Ep 044 Dave Eng and his experience with games-based learning

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Dave Eng, Ed.D. is an intellectual and creative educator, designer, and researcher who combines, games, theory, and technology to define NEXT practice. He currently consults privately for colleges and universities on games-based learning, gamification, higher education administration, and instructional design. He loves the student affairs community and has helped many entry professionals get their foot in the door with their first position. His research interests include learning theory, technology and games.

Dave works at home, remotely since his consulting doesn’t require him to be anywhere specific. He gets up and listens to podcasts (like Professor Game 🙂 ), then some coffee and emails, followed by remote calls from some clients. He likes to hit the gym or some sort of physical activity after, he is a big fan of Fitbit and has had his life changed thanks to its gamification. At night, he has a very large tabletop game collection, he is always trying to play some of them with friends or family. Before going to sleep, he goes to Kickstarter to see if there is any other game he feels he should be backing. He has 4 Ikea shelves full of games!

Dave started using games-based learning while working with his staff in student affairs. One of the main responsibilities was the student welcome program, where he hires orientation leaders (other students). Part of starting was doing outdoor adventures and others to get comfortable with working together, and of course, Dave loves games so he used Werewolf often for this. Fast forwarding to when he was teaching a Communication Arts Public Speaking course, he wanted to use this game as well because it is mostly about convincing others that you are one thing that you are not, using persuasive speech and a narrative. This was supposed to be a small piece of content for the course but the students wanted to play it over and over again throughout most of the sessions! The nice thing is they were introduced to this cool game and learned from it, the not so good was that he had a hard time bringing them back to other learning objectives! The key learning from this is that when using games-based learning it’s not about playing games and hoping that the students learn something, it is necessary to clearly establish the objectives and walk the learners through the process you create to help them learn. The debriefing part that comes after (or perhaps during) the game is crucial to solidify the learning process. For Dave, games-based learning is using games as the content for achieving a specific learning outcome.

He once used gamification for the public speaking class, where he flipped the grading schemes around, so everyone starts at zero and goes adding points to reach their grades. It sounds the same but it is different, with the scheme of losing points students are acting to avoid losing points, instead if they’re acting to gain them they were playing to win and succeed in that area. He also gave them different opportunities to choose different challenges to earn their points. They had extra points to make sure that everyone had a chance.

Dave’s approach to creating a gameful experience of this type starts with doing a stepped or scaffolded approach. For him, it is fundamental to start with something that absolutely everyone is able to do the first exercise, that no one could fail. The first exercise in the public speaking class, for example, was a 10-second speech where students said their names and where they’re from and their major. As the semester advanced he used the things learned from previous lessons and exercises to build on the knowledge and practice of the students.

A best practice for the use of gamification and something that he feels that Fitbit does quite well is to provide unexpected feedback that is still useful. Initially, it was just about measuring steps but it also incorporates feedback compared to other people in your network. Pedometers had been around for quite a while so Fitbit was providing additional and useful feedback that was not expected by the user.

His current favorite game is a board game called Azul, he feels that it is like a Sudoku but with colors. One of the things he likes the most about it is that it has a very elegant flow. It was even recognized in Spiel Essen. We also discussed what we can learn from this game to apply in education, especially for the ability we give for students to make meaningful choices that are tailored for their needs and learning.

Dave recently heard Rob Daviau in a conference, and would love to listen to him interviewed in Professor Game! He used to work for Hasbro and has been creating tabletop games for quite a while and gave a fantastic keynote which he feels can add a lot of interesting ideas to the Engagers. As far as books go, he would definitely go with A Theory of Fun for Game Design by Raph Koster, which he feels can be applied to so many different areas.

Dave’s superpower is alignment, starting with the learning outcome, what content supports this (what game can match it in the case of games-based learning) and then how to assess if students have learned what we expect, that could be within the game. The random question in this episode was about if gamification is for you or not and Dave gave quite an interesting answer you can listen to if you press play!

His final advice is that we should play more games together! Games are a social experience, remember that. To get in contact with Dave we can go to his website davengdesign.com, on twitter @DavEngDesign or even on Facebook and LinkedIn.

There are many ways to get in touch with us, you can go to my Twitter @RobAlvarezB, my Instagram, our Facebook Page, subscribe to our email list and even ask a question to future guests!

Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,


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