I was excited but anxious to give a talk to a live audience. I was going to talk about a familiar subject, a topic I have been researching for over a year. I shouldn’t be nervous nor anxious, but I was. My slides were prepared and rehearsed, my camera and lighting ready. I had given my 4yrs old daughter an extra hour of screen time to allow me finish my presentation before putting her to bed.
At 7pm British Time, I began my presentation. I could hear myself stutter and shaky, but I wasn’t about to give up. Fifteen minutes in, as I was settling into the talk, I could hear my daughter banging the study door, calling, ‘mummy, mummy’. I ignored it hoping she would go back to her room if she didn’t get any response. But as you may have guessed, that did not happen. She banged even louder and was at the verge of crying. I had to ask to be excused at the middle of a live talk to go calm my kid down. I knew she was bored and lonely (she’s never liked being by herself). But I did not want her with me while I was being recorded. On getting to her, I noticed she had exhausted all the video options on her tab. To get her to give me an extra 15 minutes to complete my talk before another interruption, I knew I needed to find something more engaging, something she could have fun doing. I picked up her tab and downloaded a couple of age-appropriate games for her. I also left my mobile phone for her as I have a couple of games there that she loved.
My talk continued as planned. At the beginning, I started off by describing digital games and medium of play. I also discussed the characteristics of games and why they are attractive to educators. Next, I went on to provide some evidence-based benefits of using games for learning. At this point, I had just returned from soothing my kid and asking her to give me a few more minutes. I was a bit calmer and more in control of my talk than I was at the beginning. The benefits I discussed were a mixture of outcomes from the literature and those from our research in the CHARMING project. Lastly, I outlined the challenges with using games for learning. Some of the concerns I knew many parents and guardians might have with games were addiction and violence. I discussed these concerns indicating that most educational games do not have infinite number of game levels, hence the chances of addiction is very low. Additionally, games for educational purposes are usually carefully designed to be non-violent and appropriate for classroom use. I concluded by summarising some key points which include that games are effective for learning, they are engaging and motivating and that they enhance longer knowledge/skills retention.
It had now been 20 minutes since I left my kid’s room. She had not banged on my door yet and wouldn’t for the next 7 minutes of Q&A session. The games she played kept her engaged for longer than the movies did.
Digital games are indeed engaging, allowing learners to spend longer times on the game/learning activities, which directly and positively affects knowledge acquisition and retention. The field of digital game-based learning is still evolving, and chances are that interest in this field will continue to grow with increase in remote and hybrid learning due to the pandemic. For a full video of the talk, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sHp8ju6xZQ