is a highly motivating device. The decisions that the delegates make are fed into the algorithm and the score is fired out each round as the team endeavors to make the community a better place.

The in-game reports can be exported for analysis by the educator and to provide the basis for follow-on reflective / extension work. The reports are aligned to the curriculum, so that they can provide part of the evidence base for broader assessment.

A teacher overseeing one workshop commented: “[The children] were genuinely interested to see the impact their purchases had made on the town. They were disappointed to see the results/consequences of their purchases in Year 2 and were keen to rectify them in Year 3!”

Feedback from primary school students:

  • “I liked finding out what score you got at the end and looking at the improvements.”
  • “It was very fun and you learnt a lot.  It was great being in charge of the town and seeing what the result was.”

I hope you enjoyed this series!  We thought we had better show some practical evidence of the benefits of games based learning after so much theory.

Don't forget to like games-ED on Facebook and Google+ and follow @PaulLadley on Twitter for blog updates and interesting things we find while poking around the internet.  You can also now follow us on Pinterest.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Games Based Learning Supports Multiple Learning Styles

As we have discussed in the past (‘Ten Reasons why GBL works in Education’, ‘Boys will be Boys’, and ‘Kinect Games Based Learning’), we believe that games based learning supports different learning styles.  These are typically understood as visual learners, auditory learners and kinaesthetic learners (learning by doing).  This infographic (pictured below) gives more information about each learning type and some useful learning suggestions based on the characteristics common with each type of learner.

http://www.onlinecollege.org/what-type-learner-are-you


One of the reasons that games based learning works so well is possibly because (amongst other reasons) it makes use of these different learning styles.  In particular kinaesthetic learning can occur through the use of learning simulations.  In these cases, a real world scenario or situation can be played out and the learners can ‘learn by doing’ actions in a safe environment.

Some people question whether learning styles under this model should be used in instructional design.  At pixelfountain and games-ED, the key learning theory that underpins our work is Games Based Situated Learning (GBSL).  This goes further in saying people can learn better by ‘learning by being’ (see ‘Games Based Situated Learning’ and 'Learn by Doing AND Learn by Being’).  This is again extremely related to simulation based learning as people can put themselves into the position of a character in the virtual city, hotel, economy and so on.  For us, supporting VAK is a by-product of our instructional design amongst other benefits and is not the starting point.

What is interesting about the infographic though, is that it suggests that 27.8% of people are predominantly kinaesthetic learners.  This makes up the biggest proportion of learners.  They suggest the next highest proportion learn best through reading / writing, followed by aural and visual.  This could mean big things for games based learning, if accurate.

However, what is important is how the games are used.  If you have a workshop or classroom full of people, they are unlikely to all share the same learning preferences.  Additionally, some people may learn different things in different ways or need a combination of stimuli to really understand something.  It would be foolish to plonk people down in front of a game and expect them all to become experts in that topic.

This is where workshops and full lesson plans are important.  Games based learning is often misunderstood as people fear that the learners will fail to see the point of the game and may just play to win and then forget what they have learned.  This does not have to be the case as tailor-made games (as opposed to commercial games) can avoid this.  However, another way to anchor and reinforce learning and capitalise on peoples learning styles is to offer additional activities (see ‘Six Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning’).  These could be as simple as a brief introduction on the subject and a few questions at the end.  However, they could also involve mini games and exercises before and after the main game.  This also serves the function of ‘waking people up’ and getting them enthused and engaged.  This is the innovative approach that pixelfountain and games-ED take (this page from our website explains perfectly what I mean).

A recent New York Times article talks about ‘Harnessing Gaming for the Classroom’.  It discusses several reasons why games based learning is so exciting and why it works.  It also discusses some general trends of games and technology being used in education.  It is definitely worth a read and explains how people can learn things by physically doing them rather than reading or thinking about something.  They give the examples of improvisation on the piano or catching a baseball.  They suggest that in the future, school children will be able to turn into the thing that they are studying and become immersed in a virtual world related to what they have become.  They give the example of becoming a molecule and this would make molecules more exciting as that molecule is you.  This really is immersive learning at its best.  However, current games and simulations offer a pretty good alternative for now (and for relatively cheap).

Don't forget to like games-ED on Facebook and Google+ and follow @PaulLadley on Twitter for blog updates and interesting things we find while poking around the internet.