The Awesome Power of Gaming in Higher Education
EDUCAUSE 2013 welcomes Jane McGonigal and considers the potential of games in education.
The University of Washington’s Foldit game enables anyone to contribute to scientific research through virtual protein folding. The university’s game developers posit that human gamers’ propensity to not give up on a gaming task – resiliency – make them much more adept at solving complex protein structure prediction and design than supercomputers. And in some ways, they’ve already proven that to be so. Foldit game participants have been named in several published scientific journal articles, including one that describes how a protein structure could be solved and used in the treatment of HIV.
The rich, interactive universe of Grand Theft Auto was the inspiration for this game, developed for The World Bank as a way to teach Sub-Sahara African youths to solve social problems in ways that also could provide a sustainable living. The platform is free and available online and can be used by schools to teach social entrepreneurship. A graphic novel serves as the game’s centerpiece, and players build out their gaming profiles as a comic or graphic novel might retell a superhero’s origin story. Participants complete projects in real life to solve real problems, such as securing a community’s food supply or establishing a sustainable power source, then progress through levels of the game. Those who successfully complete their 10-week missions ultimately earn certification from the World Bank Institute. In 2010, 50 student participants saw their entrepreneurship models funded by the World Bank, including Libraries Across Africa (now Librii), a franchise operating in Ghana.
Not all games must be played out in a virtual space. This game – developed by McGonigal with Natron Baxter and Playmatics – combines real-world missions with virtual clues and online collaboration, resulting in young people working together overnight in the New York Public Library to write and publish a book of personal essays about what they learned.
“The game is designed to empower young people to find their own futures by bringing them face-to-face with the writings and objects of people who made an extraordinary difference.”
Participants spend a night wandering throughout the library’s stacks and research materials, scanning QR codes to prove they found and interacted with the objects of their clues or missions. One 2011 participant, upon discovering the library’s early draft of the Declaration of Independence wrote an essay called a “Declaration of Interdependence.”
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