Five Inspiring TED Talks On Game-Based Learning

The positive role games play in the learning process has attracted significant attention from prominent thinkers. A large number of TED talks, for instance, have focused on various intellectual and emotional benefits that games offer people of all ages. A few have explicitly focused on game-based learning.

The following videos are worth checking out!

In this video, Paul Anderson, a science teacher in Montana, describes how teaching through games offers distinct advantages to the traditional classroom teaching model. Perhaps most controversially: he says games teach students that it’s OK to fail. Indeed, it is through your repeated failures in a game that you finally figure out how to do it right.

Entrepreneur Gabe Zichermann describes how many of today’s video games teach kids problem-solving and management skills. Unlike the simplistic games he grew up playing in the 80’s –– Pong, Super Mario Bros., –– today’s games are incredibly complex and demand their players to be fast-thinking multi-taskers. These complex games represent the majority of entertainment that millennials and those younger than them have ever consumed. That fact has reshaped the way young people (Zicherman calls them Generation G) learn, teach and approach problems. It’s an opportunity, he says, that we must recognize and embrace.

The average child today will spend 10,000 hours playing video games by the time they’re 21. That’s almost exactly the amount of time they spend in school from ages 10-18. In other words, says Jane McGonigal, kids are engaging in a parallel education system outside of school. It’s not such a bad thing, she explains. Among other things, in contrast to the sterile learning objectives they are often told to strive towards in the classroom, games provide kids an opportunity to play the role of a hero, waging a battle with “Epic Meaning,” striving for an “Epic Win.” That motivation unlocks what McGonigal refers to as “Blissful Productivity,” in which you work towards a goal that is far away, and “Urgent Optimism,” in which repeated failure is a part of the process that makes victory more rewarding.

Tom Chatfield explains how the system of rewards found in games makes them such effective learning tools. The constant rewards –– for developing a skill or beating a level –– is what keeps people “progressing and engaged.” Furthermore, the data generated by today’s gamers are helping game developers pinpoint exactly how to design rewards to maximize a player’s motivation to continue playing.

Daphne Bavelier, a neuroscientist, describes the positive effects of video games on the human brain. Brain imaging shows that even games that are not traditionally viewed as intellectually-oriented can help develop key cognitive skills. Notably, Bavelier shows that video games, long derided as damaging attention spans, actually enhance a brain’s ability to focus.