Why Johnny Can’t Solve Problems  The Problem with US Education and What Video Games Have to Do with It                    ...
“. . . critical thinking . . . is the hallmark of American education . . . .”                                             ...
“With a large sample of more than 2,300 students, we observe nostatistically significant gains in critical thinking, compl...
Why Is This Happening?• Arum & Roksa    Access for All  • Lack of rigor and preparation in high school  ALSO a matter of e...
Typical School Day in the US• Pianta et al., March 30, 2007 (Science,  315)    Learning in grades 1, 3, and 5  • 1,000 stu...
Typical School Day in the US• Content    Basic skills vs. problem solving    • 5:1 for fifth; 10:1 for first & third  • 7%...
The Problem With Problem Solving• What do we MEAN by problem solving?  Do we know how to DO it?• Will our schools SUPPORT ...
Complex Problems & Systems     Is global warming caused by humans?         Are we past the tipping point?    How do we sto...
...or This:         If Train A leaves Boston traveling at 60kph,                             andBoston    Train B leaves C...
WHO CARES?
What IS a Good Problem?• Two critical attributes of any problem (Jonassen, 2002)    The unknown (goal requires generation ...
Games = Problem-Based Learning
Problem-Based Learning• Goal of game is a problem to be solved    Zoo wolves (police) or werewolves (townspeople)• Observe...
Evidence for Games and Problem               Solving• Games are as predictive of academic success as homework is    ETR&D ...
Games & Problem Solving• Games have an unknown and a value to the learner (Jonassen)    Requires short- and long-term goal...
Situated Cognition & Learning                 Length                                    Width   Area of a Rectangle: Lengt...
Games Manage Challenge               Too Hard                  ZPD  Just Right               Too Easy
Problem Solving• Games Promote Question Asking    Improves learning (e.g., Graesser & Person, 1994; Otero & Graesser, 2001...
Engagement                                   Too Hard                                          ZPD                        ...
So What?• So if we want to promote problem solving and critical thinking, we have  to understand:      What problems are  ...
What’s The Problem?• Games and problems are not created equal  • World of Warcraft ≠ Tetris  • Trains A & B ≠ Global Warmi...
Problem Dimensions• If games are problems, will share key problem characteristics• Problems vary along three dimensions   ...
Grids of Interactivity (iGrids)       • How to capture different types of gameplay?       • “The smallest unit of interact...
Action Games• iGrids are archetypes  • Plato  • The ideal  • Does not imply lack of variation• FPS & Sports Games  • Call ...
Simulation Games• Apperley (2006): puts SimCity and sports  games together  • Sports better characterized as Action• Frasc...
iGrids for Other GamesStrategy   Adventure   Role-Playing            Puzzles
Problem Typology• 11 different problem types (Jonassen, 2000)  •   Logical problem  •   Algorithm problem  •   Story probl...
Dimension 3                                                                  Dimension 2                                  ...
Problem-Solving Game                                                                  • Mythical town, secret group solvin...
But Are Schools Ready?
Situating Complex Problems•   Authentic problem solving takes time and crosses domains•   Commercial games and simulations...
Engagement• Not used to designing for engagement• Unknown plus VALUE to the learner in solving• Are we ready to design for...
Individualized Instruction                              Too Hard                                  ZPD                     ...
Parting Thoughts• No exaggeration  Problem solving comes with requirements• No halfway measures  Must acknowledge the impl...
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Why Can't Johnny Solve Problems?

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My presentation on video games, problem solving, and the implications for school reform. Held at The International Benchmarking Conference held on March 2, 2012, in the Atrium Theatre at The Roblin Centre, Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada

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  • In addition to not reaching current generations of students, we also face problems our educational system does not equip students to answer Problems like global warming require the ability to intuit and interact with systems, to use a variety of sophisticated technology (e.g., modeling software and simulations), using and understanding huge data sets and to interact with hundreds if not thousands of colleagues in doing so Where do we get the skills needed to deal with the problems of the 21st century? Not from sitting in seat listening to lecture or working in a workbook
  • In addition to not reaching current generations of students, we also face problems our educational system does not equip students to answer Problems like global warming require the ability to intuit and interact with systems, to use a variety of sophisticated technology (e.g., modeling software and simulations), using and understanding huge data sets and to interact with hundreds if not thousands of colleagues in doing so Where do we get the skills needed to deal with the problems of the 21st century? Not from sitting in seat listening to lecture or working in a workbook
  • Observation, exploration, data collection, hypothesis formulation, test and revise...
