Games and Their Embodied Learning Principles in the Classroom: Connecting Learning Theory to Practice

Games and Their Embodied Learning Principles in the Classroom: Connecting Learning Theory to Practice

Sam von Gillern (Iowa State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 30
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9629-7.ch003
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This chapter explores how educators can use games and their embodied learning principles as a source for student learning, motivation, and engagement. It begins by highlighting important educational issues, such as lack of motivation and how technology has affected students and communication (Prensky, 2005). It then illustrates how digital games can address these issues and support learning and foster meaningful engagement by exploring Gee's (2007) learning principles and Prensky's (2005) activities and learning techniques. Each learning principle and activity is addressed with a summary of the concept, an example of how video games exemplify the concept, and practical methods for integrating the idea into classroom instruction through games and activities. The chapter concludes with an overview of main concepts and highlights future directions for research connecting learning theories to digital games.
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Games are the most elevated form of investigation. – Albert Einstein

Both schools and educators can learn something from video games (Gee, 2007). Why do young people eagerly pay sixty dollars for a video game that may lead to expenditure of great effort and significant frustration, but we struggle to get them to sit still, learn, and persevere in schools, even for five minutes? The answer is that they find choice, pleasure, and empowerment in video games in ways unmatched by schoolwork. Numerous scholars have explored how such games can produce engaging and effective learning (Gee, 2007; Prensky, 2005; Squire, 2011). Pedagogical principles exist in gaming that may when utilized effectively result in deepened learning, mastery, engagement, and motivation.

Prensky (2005) draws attention to two significant reasons that educators should consider the value of video games in education: “Learners have changed radically [and] computer games can provide a new way to motivate today’s students to learn” (p. 97). Technology permeates the lives of children. Computers and digital games are normal parts of their lives, and the use of such technologies has influenced how they learn and experience the world (Prensky, 2005). This influence should be considered by educators striving to provide both effective and engaging learning opportunities for their students. Additionally, when students lack motivation to learn in school settings—as many often do—it can be even more difficult to promote learning in the classroom. “Motivation is important because learning requires putting out effort” (Prensky, 2005, p. 97). Many students are clearly motivated to play video games, and educators can harness this motivation to promote positive learning gains for students and teachers alike. The primary objective of this chapter is to inform the audience how video games and their embodied learning principles and techniques (Gee, 2007; Prensky, 2005) can be used by schools and educators to promote student learning, motivation, and engagement.



Prensky (2005) and other researchers (Becker, 2008; McGonigal, 2011; Squire, 2011) illustrate that video games can promote valuable educational outcomes, but we must ask why video games motivate and engage students in ways that schools typically do not? Most likely it is because

Good video games give people pleasures. These pleasures are connected to control, agency, and meaningfulness. But good games are problem-solving spaces that create deep learning, learning that is better than what we often see today in our schools…Pleasure is the basis of learning for humans and learning is, like sex and eating, deeply pleasurable for human beings. Learning is a basic drive for human beings [but] school has taught people to fear and avoid learning, (Gee, 2007).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Gamification: The process and phenomenon of incorporating game-like structures and activities into non-gaming environments.

Badge System: A structure of symbols (badges) that people can earn through accomplishing various tasks that illustrate their knowledge and skills.

Gaming Pedagogy: An educational philosophy, style, and approach to promoting learning in educational contexts through the use of video games, non-digital games, the embodied learning principles and techniques of games, and gamification.

Learning Theory: A model that explicates how people develop and acquire knowledge and skills through their experiences in world.

Engagement: A process of high-level student interest and participation.

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