Blooloop is an online resource for “professionals working in the visitor attractions sector.” They have recently been exploring games and museums, with the second half of their latest post focusing on our work at AMNH. For the full article please go here, or read on to explore our work with Minecraft, MicroRangers, Playing with Dinos, and more.
In Gamifying Museums Pt 1 we looked at how Minecraft and Gamification are enabling museums to reach out to new audiences. In Part 2 we ask two key players, Aardman and New York’s American Museum of Natural History, if gamification automatically makes a museum more engaging?
The American Museum of Natural History
Barry Joseph (right), a keen exponent of Minecraft, is Associate Director For Digital Learning at the American Museum of Natural History.
He was a speaker at the recent Minefaire in Philadelphia which he attended with his ten-year-old son. His talk was entitled, ‘Growing Up Minecraft: A Father and Son explore six years of living (and learning) in Minecraft’.
“We were largely focused on the types of learning my son has experienced outside of any classroom for the past 6 years, as he’s been engaged in Minecraft and Minecraft associated activities, ” explains Joseph. “He has explored the twenty-first century through his self-directed engagement, which reflects the kind of learning that we wanted to build in a learning institution like ours.
“I spoke in part about how, when he was younger, his learning was about problem solving, and designing in a 3-D space. When he was older, it was leadership skills, civic values; he was developing e-commerce abilities. He was also learning transmedia navigation – how to move through different media.”
New Ways of Learning
“I’m coming from the perspective of having seen my son be involved for six years in one type of game engagement. I’ve seen how it has changed what he expects learning to look like. So, for us at the museum, we’re aware that young people growing up in the digital age have new ways of learning.
“Now, the game itself and the game process has become sophisticated enough to be able to teach the player how to play within the world of the game itself. And, so, young people are in these learning systems where failure is not bad: it’s how you learn. You develop grit by trying things again and again with slight modifications, until you learn to develop mastery around something.
“The games are able to create zones of proximal learning, where it’s like Goldilocks: ‘It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold…’ It’s not too hard that you feel overwhelmed; it’s not too easy that you feel bored, but it keeps you in that zone between, where you’re constantly engaged by learning.
“And, that’s one of the great opportunities for us, as a learning institution.”
What Joseph has observed is that games are played not necessarily because they’re fun, but because they’re engaging.
“The thing that’s engaging about them is when the player is being challenged to learn, ” he says. “Young people are experiencing more and more that excitement of being able to self-direct their own learning experience. That’s an incredible opportunity.”
Promoting a Personal Connection
When many museums were founded in the 19th century, it was believed that just looking at a significant object was enough to make the viewer more cultured. The object would communicate everything valuable and meaningful about itself.
“Now, we’re in a new space where we’ve learned a lot and we’ve got time to learn, ” he says. “We come from a more constructivist perspective where we understand that the object itself is just part of a larger system of learning.
“So, being museum professionals, we’re not only responsible for protecting and providing people access to these incredibly important objects that are valuable to humanity, but providing people with the right means and knowledge to develop a personal connection with the object and what it represents.
“In that context, games, and not just games but play, become just another tool in our toolkit.”