New publication: Beyond gamification: reconceptualizing game-based learning in early childhood environments

June 28th, 2013 by Melanie

EDGE lab is proud to announce a new publication from lab director Jason Nolan and graduate RA Melanie McBride. Their paper, ‘Beyond gamification: reconceptualizing game-based learning in early childhood environments,’ presents a new theoretical framework for conceptualizing Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL) that emphasizes the role of autonomy, affinity, play and space as critically overlooked dimensions of children’s informal and out of school learning and play with games. As well, they seek to help educators distinguish some of the differences between game-based learning and other game-associated trends such as gamification and so-called ‘serious games.’

With much of the current conceptualization of DGBL reflecting the increasingly standardized and ‘data-driven’ priorities of K-12 and Post-Secondary education, Nolan and McBride ask whose identities, priorities and cultures are advanced or ignored when schools attempt to appropriate and relocate games in contexts far removed from those in which they are typically enjoyed. Finally, the paper interrogates why, if play and engagement are really at the heart of learning with games, we aren’t we starting with a model of learning that definitively play-based — that of the early years? From the abstract:

The recent promotion and adoption of digital game-based learning (DGBL) in K-12 education presents compelling opportunities as well as challenges for early childhood educators who seek to critically, equitably and holistically support the learning and play of today’s so-called digital natives. However, with most DGBL initiatives focused on the increasingly standardized ‘accountability’ models found in K-12 educational institutions, the authors ask whose priorities, identities and notions of play this model reinforces or neglects. Drawing on the literatures of early childhood studies, game-based learning, and game studies, they seek to illuminate the informal contexts of play within the ‘hidden’ and ‘null’ curricula of DGBL that do not fit within the efficiency models of mainstream education in North America. In the absence of a common critical or theoretical foundation for DGBL, they propose a conceptual framework that challenges what they regard to be the institutionally nullified dimensions of autonomy, play, affinity and space that are essential to DGBL. They contend that these dimensions are ideally situated within the inclusive and play-based curriculum early childhood learning environments, and that the early years constitute a critically significant, yet overlooked, location for more holistic and inclusive thinking on DGBL.

 

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