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Game based learning and intrinsic motivation


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An unpublished paper for MSIDT graduate program at Cal State Fullerton University about learning through games

Published in: Education, Technology
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Game based learning and intrinsic motivation

  1. 1. Running head: GAME-BASED LEARNNG 1 Game-based Learning and Intrinsic Motivation Kristi Mead California State University, Fullerton IDT 520, Section 09 April 15, 2011 Mr. Jim Schools
  2. 2. GAME-BASED LEARNING 2 Abstract In an address to students at TechBoston Academy, a public technology and college prep school in Massachusetts, President Obama declared, “Im calling for investments in educational technology that will help create...educational software that is as compelling as the best video game. I want you guys to be stuck on a video game thats teaching you something other (than) blowing something up” (Huffington Post, 2011) Game-based learning is inherently engaging. The instructional designer is charged with the task of developing games that not only compel and entertain the learner, but also teach through role play and other techniques that tap into the intrinsic motivation of the learner. The aim of this paper is to explore the possible effects on intrinsic motivation of students who use computer-based games as a learning tool.
  3. 3. GAME-BASED LEARNING 3 The Implications of Game-based Learning in Education Introduction Technology has swept through education at the speed of light, and much to the chagrin ofmany educators. Surprisingly, there are still teachers who believe that the delivery of classroominstruction should remain as it was before computers entered the educational arena. It isunderstandable that some educators feel unable to keep up with all of the changes that the newgenerations bring with them. However, students are growing up in a world that is vastly differentthan that of their teachers, and its vital for the educational success of students that the delivery ofinstruction be relevant to the world outside of the classroom. Game-based learning is a natural evolution from traditional methods of teaching, whichinclude static, non-interactive elements, such as textbooks, chalkboards, and lecturing atstudents rather than exploring with students. Games in education provide a vehicle by whichstudents can explore, solve problems, attempt challenges, make decisions, and educational gamescontribute to learning broadly. The author posits that students who use digital media, in the formof educational games, will have a deeper content understanding and a longer retention rate of thecourse material than those that employ traditional methods of lesson delivery. Game Design for Project-based Learning Games are an interactive way to compel players to take a deliberate role in their learningexperience. Project-based learning (PBL) is a key element in games, whereby students can stepinto the roles of characters as they navigate through the game scenarios. Students are challengedto solve problems, think critically, make choices and face consequences. Project-BasedLearning has been heralded by some as a major development in education (Gijbels, Dochy, Vanden Bossche, and Segers, 2005). Though much of the research is conducted in the context of
  4. 4. GAME-BASED LEARNING 4higher education, and, indeed, in medical schools, with students who are more sophisticatedlearners than the K-12 population, it seems reasonable that some of the basic principles wouldapply. Waks and Sabag (2004) compared traditional methods of instruction with a PBL approachincorporating technology to examine the influence on student achievement finding that studentsemploying the PBL approach outscored their classmates using traditional methods, supportingthe principle that the more students are engaged, the better they understand the course content,and that better understanding translates into higher test scores. Group dynamics may be anotherimportant consideration in designing a successful PBL module, but there does not seem to bemuch in the way of a clear picture in the literature. For example, Song, and Grabowski (2006)looked at how design and implementation affected student motivation, while Goldstein andPuntambekar (2004) examined the role of gender in technology rich collaborative learningenvironments, but neither study was able to produce significant differences between groups.Lastly, Cognitive Load Theory (CLT) seems to offer promise especially to instructional designers(van Merriënboer, J., and Ayres, P. 2005), as it details how a buffer memory, with limitedcapacity to absorb new information, and a long-term memory, essentially unlimited, worktogether to create expertise in an individual through the creation of cognitive schemas. Such amodel can be used to make predictions about how students learn best, opening the door for anintelligent use of technology to reduce the cognitive processing load, with the payoff of makingsome previously impossible tasks now possible, while turning other tasks into easier ones. Yet, studies show that caution must be used in employing technology in an undisciplinedway. Schnotz and Rasch (2005) considered how animation improves learning. Among otherthings, they found that animation can have a negative effect on learning, especially if it reducesessential processing required for a student to make deeper connections. In fact, interactivity, too,
