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Shafaque Riaz: Learning Happens in Every Problem-Solving Experience


by Shafaque Riaz
Expert Educator Columnist, UAE

This time focus of my post is that how game design naturally supports learning. For me, learning is something that happens across every context that you’re in. Each time you’re involved in a particular form of problem solving whether it’s easy or hard, you’re engaged in some form of learning. Now a days the modern games are designed with a provision of set of experiences assuming that learners are active constructors of meaning with their own drives, goals, and motivations. A learning game play provides multiple routes of participation and meaning making. Content and resources are delivered on demand to solve problem.

Inclusive game designs just don’t throw everything on you, but they let you explore at a reasonable pace and interestingly it’s mostly self-determined. You can go back and forth, practice as much as you wish. Games are very good in letting the players unfold and explore and become master at their own progress levels.

A model of game design for learning suggested by Shaffer, squire, Halverson and Gee (2005), is to provide learners with situated experiences of activities, whereby they develop new ways of thinking, knowing, and being in worlds.

Civilization III, Project Spark and Mine Craft are some of games which are in use by educators around the globe for learning in different contexts.

Civilization III is a simulation based game where students learn about world wonders in different cities and civilization e.g. Pyramids and The great wall. They research about different age technologies which can also be traded to and from other civilizations in return for money, resources, luxury goods or other technologies. Students interpret their game events in terms of preexisting notions of colonization or geography but expand and modify their understandings of colonization in the process of playing. As players managed natural resources, they learn not only where oil, coal, or sugar cane is located but how these resources affect the growth of civilizations in short and long term.

Create Mode of “Project spark” teaches the fundamentals of programming in a way that is simple for users of any experience level or age to dive into this fun. Project Spark’s smart terrain sculpting and painting features help make creating a crisp, clean level much faster than the professional level development kits. Project spark opens up new social possibilities, it exposes you to communities and sub communities. These virtual communities and collaboration provides medium where understanding is socially constructed and shared. The purpose of Project Spark, as stated by game designer Claude Jerome, is to give players plenty of creative options, as well as the ability to share and play projects across the community.

Another important factor of game design is to keep the constant pace of challenge in order to advance in the game. In our learning environment we follow same principles when we design small activities of different difficulty level to keep our learners engaged.   In my next post we will see how the game’s dynamics that I have discussed here and in my previous post can help to gamify learning environment in our classrooms as addictive as gaming.

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