Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Saturday, November 13, 2004

Why Use Computer Games For Learning?

The debate has long been raging, with the traditionalists having always a highly skeptical judgment on such an educational approach, and only a few brave open-minded scholars taking the gaming matter with courage to the class.


Alice Mitchell and Carol Savill-Smith of LSDA in the UK come to the rescue of all who see the great benefits of learning through gaming strategies. In a 93-pages long report they bring together the best research available on the matter.

I myself have long taken on-board the advantages brought in by such an approach, and outside of the naphthalene brains of those who have organized and promoted many of the courses I facilitated in the past, students have been enjoining themselves to the fullest while effortlessly learning a great deal.

The amount and variety of learning games that can be applied to the learning classroom are practically unlimited and can range from simple quizzing review sessions, to simulation games, group research competitions and online treasure hunts, just to name a few of the successful approaches I myself have experimented with.

The more students are allowed to express their natural skills within a supportive environment, while having the opportunity to learn from others and engaging themselves in a friendly competition, the more the learning of even the most complicated conceptual topics becomes a truly rewarding activity.

What are then the reasons to stick to traditional top-down structured teaching where adults are treated as kids and teenagers as babies?

Is the knowledge people want to master really in the head of the professor or is knowledge something that one needs to cultivate and grow within oneself?

Can the transfer of such knowledge take place exclusively by having a (generally) bad speaker/communicator recite her expertise or should this start from exploration, questioning an discovery?

What are then the compelling reasons then for driving creative training out of the large organizations classrooms?

And which the good ones to advocate the adoption of computer games as part of the training delivery curriculum?



Computer games engage. They are seductive, deploying rich visual and spatial aesthetics that draw players into fantasy worlds that seem very real on their own terms, exciting awe and pleasure.

They motivate via fun ('part of the natural learning process in human development'), via challenge and via instant, visual feedback within a complete, interactive virtual playing environment, whereby ambience information creates an immersive experience, sustaining interest in the game.

They are fast and responsive, and can be played against real people anywhere in the world, or against a computer.

They handle huge amounts of content and can be instantly updated and customised by individual players.

It has been suggested that computer games can incorporate as many as 36 important learning principles. For example, they put learners in the role of decision-maker, pushing them through ever harder challenges, engaging the player in experimenting with different ways of learning and thinking.

Crucially for learning, computer games can provide instant feedback. Imaginative, well-produced simulation games encourage visualisation, experimentation and creativity in finding new ways to tackle the game.

The combinations of video, audio and text are useful in accommodating different learning styles, thereby promoting confidence and encouraging multi-modal literacy.

The games enable engagement in activities otherwise too costly to resource
or too dangerous, difficult or impractical to implement in the classroom, as well as those that are hard to accomplish by other means. In the context of lifelong learning, simulation games afford a realistic framework to use technologies as a means to an end and so can prepare learners for the world of work.

This is active learning, as players experience the subject domain or situation in new ways, form new affiliations and thereby prepare for future learning and
problem solving in the domain or transfer of learning to related domains.

If you need to study, research and understand what are computer games positive and negative sides when applied to learning situations, consider this report the most up-to-date and comprehensive reference available today.

Highly recommended.

Excerpted from: The use of computer and video games for learning - a review of the literature - by Alice Mitchell and Carol Savill-Smith - LSDA

Thanks to both George Siemens and Stephen Downes for pointing this excellent research work to me.

Alice Mitchell and Carol Savill-Smith -
Reference: LSDA [ Read more ]
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posted by Robin Good on Saturday, November 13 2004, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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