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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Video Games in Education: An Annotated Bibliography

The following is a draft of the annotated bibliography I've prepared for my advisor based on the last fifteen entries on this blog. (This has been reformated for sharing on this blog.) Perhaps others may find these brief annotations useful...

Annotated Bibliography

The study of computer and video games’ educational value is a relatively new field. Though there were earlier explorations of these ideas, all but two of the articles below were published in 2005, the same year this bibliography was written; one was published in 2004, and one was published in 2000. As cutting-edge theories, few of these articles represent formal research studies. However, all but one were published in peer-reviewed journals, and all of the authors are leading academics and practitioners with a depth of knowledge and experience in the subject of games and learning. They are paving the way for the brave educators of tomorrow, and for the formal research studies that will validate or improve upon these theories.

Appelman, Robert. (2005). Designing experiential modes: a key focus for immersive learning environments. TechTrends. 49 (3) 64-74.

In the tradition of John Dewey experiential learning, Appelman introduced a framework of Experiential Modes (EMs), the smallest components of learning environments: the observable attributes and non-observable perceptions of learners. He also discussed the use of existing and emerging technologies for new learning environments, giving the example of Sasha Barab's work with Quest Atlantis, and the use of existing commercial games as learning environments, such as Kurt Squire’s exploration of Civilization III in his dissertation. Though this article does not represent a formal research study, Appelman draws on his decades of experience in many mediums as an instructional designer, researcher, and educator to support his discussion. This article is heavy in new jargon, but such efforts at defining a vocabulary for the design of twenty-first century instruction will pave the way for further innovative instructional design.

Blumberg, F. C., and Sokol, L. M. (2004). Boys' and girls' use of cognitive strategy when learning to play video games. The Journal of General Psychology. 131 (2), 151-158.

In a formal qualitative study, Blumberg and Sokol tested 104 diverse second grade and fifth grade children to discover how they learn to play a video game. All recorded responses were coded, and statistical analysis of their data did not support the hypothesis that girls would show greater inclination toward external strategies (of learning and problem solving) and that boys would show greater inclination toward internal strategies. However, the authors cautioned that continued investigation is needed in order to understand "the continuing distinctions between boys' and girls' preferences for games that may have different ramifications for cognitive gains” (p. 157). In addition, the closing discussion touched on several more important issues, such as the age of the players and their self-efficacy as frequent gamers.

Carstens, A., and Beck, J. (2005). Get ready for the gamer generation. TechTrends. 49 (3) 22-25.

Carstens and Beck provided little specific evidence for their argument that the brains of gamers are "hard wired" differently than non-gamers. However, they commissioned a formal study of 2,5000 Americans and used instruments of previously established reliability to investigate the difference in belief systems between gamers and non-gamers. They found that “gamers showed a range of different opinions and behaviors compared to their non-gamer brethren.” (p. 23) They suggested that gamers have little respect for traditional authority and training, and they provide suggestions for trainers serving gamers, including the suggestion that traditional leaders and leaders of the gamer generation be trained side by side so that they might benefit from the strengths of both styles.

Caperton, I. (2005) For Seymour Papert "hard fun" is the essence of good games AND good education. Telemedium: the journal of media literacy. 52 (1 & 2) 16-19. Madison, WI: National Telemedia Council.

Idit Caperton was the first to graduate with a Ph.D. from the MIT media lab in Papert’s epistemology & learning research group. Seymour Papert has remained her mentor and collaborator for 22 years. Caperton shared stories of Seymour Papert and his philosophies, including his playful style of brainstorming, the story of how he came to love mathematics through his love of gears, and his concept of hard fun. She also related his belief that video games can be like constructionist projects and can help students to learn concepts and ways of thinking that might otherwise be beyond them.

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillenial learning styles: implications for investments in technology and faculty. Educating the Net Generation Educause. www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen/

In this chapter of Educating the Net Generation, Dede explored how emerging media affect learning styles, with a particular focus on virtual environments and augmented realities. He found learning situated in these environments important because of the capacity for transfer of learning to real problems. Like James Paul Gee he found that individual and group identities can also be developed in virtual or augmented environments. He explicitly mentions Whyville, Quest Atlantis, and the commercial MMORG Everquest in his discussion. He also cited Steinkuehler's research into the social spaces of MMORPGs. Dede's article also contained examples from his own research into the applications of MUVEs (multiuser virtual environments) in education, and his results were promising. Like Klopfer and Yoon (see below), Dede pointed out that professional development and support will be needed to implement these technologies for educational purposes.

DeKanter, N. (2005). Gaming redefines interactivity for learning. TechTrends. 49 (3) 26-31.

DeKanter, vice president of Muzzy Lane Software, was interested in using technology to develop peoples’ skills, and he believed that networked game simulations can provide a constructivist learning environment. Such games can provide a context for learning by making learning tasks authentic and anchoring them to a larger task or problem. DeKanter also discussed ways in which networked game simulations can provide opportunities for inquiry and collaboration, and ways in which they can provide support for constructivist teaching and learning. One example of such a game is Muzzy Lane Software’s Making History. Though DeKanter writes from the perspective of a commercial developer, his unique experience in developing a multiplayer video game simulation for educational purposes is valuable.

Dickey, M. D. (2005). Engaging by design: how engagement strategies in popular video games can inform instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development. 53 (2) 67-83.

Drawing explicitly on constructivist and cognitive research, educational psychologist Michele Dickey discussed ways in which "the strategies of design which lead to engagement" (p. 67) in video games might by put to use by instructional designers. She discussed point of view, narrative, setting, characters, and interactive elements, or hooks. Throughout the article, Dickey gives special attention to the importance of multiplayer games. This article does not represent a formal study, but does present a rich scholarly review of literature.

Emrich, Alan. (2005). The gamer generation: and why baby boomers shouldn't worry about them. Inspired by the book Got Game, John C. Beck, Mitchell Wade (Harvard Business School Press, 2004). http://www.alanemrich.com/SGI/Week_10/SGI%2010%20GAMER%20GENERATION.PDF

Ludologist Alan Emrich summarized key differences between the way Baby Boomers and the Gamer Generation grew up, between their resulting psyches, and the way they operate in the business world (or school). In addition there is a discussion of the sexism, violence, stereotypes, and isolation issues related to video games which is neither the usual panic inducing line of reasoning, nor the equally unsophisticated debunking argument. Though this article does not represent a formal study, Emerich’s report is a valuable overview of the issues regarding video games and society.

Gee, J. P. (2005). What would a state of the art instructional video game look like? Innovate. 1 (6). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=80

Linguist and cognitive scientist James Paul Gee suggested that "the best commercial video games are already state of the art learning games" (p. 1) because they allow learning to take place situated in activities and experiences. However, he advocated for the importance of teachers, and for a balance between telling everything to learners and letting them experience everything on their own. Gee provided a vision and broad framework for those interested in harnessing the power of video games for educational purposes. However, because his theories are based primarily on his own (rich) experience with games rather than on a formal study, much work needs to be done in order to test and verify his theories, and in order to realistically implement his recommendations.

Jenkins, H., Wright, W. (2005) "Buy these problems because they're fun to solve!" Telemedium: the journal of media literacy. 52 (1 & 2) 16-19. Madison, WI: National Telemedia Council.

This article is a transcription of the conversation between Henry Jenkins, director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program, and Will Wright, creator of successful games such as SimCity and The Sims, at the Education Arcade conference at E3 on May 11, 2004. Like Caperton (above), they discussed the importance of fun in games, in education, and in problem solving in general. Wright imagined a very different education for students, one in which a game might be marked up with links to web-based information with an option for students to annotate he information. Wright concluded with a series of visionary questions followed by the suggestion that students are already living the education of the future when they get home from school. Though this article does not represent a formal study, it does provide a valuable window into the thinking of a leading academic and a leading developer in the field of games in education.

