THE UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE

It’s all in the game

Karl Kapp You’ve heard the arguments:

“Our children constantly have their eyes fixed on some kind of computer screen.”

“It seems that every time we turn around there’s some new gadget that everyone needs.”

“You never see anyone with a book or doing anything productive on those things.”

“The amount of time the tech generation spends on computer games can’t be good for them.”

Karl Kapp, professor of instructional technology, would argue there’s a benefit to each of these statements. In fact, in his latest publication, Games, Gadgets and Gizmos: Tools for Transferring Knowledge from the Boomers to the Gamers, he says this technology can be used to train and teach people a variety of skills.

The book encompasses the work he has done on what he calls “gamification,” defined as “using game-based mechanics, aesthetics and game thinking to engage people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems.”

Kapp Notes
Kapp actively blogs on his gaming research and related tech topics.

“We talk about information overload, but these kids have never had information underload,” Kapp says. “They create behaviors to adapt to continual communication stimulus.

“It’s a shame that walking into some classrooms is like getting on an airplane: ‘Turn off all electronic devices.’ Students end up using electronics all the time, except in the classroom.”

Kapp believes that discouraging the use of digital devices in a professional atmosphere leads to the illusion that members of older generations are out of touch with this new digital era. “These games can teach,” he says. “We know from research that strong emotions tie learning events together.”

When Kapp’s son played Age of Empires, for example, the learning was secondary to the fun of playing the game. If you enjoy it, you’ll play again and again … and that’s how we learn.

“It helps you encode knowledge more richly and deeply for future recall. Additionally, video games teach problem solving and higher-level thinking skills,” he adds.

Kapp is sharing his perspective on the role of video games at a conference in Las Vegas. He will discuss the use of 3-D avatars to change learner behaviors and how storytelling as part of a video game helps learners memorize facts.

— C.J. Shultz ’13

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