Saturday, January 13, 2007

Learning2.0 is Web2.0 + Gaming

When many in our field speak on the topic of Learning2.0, or eLearning2.0, it is focused specifically on Social Networking, Blogging, Wikis, tagging, RSS, etc. These are without a doubt the next concepts, and tools, of life long learning. But gathering small chunks of data over time does not make someone a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, a fireman, or CEO. For that, you must actually have the opportunity to BE a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant, a fireman, or CEO.

From the working paper by Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown titled The Play of Imagination: Extending the Literary ends with this statement:
"The model that virtual worlds provide offers a glimpse into the possibilities of what our classrooms might become: spaces where work and play, convergence and divergence, and reality and imagination intertwine in a dance where students grow to understand the importance of communities of practice and learn how to BE the things they imagine."
The technologies of today that power MMOGs are the foundation for building the spaces where we can BE whatever we want to be. The book title How Computer Games Help Children Learn makes similar points about the act of BEING something, or someone else, in a "game" as a powerful learning experience.

To the non-gamer parents this is laughable. I have on several occassions tried, with enthusiasm, to explain the wonderous powers that MMOGs have to offer our youth. But it falls on deaf ears at best.

Why is Monopoly held up as such a great achievement in gaming? Or, maybe I should ask it differently...why do parents think it's such a great game?
What about chess? In Chess , each piece is governed by a set of rules...quite simplistic rules actually. In World of Warcraft each character is also governed by a set of rules depending on the class, and race the player chooses to BE. A MUCH more complex set of rules in both quantity and quality govern the moves of your "piece" within MMOGs such as World of Warcraft.

I have recently stumbled upon the part of the game of WoW called the Battlegrounds which is what gets me on this rant about chess. In chess there are 16 pieces on each team. In a WoW Battlefield match there are about 20 (or more or less...depending) on each team. In chess each team is managed by one player. In WoW each "piece" or character on the team is controlled by a live person anywhere on the globe. Once a chess game begins, your job is to capture the king. Once the WoW Battlefield match begins the players must work together in order to "assault" and secure as many of the 5 strategic locations as possible. Imagine playing a game of chess where each piece was managed by an individual person and everyone was allowed to move at the same time.

Battlefield management is stressful and you often find yourself taking on a role as guardian of a location while your teammates are running off to battle over securing the next location. This can seem boring until you become assaulted by a pack of 2 or 3 characters from the other team. You battle valiantly while IMing for help. Others on your team abandon their posts to come to your aid. are you must wait 20 seconds in the graveyard before resurrection and you can get back into the fight.

Its a simple Capture the Flag concept like we used to play with flashlights at boyscout camp 20 years ago...but this is infinitely more fun, and challenging. Surely, I understand that there is no possition in real life of Level 27 Orc Warrior, or Level 29 Undead Priest, etc. But its the dream of what is possible, and of what is so close to becoming reality for my kids and their kids.

I imagine, a fully immersive Fire Captain game for the 10 year old would be fireman. I imagine, a fully immersive Surgery game for the would be Doctor. I imagine, being fully engaged in an environment where I decide whether someone lives or dies based on real world circumstances: Do I pull the feeding tube because the patient can't afford to pay the bills and there is nobody else to take responsibility? When a patient asks to die by starving themselves do I continue to invite them to the daily meal? Some questions have no black and white answers, but yet, we grow up into positions where decisions need to be made...none right, none wrong...just decisions. Wouldn't it be great if we had the opportunity to BE someone in that position BEFORE we're in it...for real?!

Anyone can memorize a step action table that was taught in a 2 hour click2death elearning course. But can your people actually apply it conceptually based on unique circumstances? Do they feel capable of handling situations that require thinking outside the norm of that step action decision matrix? The professionals of tomorrow will require the skills of creative problem solving, risk taking, and innovation that can only be gained through experiences not currently available in a classroom or any online learning course.
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