Kirkley, S. E. and Kirkley, J. R. (2005). Creating next generation blended learning environments using mixed reality, video games, and simulations. TechTrends. 49 (3) 42-53.

Instructional designers Kirkley and Kirkley addressed "the challenges and issues of designing next generation learning environments using current and emerging technologies" (p. 42). Throughout the discussion they were concerned with how to "balance design tensions between meeting learning objectives and creating engaging and fun learning environments" (p. 42). They discussed elements of context, collaboration, and support for student learning, and they included a section about the importance of fun in constructivist learning environments. The article concluded with a discussion of a game authoring tool for instructional designers which is under development by Kirkley and Kirkley. This article does not represent a formal study and the authors write from the perspective of commercial developers, but their development experience and their background in academic research contribute to the value of this discussion.


Klopfer, E., and Yoon, S. (2005). Deveoping games and simulations for today and tomorrow's tech savvy youth. TechTrends 49 (3) 33-41.

Eric Klopfer, director of the MIT Teacher Education Program, and Susan Yoon, a post-doctoral fellow in same program, were explicitly constructivist, opening their article with their interested in an authentic learning context and in collaborative learning (p. 33). Later, they also explicitly discuss the importance of inquiry-based learning (p. 40). Parts of the article are reminiscent of Prensky and Gee’s work, and the authors also drew on the work of Dede (above), the MIT Teacher Education Program, Games to Teach, and the Education Arcade. Finally, Klopfer and Yoon do not ignore the importance of professional development and assessment when these ideas are implemented in a real-world school, especially in the political climate of No Child Left Behind. Though this article does not represent a formal study, the authors write from a rich background in the formal development of new educational software tools and pedagogy to support these tools.

Noble, A., Best, D., Sidwell, C., Strang, J. (2000). Is an arcade-style computer game an effective medium for providing drug education to schoolchildren? Education for Health. 13 (3) 404-406.

With a subtly constructivist perspective, the authors explored an "interactive approach" (p. 404) to drug education for children. In a formal study they tested the effects of "an interactive CR-ROM based arcade-style motorcycle racing game" (p. 405) on students' understanding of the drug cocaine. Through analysis of interview responses gathered from 101 students aged 10 or 11, the authors concluded the game was successful in transmitting their message to the students, in large part because of "high levels of acceptability, even enthusiasm" from the students (p. 405). They did, however, caution that implementing the program would require "careful piloting and ongoing management" (p. 406).

Pillay, H. (2005). An investigation of cognitive processes engaged by recreational computer game players: implications for skills of the future. Journal of research on technology in education. 34 (3) 336-450.

Working from a constructivist perspective, Pillay explored "the value of computer games as a means for enhancing educational instruction" (p. 338). His formal study aimed to "analyze the cognitive processes engaged in while playing recreational computer games to help us understand how they might affect students' performance in subsequent tasks within a computer-based learning environment" (p. 340). With some qualifications, he was able to suggest that "playing recreational computer games may increase the time efficiency in accomplishing set educational tasks and obtaining correct solutions" (p. 345). The most serious limitation of his research was that he explored only the transfer of skills from games to other computer-based activities, and not to other non-computer-based activities. Also, the games used in this study were unsophisticated games that were very like the other computer based academic activities. Still, as an exploratory study, this research was valuable.

Williamson, B., and Facer, K, (2004). More than 'just a game': the implications for schools of children's computer games communities. Education, Communication, & Information. 4 (2/3) 255-270.

“Drawing on recent research on children’s use of information and communication technology out of school, and on complementary research within media, cultural, and youth studies” (p. 255), Williamson and Facer provided an overview of "policy, industry, and educational research perspectives" (p. 256), which are focused "on exploiting the potential of games' interfaces in schools" (p. 256). However, they were more interested in "how children's existing habits when playing computer games are situated within social contexts and practices, and how these practices, rather than the games software on which they are centered, might provide insights of relevance to more formal educational settings" (p. 256) They discussed playing games in peer groups (p. 259), expert gamers (p. 260), wider social resources for learning about games (p. 262), social contexts for learning in online games (p. 263), gender (p. 261), socio-economic status (p. 261), and "the potential applications of games practices to the formal educational setting" (p. 264). This included references to Gee, Prensky, MIT's Games-To-Teach project, and the Education Arcade consortium among others. Their closing discussion also included online role-playing as an example of "authentic practice within social context" (emphasis in the original, p. 267). Though this article does not represent a formal study, the authors, both from the NESTA Futurelab in the UK, provide a valuable overview of the topics above.

Winograd, D. (2005). Chris Dede on emerging technologies that enable distributed-learning communities. TechTrends. 49 (1) 39-40.

Winograd, an assistant professor of Academic Computing and Educational Communications York College in the City University of New York, recounted Dede's keynote at the AECT Conference in Chicago. Dede discussed ways in which multi-player video games could provide a context for learning and a framework for collaboration. He had previously been interested in the potential of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORGPs), such as Everquest, but spoke in Chicago about Multi-User Virtual Environments Experiential Simulators (MUVEES). While the games may provide support for student learning, Dede pointed out that educational technologists will need to serve as change agents and provide support for the implementing teachers. This article does not represent a formal study, but as an educational technologists impressions of Dede’s theories it is a valuable resource.

... there is more to come, too. I am working on the application section of my current Knowledge Area Module, but will move on to more research soon... and am reading the rest of the Innovate issue in the meantime. Also, I've finally gotten my feet wet in World of Warcraft. Eva and I finished playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age together, so I am hoping to talk her into playing WoW with me. :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

James Paul Gee on What a State of the Art Instructional Video Game Would Look Like

NOTE: I'm posting a bit late today (well, technically it's tomorrow now), but I'm staying on track... and this is the last of 15 posts dedicated to my annotated bibliography.

For this last post, I've turned my attention to the recent special issue of Innovate, which focuses on "he role of video game technology in current and future educational settings." The lead article is this one by James Paul Gee.

Though nothing from his 2003
What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy appears, there is much here that can be found in his 2005 Why Video Games Are Good For Your Soul. Gee's diction here is more formal (for instance, Riddick is NOW a "tough guy prison escapee" rather than a "hard ass prison escapee"... if memory serves). He uses less jargon here than he does elsewhere (though he still rolls out "distributed authentic professionalism") and he makes more formal references to others' work.

James Paul Gee (2005) suggested that "the best commercial video games are already state of the art learning games" (p. 1). He also criticized most attempts to create serious games for learning as lacking in imagination and being aligned with "bad theories of learning" (p. 1), which "lead to boredom and failure on the part of the learner" (p.2).

This, he suggested, is because "knowledge... is first and foremost a set of activities and experiences" (p. 2). Still, he didn't suggest that "educators should simply turn learners loose in interactive environments" (p. 2). Instead, he advocated for the importance of teachers who "already know how the complex variables of the domain interrelate with each other" (p. 3). Gee considered this the "central paradox of all deep learning" (p. 3): we can't tell everything to learners, yet we cannot let them experience everything on their own.

Naturally, he suggested that good video games can resolve this paradox, and he spends quite a bit of the article discussing the example offered by Full Spectrum Warrior, which teaches players how to think, value, and act like a professional soldier (p. 4) both by providing a context for their learning and by providing explicit instruction when needed.

Gee's most significant contribution may be the suggestion that "adopting a set of values and a particular world view is intimately connected to performing the activities and having the experiences that constitute any specific domain of knowledge" (p. 6). The power of video games to help learners develop values and new world view is certainly the most powerful outcome they offer.