  5. 5. GAME-BASED LEARNING 5added haphazardly, may actually inhibit learning. Moreno and Valdez (2005) found that theaddition of an interaction component (where participants had to arrange a random sequence inthe correct order before going on to the next step) did not help participants score higher—therewas either no significant effect or a negative one where students with interaction scored lowerthan their non-interaction counterparts. The interactive component did not engage students, itwas simply a distractor. Personalized Learning Games allow a learner to work at his or her own pace in safe environments. Even failurecan provide feedback and motivation for the learner to master difficult tasks. Role-playinggames are a powerful way for students to view the different sides and nuances of circumstancesthat tend to be linear and one-sided in textbooks. For example, Mission U.S. - For Crown orGlory ( is an interactive game in which the player takes on thepersona of Nate Wheeler, a 15 year old print shop apprentice in Boston, Massachusetts during thetime preceding the Boston Massacre. The main character interacts with a variety of fictional andhistorical figures in the game. Each interaction requires the player to make decisions and takeactions that determine where his loyalties lie. Mission U.S. - For Crown or Colony ©2010. Produced by THIRTEEN
  6. 6. GAME-BASED LEARNING 6 Game-based learning also has the capacity to foster a sense of community and globalawareness. Games sites, such as Persuasion Games ( havedesigned activities to promote activism. The description for Persuasion Games is, “We design,build, and distribute video games for persuasion, instruction, and activism.” One such game is“Points of Entry: An Immigration Challenge.” In this particular challenge, players compete toaward Green Cards under the Merit-Based Evaluation System included in legislation recentlydebated in Congress. There are numerous games that cover a wide variety of subjects having todo with nutrition, science, economics, policy, and current events. © Persuasive Games LLC. All rights reserved. Another game in which the player takes on the role of the lead character isMulti-player Online Role-playing Games The presupposition is that interactive learning environments cause learners to constructmeaningful knowledge by interacting with narrative content through any number of game genres,including role-playing, strategy, adventure, and others (Dickey, 2006). Competition is a strongintrinsic motivator, whether the competition is with other players, the computer or oneself.However, role-playing games are considered highly social. An emerging genre in the gamingworld is massively multi-player online role-playing (MMORP) games for learning. In this type
  7. 7. GAME-BASED LEARNING 7of game, many players participate simultaneously over the Internet requiring collaboration andstrategic planning. MMORP games for education are still in the research and developmentstages, but most readers will be familiar with the concept as it is used in various popular gamessuch as World of Warcraft, Halo, and many others. It is expected that MMORP games willappear in the education realm in 4-5 years (New Media Consortium, 2011). The highlyinteractive learning environment of MMORP games provides many opportunities for criticalthinking, collaborating and strategic planning with other learners. The virtual environments canbe fantasy simulated reality. MMORP games contain elements that foster intrinsic motivation,such as discourse with other characters or learners sharing the environment, a 3D rendering of thecharacters and environment, choices (i.e.,character to role-play and discourse), interactivechallenges, and multiple genders and species, to name a few (Dickey, 2007). To successfullyconstruct knowledge, the player must have the opportunity to explore and manipulate objects inthe scenes. The social environment of an MMORP supports social negotiating, decision makingskills, and reflection. Assessments Lee Sheldon, a professor of game design at Indiana University, has stopped handing outgrades and instead is assessing students by “experience points (xp).” Sheldon uses the ideastaught in his class to create a game environment. At the beginning of each term, he starts hisstudents at 0 xp. Students have opportunities to earn points by completing quizzes and soloprojects. The professor attributes the use of game terms to a highly motivated group because theterms are associated with fun and not education (Toor, 2010). Another proponent of using gamesto assess learners is Clark Alderich, a blogger for The Unschooling Rules. In his article,Assessment + MMORPG + Real World Challenges: How the MESH Will Change Education
  8. 8. GAME-BASED LEARNING 8(2011) he outlines the many benefits of assessing learners through the use of MMORPGs. Byusing a similar method to the one used by Sheldon, Alderich believes that players should earnpoints toward degrees and received detailed assessments outline the learners strength andweakness, as well as industry preferences. Aldrich opines that assessments would be “real anddynamic,” and would always stay current and adaptive. Assessing learning through games wouldprove that a learner has constructed knowledge, regardless of the method by which a learnergained that knowledge. Learning is scaffolded, and the days of regurgitating information fromrote memory would be eliminated. Learning would take place on a much deeper level. Discussion Additional research may pursue the traits of optimal game-based learning, the adaptationof educational games to other subjects, or perhaps the differences in brain functioning betweengamers and traditional students. Game designers have been successful in creating games that arenot only intrinsically motivating, but some are down right addicting (Susaeta et al., 2010). Theimplication of games in education is far reaching. Used in conjunction with brain-basedresearch, motivation theory, and instructional design expertise, games will likely change the faceof education. It may prove useful for educators and instructional designers to work together todevelop game-based, interactive learning environments that are engaging for all students. Game-based learning will enable students to take ownership of their learning experience and connectwith information in a way that traditional methods simply cannot.
