Playbour - play plus labour
Recently I was watching my son working with a friend to build a tree house. This may sound like a typical scene from our own childhood, except in this case the friend is on his own computer across town while my son is on our desktop in our sunroom. They are creating a virtual tree house in a virtual world using a game called Minecraft. This game is hosted on a server by another player called Epic. Is this game a distraction or does it have some educational benefit?
The author of the Cyborgology blog comments that playbour, play and labour, and weisure, work plus leisure, will be ubiquitous. “Gamification may be the most important social and commercial development of the next fifty years" Ross Rader, general manager at Hover and board member of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority.
My son’s tree house is built with wood that they have purchased using diamonds they mined earlier. As they play the game the accumulate resources which they can use in a variety of ways. Economics? They form factions in the game where they make rules for the members. At times a state of war can exist between factions as they fight for the scarce resources. Social Studies? To operate the game he is using commands such as /F:HOME to navigate and learning a wide range of commands which has taught himself by watching YouTube clips uploaded by a community of players. ICT skills?
A New York teacher experimented using Minecraft with his Year 2 students. He describes the game as "21st century online Legos that you can play with your friends". His experience was so positive that he has started a blog called The Minecraft Teacher. "The experiment was a rousing success. Not only did we have a productive and fun unit, but I would say that this was the best project I have ever done in the classroom. In my 8 years of teaching I have never seen students so excited and engaged. They run up to me in the halls to tell me what they plan to do next class. They draw pictures about the game in art. They sit at the lunch tables and strategize their next building projects. And not only the boys, but girls too."
"Gamification: .... describes interactive online design that plays on people’s competitive instincts and often incorporates the use of rewards to drive action" Janna Quitney Anderson. She has conducted a survey to find if people felt the use of games would "continue to gain ground and be implemented in many new ways in people’s digital lives between now and 2020?" 53% agreed, with one respondent saying "Playing beats working. So, if the enjoyment and challenge of playing can be embedded in learning, work, and commerce then gamification will take off. It will help if the personal rewards of the social side of game playing spread to other realms." However, 42% felt that gamification would not become ubiquitous. Certainly, not a clear cut result. Concern was also expressed at the potential to use games to manipulate and hurt users if it is used inappropriately. Minecraft, like any social networking activity, allows interaction between users who may be otherwise unknown to each other.
If you have been using gaming in your classes, let us know!