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Flow and Engagement

Unless you’ve been swimming around in the psychology, marketing or gaming pools, it’s probably not a term you use a lot.

Academically…… from the research literature flow is “the mental state of operation in which the person is fully immersed in what he or she is doing by a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” You often see with the citation (Csikszentmihalyi 1990).

Flow describes the state of learning enlightenment perfectly, but with educators I end up talking a lot about another word instead – engagement. Engagement – when the material or the exercise is so stimulating that the student forgets that they are actually learning. When we think about having our students play games in our classes; that’s what we’re trying to achieve. It doesn’t mean that whatever is being learned is effortless. The process and the content is so engaging that students are willing to wrestle through it because it stimulates their brains. And I have to say what’s wrong with combining stimulating and challenging into our teaching?

Serious games (yes, they have to be actually engaging) can do this.