Bringing gamester rewards to the classroom

In the Future Classrooms session at OEB 2011, presenters will discuss current e-learning innovations that are forecast to play an important role in the didactic practices of years to come. Teacher and ICT trainer Bram van der Kruk of Het Amsterdams Lyceum in the Netherlands has devoted much time to analysing the reward and achievement systems of modern video games. He argues that these reward systems reveal much about player styles and strategies and thus have much value for academic learning.


Game studies


When he is not teaching students, Bram van der Kruk trains teachers to use IT for the classroom at his own Netherlands firm Meerdanhetbord. He has noticed the yawning gap between the wired world in which young people now live and the traditional classroom, where they are often confronted with the teaching materials of a past era and where a single instructor still directs affairs from the front of the room. He found that video games are a way of bridging this divide.


Young people are accustomed to seeing their performance and gaming activity tracked and stored electronically and van der Kruk thinks educators can borrow the concept of the highly effective data storage systems used in newer video games. He researched the reward and achievement strategies in various popular “COTS” (Commercially Available Off The Shelf) games including Starcraft 2, Battlefield 3 and the Grand Theft Auto series. These are games played on external consoles like Xbox 360 and PlayStation where gamers often battle against each other online. The gamers build online personal databases that can reveal their personal gaming strategy and style and demonstrate how they respond to in-game rewards, achievements, trophies and gaming points. Bram van der Kruk thinks these online achievement systems and gamer profiles are an untapped source of information about student learning strategies.


Double or nothing


Bram van der Kruk

Just as people today have their own “data double” in cyberspace, covering their financial, medical and social records, gamers usually develop a gaming data double which represents their accumulated gaming experiences, their rewards and their shortcomings. Digital natives who grew up in the wired world are already adept at interpreting these profiles. Bram van der Kruk says, “They’re already used to the internalising and visualisation that is a part and parcel of interpreting their own and other people’s data doubles. I want to argue that these online gaming achievement systems reveal an individual’s learning style, so this is something that can be applied to the educational setting.”


Despite the many inroads that ICTs have made in classrooms over the past decade, there is little material on how data doubles might be used for sound teaching and assessment. Van der Kruk argues that teachers ought to take a leaf from the gaming world. He expects the students of the future to have academic data doubles offering a comprehensive profile of their learning styles, shortcomings and achievements. He expects developers to modify the video game achievement systems for educators and students. “There is so much that could be captured in such profiles. You could look at a learner’s achievement across the curricula; absenteeism, personality, cooperation with others…the possibilities are limitless.” An academic data double is not simply a summary of what a student can and cannot do. The double allows for correcting, guiding, and disciplining measures. At OEB 2011, van der Kruk will explain how he derives meaningful information on a learner’s learning style by studying their video game profile. He will look at how parallels might be drawn for the future classroom. “Videogames are highly engaging fully operational teaching machines, and I expect a classroom of the future to be like that.”


Bram van der Kruk’s paper is entitled Achievement Unlocked! What Reward Systems in Videogames Can Teach Us About Learning. His presentation takes place on Thursday December 1st at 11.45 – 13.15 in  session FUT02 Future Classroom Technologies.

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