Why Context Matters in Games for Learning

sad llama with tee shirt that says I wasn't good at math

Information requires context in order to be meaningful.

From this idea follow a couple of points worth discussing: (1) that games can provide something crucial to the learning experience and (2), that the choice of context in learning games matters enormously.

The other day, I saw one of those shareable quotes on Facebook – a particularly whiny one – to this effect: Another day and I still haven’t used that algebra they made me learn in high school. Apparently you can also pay money to have this sentiment printed on a tee shirt for you. I remember hearing a lot of the same sort of whining in school, with students wondering why they needed to learn algebra (among other things), and it seems like some people, long after graduating, are still nurturing a lingering resentment for what seemed like a waste of time when they were 16.

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Are We Overlooking Paper Games?

As an educator, I’ve sometimes had the feeling that technology in school was an end in itself rather than a means to better learning experiences. Perhaps you’ve been there, too.

Technology absolutely has its place in learning. A big place, even, especially when it comes to digital games. But I’ve had two occasions this week to think about the place of games that don’t require modern technology, and to consider that they might be undervalued in the exploding field of educational gaming.

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Napoleon’s Triumph Schooled Us

William and I are in the middle of a game of Napoleon’s Triumph, the hard-to-find board game that models the battle of Austerlitz. The game jumped to the front of our to-play list when William finally acquired a copy in excellent condition two weeks ago, and after a few hours of tense in-game decision-making, we are already much impressed.

Napoleon
Although Napoleon is not necessarily impressed.

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