This TED video is inviting and intriguing, even if it is not easy to tell how far in her cheek is her tongue.    Part of McGonigal’s point: if kids are more engaged in videogaming than in any other activity, and if deep, compelling engagement is the sine qua non of excellence in learning, then we have to ask: shouldn’t gaming have a place in K-12 learning?  

We know

  • we want students to be savvy collaborators in person and on-line;
  • we want them to pursue their passions and focus in a sustained way;
  • we want them to be perseverent, patient and disciplined;
  • we want them to be globally knowledgeable and increasingly globally linked;
  • we want them to solve complex problems which entail and require multiple stages, delayed gratification, the gathering and analysis of information, and ingenuity.

If games can provide all these things for students, it may be hard to maintain the idea they shouldn’t have a good place in our schooling.    (It also has to be asked– is it possible educators resists incorporating gaming into schooling precisely because kids do like them so much, and the competition for their attention terrifies us?)

McGonigal, who is great fun to watch (watch the video!), offers three examples of recent games she has designed which do all these things:

In my own years of teaching, before video games had any sophistication at all, some of my classroom’s most exuberant moments were found in using the board game Diplomacy to learn international relations.   I’d really love to see more opportunities for gaming to be a part of a broad learning environment.  Students should be encouraged to speak up– educators can and should ask students if they have suggestions for how we can better use gaming in learning.

Now, all things in moderation.   If we are appropriately looking to engage kids by doing project based learning with technology, and if you review the results of the national High School Survey of Student Engagement (HSSSE) students say this is their number one favorite way to learn, then we should be considering gaming as an element, but not to overtake our classrooms, to eliminate or end discussion or hands on projects or writing.

To quote McGonigal’s closing, “Let the world-changing games begin.”