What is Gamed-Based Learning?


Game-based learning has gained considerable traction since 2003, when James Gee began to describe the impact of game play on cognitive development. Since then, research — and interest in — the potential of gaming on learning has exploded, as has the diversity of games themselves, with the emergence of serious games as a genre, the proliferation of gaming platforms, and the evolution of games on mobile devices. Developers and researchers are working in every area of game-based learning, including games that are goal-oriented; social game environments; non-digital games that are easy to construct and play; games developed expressly for education; and commercial games that lend themselves to refining team and group skills. Role-playing, collaborative problem solving, and other forms of simulated experiences are recognized for having broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines.

The first digital games appeared with the first home computers in the early 1980s. Ten years later, the web was born, and games began to be delivered over the Internet. In 2003, the first full Internet service for mobile phones arrived in the US, bringing games to mobile devices. The three most recent cohorts of children — those born in the early 1980s, the early 1990s, and the early 2000s — have grown up in a world where digital games have always been an important part of their lives. Those born since the early 1990s have never lived in a world without a global network. The most recent kids to enter schools, those born since the early 2000s, have never known a world in which that global network was not accessible from the palm of your hand. According to a recent study from the Entertainment Software Association, 64% of parents believe games are a positive force in their children’s lives. There are now active gamers in every generation; the average age of gamers in the US is now 35 years old, a figure not far off from the median age of 36.8 for all US residents.


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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • - nik.honeysett nik.honeysett Aug 24, 2011 There are enough studies to show that this is how the digital native learns best. - ed.rodley ed.rodley Aug 30, 2011
  • I think that the potential for smartphone-based game apps in museums is considerable, although I do not have an example to offer. To be successful, museum game designers will need to understand why games in general succeed or fail, i.e. either by creating a compelling way to compete (with others or with the game); or by offering a set of sufficiently intriguing, executable tasks that hook players in by leading them from one level to the next, offering an achievable set of game goals, markers, and rewards that players find compelling.- john.weber john.weber Aug 26, 2011
  • - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011 this is clearly one of the strengths of the media. I also think this is an interesting place where museums can develop bridges to target audiences--with games suited best to specific audiences.
  • Every conference I attended in 2011 had some interesting research and excitedment surrounding games and "gamification" of many aspects of life. The museum field can also benefit from this approach for education, membership, social media, etc. - rkvaron rkvaron Aug 30, 2011
  • Gaming provides ways for museum goers/museum users to become more deeply engaged with, and to learn more effectively about museum themes and collections. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011
  • GBL is seen as a key development in formal education, the ubiquity of gaming constructs is increasing and museums should be integrating these approaches into their educational and interpretation programmes - lorna.obrien lorna.obrien Aug 31, 2011
  • - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011If museums are looking to stay in the main stream and appear relevant, using game-based learning is the key.

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - nik.honeysett nik.honeysett Aug 24, 2011 Some stats/info about the prevalence (and impact) of gaming on social media platforms as well as "traditional" gaming platforms might help enforce how significant this trend is. Also need to tie this into the prevalence of mobiles.
  • It might be important to identify some types of games that will succeed in the museum space, for example, location based games.- rkvaron rkvaron Aug 30, 2011
  • research on games and various forms of literacy; also the social learning impact of games [there may be some library-based research or other research funded by MacArthur that addresses these points] - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011
  • To produce successful museum games we have to learn to combine the educational objective with an exciting dramaturgy of the narration (like in a comic novel) with the interactive navigation of a game? - harald.kraemer harald.kraemer Aug 31, 2011
  • Why we couldn't find a sticky museum game/app around? How long and how often do you play on a museum game? Be honest my friends, how long do you play on Angry Bird per day? How about 20, 30, or 100 minutes per week? How cool would that be if we can get a kid to spend that much time on a museum Web site? - herminia.din herminia.din Aug 31, 2011
  • Transmedia as a buzzword and shift in thinking regarding how people actually interact with things--an organization, a brand, a game, a storyline--across multiple platforms: online, on tv, in the real world with real objects, on a mobile phone. There are some fascinating ways to weave all of these things together and some very creative people working in this sphere but it hasn't really crossed over into museum work yet. Lots of potential and lots of pitfalls: http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/03/cautionary-tales-in-transmedia-storytelling/ - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative expression?

  • - nik.honeysett nik.honeysett Aug 24, 2011 More engaging; closer to the audience's trending expectation of how teaching is carried out; extends the learning experience geographically; extends the learning experience temporally.
  • - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011 I really like the inclusion of the fact that many parents see games as a positive force in their children's lives. I thnk museum's will find this will be a useful fact as they develop and deploy new offerings for family audiences.
  • - seema.rao seema.rao Aug 30, 2011I think there are two distinct (and almost opposite) effects: 1. I think games can be a great leveler. Some of the games that museums create could bring all sorts of people together for the same purpose--think of all the different sorts of people who play angry birds. 2. Games also offer museums ways to bring in specialty niches, games that only really appeal to young kids, say.
  • I agree with above, that games could bring to the museum a different type of visitor or community as well as offer a great way to reinforce the learning that is happening there. It is important to bring the game back to looking at the artwork itself though.- rkvaron rkvaron Aug 30, 2011
  • Gaming offers much longer potential interaction times than a traditional museum visit. - ed.rodley ed.rodley Aug 30, 2011
  • Gaming's learning benefits have been demonstrated. GAming enables more effective collaborative problem solving. Gaming impacts learners' understanding of 'systems' learning and design. - marsha.semmel marsha.semmel Aug 30, 2011
  • - jludden jludden Aug 31, 2011There's a huge impact on how we will conceive and transform cultural knowledge into meaningful, memorable, bite-size bits of information.
  • We have to learn how we can use the strategy and philosophy of "I am what I play" and the cognitive, psychological and theraputical effects of the games as part of the recent media culture for museums. - harald.kraemer harald.kraemer Aug 31, 2011
  • - lynda.kelly lynda.kelly Aug 31, 2011 The Demos report, Their Space, looked at the skills that gaming offers and how this relates to education and learning
  • There has recently been a sort of backlash against "gamification" and trivializing real life and motivation with silly rewards systems. Museums are in a wonderful position to use games for good, how can we take the best ideas in the larger field and use them wisely? http://blog.microtask.com/2011/08/heather-chaplin-gamifications-worst-nightmare/ - dana.allen-greil dana.allen-greil Aug 31, 2011

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?


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