Designing games in the learning environment


By digibsonsynerg…, 9 November, 2010

Adult education has been my field of expertise for over twenty years now and I firmly believe that the child in each of us thrives on playing games.

How better then than to design games appropriate to the current learning outcomes and thereby make learning fun for all those involved.

Trainers and facilitators tend to think that designing games is difficult but believe me, it isnt really at all. Quizzes, crossword, puzzles, etc can all be designed fairly easily yet tend to make the course fun and enjoyable for all.

A year or so ago I was training in the SAP field for Nissan South Africa. I was required to train the marketing folk on BEx Analyzer for SAP BW (Business Warehouse) and decided to incorporate a very simple game for the learners to play. As this was focassed on the marketing department staff, I included questions pertaining to Nissan as well as BEx Analyzer questions. The results were phenominal and today, over a year ago, Nissan SA marketing staff are still talking about the game which taught them so much more about their company, let alone the course contents.

Why should we design games?

  • All to often training is boring
  • Trainers tend to ignore the learners need for participation
  • Adults have a desire to share
  • The old adage of “no pain, no gain” prevails in training
  • There is something universal about playing a game – pleasure
  • It brings out the child in each of us
  • High level of involvement
  • Interaction and competing with others in a non-threatening and safe environment
  • Building skills
  • Makes learning fun
  • The pleasure of playing attracts people to learning…keeps people learning…reinforces the learning

Benjamin Bloom , best known for his “Blooms Taxonomy” produced a study on how people learn, types of knowledge and ways to study.

Bloom identified 6 levels to learning:

  • Knowledge (finding out)
  • Comprehension (understanding)
  • Application (of knowledge)
  • Analysis questions (breaking up the “known”)
  • Synthesis (putting things together in a different way)
  • Evaluation (judging outcomes)

Where can games fit into Blooms Taxonomy?

Games can fit into any of the 6 levels to learning – they can be played before an outcome to test the knowledge of the learners before a learning intervention, or afterwards to confirm a learners knowledge.

Elements of a game

  • Competative activity between individuals or teams
  • Within a given context / defined within a set of rules
  • Meeting a challenge involving skill, chance or endurance
  • Achieves an objective

Examples of games to be used in a learning environment:

  • Puzzles
  • Word searches
  • Crosswords
  • Board games
  • Riddles
  • Quizzes
  • Matching games
  • Stick the label on the component
  • 20 questions

Games must add value:

  • Relate to the workplace
  • Teach people to think, add value, access information, react, understand or grow
  • Must be as engaging and enjoyable as possible
  • Must allow for collaboration amongst learners
  • Allow ample time for reflection, feedback, dialogue and interaction

Where do you begin:

With the 5 “I’s”:

  • Identify a need
  • Identify the objective
  • Identify how to convey the message
  • Implement
  • Improve

My advice to you is, “think out of the box!”

Design a wordsearch:

  • Make a list of all the words you want to include
  • Ensure that you use as many words as possible relative to your topic
  • Draw a grid (I find that MS Excel works well here)
  • Start with the longest word and write it either horizontal, vertical or diagonal
  • Add additional words to the grid
  • Fill your “blanks” with random letters

You may want the learner to find a hidden message in the word search, if so complete this first before adding random letters, for example, proudly brought to you by ________

  • Add the instructions to the learner
  • Test it to make sure everything works

It’s as easy as that!

The purpose of this blog is to share my 22 years in the field of adult education with you, to share concepts and idea’s as well as learn from you.

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