The Power of Play

How Educational Games Accelerate Learning and Bring About Enduring Change

three key teaching principles that I’ve learned through my experience as a student, teacher, coach, consultant and manager.

Everyone adds value . This is a strong starting point for people that are serious about learning. For games facilitators, this requires creating an environment where everyone can contribute in a way that helps them grow.

You can only change yourself . Instead of telling people what to do or how to think, always strive to offer options. Empowering people with the chance to choose and participate on their own terms transforms learning into a personal responsibility.

Be better (than you were yesterday, every day). Making mistakes is essential to learning. View mistakes as a gift, a learning opportunity. By doing so, we can address our mistakes and take improvement actions now for a more successful future.

The Science of Learning

If we apply the principle of ‘Everyone adds value’ to learning, it follows that we would embrace diversity. What does diversity in people mean in the context of learning? It means different people with preferences for different learning styles.

One idea that acknowledges and accommodates such a need is that of Multiple Intelligences from Howard Gardner, a developmental psychologist. According to Gardner, our abilities can be categorized into eight different “intelligences:” linguistic, logical-mathematical, spatial, kinaesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal and naturalist.

Linguistic – An ability with words, spoken or written. Aptitude in reading, writing, telling stories. Usually described as “good with words.”

Kinaesthetic – Good hand-eye coordination, good motor functions. Aptitude for training responses into reflexes.

Logical-mathematical – Good with logic, abstractions, reasoning and numbers. Sometimes referred to as “scientific thinking.”

Spatial – Good spatial judgment. Ability to visualize things.

Musical – An acute awareness to sounds, rhythms, tones and music. Ability to see and translate sounds into music.

Interpersonal – Empathic, good at social interaction. Works best with others.

Intrapersonal – An ability to introspect. An acute awareness of self and others in terms of feelings and motivations.

Naturalistic – A love for nature and natural surroundings. An ability to nurture.

Whereas classic schooling focuses and rewards predominantly those with skills such as reading, writing and mathematics, Gardner’s model provides a much broader vision of education. In my opinion, the model is a celebration of diversity. Here are some ways to recognize each of the eight different “intelligences” in learning games.

Criteria for Experiential Learning

Learning games are a good example of experiential learning. In addition to applying the five Agile Values, and my three key teaching principles, I apply Gardner’s idea of Multiple Intelligences by weaving multi-sensory elements into the games I design and play. The result: learning through experience that reaches a broader audience than just chalk and talk.

In my experience, a truly experiential session has the following characteristics:

  • Appeals to three or more senses at any one time – such as seeing, hearing, and feeling
  • Engages the mind, body and spirit – engages the cognitive, the physical and feelings
  • Focuses on inclusion instead of exclusion, inclusivity instead of exclusivity
  • Measured by large amounts of laughter
  • Negative behavior is addressed through self-correction
  • Learning happens among fellow participants, not just participants learning from the trainer
  • Trainer learns at least as much as the participants

Learning that Makes You Think

Based on the results from the learning games I play with groups, retention of information is at least three times more than passive learning. The stickiness of the learning through games lasts for days, if not weeks and months long after our session together.

Imagine: It’s the end of a 2-day course during which we’ve played games, eaten candy, laughed

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