The goal of the videogame "Civilization" is to build a civilization that stands the test of time. You start the game in 4000 B.C. as a settler and, with successful gameplay, can create a civilization that lasts until the Space Age. Throughout the game, you need to manage your civilization's military, science, technology, commerce and culture.
One doesn't read "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" to develop strategy before playing the game. One starts by playing. This is true for all videogames. You start by exploring the world with curiosity and begin to develop a hypothesis of what you're supposed to do. Through trial, error, pattern recognition, logic and chance you continually reformulate your trajectory.
This model of learning is not only effective for videogames but for all digital tools, and I would argue that play -- especially in the digital sense -- is emerging as a pedagogical keystone for education in the 21st century.
Stuart Brown, M.D., explains in his book, Play, how a range of scientific disciplines have revealed the importance of lifelong play. Playfulness amplifies our capacity to innovate and to adapt to changing circumstances. Adults who are deprived of play are often rigid, inflexible and closed to trying out new options. Play is an active process that reshapes our rigid views of the world.
THE POWER OF PLAY
Play is also a powerful vehicle for learning, something that's been underscored for me in my work at San Francisco University High School where we began a one-to-one iPad program in the fall.