Tuesday, April 5, 2011

When will legal educators start using videogames as a teaching tool?

This article from the Harvard Business Review asks whether gaming has a place in higher ed. I'm aware of at least one law practice video game called "Objection!" ("Be a trial lawyer!" screams the ad) which has obvious application to trial ad. and evidence classes. I have no doubt that some enterprising legal educator will find a way to make CALI-type exercises into a more "game-like" experience for law students. It's just a matter of time and money. In the meantime, enjoy this post from the HBR. Here's an excerpt:

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. Yes, we've had many conferences, institutes, and roundtables on the topics, and we have seen millions of dollars invested in a wide range of research, but given all that, 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 to be "serious opportunities for learning"? Or is it something that might be seen as driving what could be called subversive pedagogy? Surely if the latter is the case, then we are never going to see any widespread adoption of game-based learning 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, at least in Papert's model, 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 game-based learning provides, and spent some time trying to leverage the evidence we do have be presenting it to a much broader community. Also long the way it would be nice if we could reverse the trend that too many schools seem to have followed away from programming and games development (with some obvious exceptions, most notably Scratch, MicroWorlds and lately Kodu) and invest long-term in creating substantial numbers of student voices who can speak to the fundamentals of gaming built on their knowledge of games design. Teach students to fish, in this instance, may be a better, and more impactful outcome all round.



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