Digital Game-based Learning: A Retrospective

Tempus fugit – Doesn’t time fly when you are having fun? After a 12 week tournament that is the “Digital Game-based Learning” module. All good things must eventually come to a full stop. Whilst we have been reading, writing and debating about the “serious” business of games, gaming and play; more importantly, we have also have had a lot of fun doing it and learning a little more about ourselves along the way.

I started the course by reflecting upon my previous experience and engagement with games, gaming and play (see “Flashbacks of a Fool“) that had largely seen me leave videogames and computer games back in the 1990s preferring the more traditional games that had a largely social element to them, i.e. playing games with family or friends. The course had literally thrust me back into the digital gamesphere (see “All work and no play?” and “The Agony and Ectasy of Social Gaming“) using a range of game consoles like the Nintendo Wii, Microsoft Xbox, Apple’s iPod Touch as well as my own PC.

I had reflected that some of the games currently on the market and online had “enchanted me and brought out a child-like wonder in me (not seen since 1999)“. This “enchantment” extended to the papers written by Pat Kane and Brian Sutton-Smith on their notions of play (see “The Language of Play“) which can be a catalyst for creativity, originality and new developments and should actually be incorporated in each and every one of our lives as normal as it is eating, breathing and sleeping. However, this “enchantment” is a little offset by the “moral panic” that sets in whenever the popular press or eminent scholars and thinker have their tu’penny worth to say on the subject (see “Videogames: A moral panic?“).

Inevitably, the course would eventually touch upon my favourite hobby horse (my thanks goes to the course leaders of the “Digital Environments” modules and my colleagues at work for introducing me to it) that being Marc Prensky and the “Digital Natives” / “Digital Immigrant” dichotomy (see “Digital Natives Revisited“). Given that Prensky works in the games industry and feels passionately that learning and games can go hand-in-hand. No arguments there, it’s just the grand rhetorical statements backed up by hardly any empirical research that has turn this issue into something of a pathological obsession for me – I should learn to take Michael Winner‘s esure advice, though James Newman’s paper riled me more than Prensky’s papers (see “Videogames: A tug of war“).

One of my interests is identity and the course has given me ample to think about and experience. From Second Life, using the voice activated feature within it with Iris Bosa had raised questions about voice modification, personalisation and identity (see “The Curious Case of Voice Identity“); to J.P. Gee’s concept of the “tripartite” of identities and the notion of the “other” in games, was presented in a very compelling and original way (see “The Learner with a Thousand Identities“) that is an interesting addition to the Identity literature.

The module also called for group collaboration to design a Google Earth game (see “The New Seven World Wonders Quiz – A Team 2 Production“); solve a WebQuest (see “WebQuest DSV“); and devise a role playing game for Second Life (see “Dragons’ Lair RPG – A Team 2 Production“) that saw some fantastic online collaborations using Skype and a Wiki which led me to comment that it was the “most amazing brain-storming, project management session ever conducted virtually. We went from an idea to a fully-realised project plan in 1.5 hours“. I have rarely seen online collaborations work at this frenetic speed and intensity before, so thank you Team 2 for an exhilarating experience. The group tasks themselves could also have been?envisaged as a “game” that involved overcoming a number of obstacles and difficulties to arrive at the finish line in time with a fully realised product.

J.P. Gee presents some rather interesting concepts of “affinity groups” and “affinity spaces” (see “The Affinity towards Groups, Spaces and Learning“) which I could use in relation to my insitution’s new £35m library and learning centre, Augustine House, in terms of how learning spaces are been used physically as well as virtually by the student corpus and the academic community; and would such learning spaces present opportunities for real learning to take place (see “The Four Horsemen“)?

So for now, I bid Hamish, Fiona and the challenging “Digital Game-based Learning” course a fond and affectionate adieu.

Until next time gamers, until next time …