Game-Based Learning

Game-based learning is a promising new approach to education that combines information technology with advances in new media.  Researchers at Berkeley’s Center for New Media, led by Professor Ken Goldberg,  are uniquely positioned to investigate the ways that electronic games will change social and individual learning experiences. Electronic games engage players in fictitious scenarios where they learn to respond to complex stimuli with sophisticated behaviors and strategies. In video games, the designers have developed rich, media- specific methods for engaging and retaining the interest of players over hundreds of play hours .During this time, players develop a mastery of the game’s challenges and then transfer this mastery to subsequent non-gaming situations in many ways.

The idea to associate game dynamics with learning content is not new, as every game aims to teach something. However, with the emergence of networked online games, the potential for reaching underserved communities with highly adaptive and engaging learning materials at a very low cost is vast. Once scientists know more about which design strategies yield optimal learning experiences, they can help address our society’s increasing need for both the breadth and quality of learning experiences at lower costs.

Professor Greg Niemeyer at UC Berkeley proposes that games can help engage people with serious issues, including climate change. Starting with visualization models used in meteorology and public health studies, Niemeyer has observed how poorly viewers respond to important information if it is not dramatic. However, games can be so dramatic as to distract players from grappling with the seriousness of the games’ theme.  Niemeyer currently studies game design methods that connect play-based learning to real- life situations and highlight in our minds the demands of a changing world. He and colleagues are developing a game about pollution called The Black Cloud.

(Captions: Sensor hide-and-seek: This excersize teaches young students how to acquire and analyze sensor data in an attempt to pinpoint hidden sensors.

Students experiment with a game designed to sharpen balance skills.)