Student Action is Necessary for Student Learning

Fact One: Student Action is Necessary for Student Learning

Welcome to the first entry on our new blog.

First, let me say that I am so excited about our August conference, Serious Play. It will once again be hosted at DigiPen in Redmond, Washington.

Last year’s event was focused on the no-nonsense goal of creating educational simulations and serious games. (No one hates hype more than I do.)

This year we will shift to the CxO’s perspective, with again the same non-nonsense, practical approach. We will be figuring out: What is the role of sims in an effective strategy? This is critical question for organizations involved in not just learning, but marketing and even software design. When do these approaches make sense, and how should they be executed?

I will be writing this blog as we lead up to the big event. And yes, I will be using it for updates and big announcements,

But I have a much more exciting goal for it as well. In each post, speakers including myself will be presenting one documented fact or study that they believe is relevant to understanding the new necessity of serious games and simulations. (No inspirational quotes or witticisms are allowed!) Then we will provide some context around why the fact is so important.

I would like to start with one of my favorites. I used in The Complete Guide to Simulations and Serious Games. And it is a little wonky, but bear with me.

The research

In a now-classic experiment, Held and Hein (1963) exposed two newborn kittens to nearly identical visual information. This was done by placing one of the kittens (designated the passive kitten) in a little gondola, and linking it up to a harness worn by the other (designated the active) kitten). As the active kitten moved around and explored its environment, the passive kitten was moved in exactly the same manner.

The result was that only the active kitten developed normal depth perception. The passive kitten, even though its visual sensory input was had been nearly identical, did not.

[Held, R., & Hein, A. Movement-produced stimulation in the development of visually guided behavior. Journal of Comparative and Physiological Psychology, 1963, 56, 872–876]

Why is this so important?

This experiment demonstrated that active participation with content is necessary for learning. Once again, learning has to be an active process. It is not enough to passively be exposed to educational material, no matter how inspiring or accurate or well crafted.

This is problematic for anyone who champions education programs that lean heavily on traditional approaches. Up until a few years ago, most real-world implementations of education programs relied on methodologies that are passive, including asking students to read, sit in lectures, watch videos, and even author passive content themselves through written tests.

Now, however, we are in the midst of an education revolution. We know how to make pedagogically rigorous active content that both transforms the competence and conviction of students, but is cost-effective and scalable.

I can’t wait to see you in August in Redmond, Washington. And come by next week for the next post (a more modern fact, I promise), as we continue to build the scaffolding for why understanding how critical educational simulations and serious games have become for the success of any education or engagement program.

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