  • We’re used to lowest common denominator--Reducing confusion so everyone can get it But even so, we are leaving entire generations behind by assuming (falsely) that 30 kids same knowledge, same pace, same results... 22% dropout rate does not include those who are promoted without true mastery Games and associated strategies would change that, but at what cost? Won’t even make sense to think about grades, per se, but competencies Means some will finish third grade in 2 months, and others will take two years And the digital divide will get even larger and more visible On the other hand, individualized instruction IS the way to ensure that everyone learns what they need to, which is for the best in the long run
  • Problem solving actually has a lot to do with engagement One of the hallmarks of problem solving is this cycle of hypothesis formation, testing, and revision Part of that process results in cognitive disequilibrium--when your expectations are foiled Forces you back through the process Games trigger cognitive disequilibrium--constantly foil expectations (wouldn’t be fun to play, otherwise Of course, what is key to this is making sure the process is not so hard that you give up [CLICK]
  • And a game, like the best learning, does that by keeping us at our optimal level of challenge The do this through a concept called the ZPD first proposed by Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky Describe zone.... Games keep us in ZPD by adjusting challenge up front, building on skills along the way to more complex
  • Not used to designing for engagement Unknown plus VALUE to the learner in solving But real 800 pound gorilla is that engagement (ZPD, CD, etc.) requires individualized instruction
  • We’re used to lowest common denominator--Reducing confusion so everyone can get it But even so, we are leaving entire generations behind by assuming (falsely) that 30 kids same knowledge, same pace, same results... 22% dropout rate does not include those who are promoted without true mastery Games and associated strategies would change that, but at what cost? Won’t even make sense to think about grades, per se, but competencies Means some will finish third grade in 2 months, and others will take two years And the digital divide will get even larger and more visible On the other hand, individualized instruction IS the way to ensure that everyone learns what they need to, which is for the best in the long run
  • Why Can't Johnny Solve Problems?

    1. 1. Why Johnny Can’t Solve Problems The Problem with US Education and What Video Games Have to Do with It The International Benchmarking Conference March 2, 2012 Atrium Theatre, The Roblin Centre Winnipeg Manitoba, Canada Richard Van Eck Associate Professor, University of North Dakota richard.vaneck@und.edu
    2. 2. “. . . critical thinking . . . is the hallmark of American education . . . .” American Association of University Professors, 2005“[Foreign students should take advantage of] the creativity and diversity ofAmerican higher education, its focus on critical thinking, and it unparalleledaccess to world-class research” –Margaret Spellings, US Secretary of Education, 2008“. . . developing a student’s ability to think critically is ‘very important’ or‘essential.’ 99% of college faculty, 2009 Quotations taken from Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum & Josipa Roksa, 2011, University of Chicago, p. 35.
    3. 3. “With a large sample of more than 2,300 students, we observe nostatistically significant gains in critical thinking, complex reasoning, and writingskills for at least 45 percent of the student in our study.” –Arum & Roksa, 2011“. . . analyzing data for more than three thousand students from nineteeninstitutions, this study found that students have made no measurableimprovement in critical thinking skills during their first year in college.” –Wabash National Study of Liberal Arts Education, 2007The United States Ranks 29th of 40 in Percentage of Students at Each Levelof Problem Solving. Only 40% are at or above level 2. –Problem Solving for Tomorrow, PISA 2003Quotations taken from Academically Adrift, by Richard Arum & Josipa Roksa, 2011, University of Chicago, p. 36.
    4. 4. Why Is This Happening?• Arum & Roksa Access for All • Lack of rigor and preparation in high school ALSO a matter of experience in earlier grades
    5. 5. Typical School Day in the US• Pianta et al., March 30, 2007 (Science, 315) Learning in grades 1, 3, and 5 • 1,000 students recruited at birth • 10 cities 2,500 classrooms • 1,000 elementary schools 400 districts
    6. 6. Typical School Day in the US• Content Basic skills vs. problem solving • 5:1 for fifth; 10:1 for first & third • 7% math PS; 11% science Technology: 2%• Richness of methods • Single method • 91% whole-group/independent
    7. 7. The Problem With Problem Solving• What do we MEAN by problem solving? Do we know how to DO it?• Will our schools SUPPORT it?
    8. 8. Complex Problems & Systems Is global warming caused by humans? Are we past the tipping point? How do we stop or reverse the trend?
    9. 9. ...or This: If Train A leaves Boston traveling at 60kph, andBoston Train B leaves Chicago at the same time, traveling at 72kph, then Chicago at what point along their 1628 kilometer journey will they meet? Anyone know the answer?
    10. 10. WHO CARES?
    11. 11. What IS a Good Problem?• Two critical attributes of any problem (Jonassen, 2002) The unknown (goal requires generation of new knowledge) • A value to learner in solving the problem• We’re only half-right No value in the problems we have students solve• Games can tell us a lot about creating value
    12. 12. Games = Problem-Based Learning
    13. 13. Problem-Based Learning• Goal of game is a problem to be solved Zoo wolves (police) or werewolves (townspeople)• Observe & gather information • Explore environment to gather evidence Farm: Fur, paw print • Zoo: Fur, data on animals• Formulate hypotheses Wolves easiest to test • Disprove wolves = evidence for werewolves• Test hypotheses DNA of fur, analysis of paw print disproves wolves, BUT... • ...does not PROVE Werewolves• Revise hypotheses • How to prove or disprove werewolves?
    14. 14. Evidence for Games and Problem Solving• Games are as predictive of academic success as homework is ETR&D Article, in press • Review of Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 • 15,400 grade 10 students across 750 high schools in 2002 & 2004 Evidence for promotion of problem-solving • (e.g., Chen & O’Neil, 2008 ; Fery & Ponserre, 2001; Lee Plass, & Homer, 2006; Van Eck & Dempsey, 2002) Why do they work?
