McGonigal’s hypothesis for higher education is that, if we can create engaging and fun games based on meaningful real world problems, we have the ability to leverage an incredible amount of energy and passion to solve the world’s biggest problems.
Urgent Optimism, Social Fabric, Blissful productivity and Epic Meaning are the four tenets proposed by game designer Jane McGonigal in her TED talk.
Game-based learning is beginning to happen in the public schools. The work of Katie Salen and her Quest2Learn school in NYC and the work of University of Wisconsin gaming researcher Kurt Squire are two notable examples of the power of gaming in education and the impact that it can have on learning.
However, educational institutions are notoriously slow to change. The good news is that they may not be able to hold back a wave of change that is about to crest. Gaming has become an increasingly important part of culture and its spread into public education means that students entering college in the next several years are going to have an expectation that gaming will be a part of the college curriculum.
If higher education does not adapt to meet this demand, it may find itself in even deeper trouble than it already is as potential students seek alternative paths to have their interests satisfied. If an initiative such as the MacArthur Foundation’s digital badges takes hold, game-based learning may become an acceptable, even accredited, alternative path to higher education.
If that happens, the dams will burst and the most significant changes in education since the Industrial Revolution will sweep away previous notions of what learning looked like.
Photo credit: by annais, Flickr Creative Commons