Conceptual Limits of Games in Education Playful Learning Conference 2014


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Gameplay is essentially a conceptual activity. However, entertaining games use First Order Concepts while educational requires Second Order Concepts. The two are often incompatible and thus reveal the medium's limitations for educational use. Only by reconciling this incompatibility can games for education make progress.

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  • Almost spiritual – gameplay provides an experience in and of itself.
    Tangential correlates are like being in a line at an amusement park. Not to jump to far ahead but in educational games these correlates tend to dominate which aren’t really games functions, gaming parts aren’t often educational and we’ll explore why that is.
  • Flow is an experience that is in a sense without time. Require total immersion and focus. Pleasant experience (although doesn’t have to be)
  • This is a game’s real strength. It is a system that demands a cybernetic interaction. It does something and then the user HAS to do something in response (a specific response). Nothing else educational works like this. Books / Video is undemanding. People even are flexbibly demanding….people operate with ambiguos responses…any teacher of undergraduates knows about unresponsiveness.
  • Philosophers have been arguing about concepts for since the beginning of philosophy. Plato. Aristotle, Kant all argue about the source of a concept. The important thing is that these are critical to our cognition.
  • Second order concepts = means for further ends
  • Conceptual Limits of Games in Education Playful Learning Conference 2014

    2. 2. About concepts  Concepts have definitions, however, definitions are merely summaries of concepts, to “know” a concept is to be able to take action on it.  Entities have attributes which may or may not assist in conceptualization  Attributes that assist one in discriminating one concept from another are called Conceptual Common Denominators  Cues are hints that assist one in conceptualization  Examples are critical to learning a concept (the more the better)  Easy examples are prototypical  Hard examples are the extremes
    3. 3. How to teach a concept Provide a definition (logical first step, but often a hindrance) Provide examples of the concept Provide non-examples Give learner opportunity categorize concept Provide feedback Provide more examples of the concept Provide more examples of the concept Demonstrate hierarchy of the concept  (super-ordinate, co-ordinate, sub-ordinate)
    4. 4. The Gaming Hypothesis Commercial gameplay is infinitely malleable and leads to a flow experience THUS Education gameplay is infinitely malleable and leads to a flow experience.  However, I argue that this is not the case  Requires a close examination of the components and supposition of this argument (your consent is dependent upon your agreement) Revised hypothesis  Educational gameplay has limited utility in current manifestation, other digital corollaries have potential
    5. 5. What is commercial gameplay? Interaction Means is the end.  No ends beyond itself Creation of “Flow” experience Non-gaming correlates (my characterization)  Video  Strategy  Logistics Core = think arcade style
    6. 6. Macrostructure of a game conceptual transaction Subject identity  “My ship” (my base, me) Identification  “Missile” (finger, pointer) Object entity  “Alien” (target, concept) If you have an educational activity that requires identification and volume then games should be ideal. BUT….
    7. 7. What is flow? Anxiety Arousal Worry Apathy Boredom Relaxation Control 1/8 of the possibilities
    8. 8. What is interaction in gameplay Identification  Stimulus / Response  Association  Identity property  Conceptualization  Hierarchical structure
    9. 9. What is malleability? Ability to change ….infinitely  Association is limited (most games) – limited educational value  Speed  Volume  Size  Conceptualization (better games) – slightly less limited educational value  Add subconcepts  As well (speed, volume, size)  Artificiality of the concepts  Hierarchy
    10. 10. Old School New School
    11. 11. Claim: Gameplay at its best is a conceptual transaction  Categorization is the foundation of conceptualization.  Conceptualization is how we know the world  It is the mental integration of two or more entities into a single unit  Almost any term can be considered a concept (dog, democracy, pasta, table)  Concepts are mental short hand, they help us “chunk” phenomena information  Characteristics of concepts  Hierarchical  Infinite  Differentiated on “Conceptual Common Denominator”  Game elements aren’t merely unique entities….they are instances of classes. Interacting with them requires a conceptual transaction.
    12. 12. To make DDA’s you simply refine the concept Require player to make finer discriminations amongst concept stimuli (speed, pitch, shape, hue, movement, grue-ability, association, etc.) Require player to making association based on numerous concepts Require the player to make finer response
    13. 13. First-order concepts First-order concepts are fictions that have no apparent usefulness beyond their ability to be identified; they have unity and little else. Their advantage is that they are endlessly malleable. There are no logical constraints on their manipulation. An infinite number of Dynamic Difficulty Adjustments are possible. In other words, first-order concepts are created for no other purpose than gameplay.
    14. 14. Second-order concepts Concepts that are required in reality are second-order concepts. Second-order concepts are not malleable, they are what they are because the describe entities that must be known, classified and identified in real-world transactions. To know them one must respond to them in set and established ways and that restricts the degree of freedom allowed in their use and application. Democracy Idealism Kantian Thrifty
    15. 15. Instructional dilemma First-order concepts are those MANUFACTURED for gameplay. Second-order concepts are those that must be ACCOMODATED for gameplay.
    16. 16. Instructional dilemma First-order concepts are those MANUFACTURED for gameplay.  Proven to be a viable avenue for fun and flow Second-order concepts are those that must be ACCOMODATED for gameplay.  Still work in progress, educational and fun is largely elusive  How many educational games outsell commercial games?  How many educational games provide clear learning goals?  How many fan communities exist around educational games?  How many educational games are played more than commercial games.  We either don’t know how or the medium won’t support it.
    17. 17. Advice  Avoid educational gameplay with second-order concepts  Learn to create DDA work with fewer degrees of freedom  It isn’t that second-order concepts can’t be placed in gameplay, just that making DDA do not have infinite degrees of freedom.  Focus on concrete concepts  Think economics  Could learners learn the same content faster and cheaper otherwise?  Watch out for corollary encroachment  Find where games can contribute and where they can’t
    18. 18.  We either don’t YET know how to make educational games YET  OR  the medium won’t support education.