Sunday, 1 May 2011

Simulation In Education: DM as teacher

Simulation in education is going under many names nowadays. Gamification is a gross simplification of the application of game play to learning. You can't gamify lessons and expect the students to have a genuine experience, yet gamification has been the catch-word educators have picked up on in trying to access gaming culture.

You can't throw badges on completion tasks and call it a game. Game play requires a coherent internal system of interaction that rewards contextual, interactive play. Even meta-game play (hacking, working the system, etc) should be integrated by the game creator. The more complete the contextualization of a game, the more effective it is as a game and the more immersive (and genuine) it is as a learning experience.

Simplifying game play/in-class simulation as an add on to existing, simplistic lessons is certain to fail. You might have success the first time you do it based student response to a new, novel approach to learning, but repeating a simplistic gaming pattern will quickly cause students to drop out of the simulation. The game has to have enough complexity and contextual development or it will be too easy for students to step out of the game, it needs to be encompassing.

Some thoughts on sims in education:

- Teacher as referee rather than resource, puts focus on student to figure out material. Sports do this well, creating an apparently certain context (it's all made up, buy you couldn't convince a hockey player of the arbitrary nature of the rules they are playing in)

- The point of economic policy in a game isn't to simulate reality; it's to make the synthetic scarcity so entertaining that the truly scarce good (the players' time) goes toward solving problems in the game, not in the outer world.” Geekonomics. Simulation should be designed around maximizing player’s experience within the game context.

- Immersion is a powerful thing! Rewarding a student’s immersion in a game by rewarding their efforts within the simulation is key.

- What is better? Intrinsic or extrinsic motivation (intrinsic is, extrinsic is transient)

- Must develop an intrinsic motivation! It's better to have a ‘good in itself’, summum bonum,or some fecundity (both much more motivating) or else players are just jumping through hoops, the teacher won't get their best work, students don’t get best learning.

- Is curriculum motivating in itself? No, just a set of arbitrary government rules. At best it offers a Foursquare like badging system (grades), or a sudden, harsh result (post secondary options). Grade leveling is eased all the way until they hit the wall of trying to access post secondary (something that seems far away in the teenage mind). Wouldn't it be interesting if we could gamify the student experience? "You're a level 11 writer and a level 6 hockey player? Cool."

- What makes a motivated student? Relevance of material? Control of the situation? Social interaction? Non-confrontational relationship with teacher? Strong interpersonal relationship with teacher? Sense of self-direction? Self confidence?

- Immersive simulation adapts to each student experience, (must) offers contextual, supporting material, develops confidence because the student's experience prompts the learning, develops a supportive, non confrontational relationship with the teacher.

Simulation development has to go well beyond the Khan Academy approach, it has to offer an immersive, meaningful, personalized experience, and you can't do that by adapting lessons, you need to begin with big ideas and work the lessons into that coherent whole.