Father Guido Sarducci – the character played by comedian Don Novello on Saturday Night Live in the 1970s – got some of his biggest laughs with a plan for a Five Minute University. Five years after they leave college, Sarducci noted, most graduates can only remember about five minutes’ worth of all the facts they crammed into their crania to pass exams, so why not cut to the chase? [RR – see the hilarious clip at: [ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kO8x8eoU3L4]. This riff on higher education still makes Steven Yalisove chuckle, but he knows it contains a measure of truth. A professor of materials science engineering at the University of Michigan, Yalisove, 59, is out to change classroom teaching. He has designed a regimen to help students learn, comprehend, and retain functional knowledge, instead of memorizing quickly forgotten facts. He has mostly eliminated lectures, relying on peer instruction and allowing students to learn from failures, and has all but ditched traditional exams. “Exams are a terrible way to see if someone has learned anything,” he sniffs.
As Jordan Shapiro said at the 2014 Global Education & Skills Forum:
Games are not just about entertainment and distraction anymore. We need to approach them as a particular kind of persuasion — a particular kind of rhetoric. A particular way of looking at the world. A different way of thinking.
Well, Jordan pretty much hits the nail on the head.
Once seen as a form of entertainment or a way to pass the time, games are now becoming prevalent in every industry — particularly in education. Everyone is catching on to the fact that games are engaging. Games are addictive. Educational. Motivational. Games are powerful tools for change and learning.
But what gives games these qualities? And what can educators learn from the gaming industry that they can apply to teaching?
THE THIRD ANNUAL Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching (HILT) conference convened on September 16 in Wasserstein Hall at Harvard Law School, as more than 300 participants from across the University—professors, administrators, learning and teaching specialists—gathered to consider this year’s theme: “Engagement and Distance.” The importance of student engagement—“when they are challenged, when they own the experience, when they care”—is well established, HILT director Erin Driver-Linn, one of the conference organizers, observed in her opening remarks. President Drew Faust followed with welcoming remarks, asking, “How do space and distance influence student engagement?” The day revealed that distance can take many forms: not only physical but social or emotional distance as well, for example. And so can engagement.