As a relative rookie to the e-Learning scene (about a year and a half professionally with a small amount of research done in college), and trying to write my first post on the subject, I was struggling for a topic. Maybe this is a sign that I should keep this blog about Flash and leave it at that. Pushing forward, I thought back to my first experiences with e-Learning… Math Blasters back in 4th grade… sitting infront of a tiny 8 color computer screen, trying to click (blast) the correct number to simple math equations. It was always a treat to get to use the computer lab.
A more prominent memory of e-Learning has to be the ever popular Oregon Trail. While the game was fun, I question its actual effectiveness as a learning tool. Here is what I learned from Oregon Trail.
- Buffalo are fun to shoot , and in the true spirit of the American West, they are even more fun to shoot in excess. “You have shot 3,000 pounds of Buffalo meat. You can carry 150 pounds.”
- Dysentery is deadly. I never learned what this was from playing (it happens to be diarrhea) but just knew that poor little Jimmy often died of it.
- If you’re traveling to Oregon, be a doctor or a lawyer because you’ll be rich! Did anyone ever pick the farmer or school teacher? (It should be noted that being a doctor did not help with poor Jimmy’s dysentery)
- Never ford a river. Lets just face it… fording a river is a bad idea!
So did I learn anything useful from Oregon Trail? Perhaps the most important thing I learned was everything leading up to the actual game. The teachers didn’t use Oregon Trail as a learning tool in its self, but as a motivation tool for other learning! We were eager to complete our work and do well on tests if the reward meant extra time to play Oregon Trail. Grades were obviously important to students, but I feel they can be a negative reinforcer because students are all too often punished for having bad grades, and not rewarded enough for getting good grades. Using a computer game as a reward was a positive reinforcer to learn the objectives of the day.