video games can teach edtech developers

5 Lessons Video Games Can Teach Edtech Developers

In the movie War Games, the computer asked: “Shall we play a game?” Matthew Broderick was the actor who played the high school student. I'll never forget how his eyes lit up! That look — of curiosity and wonder and excitement — we need to see that on every child's face in every classroom in the world.

Education technology developers have a major challenge. They have two very different target users. First of all, developers have to meet education objectives. Then, they have to engage students.  Sometimes happy teachers mean sad students. No matter how much the teachers love it, if it is a battle to get kids to do the activity, we will start looking elsewhere. Even the most robust, rigorous edtech tool will be usurped by an engagingrobust, rigorous edtech tool. Engage or be upstaged.

So how can developers balance teacher and school needs with the needs and wants of the students?

Video Games and Game Mechanics Can Help

Developers may not need to look any further than video games. (Jane McGonigal shares in her TED talk that upon graduation, many heavy gamers will have played more hours of games than they have been in school!)

#1 Learn How to Help Kids Fail and Still Not Quit

Some video games have high failure rates but still manage to engage learners/ gamers…

With “positive failure feedback,” players do not lose their sense of agency, and this is crucial for maintaining optimism that the goal is achievable. (Can Games Help Us Build a Better Reality?)

#2 Learn How to Reach Different Achievement Motivators

For example, game designers have long understood Bartle’s player types. Bartle classified the various types of gamers as achievers, socializers, explorers, and killers. (In schools, we often call the killer player type conquerors because of the negative feel of the term “killers.”)

  • Achievers like to achieve something they like to level up. They love an epic quest. They like to earn new titles in new roles. They love status upgrades and leader boards.
  • Socializers like to trade. They like to earn currency so that they can earn other things and items. They also enjoy working with others in their gamer interactivity.
  • Explorers like to find different things that others aren't able to see. Glitches. hacks. Explorers want to know everything about the game. It's the quest to know something that they love.
  • Conquers (Killers). Conquerors don't mind destroying things! While they might fervently defend their guild or group, they want to win!

#3 Learn Game Mechanics

And then there's a game mechanics, which we don't even have time to explore. (Check out this interview with teacher Michael Matera to understand more.)  Game mechanics are in the toolkit of good game designers to help engage these different player types.

#4 Great Graphics

Call of Duty looks more like a movie than an animation. Face it, many education technology platforms need a face lift. They look like they were created in the days of Frogger.  The graphic design used in video games could amp up many education technology tools.

“Drill and kill” has had too much of a place in education technology. We can be so much more in education than just flash cards! Education technology can be a bridge between teachers and students, but it can also let us do things we couldn't do before! We can personalize the learning for every single student.

#5 Connect Students and Teachers

There's also one other important thing for education technology developers to understand. In the end, learning is about a relationship: the relationship between a teacher and a student. Whether that teacher is online or that teacher is face-to-face. Education technology has to be high-tech while maintaining the high-touch feel of that relationship.

Study Good Gaming, Education Technology Developers

So my recommendation to education technology developers is to study good gaming. Understand what engages students that they would be willing to do it for hundreds of hours in your off time.

Successful education technology that's going to thrive and survive will:

  • Have rigorous course content.
  • Address the needs of educators for information about what students are learning
  • Engage many different types of students, and
  • Support and encourage strong one-to-one relationships between teachers and pupils!

How's that for a WishList? I would say it's impossible, but it's already being done online today, often in video games.

It will happen, who will be first? And that my friends, is the million dollar, perhaps even a billion-dollar question. Who can amp up the incredible, close relationship between teacher and student and interject the best of technology into that learning process?

Good luck and game on.

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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Carrie Baughcum January 20, 2016 - 7:11 am

I could not agree more. There is so much we could learn from video games/gaming and why our students play them. These reasons are why I gamify my classroom. I also think that by looking at what video games can reach us for future game development are also things that educators can look at, learn and realize the power of incorporating this thinking into their lessons and teaching.

Vicki Davis January 20, 2016 - 9:00 am

Well said, Carrie! I totally agree!

Vicki Davis January 21, 2016 - 11:08 am

Great points, Carrie! We can do so much better in education technology!! I hope some developers are out there trying to apply these principles so we can level up!


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