Monday, September 29, 2014

Learning to Game with Kingdom Rush

Image by RebeccaPollard, Flickr.com
https://www.flickr.com/photos/34396501@N00/58694182/sizes/l

This week's homework was a little different than normal.

Our class was instructed to play a game called Kingdom Rush for three hours this week, then think about how the gaming process fit with the learning process, how we could merge the two, etc. I've learned a decent amount about gaming in education in other classes, and I love games myself, so I was very excited about this assignment!

I decided to document my Kingdom Rush experience with a video and reflection (5 mins), which you can view below! (Navigate to https://www.wevideo.com/view/244199121 if the embedded video isn't working)




As you could probably tell from the video, I got really into this assignment. Although I've never played Kingdom Rush, I caught on quickly and found myself losing track of time and anything outside of the game. This, according tDr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, is the concept of Flow: a state where people are the most concentrated and engaged in what they're doing. You might be familiar with this state of mind associated with artists, musicians, or athletes, but it happens all the time. Whenever you do something that you're completely immersed in and enjoy, you're experiencing Flow. 

I know whenever I do jigsaw puzzles or play my favorite Nancy Drew computer games (shameless plug, call me a nerd if you want ;) ), I lose myself in them. I'm completely focused on what I'm doing in that moment, I'm challenged, and want to keep trying to complete the task or get better. This is Flow. I know I achieved Flow while playing Kingdom Rush, too, and it was interesting to finally finish a level or two and realize how into it I had actually gotten. 

Games have flow naturally built into them. They're challenging, they're engaging, they're satisfying, and they're reinforcing. If we can harness games in education, wouldn't our students be so much more engaged? I can't think of a single kid who doesn't like games. Adults, too, for that matter. Playing is human nature, and it doesn't make much sense to me to have an entire educational system where our love for games isn't built upon. Why can't we have fun teaching and learning the topics we need to learn? If kids stay engaged and learn things from games, we can harness that and apply it to education.

That's easier said than done, obviously, but I think that the perfect execution doesn't matter as much as the attempt at execution. If we try to use games and gaming in the best ways possible, we'll figure out what works and what doesn't. I know that for my future students, they'll be playing a lot of games. Will they be pointless and 'just for fun?' No, of course not. I wouldn't bring games into my classroom that weren't tied with instruction, but I think that games can be created or tweaked to fit the needs of our students and schools. 

I want my students to have a love for gaming, just like I do. But more than that, I want them to have a love for learning. Why not tie those two together?

What do you think? What are your ideas about how gaming could be used in the classroom? Are there any situations where gaming isn't appropriate? Have you seen any classrooms that were exceptional about including games and gaming in the curriculum?

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