Gee's conclusions might best be offered as a bulleted list. A good instructional game would:
  • "pick it's domain of authentic professionalism well
  • intelligently select the skills and knowledge to be distributed
  • build in a related value system as integral to gameplay
  • clearly relate any explicit instructions to specific contexts and situations" (p. 7, bullets added).
Gee provided a vision and broad framework for those interested in harnessing the power of video games for educational purposes, but much work needs to be done in order to test and verify his theories, and in order to realistically implement his recommendations.



Reference

Gee, J. 2005. What would a state of the art instructional video game look like?. Innovate 1 (6). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=80 (accessed September 20, 2005)

NOTE: I imagine I will post reflections on the other articles in this issue of Innovate, but I will be spending more time now on the application portion of the Knowledge Area Module I am currently working on, so I will be looking for ways to post that material here as well... as I plan for a professional development workshop that will introduce educators to the use of games in education. :)

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Chris Dede on Planning for Neomillenial Learning Styles: Implications for Investments in Technology and Faculty

NOTE: After I contacted him about my research, Dr. Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard's Graduate School of Education, was kind enough to send me this chapter himself. There was much of relevance to my studies at Walden - and much of relevance to my work at the OCDE.

Perhaps my only criticism is his choice of acronyms... MUVE for multiuser virtual environments (we already have movies, and I think this would be confusing for an audience of educators) and MWD for mobile wireless device (which makes me thing of weapons of mass destruction, WMDs, every time.)
:)

Dede (2005) began his discussion of neomellenial learning styles by cautioning that "generational learning styles can be oversimplified" (p. 15.1), and in his conclusion he stated that "students in any age cohort will present a mixture of neomillenial, millenial, and traditional learning styles" (p. 15.19). Whith this qualification in mind he said out to explore "how emegring media foster neomillennial learning styles" (p. 15.1). He was particularly interested in "the growing prevalence of interfaces to virtual environments and augmented realities" (p. 15.2), which can "induce a psychological sense of sensory and physical immersion" (p. 15.3), and which can provide learners with exocentric and bicentric frames of reference (FORs) in addition to a wider variety of egocentric FORs (pp. 15.3-15.4). Ultimately, he found situated learning "important in part because of the crucial issue of transfer... the application of knowledge learned in one situation to another situation" (emphasis in the original, p. 15.5).

Like James Paul Gee (2003), Dede also found that "the evolution of an individual's or group's identity is an important type of learning for which simulated experiences situated in virtual environments or augmented realities are well suited" (p. 15.5). And like many others who are concerned about issues of race and gender in video games, Dede found "immersion is important in [the] process of identity exploration because virtual identity is unfettered by physical attributes such as gender, race, and disabilities (p. 15.5). He explicitly mentions Whyville, Quest Atlantis, and the commercial MMORG Everquest in his discussion. He also cited Steinkuehler's research into the social spaces of MMORPGs (p. 15.6). A concept that may be difficult for traditional educators to accept is his conclusion that "while the content of these games and activities [may] not lead to knowledge useful in the real world, rich types of learning and identity formation do take place in these environments" (p. 15.7).

Dede's article contained examples from his own research into the applications of MUVEs (multiuser virtual environments) in education, and his results were promising:
  • "All learners are motivated, including students typically unengaged in classroom settings.
  • All students build fluency in distributed modes of communication and expression and value using multiple media because each empowers different types of communication, activities, experiences, and expressions.
  • Even typically low-performing students can amster complex inquiry skills and sophisticated content.
  • Shifts in the pedagogy wihin the MUVE alr the pattern of student performance." (p. 15.9)
The following section of the chapter was devoted to mobile wireless devices, but the final section returned to a discussion of learning styles and immersion. He included a table displaying "the benefits of learning styles enhanced by mediated immersion in distributed learning communities" (p. 15.14) and a table presenting "speculations about how the emergence of neomillenial learning styles may influence higher education" (p. 15.15). Among his recommendations for schools faced with these changes, he advocates the development of "guided social constuctivist and situated learning pedagogies" (p. 15.16) and "assessments beyond tests and papers" (p. 15.16).

Like Klopfer and Yoon (see previous post), Dede pointed out that professional development will be needed, and that "professional development that requires unlearning [unconscious beliefs, assumptions, and values about the nature of teaching, learning, and the academy] necessitates high levels of emotional/social support in addition to mastering the intellectual/technical dimensions involved" (p. 15.16).

Reference

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillenial learning styles: implications for investments in technology and faculty. Educating the Net Generation Educause. Available: www.educause.edu/educatingthenetgen/

Klopfer and Yoon on Developing Games and Simulations for Today and Tomorrow's Tech Savvy Youth

NOTE: This is yet another article from TechTrends 49 (3). Though sections of the article were not directly related to what I am interested in, I'm sure you'll be able to see that there were many connections with what I've been writing about.

Klopfer and Yoon (2005) were explicitly constructivist, opening their article with their interested in an authentic learning context and in collaborative learning (p. 33). Later, they also explicitly discuss the importance of inquiry-based learning (p. 40). Like Prensky, they made a case for the "demand for new skills and ways of thinking" (p. 33), calling on the work of Dede and others. Much of their desire to help students learn to "gather and apply data to solutions collaboratively" and to "foster creativity and imagination" (p. 34) spoke to the development of 21st Century Skills (NCREL, 2003).

Drawing on their work with the MIT Teacher Education Program, Games to Teach, and the Education Arcade, the authors share ways in which social computing, mobile computing, and video games, which all "have a great deal of influence on students' lives" (p. 35) might be used for educational purposes. They discuss the overlap between social, mobile, and game-based computer, which culminates in the concept of "'hybrid reality' or 'pervasive gaming'" (p. 38). They were most interested in how these technologies might be used to build students' understanding of complex systems (p. 36) and student's abilities to construct new worlds and understanding (p. 37).

Picking up where Gee (2003) left off, the authors suggested that students have developed only one half of their video game literacy through playing games "- they have learned to 'read.' But they have not yet developed the other half of that literacy - learning to write" (p. 37). The authors advocate the use of StarLogo TNG to allow students to "rapidly develop and understand new programs and create their own 3D worlds" (p. 37).

Finally, Klopfer and Yoon do not ignore the importance of professional development and assessment when these ideas are implemented in a real-world school, especially in the political climate of No Child Left Behind.


Reference

Klopfer, E., and Yoon, S. (2005). Deveoping games and simulations for today and tomorrow's tech savvy youth. TechTrends 49 (3) 33-41.

Additional References

Gee, J. P. (2003). What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

North Central Regional Educational Laboratory. (2003). enGauge 21st Century Skills Available: http://www.ncrel.org/engauge/skills/skills.htm

Robert Appelman on Designing Experiential modes: A Key Focus for Immersive Learning Environments

NOTE: Like a few of the others I reviewed, this article comes from TechTrends Vol. 49 No. 3 edited by Sonny Kirkley. If I'm not mistaken, Robert Appelman is also another IU graduate and faculty member. This article is something of a heady read, but cites many of those I've been studying, such as Barab, Cuban, Dewey, Gee, Piaget, Prensky, and Salen & Zimmerman. Many of the articles listed in Appelman's references are also explicitly constructivist, though this article is only implicitly so.

Appelman (2005) discussed a framework of Experiential Modes (EMs), which he defined as "both observable attributes (the physical surroundings, sentient beings, objects, systems and events that occur) and the non-observable perceptions of learners (the engagement, cognition, and affective responses)" (p. 64). He considered these "the smallest component of a learning environment" (p. 64).

The problem being addressed Appelman (2005) was that "the video game industry is leading the way in the development of rich virtual environments, but instructional designers are not prepared to design rich learning environments that incorporate such EMs, nor do they have any systematic models to guide them" (p. 65). Appelman aimed to address this need with his framework of EMs.

