Open Mobile Learning

|

mobile learning, edtech, digital media and learning

corrupting “games”

November 7th, 2011 at 12:07

“If you fall into the trap of using games just as any other medium and you aren’t understanding the broader social changes and values that the technology is promoting, then you are going to be using new tools to reach old ends.” —Kurt Squire.


This fall MobileEd.org has been researching mobile use at the K-12 level, trying to understand if students and teachers are actually using mobile phones for learning. We have been interviewing superintendents, principals, IT Directors, teachers, and students, representing over 15 schools (and nearly 10k students) in Western Mass.—charter / public, elementary and high schools. Though this work is still in progress, we presented some preliminary findings at Mozilla/HASTAC/MacArthur’s MobilityShifts.org several weeks ago at Parsons The New School.

Among other things, we have found that while many administrators, teachers, and students had some sort of mobile device, phones were not really being used for learning—either formally in class work or informally outside of class. At MobilityShifts.org, we presented some of the reasons why mobile phones were not being leveraged, then made recommendations for how we might address the situation. We argued for creation of Open Mobile Learning, an open web-based resource for mobile learning lessons. And building on James Gee and Michael Levine’s idea for a Digital Teacher Corps, we recommended creation of a Mobile (Digital) Teacher Corps.

Why the quote from Kurt Squire, then? Squire’s caution about “using new tools to reach old ends” resonates with a sub-theme emerging from the research. When asked about games, some students remarked that there are two types of games: ones designed by Educators and ones designed by gamers (people who love and actually play games).  “The ones designed by educators suck,” said one student candidly. Of course, the binary is not absolute—there are educators who design good games, etc.—but the point is a well taken, and that’s what Squire begins to address in his DMLcentral interview when he discusses how we can design good, comprehensive games for education. What I am also hearing in conversation with students is that the meaning of “game” has already shifted. Kids are suspicious of  computer “games” when they’re rolled out in school settings. And when I watch third graders perform rote memory exercises in the guise of a game, I fear that we’ve corrupted the “game,” moving it away from what Jane McGonigal describes as  “gamefulness.” Clearly, a game does not necessarily ensure meaningful learning, but a proliferation of bad games might just ruin the very passion-led learning opportunities that games make possible.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>