Games as learning motivation


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Games that require previous knowledge

Verbosity or Trivial Pursuit 
The learning motivation is mostly indirect because the child wants to improve his or her chances in the game through previous acquisition of knowledge. In Trivial Pursuit a "lazy strategy" allows to learn the answers to questions as they appear.

Games that motivate learning during the game

Games with a well integrated knowledge part 
The knowledge is offered and required during the game. It is not possible to solve the game without gathering information about the knowledge areas the game is about.

Games that require interleaved use of educational activities

Automatic switching 
A game (e.g. XBlast or Monkey Bubble [1]) could be modified to require exercises in mathematics or vocabulary learning between the stages of the game. The game stages in both games are short and could require successful completion of configurable exercises in between. Because the game stages are short but fun they could motivate much more effective learning time than game time and still keep up learning motivation. Pairing of players could happen dynamically between players who had completed their current exercises. A conceivable drawback is that children could be encouraged to keep a short attention span so this would probably have to be complemented with efforts to counter this effect. One could also see well integrated game stages as a way to extend the attention span for the compound. Game stages could help to create a state of flow, where the child is frequently rewarded in an activity that is neither too easy nor too difficult. The effects of dopamine have also been mentioned in connection with computer games and learning, which could make it appear desirable to harness positive effects of games for some of the less interesting learning activities (e.g. vocabulary learning).
The game phases can also be used to teach something a child may want to learn with pleasure: (e.g.) Monkey Bubble has a next ball that is visible before the current ball is launched. The color of the next ball is important for the strategy but it is quite tempting not to look at the color of the next ball while gameplay is easy. A mentor could draw a child's attention to the importance of the next ball, which may be a small but important learning effect for small children. (self-restraint and caution in an environment the child perceives as interesting) XBlast is more diverse and too fast-paced but it has a replay function. A mentor could replay a recorded game and offer strategic advice on occasion. Taking the child and his or her games seriously can help the child in what it is trying to accomplish and can help the mentor in becoming an attachment figure (psychological parent). The mentor could also reflect on the child's ability to understand what it would have been told in a situation that was also easily accessible to a teenage mentor.

> Comments

Learning currency 
Points must be earned in educational activies and can be spent in game activities. At least two independent currencies suggest themselves: gametime and starting level/level gain. A conceivable drawback is that children could be encouraged to see the learning part as the undesirable part and the game as the purpose, which could work towards ruining learning motivation outside the game context (e.g. in school).

Activities where learning is fun

see: Constructivist approach


  1. ^  Monkey Bubble has the interesting feature that you can fail to solve a stage as often as you want. Similar games usually have a lives counter which forces the player to start from the beginning of the game. The game by itself may seem less exciting or challenging due to this but if used in between educational activities this would allow to begin the game only once for a phase of educational activities and could motivate to extend a phase of educational activities in order to reach new stages with the additional time restraint of educational activities but without the frustration of beginning anew. (both, in a way, artificial scarcity)

See also

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