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Harvard Business Review: When Will Educators Get Serious About Games?

Harvard Business Review has recently posted a great article: When Will Educators Get Serious About Gaming? This post is part of a three-week series examining educational innovation and technology, published in partnership with the Advanced Leadership Initiative at Harvard University.

8:04 AM Wednesday March 30, 2011
by Bruce Dixon

Here are the excerpts:

"The gaming industry is on a roll. It's routine for the biggest new games to reap hundreds of millions of dollars in sales their opening weekends. Earlier this month, Microsoft's new Kinnect gaming system set a new Guinness World Record for the "fastest selling consumer device" in history, selling over 10 million units in under 60 days".

"In addition to these product and industry successes, we're seeing more people discuss and more companies explore the idea of "gamification" — introducing gaming concepts to traditionally non-gaming environments".

"But when you look at the inroads Serious Games have made into education, you mostly hit dead ends. This is despite games' long association with various educational activities".

"Whether you want to go back to chess, scrabble, Lemonade Stand, Cook's Endeavour or more lately Civilization, we've been getting excited about gaming and game-based learning for a very long time".

"So why are educators and the education industry not making better use of games, gaming, and gamification? While many of us who are sharing ideas through the Harvard Think Tank might be well-informed about the benefits and research, the concept has to this point seemed to have failed to have any significant impact beyond what we might call boutique adoption".

"When are we going to see a fundamental adoption of gaming at scale in any one of its forms, and the core principles on which it is based? What's holding this progress back?"

"Is it that gaming, by its very name, cannot be taken seriously by the wider education community, or indeed the wider community in general? Is it possible that gaming is only now starting to reach a level of "maturity" and sophistication from an affordable technology perspective, that it can finally provide what might be serious opportunity for learning? Or is it something that might be seen as driving what could be called subversive pedagogy?"

"If the latter is the case, then we are never going to see any widespread adoption of Serious Games in our schools without a comprehensive strategy that addresses that challenge."

"Is it possible that many of the innovations that have driven changes within our schools have only succeeded because they have been incremental, while gaming is perceived to be a fundamental shift?"

"In the educational world — as in business — fundamental shifts can be threatening to the status quo, leading to pushback and relegating them to token or boutique adoption."

"Whatever the reason, it's time we thought beyond the fundamental research around the value, impact and opportunities Serious Games" provide, and spent some time trying to leverage the evidence we do have by presenting it to a much broader community."

About the Author

Bruce Dixon is the President of the Anytime Anywhere Learning Foundation, which is dedicated to ensure that all children have access to unlimited opportunities to learn anytime and anywhere and that they have the tools that make this possible.