Photo Courtesy of Serious Play Conference

Game developers, educators, scientists and business professionals met at the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Wash. this week to explore the ways games and simulations (sims) are revolutionizing learning, professional development, military training and health for the annual Serious Play Conference.

Key themes of the conference include interests in balancing assessment, engagement and learning for a multitude of disciplines. Game development needs to be a mashup of fun as well as learning in its design, says David Samuelson, the Director of Games and Augmented Reality at Pearson.

This community of scientists and programmers says that games can engage students of all ages in new ways to inspire them to learn and continue to learn difficult subject areas such as math and science. “Games can teach the scientific process,” says Zoran Popovic, an Associate Professor at the University of Washington.

James Portnow, the CEO of Rainmaker Games, says that we need to establish the fact that there is something to learn from games rather than approaching the tools as simply “children’s play things.” He points to a classroom example where a teacher noticed his students were applying the scientific method to their World of Warcraft game-playing. The students struggled to understand the concept in class. Yet, with the help and suggestion of the teacher, the students made the connection to the process through gaming.

Discussion at the conference suggests that games have the possibility to foster an interest in the sciences and other subject areas. For example, Harvard Business School uses online sims by Forio to better understand complex situations and processes in business management.

Games and sims are being created, tested and implemented in K-20 educational environments at the University of Kentucky, military training programs with the help of BBN Technologies, and professional development seminars delivered by Enspire Learning. These games that promote learning through complex understandings of psychology, programming and fun are known as “Serious Games.”

Keep an eye on Serious Games and the Serious Play Conference to discover how learning can be fun, engaging and simulated through games. What might you learn next through a game? According to Popovic, “A game always teaches you something.”

For more, see the EdWeek story.

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