  9. 9. GAME-BASED LEARNING 9 ReferencesAldrich, C. (2011, February 24). Assessment + MMORPG + Real World Challenges: How the MESH Will Change Education, The Bog of Unschooling Rules, Retrieved from challenges.htmAlessi, S. M. & Trollip, S.R. (2001). Multimedia for Learning: Methods and Developments, Needham Heights, MASS: PearsonDickey, M. D. (2006, June). Game Design Narrative for Learning: Appropriating Adventure Game Design Narrative Devices and techniques for the Design of Interactive Learning Environments, Educational Technology Research and Development, (Vol. 54, No. 3, pp. 245-263), New York, NY: SpringerDickey, M. D. (2007, June) Game Design and Learning: Ac Conjectural Analysis of How Massively Online Role-playing Games (MMORPGs) Foster Intrinsic Motivation, Educational Technology Research and Development, (Vol. 55, No. 3, pp. 245-263), New York, NY: SpringerGershenfeld, A. (2011, April 4). Game Based Learning: Hype vs. Reality. The Huffington Post. Retrieved from education_b_843001.html Gijbels, D., Dochy, F., Van den Bossche, P., & Segers, M. (2005). Effects of Problem-Based Learning: A Meta-Analysis from the Angle of Assessment. Review of Educational Research 75(1), 27-61.Goldstein, J., & Puntambekar, S. (2004). The Brink of Change: Gender in Technology-Rich Collaborative Learning Environments. Journal of Science Education and Technology 13(4), 505-522.Moreno, R., & Valdez, A. (2005). Cognitive Load and Learning Effects of Having Students Organize Pictures and Words in Multimedia Environments: The Role of Student Interactivity and Feedback. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(3), 35-45.New Media Cornsortium, The. (2011). The Horizon Report: 2011 Edition. Retrieved from, W., & Rasch, T. (2005). Enabling, Facilitating, and Inhibiting Effects of Animations in Multimedia Learning: Why Reduction of Cognitive Load Can Have Negative Results on Learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(3), 47-58.Song, H., & Grabowski, B. (2006). Stimulating Intrinsic Motivation for Problem Solving Using Goal-Oriented Contexts and Peer Group Composition. Educational Technology Research and Development, 54(5), 445-466.Susaeta, H., Jimenez, F., Nussbaum, M., Gajardo, I., Andreu, J. J., & Villalta, M. (2010). From MMORPG to a Classroom Multiplayer Presential Role Playing Game. Educational T echnology & Society, (Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 257–269).Toor, A. (2010, March 26). Prof Subs Grades for Experience Points, Presentations With Quests, Retrieved from points-presentations-with-quest/van Merriënboer, J., & Ayres, P. (2005). Research on Cognitive Load Theory and Its Design
  10. 10. GAME-BASED LEARNING10 Implications for E-Learning. Educational Technology Research and Development, 53(3), 5-13.Waks, S., & Sabag, N. (2004). Technology Project Learning versus Lab Experimentation. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 13(3), 333-342.