New Frontier in Learning & Training: Games

I have just come back from the Games for Change Annual Festival. It was my very first. There were so many great panels from which I now have a ton of materials to check out and even more fodder for thought. I will dump all the links shortly so you can read, play, and generally have fun. But, before that, here is one snippet to think about.

Games for Change Annual Festival is billed as a celebration of games that aspire for social change. Practitioners from the field – academics, game builders, non-profits, and funders – examine social change games, evaluate their impact, and plan future work.

One of the recurring themes in almost all the panels was how games were completely changing the dynamics of learning, training, and teaching – both for kids and adults.

Academics pointed to how the future of learning was being reshaped by the current digitally-savvy younger generation. Senator Bob Kerrey, President of The New School that hosted the event, spoke about how students’ learning is changing so dramatically that teachers are being called upon to rethink how learning institutions and educational systems are setup and how they function. He illustrated this with a simple question: Should Google be considered a library?

Funders laid out their difficulty in measuring the impact of digital and game-based learning using older evaluation methods and metrics. Connie Yowell, Director of Education from MacArthur Foundation, talked about the Foundation’s focus on what future learning environments will look like and how games form an important component of that environment.

Institutions and companies mentioned they are looking at games as a fun way to impart internal trainings. Diana Rhoten from the National Science Foundation spoke about their efforts in the learning and workforce training area. Others cited games created by the American military and Marine Corps as examples of imparting tactical training.

Game builders talked about how experiential and immersive learning have become accessible to many more. And, they don’t even have to leave their houses. An example is “Real Lives” – an interactive simulation game that lets you pick and live the life of a person in any country in the world.

The idea of using games as a fun way to impart training or foster learning is not new. However, it does seem to be gathering steam and coming into the mainstream with support from large funders and institutions.

Those of us who are aspiring for social change have to also keep learning at the top of our agendas. I could not agree more when a panelist asserted that social change is an outcome of a learning exercise – you unlearn the old & bad and learn the new & good.

For those of us interested in creating training modules that people actually use :), games is one serious option to consider. A panelist commented that we learn a lot more at “play” than we do at “work” because the former is generally thought of as fun and therefore our mind is more open and receptive.

But before you rush off to create a game that changes the world or trains your entire office, remember: it is quite easy to make really boring games that no one plays. It is harder to do the opposite.

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