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Using video games for educational purposes



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Using video games for educational purposes

  1. 1. Using video games for educational purposes Sonya Milly Educational Studies, Concordia University Photo credit: from The Movies , Lionhead Studios
  2. 2. Intended Audience <ul><li>This presentation is intended to serve as a brief overview and stepping stone for </li></ul><ul><li>educators who have limited or no expertise in using videogames as teaching tools, but who would like to explore their pedagogical value. </li></ul><ul><li>individuals interested in the use of video games in formal educational settings from an educational theory perspective. </li></ul>
  3. 3. Overview <ul><li>The case for and against using videogames in classrooms </li></ul><ul><li>Learning through videogames </li></ul><ul><li>Teaching with videogames </li></ul>
  4. 4. Research rationale (i) <ul><li>There is a need to equip teachers with new pedagogical approaches and curriculum frameworks so that students and teachers can benefit from technological advances afforded by new media. </li></ul><ul><li>(de Castells, Bryson and Jenson, 2001; Barrell, 2001; Hawisher and Selfe, 1997, 1999; Klopfer, Osterweil and Salen, 2009; Kress 2000; Leu and Kinzer, 2000; Snyder, 2002; Tyner, 1998; Yee, 2001). </li></ul>
  5. 5. Research rationale (ii) <ul><li>Current and emerging research is showing that video games can be powerful learning and teaching tools. </li></ul><ul><li>(Becker, 2007a, 2007b; Gee, 2003; Gibson, Aldrich, & Prensky, 2007; Johnson, 2005, Sanford and Madill, 2007) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Research rationale (iii) <ul><li>Yet, little guidance on how to adapt teaching practices to benefit from technological innovation such as commercial video games is available. </li></ul><ul><li>(de Castells, Bryson, and Jenson, 2001; Gee, Hull and Lankshear, 1996; OECD 2001; Ng, 2006; Nixon, Atkinson and Beavis, 2006; Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, and Gee, 2005; Van Heertum and Share, 2006) </li></ul>
  7. 7. Research questions (i) <ul><ul><li>What are the potential benefits and concerns related to using video games in classrooms? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2. What theoretical frameworks, games-based teaching methods, and resources are available to inform and guide teachers’ practices in using video games in classrooms? </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Approach <ul><li>A literature review of theoretical frameworks and games-based teaching methods suitable for K-12 levels. </li></ul><ul><li>An online search of resource support sites for teachers using video games. </li></ul>
  9. 9. The case for using video games as pedagogical tools (i) <ul><li>Research is showing that games-based teaching and learning </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Expands children’s engagement with written and visual texts, images and sounds (e.g., multisensory learning). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Leads to new forms of literacy (e.g., multimodal literacy, games literacy). </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Serves as a precursor to facilitate learning of other computer and technology domains as well as the learning of higher-order cognitive skills. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>(Gee, 2003) </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. The case for (ii) <ul><li>Using video games in the classroom can </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make learning more engaging, meaningful and relevant to those who have grown up with and value technology. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>2. Allow young people to build upon technological skills developed through leisure activities. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>3. Meet curricula requirements to actively incorporate technology in school activities. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Gee, 2003) </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. The case for (iii) <ul><li>Using video games in the classroom can bridge the gap between </li></ul><ul><li>Technology-savvy young people and their teachers. </li></ul><ul><li>Formal traditional schooling and out-of-school learning. </li></ul><ul><li>3. Those who can afford technology at home and those who cannot. (Gee, 2003) </li></ul>
  12. 12. The case for (iv) <ul><li>Educational and cultural theorists stress the importance of play in childhood learning. (Piaget,1951; Bruner,1966; Huizinga, 1950) </li></ul><ul><li>Media-inspired play, such as videogames, occurs alongside or within other forms of imaginative play (e.g., Animé). </li></ul><ul><li>(Weber and Dixon, 2007; Ito, 2008) </li></ul>
  13. 13. The case for (v) <ul><li>Children’s principal access to computers is through the world of video games. </li></ul><ul><li>(Papert, 1993; Buckingham, 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>Children begin to learn through games and their play activities. Why disrupt or remove this effective learning process from formal education? (Rieber, 1996). </li></ul>
  14. 14. The case against using video games for educational purposes (i) <ul><li>Using video games in classrooms is controversial due to their alleged potential to </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Increase violent and addictive behaviors </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Promote social isolation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Anderson, 2005; Jenkins, 2005, 2006; Walsh, 2001) </li></ul>
  15. 15. However, evidence supporting this view is increasingly questioned. <ul><li>1. Most research concerning videogames stems from media effects studies. </li></ul><ul><li>Content analysis - the methodology commonly used in media effects studies - is increasingly considered of limited value because it isolates media content from its historical, cultural, and social contexts, rendering it inadequate to explore new media. </li></ul><ul><li>(Buckingham, 2006; Goldstein, 2005; Tyner, 1998) </li></ul>
