Games are showing potential to support creative problem-solving in ways our current educational instruments are not well equipped to measure. Game-based educators are seeking ways to assess the development of knowledge and skills within games, using the innovative affordances these new environments may offer. Every study that measures learning within a game environment will face this question: How does the game-based learning transfer to real-world settings?
The EdGE team is working with a framework that employs the implicit learning that takes place by virtue of engagement and investigation that occurs naturally when a player is immersed in a well-crafted game. This framing requires a different approach to the question of transfer. First of all, the learning that we are seeking to identify is often unexpressed or sometimes even recognized explicitly by the learner. This situation makes the measurement more difficult and needs innovative methods. Implicit learning, however, may be foundational to explicit knowledge development (Polanyi, 1966; Thomas & Brown, 2011). Thus, by understanding how to shape these implicit learning experiences, we may be able to improve the very core of conceptual understanding.
In addition, as games and other digital activities become increasingly prevalent in our society, the question of transfer becomes more one of connectivity. The lines are blurring between the digital and what we call the “real world” in the lives and likely the minds of future learners. It behooves educators to look at how learning in one modality might be leveraged to foster learning in another venue— how learning becomes more distributed across settings—rather than focusing on whether or not one can replicate the same type of learning in different settings. Expanding this notion from transfer to connectivity might be better suited to the ubiquitous learning environments that span home, school, and community in the twenty-first century.