Can Gaming Skills Be Transferred to the “Real World?”

In a recent blog post, David Warlick discusses his experience presenting a discussion of the value of gaming in education to a group of parents and educators. He related some resistance on the part of some attendees, particularly one woman, who challenged his assertation “that the video game generation is moregame controller sociable and better collaborators than the previous generation.” The woman asserted that, in fact, the opposite was true, and that today’s students had difficulty interacting and adjusting to life in the work force. Warlick responded basically that there were many factors that “make our children”, not simply their participation in online games, and that most of us struggled initially as we entered the workforce. He also added “that to see and leaverge these skills we have to alter our expectations and even aspects of the work environment and schedule and even the nature of our assignments.” In other words, as I understand him, employers (and, I would assume, educators) need to examine the environment that we create and the type of work we expect our young people to complete and adjust them to better take advantage of the skills that they are developing while playing these games (particularly the online, social-type games).

This is an interesting idea, as it calls into question the very nature of many of the standards by which the success of our students is measured, both in the classroom and beyond. It also would require a radical re-thinking of the work environment and the nature of social interaction and collaboration. Certainly, avid participants in the online video game culture do engage in many tasks that have either overt or implicit value in the working world. They solve problems, formulate hypotheses, apply subject-specific skills, communicate, and collaborate. However, the nature of these actions is certainly significantly different in many ways than the forms that they would take in a traditional classroom or workplace.

Two competing questions come to mind, then, one putting the impetus for change on the student/employee, the second, posed by David, on the employer/teacher. First, how do we take students from the virtual application of these skills to the physical, real-world environment? Research is beginning to bear out the idea that they truly are developing valuable skills, but will they have value if they cannot transfer them? Secondly, what can future employers (or schools) do to make their work environments places which leverage the types of tools that take advantage of young employees’ (or students’) affinity for and skills with these games? For instance, are social networks or simulations perhaps more effective tools for job training than traditional, in-person training sessions with this generation?

I suspect the most productive answer lies somewhere in the middle. I do agree with the premise that David makes that systemic change in the workplace should be considered. But I also think that there needs to be a transitional focus, and students need to be able to adapt the virtual experiences and interactions they have used to build their skills to the application of those abilities into marketable and useable traits in the workforce. Adaptability and the ability to respond to changing environments and situations are actually key qualities of the successful gamer, so this should be feasible. I don’t know the solution, but I do recognize the value of online gaming and the diverse skillsets that research has demonstrated can be gained/enhanced. We would be remiss, as educators, not to put some serious effort and thought into considering just how best to take advantage of this fact.

I would add that, piggy-backing off of David’s post, I went back and re-read the ISTE NETS for Teachers, and I found several ideas that could be easily applied in the workplace. Simply substitute “employers” for “teachers” and “employees” for “students”. A few examples…

1.  Facilitate and Inspire Student Learning and Creativity
Teachers Employers use their knowledge of subject matter, teaching and learning, and technology to facilitate experiences that advance student employee learning, creativity, and innovation in both face-to-face and virtual environments. Teachers Employers:
a. promote, support, and model creative and innovative thinking and inventiveness
b. engage students employees in exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and resources
c. promote student employee reflection using collaborative tools to reveal and clarify students’ conceptual understanding and thinking, planning, and creative processes
d. model collaborative knowledge construction by engaging in learning with students employees,colleagues, and others in face-to-face and virtual environments
2.  Design and Develop Digital-Age Learning Experiences and Assessments
Teachers Employers design, develop, and evaluate authentic learning experiences and assessments incorporating contemporary tools and resources to maximize content learning in context and to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes identified in the NETS•S. Teachers Employers:
a. design or adapt relevant learning experiences that incorporate digital tools and resources to promote student employee learning and creativity
b. develop technology-enriched learning environments that enable all students employees to pursue their individual curiosities and become active participants in setting their own educational occupational goals, managing their own learning, and assessing their own progress
c. customize and personalize learning activities to address studentsemployees‘ diverse learning styles, working strategies, and abilities using digital tools and resources

4 Comments

  1. This is honestly one of the best blog posts that I have recent in quite a while. Adapting the ISTE standards to the workforce to help try to change the workplace environment so that the students can use their 21st century skills is an outstanding idea. I know that systematic change takes time – a long time; however, our students are developing skills, both in and out of school, that can be tremendously useful is they can just be tapped into to.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Jason. I agree that systematic change can be slow. Trouble is, the world around us doesn’t follow the same schedule as we often do in education.

  2. Randy,
    Very timely post and well-thought out. I appreciate the way you edited the NETs standards to apply to employers. Perhaps we should all take this concept back to our schools to share with our staff. One thought I had is that gaming is relevant to future employment and would be even more so if simulations mimicked real-life work problems–office bullying and gossip, collaborative problem-solving, increasing productivity, maximizing investments, and so forth.

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