Video games are addictive and, dare I say, engaging as well.  What makes them this way and how can we use this knowledge for good rather than evil?  As educators, wouldn’t it be wonderful if students were as engaged in the classroom as they are when immersed in a video game?  According to a study done by the Games for Learning Project, there are three main aspects of gaming that engage students:  autonomy and creativity; challenge; and purpose.

How do we bring these into the classroom?  Sure, there are learning games that are appropriate sometimes, but it is unrealistic and dangerous to think we should put kids on an iPad for 8 hours a day.  Plus, many learning games/apps don’t pack the engagement punch quite like games students choose themselves.  So, let’s look at how we can tap in to video game – level engagement through another method that we can actually bring to the classroom…entrepreneurship.

Autonomy and Creativity

Autonomy and Creativity are activated through video games by giving players choice over characters, missions, customizable features, etc.  Players like the perception that they can influence what happens in a game and the opportunities to co-construct character and narrative direction which adds to games’ immersive nature.

In an entrepreneurial project or activity, teachers provide students their choice of topics to explore, business ideas to pursue, and opportunities to create and innovate.  Students, not teachers, make the decisions that bring ideas to life.  This creates meaningful experiences for students fostering engagement.  Personal meaning and relevance are keys to unlocking motivation, and to creating an immersive nature in the classroom where students are truly excited about learning.

Challenge

Video games are challenging, if they weren’t, no one would play them.  There is great satisfaction that comes from winning or beating a hard game.  The genius behind challenging games is that they offer incremental “wins” along the way (levels, incentives, etc.).  This way, beating the entire game doesn’t seem like an insurmountable feat, rather a series of incremental wins.  How many of us are thrilled to get just one level closer to our goal?

Entrepreneurship is inherently challenging.  Like beating a challenging video game, the idea of owning a successful business may seem impossible.  When you start or grow a business there are many pitfalls along the way.  If you develop a product, there are often many iterations before your final design. However, much like video games, entrepreneurship offers incremental wins.  Entrepreneurs can celebrate each step toward their goal as they constantly reiterate, reinvent and solve problems that arise.  With an end goal in mind, the challenges along the way are not only tolerated, but are welcomed head-on by entrepreneurs willing to tackle them knowing they are progressing toward the end goal.

Challenge, then, is managed in bite sized portions, much more palatable to the student/entrepreneur.

Purpose

We feel a strong sense of purpose when engaged in a video game.  Often the learning happening doesn’t feel like learning at all because it is a by-product of doing.  Learning happened incidentally in the pursuit of the overall goal.

Enter entrepreneurship, where students can also find a strong sense of purpose because what they are learning is personally important.  Entrepreneurship is real, selling is real, making a product that solves a problem is real.   It is not a contrived word problem or made up challenge that has no basis in students’ realities.   The learning happens as students are engaged in the meaningful, entrepreneurial activity or experience.

Video games also provide players with instant feedback which allows them to course correct along the way and helps build that sense of purpose.  Entrepreneurship does the same thing.  When your product, service or idea is not working, you know immediately and can course correct re-establishing your purpose.

When you witness a group of students getting excited about an idea and then pursuing that idea with a passion, learning is happening effortlessly.  They have a goal to achieve and a purpose to achieve it.  Plus, entrepreneurship can fit seamlessly within any content standards and takes very little time to implement in the classroom.

If you would like to learn more about entrepreneurship and resources to help your students, please visit us at www.entre-ed.org.

Toi is an Education Consultant and Regional Coordinator for Entre-Ed.  She is a regular contributor to the site.

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