THE BLOG
07/16/2014 11:27 am ET Updated Sep 15, 2014

Speak 180: Why Is Game-Based Learning Good for Today's Youth?

Speak 180 hosted by Marcus T. Wright is a new written segment where industry experts, thought leaders, and notable figures get a chance to answer an important question in 180 words or less.

A 180 represents a turnaround, as in, our guests have 180 words to possibly turn around your opinion about a topic.

Today's question:

Why is Game-Based Learning Good for Today's Youth?

Background: The integration of Game-Based Learning has become an important topic in education. For years we have played games (board, video, play, etc.) and learned in ways that we may not have noticed (read about an example from Sonic the Hedgehog ). Researchers and educators have stated that we can create engaging academic learning experiences through the power of games. While the sentiment is growing, there are still those who aren't quite buying this argument.

So let's hear from three industry experts. In only 180 words, can they turn around the opinion of those who don't quite buy into Game-Based Learning?

Today's Guests:

Lindsey Tropf, Founder & CEO, Immersed Games
Dr. Michelle Riconscente, Director of Learning & Assessment, GlassLab (from the Institute of Play)
Dr. Lucas Blair, Co-Founder and Game Designer, Little Bird Games LLC

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Lindsey Tropf
176 words

Games are a natural learning environment that make lessons relevant within context and without risk. There is a story and a reason to be solving problems within the game, so that students know why they are learning something. One of my goals with game-based learning is to eliminate the question, "Why are we learning this?" Risk is minimized because you can build a tower without it collapsing, or perform a surgery without harming a patient. Students are free to experiment and learn from failures.

Games also allow people to experience learning dynamically and at their own pace. Can't figure out a section of a puzzle game? Look it up or ask a friend without being penalized or feeling embarrassed. Got a bad grade in a dance simulator? Go back, try again, and turn that grade into merely one step in the process to your current skill level.

With their natural learning environment, relevance, context, lack of risk, and dynamic engagement and empowerment, games are the perfect learning platform. We just have to get education on it.

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Dr. Michelle Riconscente
176 Words

Good games offer compelling opportunities to engage with the world around us. And that's what learning is -- the way we follow our fascination with things that are interesting and complex. Game-based learning keeps that fascination alive by presenting scenarios that kids experience as real and important, through beautiful immersive environments, real-world tasks, and opportunities to take on meaningful roles. For example, middle school children playing SimCityEDU at GlassLab tell us they enjoy the game because they "get to solve grown-up problems." Children's curiosity is activated by the "what's next?" and "how does it work?" aspects of well-designed games.

Moreover, today's education environment typically separates experiences of learning from the ways we figure out what kids have learned -- first we teach, then we test. Educational games create opportunities to reunite those two aspects of education by presenting challenges and adjusting the learning experience to reflect a student's current understanding. By the time the student has finished playing, we already know how well they've mastered the material -- there's no need to stop and test for learning.

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Dr. Lucas Blair
175 Words

Play in general is beneficial. When people play they explore, interact with others, and practice new skills. Games are simply play with rules and they are a great way to learn. The rules in games let us scale difficulty to keep players challenged and facilitate goal-setting to keep them engaged. Games are also excellent for giving learners feedback right when they need it to maximize impact. Multiplayer games add even more opportunities for learning. Players can follow or lead, learn from someone or be a mentor, and work in teams to complete complex tasks.

Games also expose players to situations they wouldn't have access to otherwise. Where else can someone fly an airplane, explore an alien world, build a city, and fight a dragon? Digital games are not the only thing out there, though. Board and card games can be just as complex as digital games and often require players to do math and logic problems on the fly. In addition to playing games, making games is another great way for youths to learn.

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So what do you think? Is Game-Based Learning good for today's youth? Share your opinions in the comments section or on Twitter @marcustwright.

Until next time, this has been Speak 180 hosted by Marcus T. Wright. Thank you for joining us!