Sunday, February 14, 2016

Who Are Modern Learners and Why is Mobile GBL Important?

Designing Learning in the Digital Age - Sydney

Let’s face it, in any given day of the week there could be plenty of down time that has the potential to be a learning moment rather than wasted in the mundane. Waiting in line for coffee or lunch, on the commuter rail, or otherwise waiting on something. Most of us reach for our phones in these moments and check emails, Facebook notifications, Twitter feeds, or perhaps play games. Since I started graduate school at University of Colorado Denver a year ago, I now tend to reach for Canvas, Twitter, and our course blogs on my phone or iPad. These platforms for social learning are all part of the Information and Learning Technology courses and learning ecology at CU Denver. I have yet to play mobile games as part of the requirements for the courses, but I imagine it would be well received, and highly possible to fit “playful” moments in the learning experience at CU Denver. In fact, I decided to take a Games & Learning course this term due to my own interest in the subject.

Educational engagement, on demand, anytime, anyplace

Part of my journey so far in the Games & Learning course has been to focus on my own interest-driven research about game based learning. After reading the cycle 2 selections for the course, and building upon cycle 1 focus, I have come to appreciate mobile games as it applies to accessibility and environment. This is precisely why I chose to examine an article published by elearningindustry.com5 Things Modern Learners Love About Game-Based Mobile Learning,” by Arunima Majumdar. In relationship to “In-Game, In-Room, In-World: Reconnecting Video Game Play to the Rest of Kids’ Lives,” part of The Ecology of Games, by Stevens, Reed, Tom Satwicz, and Laurie McCarthy, as a selection for cycle 2 readings in the Games & Learning course. Although the “Stevens” reading selection focuses on what children are doing when they are playing games in their homes, I find mobile learning, as mentioned in the article, relatable to adult learning and how multiple worlds are blurred by social context and environment. The article sheds some light on this briefly with point “3. Learning and playing – anywhere.” Such as, “making use of non-productive times like travelling, waiting between jobs, and so on.” Of course this could also mean being engaged in game based learning while at a sporting event with your children, or during a wasteful meeting, at the coffee shop, or home. The point is, the ability to access and engage in learning through a mobile game anywhere is very powerful because users have the ability to make time for learning in these odd or random moments in the day.

Social collaboration and experimental play

The article also mentions social aspects of games such as collaboration with other players in networked play. It mentions “leaderboards” and “discussion threads” but I also think there is great potential for collaboration in multi-player game situations. Such as, working together with other players to complete in game tasks or missions. With mobile games, really, play can transcend the virtual environment and involve physical “real world” situations naturally. Like playing a sim game to preview tasks before physically manipulating real world objects. I can see great potential for this with chemistry, or biology, or mechanical or electrical fields where it’s important to obtain knowledge and practice before actually, physically performing potentially dangerous tasks. In a lab situation, it’s common to have lab partners which could give additional feedback on virtual lab performances which then carries over into physical performance and social collaboration in reality. The mobile device could perhaps then be referenced while performing the “real” lab task to reassure and reference learnt scenarios in a virtual setting then applied to “real” practice. The ability to have a virtual scenario on a mobile device makes it easy to reference at the right time and place when needed rather than being tethered to a desktop computer, as what would have been more common in the past. The perfect example of this is Labster, and it’s available in a web browser or on an iPad.

Superficial mobile learning assessments

Overall the article really serves as a very brief example of what may be possible with mobile game based learning. However many of the points described in the article apply to games in general. I think the writing could have done a better job at describing game based learning more exclusive to mobile. The article could have been written in such a way to call out clear examples of games that involve mobile learning rather than simply linking text that is not directly related to specific games like “games which provide lots of learning opportunities,” (insert hyperlink). Are these mobile games? What games are they? Can you call attention to one or two and make the point more clear? When the reader clicks the links in the article they are taken to GCube, a games for learning developer. I’m wondering why weren’t some of these games directly mentioned in the article? Because the article did not go into specifics I’m left feeling like the purpose of this particular writing was to generate some brief traffic to the linked website.

In addition to wanting to know more specifically about mobile game based learning (GBL) by reading this article, I wanted to see statistics or proof about what “modern learners” love about mobile GBL. I would love to see real statistics about mobile GBL versus desktop GBL, or simply, mobile distance learning versus everything else. And how do we define “modern learners?” The article simply did not clarify this at all. Because of this, I’m really interested in seeking more resources to help answer the many questions I have such as: What types of fields and students prefer mobile GBL? How can we measure this? Do we give students the option to play the same game on a desktop computer as they would on an iPad and use data to see how much time or tasks were completed on each device? What types of learning scenarios are created by mobile GBL versus desktop? Such as social context time and place - how does this affect game play?

Know any resources or care to share your story about mobile GBL? I’d love to know! Please comment.

5 Things Modern Learners Love About Game-Based Mobile Learning,” by Arunima Majumdar.
In-Game, In-Room, In-World: Reconnecting Video Game Play to the Rest of Kids’ Lives,” part of The Ecology of Games, by Stevens, Reed, Tom Satwicz, and Laurie McCarthy.
Credits: Photo attribution Vanguard Visions Flickr