3rd innovation forum: Game-based learning

Whatever misgivings may be harboured with respect to video games, the evolution of some of them towards so-called “serious games” and the potential they offer from the educational point of view open up new prospects for teaching and learning that cannot be ignored. The next innovation forum will thus tackle “Game-based learning“. Participating as experts are:

  • Adriana Gil Juárez (Lecturer, Autonomous University of Barcelona)
  • Tere Vida (Specialist in play, education and new technologies. Marinva)
  • Daniel Aranda (Lecturer, UOC)
  • Jordi Sanchez (Lecturer, UOC)
  • Christian Pomar Berry (Director, CRV T-Systems Iberia)

Video games: relational technology fostering new teaching-learning models

Photo: Dan Taylor

The education world recognised the educational value of the new technologies right from the outset, on account of their power to motivate students, the teaching potential offered by the new multimedia languages, and the wish to equip the new generations with literacy in the new “digital competencies”. Indeed the education community has long accepted that play is an ideal vehicle for learning, embracing that idea radically and bringing play into the classroom, promoting play corners and traditional playing, and inventing educational games.

Even so, for various reasons and sometimes on account of certain prejudices, video games – the ultimate manifestation of technology and play joining hands – have been frowned upon to some extent by the education community. And while some very interesting products have been developed, they sometimes do not receive the welcome they perhaps deserve.

However, certain things have been happening recently. A new category of video games has emerged, resembling commercial games more closely and yet with the aim or explicit purpose of boosting certain learning stages: the games known as “serious games“, in the field known as “game-based learning“. The education community has realised that it cannot ignore a phenomenon of this magnitude, and social psychologists have carried out research showing that video games are part of what are known as “relational technologies“, i.e. technologies used not only for entertainment but also for creating and maintaining affective communities, such as groups of friends and families.

Hence new products and new teaching and psychosocial approaches are finding in technologies and in video games the tools they need for promoting new teaching-learning models and socialisation, inside and outside the school.

Video games, a social and cultural learning tool

Suspicions about the harmful (almost pathological) effects that video-game consumption may have are often prompted by irrational or emotive considerations relating to the ‘fear of the unknown’. The gap between the audiovisual culture of adolescents on the one side and adults on the other explains to a large extent the reserved, mistrustful attitude displayed by some adults with regard to forms of entertainment they do not control. It is a fact that the audiovisual culture of adults is (often) surpassed by that of younger people. This disconcerts the adults and, in some cases, sparks off defensive attitudes in people reluctant to admit that they are being left behind.

That is why we feel it is necessary to tackle the theme of video games by providing pieces of information that are basic, in an attempt to allay misgivings about video games and also to prevent them being dismissed out of hand without any supporting analytical criteria or a calm, reasoned discourse.

The most stringent studies arranged in our land take this approach and argue that it is not desirable that an attitude of out-and-out rejection be generated among adults. We need to consider approach strategies, particularly when we bear in mind that adolescents are going through a major stage of definition and personal self-assertion, with the result that they often challenge the authority of adults and take pleasure in defying social prohibitions.

Video games, like any other cultural resource, are basic tools for social and cultural learning, tools for socialisation that equip the player with instrumental and social competencies and skills. It is however true that compulsive, addictive use of them is inadvisable, especially if such use fosters the isolation of the individual concerned and prevents him or her from living a normal life. Yet that danger is not exclusive to video games: what we have here is a danger that always arises whenever we find abuse of any cultural resource such as books, music, etc.

We believe it is necessary to champion the idea that there is no culture without play, for culture is more than a collection of texts, works and pictures (leaving aside distinctions between high culture and popular culture): it is also a whole set of processes that enable us to think about ourselves, relate to others, and of course enjoy ourselves. Culture cannot develop without a context of play because “culture appears [and develops] under the form of play“, as Huizinga asserts[1].

The data we have obtained from some experiments carried out here in our land and the theoretical and practical efforts many groups of researchers are making in the field of game-based learning are the topics we propose for discussion in the framework of the Fòrum d’Innovació.


[1] Huizinga, J. Homo Ludens. Boston: Beacon Press, 1955.

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