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Games for Instruction?

dialog between Val Shute and Dick Clark

[full disclosure, the main note taker is a games person and about as subversive to education as can be]

Dick Clark

1. What is a game? 2. Cognitive Load in games 3. Motivation 4. Research

1. issue: No agreement on what a game is. [Is there an agreement on what a school is?]

[Arguing that games aren’t useful for classrooms is like arguing that art and film and books aren’t useful for classrooms. Wouldn’t it depend on the details of use, which films, etc. were being used, how, when, with whom, covering what, how integrated, how facilitated, etc?]

No solid evidence of learning from games. Sitzmann’s meta analysis concludes that there is no evidence of benefits in games.

[meta analyses have the same problem as quantitative research or survey research. Details are *lost*. There’s definitely good cases where something is done through games that cannot be done without. Those should be highlighted and the crap should be ditched. But to lump it all together and then say it’s all useless is pretty bold.]

<covering PSLC Instructional Princicples> [I think PSLC here is Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center]

2. Games add too much cognitive load for kids.

[Isn’t cognitive load medium neutral? You can have a really horribly designed book. We’re more familiar than books maybe? but then this point is moot in like 5 years.]

[Games are not art to Clark. Let’s strip away the extraneous stuff in the Mona Lisa, too. Isn’t all we care about the smile? If we erase the rest of the painting, students can then see the essence of the smile.]

3. No peer-reviewed studies comparing motivational benefits of serious games.

Caution: Serious games may result in less mental effort invested in learning because they scaffold too much (Solomon, 1984).

Can use game-like things in non-game environments. e.g., add competition to other classroom activities.

4. Distressed that games are being put into a separate category of research. It’s instructional research.

Need agreement on what a game is. Need pre and post tests and motivation measures. What are variables in game that aren’t in other instruction? Let’s look specifically at those.

Comparison research is often the intervention vs. a straw man. Advocate researchers with competing ideas to collaborate to design robust As and Bs.

Games researchers need to reveal direct or indirect connections to income from games.

Valerie Shute

Playing “good” games can enhance learning, but what exactly is a good game, what is being learned, how can these claims be substantiated?

Start with neurological evidence.

<showed images of people playing vs. kids in classrooms... just propaganda>

claim 1: Good games can act as transformative experiences.

claim 2: [I missed claim 2]

McGonigal: “Games are unnecessary obstacles that we choose to overcome.”

[Others could argue that the agentive choice is blurry. Huizinga (or actually cf. Dibbell’s take on Huizinga) might argue that societal rules pose a game for us to participate in... we more or less chose these rules, but individuals are basically forced or positioned into the game.]

All games require constant interaction between player and game, and they provide a problem to be solved.

Games provide goals, both implicit and explicit.

Games provide adaptive challenge.

[So far... are these unique to games? Val earlier argued that what good games provide can be done without games but it’s much more difficult to implement.]

[She just claimed that there aren’t many gamers in the room. Looking around, I’d guess that’s true. Most of the games scholars are over this debate... like 5 years ago.]

Games provide bonus goals.

Games give implicit and explicit feedback.

Games outcome are uncertain.

[So far, I’m finding Val’s argument a little too proselytizing without much evidence.]

Games are most aligned with constructivism and situated learning.

Games are faceted and don’t fit easily into a hole or narrow view of learning.

Games don’t lend themselves to post-game testing, as those external tests sort of go against the essence of situated learning.

[started dividing my attention here with other web stuff]

<example with Barab’s Taiga Park>

<example with Squire’s Supercharged (while he was at EducationArcade at MIT with Jenkins)>

<example of NIU-Torcs (Coller & Scott, 2009)>

<example of another QA game, Barab’s Modern Prometheus>

Transfer: kindness transfers. Prosocial Games & Behavior (Gentile et al., 2009) random assigned prosocial game, neutral game, or violent game more effect from prosocial game

Motivation: there’s a ton of stuff in *and* around games where people share and participate in a larger community

[showed off Foldit and WoW, btw, two games I study]

argues for design-based research instead of pre- post-tests [agree... games seem more aligned with learning sciences than cog sci.]

Clark’s rebuttal

Agrees with a lot of what Shute says is good in games, but isn’t convinced that games provide sole avenue to those things. Would like to see more cost-benefit analyses. Learner control over pacing may be good, but learner control over navigation is always bad. Discovery learning is not as effective as showing people how to do something. [games provide context, though...] Really emphasizes that games have too much cognitive load.

[When I think about new games, I get excited about their complexity. I like how when I launch a new Civ-like or RPG and I get to the tech tree or the character creation screen or in Fallout 3 when you leave the vault, suddenly there’s this huuuuge world that you see only tiny bit of. It’s overwhelming but exhilarating. Shouldn’t we encourage students to welcome that destabilization rather than just go through a series of learning progressions?]

Shute’s rebuttal Games are defined. Sitzmann’s meta-analysis contained decades old games and passive simulations. There have been peer-reviewed studies on motivation in games. Games can be cheap to make these days (using things like Unity, etc.). Teachers can use off-the-shelf games.

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