Sunday, May 8, 2011

Worlds Collide: How I'm Turning My Love of Games into a Career!

by Angie

I love games. I really really do. I love learning new games, playing them, reading about games... and I'm especially interested in how playing games can improve our lives. So much so that I've decided that what I want to do is research and design structured around the use of games in education. I've recently began a new branch in my career path as a doctoral student. Today I've decided to share an excerpt from my "Letter of Intent" that I wrote as part of my doctoral admissions process. This is a peek into my motivations and goals for the future, and explains the basic premise I am basing my dissertation research on:

Looking forward into the future of education, I am excited about the possibilities. I imagine a classroom in which students are engaged, motivated, and academically successful regardless of background. I believe that this is an achievable vision, and I think that what students need to accomplish this is to play more games. Research studies are consistently showing the intellectual and social benefits of gaming, and demonstrating how games can help us learn to become motivated problem-solvers and creative thinkers. Games research has shown that games can help close the achievement gap, promote engagement in academic material, motivate students to stay in school, and enhance social and intellectual skill development.
During my Masters of Education program, I took a class entitled Action Research. Throughout this course, we were challenged to think about problem solving through research and taught how a methodological approach to answering important questions in education practice could result in improved classroom results. As I learned about this approach, I began to consider what question I would most want to answer. My conclusion was that my question was bigger than a single classroom. What I want to know is how can a teacher, who is excited about the possibilities a games-based learning approach can offer, implement games into the classroom in a way that will help enhance learning and increase student outcomes?  In other words, how can we implement games-based learning as a core curriculum component? How can I work towards contributing to this vision of the future? It’s not like a “good idea” is enough; I need evidence based best practices to back up my ideas, and a solid understanding of both curriculum theory and leadership techniques for implementing positive institutional change. I decided to pursue a doctoral degree in Educational Leadership and Curriculum/Instruction, with hopes of diving into and becoming a part of the research I am so excited about. I intend to devote my energy and attention to researching, developing, implementing, and sharing solutions to this challenge.

The teacher in me is elated about the educational possibilities and the gamer in me is stoked for another excuse to play more games. Win-win! I'm planning to occassionally post about my progress, interesting artciles I come across, and new ideas relating to using games in education, so I wanted to start of explaining where I'm coming from and what I'm hoping to accomplish. As always, feel free to leave comments, ask questions, or chime in with your thoughts!


  1. Hello. My name is David Denton; I currently earning a Masters in Elementary Education. I participated in an action research project in 2009 through a professional development school program at Dowling College. I have been gaming all my life and am a member of BoardGameGeek.
    I am delighted to find a fellow games enthusiast who has also been involved in action research. I fear some teachers feel gaming in the classroom is a passive activity for the teacher. Not only does the teacher observe, but they often will have to teach skills such as reading directions, taking turns, etc.
    My goal in using games in the classroom will ultimately be to help students facilitate their own learning and create games of their own. If we really think about it, most if not all game rules are set up as lesson plans: Objectives, materials and procedures are listed in detail.

  2. While I've found it quite rewarding to focus on games in my scholarship, I will give you a note of warning - it will most likely reduce the power that games have for you as a recreational activity.

    I find that it is much harder for me to "lose myself" in games now as I'm too busy thinking about the educational implications of what I'm doing.

    That's fine for work, but it has certainly changed my hobby profile.

  3. I am so excited for you and know you will be successful in your pursuit of excellence to incorporate games into an educational curriculum. I believe the way our society tries to educate the 'super highway minds' of our young people is obsolete. Your vision is what is needed for moving our educational system into alignment with the reality of the lifestyle of our kids. I feel privileged to watch what you and your family are accomplishing!
    Thank you for caring!

  4. I hope to hope to read more on your pursuit to incorporate game into an educational curriculum and am curious if you are also thinking of gamifying education as this interesting link as definitely got me thinking about that idea

  5. Scott,

    Your comments pose excellent questions: can we as teachers seperate social gaming from our educational profession? Can we still game socially as we have in the past?

    Personally, I have not completely immersed myself in game theory and education in games, but I'm also potentially starting a weekend program in a local school district: incorporating games and other media in reading educatioon for middle school kids. It will be interesting to see how the hobby develops for me (and educators in general) as games are used more professionally.

  6. You need to check this out... this teacher got it right!

  7. Thank you so much everyone for the great comments, encouragement, and links! I'm excited to hear ideas and stories of what has worked (or not worked!) as well as continuing to discover great new resources! Please keep them coming!

    @Scott: Thanks for the warning!

    @Mitch: I've never heard the term "gamifying" before your post, but after watching the video I'd say yes, that's exactly the type of thing I want to do... preferrably systematically on a school-wide level! Eventually anyhow, right now I'm at the phase of researching what has already been studied.

  8. @Kevin- Amazing TED talk (as always!), thanks for sharing, I hadn't seen this one yet. Such a flood of new ideas :)