Much of the article was given over to discussion of learning environment design, differentiating learning environments and experiential modes, and experiential mode design. During this time he established vocabluary with which to discuss these things, including the concept of superstructure for observable attributes of an EMs, infrastructure for the unobservable attributes, and virtuality to "describe the degree to which any part of (an EM) is a representation of reality instead of 'the real thing'" (p. 68). He also discussed the role of instructional design concepts such as content density and authenticity of content (p. 69), and he provided visual representations of these elements.

In the tradition of John Dewey, Appelman is interested in experiential learning (p. 65). As such, it seemed the holy grail for him was "the Star Trek holodeck level... full virtual sensory immersion and complete user control and manipulation" (p. 71). As the technology is not yet available for this sort of game or simulation, Appelman dedicated some time to discussing the use of existing technologies for new learning environments, giving the example of Sasha Barab's work with Quest Atlantis at www.questatlantis.com, and the use of existing commercial games as learning environemnts, as Kurt Squire explored with Civilization III in his dissertation.

Ultimately, Appelman concludes the following:
"Although Instructional Design has already turned toward a more learner-centered approach, the entire development process must also embrace the learner's experience as it focuses on providing rich EMs that are created through an emergent and dynamic development process.

The design strategy of focusing on EMs for development resonates with new virtual technologies since their experiential components are so high.


Reference

Appelman, Robert. (2005). Designing experiential modes: a key focus for immersive learning environments. TechTrends. 49 (3) 64-74.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Noble et al: A Computer Game is an Effective Medium for Providing Drug Education to School Children

NOTE: This is the oldest article I've posted on during these past two weeks, but it contains elements of many themes we've seen recurring in newer works. This was a short and straightforward article about a formal study.

Noble, Best, Sidewell, and Strang (2000) explored an "interactive approach" (p. 404) to drug education for children. They tested the effects of "an interactive CR-ROM based arcade-style motorcycle racing game" (p. 405) on students' understanding of the drug cocaine; students could control a rider who competed without drugs, or with an increasing addiction to cocaine. Using "an interview-administrerd questionnaire" (p. 404) they interviewed "101 children, ages 10 and 11" (p. 404), of whom 44 were boys and 57 were girls (p. 405).

They concluded that the game was successful in transmitting their message to the students, in large part because of "high levels of acceptability, even enthusiasm" from the students (p. 405). They also concluded that it "could be utilized in training health professionals and in assisting them to convey positive health messages" (p. 406).

In their conclusion, Noble et al. stated that "the acceptability of the message (and that it is not perceived as a "lesson") makes the interactive game approach a simple and effective way of transmitting positive health messages" (p. 406). Their perspective was also subtly constructivist; they suggested that "the key concept is to encourage the target population to derive their own health education message from participating in a behavior that they find engaging and entertaining... without direct professional involvement" (emphasis added, p. 406). They did, however, caution that this would require "careful piloting and ongoing management" (p. 406).

Reference

Noble, A., Best, D., Sidwell, C., Strang, J. (2000). Is an arcade-style computer game an effective medium for providing drug education to schoolchildren? Education for Health. 13 (3) 404-406.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Carstens and Beck Get Ready for the Gamer Generation

NOTE: A few days ago I posted some thoughts about an article by Sonny Kirkley and about the special issue it appeared in, which he edited. Once again I was surprised and thrilled to find that an author I wrote about responded to my post. In fact, Dr. Kirkley sent me the other articles from the issue in PDF format. This post is a reflection on one of those articles.

Also, I found some great resources on how to write an annotated bibliography and found that these posts are probably too lengthy. That is often my problem. Well, one step at a time, I'll work on my brevity.


Carstens and Beck (2005), who were both involved in the writing of Got Game: How the Gamer Generation is Reshaping Business Forever, wrote about the impact of video games on the neural pathways, belief systems, and training expectations of todays corporate managers under age 34.

They provided little specific evidence for their argument that the brains of gamers are "hard wired" differently than non-gamers, but they commissioned a study investigating the difference in belief systems between gamers and non-gamers. Their results were striking and can be summarized by the following points. Gamers believe:

  • "there are many potential paths to victory" (p. 23)
  • "victory is possible" (p. 23)
  • "it is more about the path to victory itself" (p. 23)
  • "being the hero is important" (p. 23)
  • "if something needs to be done right, they had better do it themselves" (p. 23)
  • "the best rewards come to those who take risks" (p. 24)
  • "my life could be happier than it is right now" (p. 24), suggesting a sense of efficaciousness

The authors made a good deal of the conflict between the previous non-gamer generation and the rising gamer generation, suggesting that "traditional leaders and top-down systems don't earn a lot of respect from gamers, as they've been taught their entire lives to dispatch with those in authority as quickly as possible" (p. 23). For this reason and others, "for those charged with training and educating this new generation... the same old tools just won't cut it" (p. 24). The authors suggested a curriculum that
  • "aggressively ignores any hint of formal instruction
  • leans heavily on trial and error...
  • includes lots of learning from peers but virtually none from authority figures
  • is consumed in very small bits, exactly when the learner wants, which is usually just before the skill is used
  • allows for people to take risks in a safe environment
  • allows for players to achieve a skill or talent which is not only meaningful but perceived as having value" (p. 24)
Perhaps their most innovative suggestion is this:
"to find the best gamer leaders, you need to develop projects specifically designed to get future leaders from the game generation working side by side with current leaders. This will allow for cross-pollination of ideas and working styles, so that each can see what the other has to offer" (p. 25).


Reference

Carstens, A., and Beck, J. (2005). Get ready for the gamer generation. TechTrends. 49 (3) 22-25.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

More on Hard Fun: Idit Caperton on Seymour Papert, and Henry Jenkins in Conversation with Will Wright

NOTE: After something of a disheartening day at work, it was good to come home to these two articles tonight. "Hard Fun" may be the most important concept I've encountered yet in my educational technology research. Also, I hope now I can organize my next KAM around John Dewey, Maria Montessori and posibly Paulo Freire, since Caperton mentioned these three as influences of Paperts... in addition to Piaget of course. It turns out Will Wright went to a Montessori school up through the 6th grade!

Oh, Caperton spent much of her article quoting Papert, and I guess I've primarily just passed those quotes on here... but boy are they worth passing on. And, boy would I like to be more playful in my own "thinking sessions."


Editor Marieli Rowe wrote that Dr. Idit Caperton (2005) of MaMaMedia offered "a rare glimpse into the playful world of Seymour Papert" (p. 16). Early in the article, Caperton shared that "a 'thinking serssion' with Seymour Papert is always playful and often generates... fun out-of-the-box concepts" (p. 16). She also represented the story of how Papert came to love mathmatics (and then AI and then educational technology) through his love of gears as a child (p. 17). Touching on differentiated instruction, she recalled that Papert felt "the computer is the proteus of machines... because it can take on a thousand forms and can serve a thousand functions, it can appeal to a thousand tastes" (Papert, as quoted in Caperton, 2005, p. 17)

Half way through the article Caperton (2005) introduced Papert's idea of "hard fun", which he adopted after "hearing a young student apply it to a Logo-based school project... in the mid-'80s" (p. 18). This was followed by several examples of Papert''s "learning stories" (p. 18), which illustrate this concept. These she concluded with the thought reflection that
he strongly believes that these constructionist projects are like video games: they have holding power that can become 'as much a part of the lives of young children as playing with toys and dolls, or other more passive construction kits.' Moreover, Seymour says, 'it is also plausible that if this were to happen, certain concepts and ways of thinking presently regarded as far beyond children's ken would enter into what they know intuitively and figure out spontaneously' (in the way kids figure out video game levels on the run, ink real time, or in the sense in which Piaget about children's intuitive or spontaneous geometry or logic); 'while other concepts - which children do leanr at school but reluctantly and not very well - would be learned with the gusto one sees in playing Nintendo games.' (Papert, as quoted in Caperton, 2005 p. 18, parenthetical comments are Caperton's)
Deeper implications of the "hard fun" idea are represented by other Papert quotes shared by Caperton:

- "The presence of computers begins to go beyond the firs impact when it alters the nature of the learning process: for example, if it shifts the balance between transfer of knowledge to students... and the production of knowledge by students" (p. 18)

- "Ask a few kids: the reason they don't like school is not that the work is too hard, but that it is utterly boring." (p. 19)

Caperton closed the article with an allusion to a conversation with Papert in which he lamented "the transformation of kid-friendly computer science into traditional computer use to support the same old rigid and outdated curricula and teaching methods" (p. 19). She felt that "there is ... much to learn from the ways in which kids learn to play video games, create their own computer games, and figure out technology and gadgets on the fly" (p. 19) and she admired the way Papert "continues to stir radical rethinking and transformation of education through the constructionist uses of computer technology and programmable, internet-based media - both in our school systems and through the development of playful, self-directed learning communities at home, and in our national and global cultures.