    15. 15. Games & Problem Solving• Games have an unknown and a value to the learner (Jonassen) Requires short- and long-term goal setting • Positive correlation with learning Improves self-efficacy, which is also correlated with learning (Bandura, 1997)
    16. 16. Situated Cognition & Learning Length Width Area of a Rectangle: Length x Width Perimeter of a Rectangle: (Length x 2) + (Width x 2)• Games situate all learning within meaningful, authentic contexts (Situated Cognition, Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989) Goal (unknown) drives everything • Everything learned is relevant and applied
    17. 17. Games Manage Challenge Too Hard ZPD Just Right Too Easy
    18. 18. Problem Solving• Games Promote Question Asking Improves learning (e.g., Graesser & Person, 1994; Otero & Graesser, 2001; Graesser et al., 1999)• Games Generate Cognitive Disequilibrium (Piaget)
    19. 19. Engagement Too Hard ZPD Too Easy• Games Promote Perseverance Through Engagement • Situated problem solving within ZPD
    20. 20. So What?• So if we want to promote problem solving and critical thinking, we have to understand: What problems are • How to design them • How to situate them in meaningful contexts How to promote question asking, cognitive disequilibrium • How to manage challenge • How to promote perseverance• Games are a good strategy and a good model
    21. 21. What’s The Problem?• Games and problems are not created equal • World of Warcraft ≠ Tetris • Trains A & B ≠ Global Warming• Have to know what is going on during gameplay that helps or hinders learning• Have to map problem typology to game typology
    22. 22. Problem Dimensions• If games are problems, will share key problem characteristics• Problems vary along three dimensions • Problem Structuredness • Cognitive Composition/Reasoning Type (logical, analytical, strategic, analogical, systems, metacognitive) • Required Domain Knowledge• Games should vary along the same dimensions• Different types of gameplay should support different types of problems
    23. 23. Grids of Interactivity (iGrids) • How to capture different types of gameplay? • “The smallest unit of interactivity is the choice” (Mark Wolf, 2006)Hung, W., & Van Eck, R. (2010). Aligning problem solving and gameplay: A model for future research and design, In Richard VanEck (Ed) Interdisciplinary models and tools for serious games: Emerging concepts and future directions, Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
    24. 24. Action Games• iGrids are archetypes • Plato • The ideal • Does not imply lack of variation• FPS & Sports Games • Call of Duty and Madden 10? • Superficial “story” is irrelevant • Share key characteristics of gameplay (iGrids), cognitive, structural, and domain requirements
    25. 25. Simulation Games• Apperley (2006): puts SimCity and sports games together • Sports better characterized as Action• Frasca (2003): any game that simulates real-world activities • Makes SimCity and Flight Sim the same game • Flight simulator: Simulation Game (a test of coordination of perception, cognition, and muscular control) • SimCity: Strategy Game (a test of ability to optimize system by strategically balancing factors)
    26. 26. iGrids for Other GamesStrategy Adventure Role-Playing Puzzles
    27. 27. Problem Typology• 11 different problem types (Jonassen, 2000) • Logical problem • Algorithm problem • Story problem • Rule-use problem • Decision-making problem • Troubleshooting problem • Diagnosis-solution problem • Strategic performance problem • Case analysis problem • Design problem • Dilemma problem• Most-least structure; Least-most complexity• Have to understand what KIND of problem solving we are interested in
    28. 28. Dimension 3 Dimension 2 Domain Cognitive Composition KnowledgeLeast<===Structure===>Most Dimension 1 Hung, W., & Van Eck, R. (2010). Aligning problem solving and gameplay: A model for future research and design, In Richard Van Eck (Ed) Interdisciplinary models and tools for serious games: Emerging concepts and future directions, Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
    29. 29. Problem-Solving Game • Mythical town, secret group solving ecological problems • NSES • Scientific Problem Solving • Scientific method + Engineering method • Identify problems, propose solutions, get buy-in, implement, evaluate*Van Eck, R. Hung, W., Bowman, F., & Love, S. (2010). 21st Century Game Design: A Model and Prototype for PromotingScientific Problem Solving. Proceedings of the International Association of Science and Technology for Development’s annualComputers and Advanced Technology in Education conference, November 22–24, 2009, US Virgin Islands, Calgary, Canada:
    30. 30. But Are Schools Ready?
    31. 31. Situating Complex Problems• Authentic problem solving takes time and crosses domains• Commercial games and simulations are expensive• Educational games and simulations are few and far between• Are we ready for 4-hour cross-disciplinary blocks?• Are we ready to invest in training and interactive models?
    32. 32. Engagement• Not used to designing for engagement• Unknown plus VALUE to the learner in solving• Are we ready to design for value, relevance, and engagement?
    33. 33. Individualized Instruction Too Hard ZPD Too Easy• Lowest Common Denominator• Optimizing challenge means working at different pace• Are we ready for some to finish 3rd grade in 2 months, others in 2
    34. 34. Parting Thoughts• No exaggeration Problem solving comes with requirements• No halfway measures Must acknowledge the implications and design accordingly

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