John Dewey to Farmville: 3 Decades of Learning

“There are more Farmville players in America than there are farmers,” said Ted Mitchell as he introduced Bing Gordon, an icon in the gaming industry, who kicked off the New Schools Summit by discussing the gamification of learning.  He suggested that games and social networking had a lot in common with John Dewey’s pedagogy of “learn by doing.”
Bing said that for his generation baseball statistics was the primary training ground for young mathematicians, but future economists are learning math as resource management on Farmville,  or Cityville, or SimCity.  He suggested that any math up to calculus can be taught through Madden2000.
For digital natives, game patterns are the new normal. Rewired brains and expectations demand engagement.  Bing covered a few rules of thumb from gaming
First session: must be fun, what was expected or better
Second session must be great; players will stick around for twice as long if there are viewable profiles and badges
Gifts are 30x preferable to bragging
Cooperation preferred to competition (3:1)
Shoot for time at 90% of the way to goal accomplishment
Bing likes games because kids can be the adults—or at least be more expert than adults.  He suggested watching kids playing games and asking them, “what are you proud of?”
He’s optimistic about the ability to promote literacy.  The new short story is a Quest in World of Warcraft—a 3 paragraph description.  Gordon thinks text is often the most important user generated content and that games can promote critical thinking using literature manipulatives.
Bing reminded the group of edreformers that gamers think differently:

  • · self-paced
  • · save & restore
  • · micro-productivity
  • · live life in levels
  • · always open closed doors

Bing encouraged the teachers and school leaders in the crowd to develop a gameplan for class that included games and new lessons from game development.

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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