Games, Learning and Society Conference #gls14 – Part 3

The first official day of the #gls14 conference’s keynote came from Drew Davidson. The take-aways from his keynote for me included:

  • Great learning games give you agency.
  • The chaos of the creative process is good.

For an overview of the keynote and other happenings throughout the day click on the pic below, it’s a storify incorporating tweets from a range of attendees.

Screenshot 2014-06-18 21.41.02

The reference to chaos reminded me of the comments that Sugata Mitra made regarding learning happening on the verge of chaos, bringing in the notion of Complexity Theory. Sugata Mitra was referring to a type of learning environment he sets up using SOLEs. Games are a learning environment in their own right. Doing a quick google search on Complexity Theory and games led me to this conclusion found in Videogames and Complexity Theory: Learning through Game Play ( :


The sense of video-gamers being empowered to solve complex problems allows them to experience the feeling of in-depth understanding, to learn how to take risks and solve challenging problems. Essentially, good videogames create highly complex environments that create new worlds for video-gamers, immersive worlds that intrigue, engage, and enable sophisticated learning. Good videogames draw players into very challenging learning experiences and motivate them to continue, often for long periods of time. Good videogames also create interesting and important problems that players need to solve in order to continue their involvement in worlds in which they love to virtually live; in sum, good videogames are fun. As noted by Davis and Sumara (2006), complexity theory focuses on adaptive, self-organizing systems where learning emerges from transformation in the learner triggered by the experience. Understanding videogames as adaptive, self-organizing systems enables us to make better sense of complex global worlds, both ‘real’ and ‘virtual’. Videogames encourage self-organizing systems which encourage players to focus on connections and relationships (Gee, 2007) rather than decontextualized skills and facts, thus encouraging meaningful learning and understanding that empowers learners to adapt their perceptions and resulting actions in the video game world. Learning is understood as an emergent process, an ongoing renegotiation of the perceived boundary between personal knowing, collective knowledge and the environment as a person observes, acts and engages in the perceived world. In is no wonder that such a rich experience of learning is so attractive to so many adolescent and young adult players. If we can understand learning in this way, surely we can enhance the way we institutionalize learning in society.

The other interesting thing that connected in with comments made by Sugata Mitra was that along cheating – which was mentioned in my previous post. Sugata Mitra was not referring to games, rather the fact that we as educators don’t like the word cheating and often see using the information and connections available on the internet as cheating. He suggested we needed to reframe our perspectives and structure questions that we use to focus on skills and deeper understandings.

I find it interesting that I have been to two different conferences recently that have raised similar concepts, while focussing on different learning environments.



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