The following article in the same issue of Telemedium was a transcription of the conversation between Henry Jenkins and Will Wright at the Education Arcade conference at E3 on May 11, 2004. They too discussed the importance of fun in games, education, and problem solving in general.

The article opens with Will Wright sharing something akin to the gears story and concluding that "the self-motivated part was far more effective than anything I ever got from any formal education" (p. 20). Later said, "it's clear that our culture has disconnected play and education, when in fact they are really aspects of the same thing" (p. 21). Wright imagined a very different education for students, one in which a game might be marked up with links to web-based information with an option for students to annotate he information (p. 20). He pointed out though that "the best games will probably be very interdisciplinary" (p. 20), and that many new genres of games will one day "stretch our definition of education and learning" (p. 23). Wright concluded with a series of visionary questions followed by the suggestion that students are already living the education of the future when they get home from school because "what they do when they play online is an interesting mixture between entertainment and education" (p. 23).

References

Caperton, I. (2005) For Seymour Papert "hard fun" is the essence of good games AND good education. Telemedium: the journal of media literacy. 52 (1 & 2) 16-19. Madison, WI: National Telemedia Council.

Jenkins, H., Wright, W. (2005) "Buy these problems because they're fun to solve!" Telemedium: the journal of media literacy. 52 (1 & 2) 16-19. Madison, WI: National Telemedia Council.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Williamson and Facer on the implications for schools of children's computer game communities

Yes, the title is awkward, but it is taken from their article.

Williamson and Facer (2005) began their introduction by citing a "growing interest in the potential application of [computer and video game] environments to formal educational objectives" (p. 255). Their literature review provided an overview of "policy, industry, and educational research perspectives" (p. 256), which are focused "on exploiting the potential of games' interfaces in schools" (p. 256). This section included references to Prensky's work, MIT's Games-To-Teach project, and the Education Arcade consortium among others.

However, they were more interested in "how children's existing habits when playing computer games are situated within social contexts and practices, and how these practices, rather than the games software on which they are centered, might provide insights of relevance to more formal educational settings" (p. 256). Here they began to cite a variety of other authors, including James Paul Gee, whose ideas appeared regularly throughout the rest of the paper, including discussions of 'affinity groups' and 'distributed knowledge' (p. 266).

Based on data collected from two different studies, the authors then discussed the importance of playing games in peer groups (p. 259), expert gamers (p. 260), wider social resources for learning about games (p. 262), and social contexts for learning in online games (p. 263). These discussions included the issues of gender and socio-economic status (p. 261).

In the following discussion of "the potential applications of games practices to the formal educational setting" (p. 264), the authors suggested that "the social practices to which games-play provides young people with access are equally, if not more, motivating" (p. 264) than the games themselves. The following quote illustrates their overall point powerfully:
In leveraging self-motivated peer-to-peer support networks and producing resource materials such as dedicated magazines and online discussion environments, the wider games industry and player culture provide a model and resource for the kinds of learning that are often absent in traditional school settings. An elaboration of this point will clarify the critical differences between the social nature of playing games and traditional schooling, in which isolated, individual activity remains prevalent.

Their closing discussion also included online role-playing as an example of "authentic practice within social context" (emphasis in the original, p. 267).

My epiphany for the day: When I talk about things such as video games in education, distance learning, or high school redesign... even learning with computers in general... I am often asked how students will be socialized if the traditional school and classroom structures are broken down. Perhaps the answer lies not in games (though multiplayer games with guild-like organizations can certainly contribute), but within what Gee (2004) called affinity spaces surrounding the games. Williamson and Facer (2005) suggest that
as with learning to play games, children need to be introduced to systemic ways of thinking about problems, and require the support of networks of expertise and peers, resources, tools and technologies which they can trust to work in ways they expect, along with access to a variety of media in which they are able to communicate problems they are encountering - and receive solutions to those challenges.
Perhaps part of the answer to the question lies in the intersection of games and the read/write web... in the online manifestation of the players' affinity spaces.

Perhaps there is even a dissertation in there somewhere. Not that I am looking to change my topic, but I have spent at least as much time and effort researching the read/write web in education while working on this doctorate as I have exploring games in education.

Thanks for reading.


Reference

Williamson, B., and Facer, K, (2004). More than 'just a game': the implications for schools of children's computer games communities. Education, Communication, & Information. 4 (2/3) 255-270.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Hitendra Pillay's Investigation of Cognitive Processes Engaged in by Recreational Computer Game Players: Implications for Skills of the Future

NOTE: This seemed like it would be a very exciting article for me to read and post on... but it turned out come with some significant qualifications... and it turned out to be a bit boring to read. Still, it is very relevant to my research and I'm glad to have come across it. Given the studies cited in the review of literature, the reference list alone will be valuable. He does hint at twenty-first century skills, though he doesn't address the issues of context, inquiry, or collaboration.

Pillay (2005) was clearly working from a constructivist perspective; his introduction discussed "constructing information from computer game information" (p. 337), the "construction and deployment of knoiwledge" (p. 337), and the use of "qualitatively different schema" (p. 337) by computer game players.

From this perspective he explored "the value of computer games as a means for enhancing educational instruction" (p. 338); his review of literature covered "game attributes, such as risk taking, constructing meaning, and actively engaging in goal-directed search" (p. 337). He also provided evidence that "playing computer games facilitates flexibility in dealing with knowledge structures to overcome functional fixedness" (p. 339) and for "transfer of learning processes from computer games to... learning environments" (p. 339). He also included some evidence that "also suggests that computer and video games enhance inductive reasoning" (p. 339).

Pillay's study then aimed to "analyze the cognitive processes engaged in while playing recreational computer games to help us understand how they might affect students' performance in subsequent tasks within a computer-based learning environment" (p. 340, emphasis added). The study is stictly limited from the outset to exploring the transfer of learning from computer games to computer-based tasks, and does not consider the transfer of learning to other classroom or real-world tasks.

Still, through a mixed method study involving 14 to 16 year old students, Pillay was able to suggest that "playing recreational computer games may increase the time efficiency in accomplishing set educational tasks and obtaining correct solutions" (p. 345). He cautioned, though, that "it appears that the extent of such influence may depend on the type of game played" (p. 345). He also postulated that the improvements may have been due to a structural similarity between the games and the tasks used in the test (p. 347). It is particularly important to note that students who played a more open-neded game performed better on the educational tasks in the test (p. 347).

In his conclusion, Pillay naturally called for more research, saying that it "is important for us to understand the sorts of benefits possible from playing different types of games" (p. 348).

