A Childhood Memory: Insights to What Makes Us Tick
“Tom, Tom, where are you?”, screamed my younger brother while he ran the narrow hallway at my house. Laughing uncontrollably, I asked him to stop and to go back and repeat this scene. My older brother had forgotten to press the recording button on our real-to-real tape recorder.
I was around 10-years old and my brothers and I were recording a radionovela. I remember this vividly as one of my most memorable experiences with my siblings. I recalled this memory as Stuart Brown suggested during his TED Talk, Play is more than just fun. He says that if we explore back, as far as we can remember, to a strong memory or moment of play, this can help us to pay attention to such moments in the future as a powerful self-guiding tool. (His exact words when you click below.)
By going through this exercise myself, I was transported back to the various times that my mother would save up to make a big purchase of the latest technological equipment (considering it was the late 70’s in Ecuador). I never realized until now, that during my early years, I enjoyed figuring out how these electronics worked and how to use them. This included, among others, a Technics sound system, an Atari video game console and an “instant camera”, the Polaroid. These devices allowed my brothers and me to experience a few moments—before or after homework— to be together, play and be engaged in learning something without a tangible external reward. And, now, after hearing Stuart Brown’s words, it makes so much more sense that during my entire adult life I have always gravitated towards a path that continually involves the use of technology as a tool of innovation.
Implications of games and play in education
Even though many of us incorrectly use these terms interchangeably, it is important to understand the difference between the terms Gamification and Game-Based Learning. According to this blog, Gamification “is the application of game-like mechanics to non-game entities to encourage a specific behavior.” In other words, the letter grading context within education is a didactical example of gamification. There is no need for grades to measure learning, however, we have created an extrinsic system hoping to encourage students to learn. Game-Based Learning, on the other hand, is acquiring academic objectives through games. We have all experienced first hand or have seen others overtaken by excitement when playing digital games. The word “failing” does not have the same connotation as in other life situations; we can just click the replay button, and we will start again without overthinking it. While we try again, and again, we learn problem-solving skills and look forward to new challenges. Once we have mastered the game, there is no reason to go back to play again.
A great example of game-based learning is how Glen Irvin (@irvspanish) uses Minecraft to teach Spanish. Language learners need to be immersed in relevant experiences to improve their skills, so with Minecraft, students, in collaboration, create their new worlds where everything functions in the target language. In the blog, Minecraft Can Transform Your World Language Classroom Irvin stated that at the end of the game-based unit, his students advanced much more than other classes in his school and that all his students completed the requirements of the game.
In the following video, Glen Irvin shows us how he introduced Minecraft to his students:
I am convinced that learning should be a joyful and playful experience and that many of us strive to design learning environments where our students are engaged deeply in their learning. However, I am also aware that we are stuck on the gamification of education, thinking that “teaching by mentioning” or “covering a topic” would be enough for students to be motivated to score high on common or standardized assessments. I know too many students that see school as a place they have to “endure”, where they are bombarded with busy and irrelevant work. The same as a doctor, an educator must “do no harm” because killing students’ innate love of learning is detrimental to his or her well-being.