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Rote learning in educational games

I’m trying out a bunch of geography games at the moment. There are countless alternatives out there, some quite good. This is not surprising: geography is a subject well suited for rote learning and rote learning is an activity well suited for gamification. I shouldn’t need to explain why. Rote learning is after all really boring (and pretty hard to some of us) but relatively simple to make more fun by introducing basic game mechanics.

Rote learning is also very important. Because facts are very important! All facts are connected. The more you memorize, the easier you learn.

It is just like a jigsaw puzzle. The more pieces you have, the easier it is to solve the puzzle. *

Sure, knowledge without comprehension is worthless, but comprehension without knowledge is impossible. Critical thinking without comprehension is likewise impossible.

The more facts you really know, the easier it will be to comprehend concepts and processes. And when you comprehend concepts and processes, you can reason about them. When you can reason about them, you can think critically about them.

Fortunately, rote learing is not only important, it is also much better suited for gamification than “higher-order thinking” or “21st-century skills” and other buzzwords that are the subject of much low-order thinking from politicians and gullible slogan parrots in the serious games and educationalist in-crowd.

Furthermore, critical thinking is fun; it makes you feel smart and good about yourself. It is an intellectual adventure in itself and doesn’t need a superficial layer of point-and-click adventure mechanics to be exciting and inspiring. Still, an aid to improve your critical thinking skills would, of course, be very neat; but I am not sure games are the appropriate medium for that. Seems like buying yourself Weston’s A rulebook for arguments and joining a serious debate forum online would be a smarter approach – cheap, uncomplicated and available for everyone.

To sum up:

Ola Hansson, 31 October 2014

* There is a flipside to prove my point. Why are dreams so hard to remember? Because they are logically inconsistent, both within themselves and with the real world of facts. The pieces in a dream don't fit together with the other pieces of the dream. Nor do they fit together with the pieces of your real memories.

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