Reference

Pillay, H. (2005). An investigation of cognitive processes engaged by recreational computer game players: implications for skills of the future. Journal of research on technology in education. 34 (3) 336-450.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sonny Kirkley on Emerging Technologies and Learning Environment Design

It turns out that the previous article I posted on appeared in a special issue of TechTrends guest edited by Sonny Kirkley. I suppose I'll have to chase down the other articles in the issue, especially Eric Klopfer's one about "games, simulations, and mobile computing technologies to enhance student learning" (P. 2). I think I've already got my hands on Robert Appleman's "framework for instructional designers to use in integrating various experiential modes into an overall learning environment" (P. 2)... it's tucked away in my Maybe (as in maybe it will be relevant) directory. I've already posted on Nick DeKanter's contribution to the issue.

At any rate, Kirkley offers a helpful overview of the issue including a table that "provides an overview of how these articles address the key themes of [the] special issue" (p. 3).

Reference

Kirkley, S. (2005). Emerging technologies and learning environment design. TechTrends. 49 (3) 2-3. Bloomington, IN: Educational Communications and Technology.

Kirkley and Kirkley on Creating Next Generation Blended Learning Environments Using Mixed Reality, Video Games, and Simulations

NOTE: These authors also cite many of the others I have been writing about, including the constructivists Piaget and Jonassen.. and von Glaseerrsfeld, whose work I was introduced to during an intensive seminar during the Walden summer residency in July.

Kirkley and Kirkley (2005) addressed "the challnges and issues of designing next generation learning environments using curent and emerging technologies" (p. 42). Throughout the discussion they were concerned with how to "balance design tensions between meeting learning objectives and creating engaging and fun learning environments" (p. 42).

Their theoretical framework explores "factors related to designing a learning environment" (p. 43) and explicitly states that the authors believe constructivist and situated learning theories "offer the best approach to learning environment design and for integrating these new technologies into education" (p. 43). They discuss elements of context and collaboration; they wrote about the importance of "negotiating... meaning with others" (p. 43). They also included a section about the importance of fun in a constructivist learning environment; in an argument reminiscent of Papert's ideal of "hard fun", Kirkley and Kirkley cited game design theorist Raph Koster's definition of fun as "the feedback the brain gives us when we are absorbing patterns for learning purposes" (p. 96).

The authors then turned to next generation technologies. Though they spent several pages covering mixed and virtual reality technologies, the sections most relevant to this research were those on video games and simulations. These can "provide an authentic context to facilitate learning" (p. 48) as well as opportunities for inquiry-based learning by allowing "learners to control and manipulate a wide range of interrelated variables within a complex system" (p. 48). Games can also provide "a safe environment" (p. 48) for students to practice the twenty-first century skill of risk taking. Games can even offer support for student reflection (and assessment by instructors) through the "capabilities to record and track various learners' actions and choices" (p. 48), and direct support for learning through what Kirkley and Kirkley call "embedded scaffolds - scaffolding that is embedded within the learning technology such as a... simulation" (p. 49).

The article concluded with a discussion of a game authoring tool for instructional designers which is under development by Kirkley and Kirkley.


Reference

Kirkley, S. E. and Kirkley, J. R. (2005). Creating next generation blended learning environments using mixed reality, video games, and simulations. TechTrends. 49 (3) 42-53.

Michele D. Dickey on How Engagement Strategies in Popular Computer and Video Games Can Inform Instructional Strategy

NOTE: This is the most relevant and illuminating article I've encountered thus far while working on an annotated bibliography for my KAM about using video games as constructivist learning environments. She cites many of the writers I have written about, including Jenkins, Jonassen, Prensky, and Squire. Naturally, I also intend to answer Dickey's call for more research.

Dickey (2005) discussed ways in which "the strategies of design which lead to engagement" (p. 67) in video games might by put to use by instructional designers. The article opens with a brief review of literature followed by a discussion of her theoretical framework, which is explicitly drawing on "both constrictivist and cognitive research" (p. 70).

Dickey then began her discussion of games and engagement with an exploration of player positioning, or Point of View (POV), which lead to an investigation of the use of narrative or story telling as an engaging element of games. This covered such devices as plot-based narrative, character-based narrative, backstory, and cut scenes, which can serve as "information dumps" (p. 74) for the player. As she considered the relevance these strategies held for instructional design she described a compelling vision of how non-linear narrative might be incorporated into learning activities.

The discussion of narrative lead to a discussion of setting and characters. Dickey pointed out that "the use of role playing is not novel to instructional design" (p. 76) and discussed ways in which the "refined techniques and strategies for developing complex characters" (p. 76) developed by game designers might be of value to instructional designers. With game designers, "importance is placed on the creation of compelling characters with which players not only empathize, but whose roles they are also willing to assume" (p. 76), and Dickey shared several specific techniques for accomplishing this which might be adapted for educational purposes.

The final discussion revolved around the interactive elements of actions, feedback, and affordances. Game designers simply call these hooks, "anything that requires the player to make a decision that relates to the game, and thus keeps them playing" (Howland, 2002, 78, as cited in Dickey, 2005, p. 77). Such hooks "may also provide instructional designers with methods for creating engaging learning environments" (p. 77).

Dickey also offers two helpful tables for instructional designers interested in incorporating game design elements into instruction. Table 1 is a comparison of engaged learning and game design elements. Table 2 provides several design questions for integrating game design strategies to support learning activities (p. 79).

Throughout the article, Dickey gives special attention to the importance of multiplayer games. The pinnacle of her literature review was a discussion of massively multi-player online games (MMOGs). These resurfaced in her discussion of narrative as she pointed out that "with the evolution of MMOGs, players now have the opportunity to create their own narrative experiences both within the gameplay environment and with interactions external to the gamespace" (p. 73), and again in her discussion of setting when she mentioned the elaborate setting of the popular MMOG EverQuest. Of course character generation is also an important element in most MMOGs which are also Role Playing Games.

Dickey concluded the article with a call for more research, both in the design of constructivist learning environments and in "the opportunities new interactive media may provide in fostering learning" (p. 80).

Reference

Dickey, M. D. (2005). Engaging by design: how engagement strategies in popular video games can inform instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development. 53 (2) 67-83. Association for Educational Communications & Technology.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Chris Dede on Emerging Technologies that Enable Distributed-Learning Communities

NOTE: Dr. Abbey Brown of Cal State Fullerton, which is local to me, and of Walden University, where I am getting my phd, said to me this summer, "if you're not reading Chris Dede, you're not reading the right stuff." I contacted Dr. Dede of Harvard's Graduate School of Education and he was good enough to send me some of his work relevant to my studies. I may be posting on that as part of my annotated bibliography in the coming days. However, for tonight I wanted to attempt another brief article, so here is a piece by David Winograd about a keynote delivered by Chris Dede. Winograd is an assistant professor of Academic Computing and Educational Communications at York College in the City University of New York. Like the previous article, this comes from Tech Trends.

Winograd (2005) recounted Dede's keynote at the AECT Conference in Chicago. Dede discussed ways in which multi-player video games could provide a context for learning and a framework for collaboration; he "spoke of learning communities that work well because the learning that takes place is immersive and situated" (p. 39). He had previously been interested in the potential of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORGPs), such as Everquest, but spoke in Chicago about Multi-User Virtual Environments Experiential Simulators (MUVEES). Played on handheld devices (which can sometimes interact with the real world via GPS attachments), MUVEES are adventure games which "allow for co-designing and co-instructing using guided constructivism to provide situated learning experiences and assessment beyond tests" (p. 40). Winograd recalled that Dede acknowledged that use of such games would require significant changes in most teachers "assumptions, beliefs, and values about teaching, learning, and schooling" (p. 40). So, while the games may provide support for student learning, educational technologists will need to serve as change agents and provide support for the implementing teachers.


Reference

Winograd, D. (2005). Chris Dede on emerging technologies that enable distributed-learning communities. TechTrends. 49 (1) 39-40.

