- the relationship between motivation, engagement and learning
- how people play games differently when play is informal and/or in isolation, versus socially
- how to generate the enthusiasm (motivation and engagement) of informal play in order to replicate it in formal educational settings
This is an interesting area of discussion for me personally because of where I would situate myself on the motivation/engagement spectrum of game playing. As I was reading this article, I kept certain considerations to the forefront of my mind, such as my own play and the play that I have observed among those around me. I also really enjoy reading about motivation theory, which made this a compelling read for me.
Some of the questions that came up for me included: Is play random or intentional and when? What is learned during gameplay as opposed to after? What is the effect of play choice on learning versus play requirement? These questions weren't necessarily answered here, but the thought exercise was challenging and rewarding.
The authors speculate that there is a connection between informal and formal learning with regard to the play environment and that many times this connection is social. They referenced studies on isolated play (between a player and a computer) and social play with multiple people. A clear distinction was made been voluntary and compulsory play, which I think is important. One of the most interesting ideas presented centered around the game experience feeling alternately like work and play, depending on different factors. Those factors were not only related to the physical environment (school or home), as one might assume, but they were also deeply connected to the player's psychology. There are, for example, states of mind that govern engagement during play: telic/paratelic, conformist/negativistic, master/sympathy, autic/alloic. These states refer to common reactions to play and how some emotions can affect motivation and, to an extent, govern play. The last pair of motivational factors struck me in particular because I recognized myself in them. The master/sympathy state has to do with the player's concern for herself or for others.
How can we replicate the learning in informal contexts - which isn't scripted, mapped out, intentional, or even conscious - to occur in formal contexts, which is predictable, anticipated, planned for? Games within an educational context are still being used as a requirement, even though the means are supposedly "fun". Instructors or facilitators hope that the game play is more intrinsically motivating than traditional teaching and presenting methods, but to an extent learners might still not have a choice. If we can get to the heart of the how, why, and when of game playing, can we then increase our understanding of how games are effective for learning?
Iacovides, Ioanna; Aczel, James; Scanlon, Eileen; Taylor, Josie and Woods, William (2011). Motivation, engagement and learning through digital games. International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 2(2), pp. 1-16.
"It is possible that educational games may never be as motivating as ones played for leisure purposes, since making the activity compulsory reduces the voluntary aspect of play, but there is still much we can learn from gaming about how motivation to play and improve is created and sustained" (de Castell & Jenson, 2003).