Games and Learning Reflection No. 1

I do indeed have many curiosities concerning “games and learning” which may help explain why I am attending this course. I certainly did not take it in order to satiate my desire for gaming, as I don’t have a desire to play games. I realize that many people enjoy game play and that my having an aversion to it is more unusual. And yet if games can be used as an effective teaching tool that have a capacity for decreasing learning anxiety, then I’m all for them. My curiosity was piqued last year when I attended an undergraduate teaching practicum course where games were a big part of the curriculum. The instructor was a very experienced ESL teacher and she advocated teaching English through games. She argued that games in the classroom helped reduce learner anxiety and we read quite a bit about language acquisition and learner anxiety, including Krashen’s Affective Filter hypothesis (Lightbown & Spada, 2013, p. 106). I have lived a life filled with stress and anxiety and was pleased to learn from those who study such important matters how difficult it is to access one’s intelligent mind when a person is stressed. And although we study how to reduce the affective filter it seems we teach in ways that have the opposite effect. Due to this I offered the following in a research paper I wrote for that class:

I realize that the “affective filter” is said to be a theoretical construct that works to describe the ways in which a person’s emotions and their emotional state affects their success in learning. And yet, even though the label and theory may be argued, one must admit that their emotional state affects their ability to learn. Therefore, it seems only reasonable to me that a teacher work to reduce the students stress and overall anxiety, although teachers and academia in general often have the opposite effect, as students are so stressed, and often so busy that many can’t seem to focus on the task at hand. If their stress levels and their affective filters are considered and efforts are made to lower it, students are more apt to focus on the task and internalize what is being taught instead of filtering it out as a defense mechanism. (4)

Hence, my interest in games as a teaching tool and one that I must evaluate through exposure and education.

Thus far in this course, I have not changed any of my preconceived notions concerning games and learning as I prefer a cautious and thoughtful middle-way approach to a topic and it’s a bit too early to come to any conclusions. I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable the experience of playing Exploding Kittens with my professor and classmates was. There were smiles, laughter and plenty of banter to go round which exploded my preconceived notion of what the experience would hold. Although, prior to the shared gaming experience, I had realized how helpful my peers were due to my monitoring of our twitter feed. I even sent a couple of questions through twitter that were quickly answered.

 

I am concerned about the layer of complexity that is added to the learning experience when one must learn a game in order to learn the topic being studied. Simplicity, in my opinion, is one of the aspects of learning that helps reduce anxiety and improve focus as well as retention. Which leads me to a quote written by Friedrich Nietzsche about his ideal teacher:

It was thus truly roving through wishes to imagine I might discover a true philosopher as an educator who could raise me above my insufficiencies insofar as these originated in the age and teach me again to be simple and honest in thought and life, that is to say to be untimely, that word understood in the profoundest sense; for men have now become so complex and many—sided they are bound to become dishonest whenever they speak at all, make assertions and try to act in accordance with them. (p. 133)

References:

Lightbown, P., & Spada, N. (2013). How Languages are Learned (Fourth ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nietzsche, F., & Hollingdale, R. (1983). Untimely Meditations. Cambridge [etc.: Cambridge University Press.

Piper, Robert F. (2015). Successful ESL Teaching. The University of Hawaii Hilo.

Stevens, Reed, Tom Satwicz, and Laurie McCarthy. “In-Game, In-Room, In-World: Reconnecting Video Game Play to the Rest of Kids’ Lives.”

 

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