Nick DeKanter on how Gaming Redefines Interactivity for Learning

NOTE: Walden databases categorize this as coming from a "scholarly (peer reviewed) journal", but it seems somewhat commercial in nature and does not describe a formal study. However, I found it valuable for its relevance to my research. DeKanter explicitly discusses the use of video games as constructivist learning environments... and in formal k-12 education to boot. Also, it turns out I've met the author... twice... at the education arcade conference in May, and at the Games, Learning, and Society conference in June. In fact, he handed me a demo of the software that is discussed in this article.

Nick DeKanter (2005), vice president of Muzzy Lane Software, was interested in interactivity that focuses on "the skills of people, not he capabilities of technology" (p. 26) and he believed that "the next big evolution in interactivity [is] networked game simulations" (p. 26), which can provide a constructivist learning environment (p. 27).

Such games can provide a context for learning by making learning tasks authentic and anchoring them to a larger task or problem which reflects "the complexity of the environment [the students] should be able to function in at the end of learning" (p. 27). Networked game simulations can also provide students with opportunities for inquiry by giving the learner "ownership of the process used to develop a solution" (p. 27). DeKanter also suggested that the game environment is collaborative because "one of the most important intersections between next-generation strategy games and the constructivist learning framework is the idea that... 'knowledge is socially negotiated'" (p. 27). The games can also provide a good deal of support for constructivist teaching and learning, as they help teachers also develop "ownership of the overall problem or task" (p. 27) and they provide students "opportunity for reflection on both the content learned and the learning process" (p. 27).

Most exciting is DeKanters desire to create something new... something that is "far different from the single-user games of the past, or even the internet-based games [of today]" (p. 28)... something that would be a "radical departure from conventional wisdom" (p. 28) by marrying the ideas of strategy games and software for education. He called for next generation interactive games simulations to be customizable, transparent (to the instructor), and rich in feedback (for the teacher and student). One example of such a game is Muzzy Lane Software's Making History, which "gives the student complete control of - and responsibility for - a nations economic, diplomatic, political and military conditions" during a World War II simulation.

Reference

DeKanter, N. (2005). Gaming redefines interactivity for learning. TechTrends. 49 (3) 26-31.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Blumberg and Sokol on Cognitive Strategy When Learning to Play Video Games

NOTE: This is the first in a series of posts which will amount to an annotated bibliography related to peer reviewed articles about the use of video games as constructivist learning environments.

Blumberg and Sokol set out to examine "gender differences in the cognitive strategies that children use when they learn how to play a video game" (p. 151). Backed by a brief review of literature that suggested "children's video game performance(s) typically reveal gender differences" (p. 151) they designed a study, drawn from a larger investigation (p. 152), in which they interviewed second and fifth grade children and then observed them learning to play a video game. These children were identified as frequent or infrequent players (p. 154) and the strategies they used were categorized as internal strategies, such as trial and error, or external strategies, such as asking others for help (p. 155).

Statistical analysis of Blumberg and Sokol's data did not support their hypothesis that girls would show greater inclination toward external strategies and boys would show greater inclination toward internal strategies (p. 156). Instead, they found there was no significant difference in the cognitive strategies employed by children of different sex. However, the older students were more likely to use internal strategies, as were more frequent players. They conclude that "the informal educational gains attributed to boys... may not extend to the application of cognitive strategies" (p. 157). However, because this study was conducted using a popular gender-neutral game (Sonic The Hedgehog 2 on Game Gear) they caution that continued investigation is needed in order to understand "the continuing distinctions between boys' and girls' preferences for games that may have different ramifications for cognitive gains" (p. 157).

Studies such as this, which produce results in contradiction with commonly believed stereotypes about gender differences and learning, highlight the important role of formal research in exposing even experts misguided generalizations. More such studies are needed in the field of video games and learning if stereotypes and fears are to be allayed, and potentials are to be realized.

Reference

Blumberg, F. C., and Sokol, L. M. (2004). Boys' and girls' use of cognitive strategy when learning to play video games. The Journal of General Psychology. 131 (2), 151-158.

Alan Emrich and the Gamer Generation

Note: Tonight begins a series of posts which will amount to an annotated bibliography related to peer reviewed articles about the use of video games as constructivist learning environments. However, this first post is not (to my knowledge) a peer reviewed publication.

Alan Emrich, who teaches a Survey of the Game Industry course at Orange County chapter of the Art Institute of California, wrote The Gamer Generation in response to Got Game by Beck and Wade.

Emrich (2005) summarized key differences between the way Baby Boomers and the Gamer Generation grew up, between their resulting psyches, and the way they operate in the business world (or school). He included a variety of data effective for establishing the context of video games as an economic and cultural "force to be reckoned with" (p. 3). In addition there is a discussion of the sexism, violence, stereotypes, and isolation issues related to video games which is neither the usual panic inducing line of reasoning, nor the equally unsophisticated debunking argument. For instance, in his conclusion, Emrich suggests that while video games may not make gamers violent, their relatively simple structure might "not give Gamers enough room to develop complex interpersonal skills" (p. 9). Perhaps the greatest value of the article is the large number of sidebar boxes displaying short quotes or simple bulleted lists with titles such as "Kindergarden: Then and Now", "Lessons Learned from Playing Video Games", and "Gamers as Managers".

Reference

Emrich, Alan. (2005). The gamer generation: and why baby boomers shouldn't worry about them. Inspired by the book Got Game, John C. Beck, Mitchell Wade (Harvard Business School Press, 2004). Available http://www.alanemrich.com/SGI/Week_10/SGI%2010%20GAMER%20GENERATION.PDF

Thanks to my colleague Mike Guerena for passing this on to me.

-Mark

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Video Games in Education: Exciting Developments

I just sent this email to my advisor with the subject line of "Wow..."
... things have changed in the last year... even the last few months. The Walden databases are FULL of full text articles on computer and video games or simulations in education!

This annotated bibliography is going to be fun. I'm glad I got Prensky, Gee, and Aldrich out of my system. I feel like today is the start of a new phase in my research. :)

-Mark

Update: Ok, maybe not FULL, but there are certainly a few exciting new ones from 2005.

Prensky, Gee, and Aldrich - Preliminary Conclusions

Here is a few paragraphs from the draft conclsion for the depth portion of my human development KAM.
In order to facilitate constructivist cognitive development, a digital game-based learning environment should provide opportunities for context-embedded, inquiry-driven, and socially negotiated (or collaborative) learning. The purpose of this depth portion of the KAM was to critically examine theories of digital game-based learning in light of this working theory of constructivist instruction.

The work of Prensky, Gee, and Aldrich supported the notion that digital games and simulations can provide a context for learning and opportunities for inquiry. Prensky and Gee agreed that video and computer games can also provide learners a wide variety of individualized and differentiated opportunities for inquiry. While all three theorists found some value in the framework for collaboration offered by these games and simulations, Aldrich raised some arguments to support the use of single player scenarios as opposed to multiplayer games, particularly those with persistent environments. All three discussed ways in which games can support constructivist learning and ways in which games-based learning might be supported by instructors in a classroom environment. In addition, each author, but particularly Gee and Aldrich, explored other potential educational benefits of games which can be described in terms of helping learners develop the twenty-first century skills of digital-age literacies, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity. In most cases, each of these elements is best exemplified by the genre of role playing games and/or massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs).

These pioneering authors have provided a broad foundation for studies in the field of digital game-based learning, but this can only serve as a beginning for serious academic inquiry. Though James Paul Gee is an academic, a former linguist, and a former cognitive scientist, and though his writing draws on his knowledge of these fields, his work in the field of digital game-based learning is largely based on personal observation and reflections. Both Marc Prensky and Clark Aldrich, though experienced practitioners and researchers in the field, wrote from the perspective of for-profit corporate trainers. Especially where the use of such games and simulations in formal k12 education is concerned, more formal research studies are required in order to establish or disprove these preliminary conclusions with a greater degree of confidence. These initial projections about the potential of computer and video games, particularly MMORPGs, might first be established through a formal Delphi study involving these experts and others in the field, including additional academics.

