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Game-based Learning and Passion-based Learning

I think this is it. I think we’ve found it. A duo to rival the widely heralded perfect pair, game-based learning and STEM. What duo is this, you ask? Game-based learning and passion-based learning.

via CBR

Pictured from left to right: Passion-based learning, game-based learning, and STEM

What is passion-based learning?

We’re not referencing the same passion that we see in everyone’s favorite (least favorite?) love triangle above. Simply put, passion-based learning involves meeting students at their interests and passions to facilitate more in-depth learning. Passion-based learning, when implemented correctly, is an extremely powerful tool. As Ph.D. and scientist Ainissa Ramirez explains in her article on passion-based learning in Edutopia, “Passion motivates. It makes a way out of no way. It allows students to overcome hardships to achieve a goal that is meaningful to them.” Passion-based learning combines autonomy with future-facing skills, allowing students ownership over their own education and equipping them with skillsets that drive potential future careers.  

Utilizing passion-based learning in the classroom

How can passion-based learning best be used in a classroom?  Ramirez suggests looking at passion-based learning as a prologue for developing future-facing skills. She notes that passion can be found or created – either by finding out a student’s existing passions, or through a passionate teacher that can effectively spread their interest to their students. She also advises that passion-based learning requires a level of vulnerability on the part of an instructor. Working on passion projects alongside students can be another way to engage them in this type of learning. 

Credit: Ainissa Ramirez, via Edutopia

Structure is also something to consider when implementing passion-based learning. Andi McNair, a former teacher and current digital innovation specialist for Education Service Center 12, suggests that passion-based learning works best under specific conditions and boundaries. In an article for The Journal written by Dennis Pierce, McNair describes being inspired by the strategies of passion-based learning initiatives such as Genius Hour and 20time. She provided additional structure to her passion-based learning class time by requiring students to pitch her an idea, plan a project, and then present their work to the rest of the class.

With a concerted effort to provide a space where students and teachers alike can get vulnerable about their interests without being judged or criticized, and some structured time (even just 20 minutes a day!) the magic of passion-based learning can come to life! Not the same magic that conjures vampires or werewolves, but we can let students dream. 

So, how does game-based learning factor in?

The most obvious answer to this question is simple: people love video games. Gaming is a lot of peoples’ passion. As our CEO Dan White pointed out in his recent interview on Scholastic eSports, meeting students where they are has extremely powerful educational potential. He also noted that games allow students the opportunity to dive deeply into subjects that may not be standard curriculum fare. For many students, video games are an engaging and rewarding intersection of passion and learning. 

Furthermore, high-quality games with holistic, immersive environments create something called a semiotic domain, a term coined by James Paul Gee. A semiotic domain is “an environment (space) that has its own rules and language that helps create meaning, value and understanding for the things that are in that environment.” In Gee’s book, “What Video Games have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” he lists the benefits of learning within a semiotic domain, which are summarized by Albert van der Meer as follows:

  • The opportunity to experience the world in new ways
  • You automatically become affiliated with a like-minded social group
  • And you gain the resources for future learning and/or opportunities to become affiliated with other (similar) domains.

In order to reap these benefits, however, one must have a commitment to discovering all there is to know about a particular learning space, otherwise known as intrinsic motivation. Whew, still with me? This stuff is almost as intense as listening to Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole and playing baseball in a lightning storm.

A perfect match

All of this to say: games provide semiotic domains, passion provides intrinsic motivation, and it is only together that students can experience all of the above benefits. Without passion, one won’t make it very far in a semiotic domain. Passion-based learning is easily married to gaming due to games’ inherently immersive nature; game-based learning provides a unique form of technological literacy that equips students for their futures. 

All in all, passion-based learning and game-based learning are quite the match. This combination makes it easier for teachers to capture their students’ attention and lead them to meaningful, extensive learning experiences. Students gain a well of knowledge while getting to focus on a subject they love. As game-based learning aficionados and enthusiasts, we have just one more thing to say about passion-based learning:

via Giphy

More on applications of game-based learning:

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