Whichever way you look at it the words Games Based Learning create a very neat little box. In that box we are meant to see all “learning” that is centred on, or “based” around a game – which invariably and most recently refers to a console or computer game.
In the recent few days I have come to question the terminology we use. Two things have sparked such curiosity. The first was reading Doug Belshaw’s book “Best of Belshaw” – in which he includes a blog post titled “The problem(s) of 21st century literacy/ies“. The term “literacies” intrigued me and Doug’s quote from Doyle (1994) made me think about the term “games based learning”.
In the last decade a variety of “literacies” have been proposed, including cultural, computer, scientific, technical, global and mathematical. All of these literacies focus on a compartmentalized aspect of literacy. Information literacy, on the other hand, is an inclusive term. Through information literacy, the other literacies can be achieved (Breivik, 1991). In attaining information literacy, students gain proficiency in inquiry as they learn to interpret and use information (Kuhlthau, 1987).
If we continue to use the term Games Based Learning are we just perpetuating a compartmentalised aspect of learning?
Ewan McIntosh underlined my thinking in reference to his recent blog post about the lack of mainstream attention gaming receives and how this impacts negatively upon the use of it in education:
The potential to learn in the game, as well as learn from their production, is lost to all but the most culturally open and connected of educators
In reply to a question on Twitter Ewan said we have to be careful that the terminology doesn’t compartmentalise what is going on when using a game in the classroom- in much the same way the rhetoric of “literacies” has done.
I am undecided, for two reasons.
Part of me knows that when I am explaining about gaming in the classroom to people who have no prior experience, the term “Games Based Learning” helps to succinctly phrase what I mean. It also puts the words “games” and “learning” together.
On the other hand if we set it apart from everything else, if we make the neat little (x)box for it to go in, are we missing the point? Surely it is all really just about learning, in all of its polka-dot and peanut butter flavours and forms – no matter whether it is from a game or from a film.