So, any idea what I have planned for my dissertation study in the spring? :)

At any rate, over the next two weeks I should be posting my reflections on one related article per day... these will be from refereed journals, and once I've completed 15 with the approval of my advisor, these will become the annotated bibliography for the depth portion of this KAM. One step at a time...

Thanks for reading.

-Mark

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Clark Aldrich and Twenty-First Century Skills

It turns out the motivation of posting my draft work on this blog is not as necessary this morning; I am getting ready to send a draft of the depth portion of my KAM (about 35 pages of material) to my advisor. Still, here is the last bit on Aldrich and twenty-first century skills...
Much of Aldrich’s work relates to the development of educational simulations, and that is beyond the scope of this paper. However, Aldrich, like Gee, also described many educational benefits of games and simulations which are not easily categorized into context, inquiry, collaboration, or support. Many of these can be described in terms of the Twenty-First Century Skills developed by the North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group (2003), digital-age literacies, inventive thinking, effective communication, and high productivity.

Games and simulations can help players develop digital-age literacies. For example, Aldrich (2004) points out that players develop a measure of computer literacy through their exposure to games and simulations (p. 137). He also suggested that simulations could be used to help learners develop their cultural literacy as well, citing Age of Empires and First Flight – The Wright Experience Flight Simulator as examples (Aldrich, 2005, pp. 178-179).

However, most of the benefits Aldrich discussed are particularly well suited for developing inventive thinking skills such as adaptability, managing complexity, self-direction, curiosity, creativity, and risk taking (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 33-42).

While “classrooms and books teach linear, or process, skills” (Aldrich, 2004, p. 212) and could probably even be used to teach the digital age literacies, Aldrich suggested that “simulations teach dynamic skills” (p. 212) through cyclical, linear, and systems content (p. 231). He also wrote that in computer games “there are very complex and intertwined systems at play” (Aldrich, 2005, p. 136). This makes games and simulations ideal for teaching elements of inventive thinking, such as adaptability, managing complexity, and self-direction (North Central Regional Educational Laboratory and the Metiri Group, 2003, p. 33-36).

Similarly, Aldrich (2004) said that simulations should be challenging and frustrating (p. 214), an ideal environment for the sort of creativity and risk taking that makes learning exhilarating (p. 214). Aldrich (2005) also suggested that in a computer game the player is the key to success and that “mistakes are necessary on the path to success” (p. 136), which are ideal conditions for a player to practice and develop risk taking skills.

Perhaps the most important twenty-first century skill that players learn from games and simulations is self-direction. Aldrich (2005) pointed out that not only do people learn from computer games, “they learn how to learn” (p. 137). Unfortunately for traditional educators, the following is also true:

“They expect for the environment to get harder gradually as they get better. They expect to go at their own pace, They expect to be fully engaged. They expect to be involved at a tactile level and at a high-level intellectual level at the same time.” (Aldrich, 2005, p. 137)


Of course, a large part of the purpose of Virtual Leader was to provide players the opportunity to develop their skills of effective communication and high productivity as leaders in the workplace.

I also wrote an introduction to the depth portion this morning (not worth sharing here until the paper is whole I think), and now I need to spend the next hour or so knocking out the conclusion and getting the references in order.

Thanks for reading.

-Mark

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Clark Aldrich and Support for Learning

I've completed a section regarding Aldrich's thoughts on the use of games to support learning... and the support of games for learning.
Like Prensky and Gee, Aldrich too was concerned with ways in which games and simulations could offer support for learning. One of his design criteria for Virtual Leader was that “all subsystems would reflect and enrich the learning” (Aldrich, 2004, p. 98) and he aimed to create an interface that would “represent the actual activity at some level” (p. 173) . At the same time he struggled with how to score a simulation because “tight metrics and open-ended play” seemed incompatible (pp. 190-191). He openly acknowledged that “it will be harder to evaluate simulation-based content” (p. 218) than traditional text-based content, in part because “as with life, people might learn different things” (p. 219) from a simulation.

Several other design issues related to support of the learner were highlighted by Aldrich. He considered “one of the biggest long term issues” (Aldrich, 2004, p. 212) to be the balance of free play versus guided play, or how much the designer should help players along. This balance is related to the success of what Aldrich (2005) called “the frustration-resolution moment” (p. 243), the first encounter with frustration in which “students should expect to resolve their frustration in the learning experience” (p. 243). Another issue was the need for simulation designers to resist the temptation to model too much, and to instead “aim carefully, narrowly, and then go deep” (Aldrich, 2004, p. 216) in their modeling.

Aldrich was interested not only in how games and simulations might support learning, but also in how to support the use of games and simulations for learning. When he first urged teachers to explore the experience of playing video games by saying “log in a few hours of playing” (Aldrich, 2004, p. 17), he followed this closely with “then spend a few minutes sizing up the experience” (p. 17); reflection was an important element of learning with games or simulations for Aldrich. In fact he suggested that learning from simulations might require brief “learning sabbaticals” from a normal work or home environment (Aldrich, p. 214).

Because of the importance of reflection, the role of an instructor was critical to Aldrich, but not in a traditional sense. He felt that their value comes from “one-on-one contact with students” (Aldrich, 2005, p. 245), and that with the use of simulations, instructors could move to “the higher-value role of coaching and diagnosing, rather than the lower-value role of lecturing and grading” (p. 131). Instructors might also serve to help learners avoid reaching the point where they become “cynical and try to exploit the cracks” (Aldrich, 2004, p. 219) in a simulation. Though “instructor supported simulations are significantly more costly to deploy, [they] are more flexible to evolve on the fly, can provide more handholding, and result in more transformational experiences” (p. 61). Aldrich considered the face-to-face symposia conducted with a roll out of Virtual Leader to be critical to its success (Aldrich, 2004, p. 207). In fact, he concluded that with the use of simulations, classrooms will not disappear, but will rather be used as “set-up and support of a simulation’s core learning” (p. 215). He even quoted Jane Boston of Lucas Learning Ltd. as suggesting that “in some simulations, guided practice may be needed before starting the actual game” (Aldrich, 2005, p. xxxi). However, he did caution that “everything [live instructors] say to everyone more than a few times should eventually be encapsulated in the technology [because] the goal is not to replace instructors, but to keep them adding customized, user specific coaching” (p. 257).

Over the weekend I will be writing the section on Aldrich and 21st Century skills. Then, even though there is much more I would like to include, it will be time to pull together this draft of the depth portion of my KAM. I can't wait to move onto the application portion and then onto something new that will build on all of this.

Thanks as always for reading... and a special thanks to those of you who occasionally leave comments or email me about these topics. The feedback and encouragement is appreciated... and motivating.

-Mark

More of Aldrich on RPGs and MMORPGs

Here is a paragraph I am adding to the section I posted yesterday.
Aldrich (2005) did acknowledge the value of role playing games as the “most life like, reflecting the long-term career and life decisions most of us make” (p. 142). He felt they could teach “the scarcity of development opportunities and the absolute need to align development with strategy” (p. 142). He also suggested that during the stage in which learners are fully engaged by a simulation, people are most successful when learning in groups (p. 244). However, he does not consider that MMORPGs might provide a framework for this. When he does discuss the potential of MMORPGs to “teach how to meet strangers and… form deep relationships with which to perform heroic quests carefully balancing each other’s strengths and weaknesses” (p. 142), he is also quick to point out that players can “alternatively cheat, rob, and kill” each other (p. 142).

There is more to come tonight, though work is intense right now... and though New Orleans certainly puts everything in perspective.

-Mark