  16. 16. Evidence increasingly questioned <ul><li>The highly collaborative nature of many video games played in online environments ‘strongly refutes’ the thesis that playing computer or video games is a solitary or anti-social activity. </li></ul><ul><li>(Buckingham, 2006; Livingstone and Bovill, 1999) </li></ul>
  17. 17. Evidence increasingly questioned <ul><li>The culture surrounding video games (e.g., gaming communities) plays a significant role in helping young people develop interpersonal relationships and serves as a platform for knowledge exchange. </li></ul><ul><li>(Gee, 2003; Dixon and Weber, 2007; Ito, 2008; Jenkins, 2006) </li></ul>
  18. 18. <ul><li>Learning through video games </li></ul>
  19. 19. My findings (i) <ul><li>The learning that takes place in video games results from staying ‘in the flow’ and active engagement. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The highly interactive nature of video games make them fascinating and fun. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Prensky, 2006) </li></ul>
  20. 20. Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow Theory of Optimal Experience <ul><ul><li>A state of flow comes from immersion, intense concentration and enjoyment. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>As flow increases, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> attitudes improve </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> anxiety diminishes </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> creativity heightens </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li> problem-solving skills strengthen </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>(McMillan, 2006) </li></ul>
  21. 21. Malone’s four criteria of engagement <ul><li>For a game to be motivating, it requires the right blend of: </li></ul><ul><li> challenge </li></ul><ul><li> curiosity </li></ul><ul><li> fantasy </li></ul><ul><li> control </li></ul><ul><li>The right balance of these ingredients builds players’ intrinsic motivation that, in turn, entices learning. </li></ul><ul><li>(Akilli, 2007) </li></ul>
  22. 22. Findings (ii) <ul><li>Active learning from video game play comes from: </li></ul><ul><li>experiencing the world in new ways, </li></ul><ul><li>forming new associations, and </li></ul><ul><li>results in the acquisition of resources and knowledge that prepares for future learning in other domains. </li></ul><ul><li>(Gee, 2003) </li></ul>
  23. 23. Findings (iii) <ul><li>People learn a variety of valuable skills playing video games. </li></ul><ul><li>Socializing skills </li></ul><ul><li>Life skills </li></ul><ul><li>Strategizing skills </li></ul><ul><li>Collaborative skills </li></ul><ul><li>Problem-solving skills </li></ul><ul><li>Decision making skills </li></ul><ul><li>Social values </li></ul>
  24. 24. Findings (iv) <ul><li>Video game play develops several types of intelligence </li></ul><ul><li>For instance, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>the visually rich 3-D environments build spatial intelligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>musical scores and sound-effect elements that enhance play and enjoyment help develop musical intelligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>requirements for players to become part of the virtual world (physically, emotionally, and visually) contribute to kinesthetic intelligence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(Becker, 2007a) </li></ul></ul>
  25. 25. Findings (v) <ul><li>Commercial video games meet the needs of various learning styles. </li></ul><ul><li>For instance, </li></ul><ul><li>Players with concrete learning needs find the support they seek through game feedback mechanisms. </li></ul><ul><li>Abstract learners are able to actualize and test their theories in virtual environments. </li></ul><ul><li>(Becker, 2007a; Gregorc, 1985) </li></ul>
  26. 26. Finding (iv) <ul><li>Playing video games fosters numerous types of learning </li></ul><ul><li>For instance, </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Role-playing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Learning from mistakes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Experimental learning </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Self-directed learning (e.g., task-based, goal-based) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Problem-based learning </li></ul></ul><ul><li>(Akilli, 2007; Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2006; Royle, 2008) </li></ul>
  27. 27. Example - experimental learning <ul><li>Experimental learning calls for learners to have concrete experiences, reflect on their experiences and observations, and then actively experiment with new ideas and situations. </li></ul><ul><li>(Kolb and Fry, 1975) </li></ul><ul><li> Video game environments support risk-taking, exploration and experimentation with minimum consequences. </li></ul><ul><li>(Becker, 2007a) </li></ul>
  28. 28. <ul><li>Teaching with video games </li></ul>
  29. 29. My findings (i) <ul><li>Very few instructional design models or guidelines for creating game-like learning environments exist. </li></ul><ul><li>(Akilli and Cagiltay, 2006; Bates, 2000; Morrison and Aldrich, 2003 ) </li></ul>
  30. 30. Findings (ii) <ul><li>However, many well-known pedagogical theories, models, and approaches are as relevant and as well supported when applied to commercial videogames as when there are applied to classroom settings. </li></ul><ul><li>(Becker, 2007a, 2007b, 2008; Gibson, Aldrich, & Prensky, 2007; Rieber, 1996) </li></ul>
  31. 31. Learning theories and teaching models that apply to games <ul><li>Gardner’s theory of ‘multiple intelligences’ </li></ul><ul><li>Reigeluth’s elaboration theory </li></ul><ul><li>Gagné’s ‘nine events of instruction’ </li></ul><ul><li>Bruner’s psycho-cultural approach to education </li></ul><ul><li>Merrill’s ‘first principles of instruction’ </li></ul><ul><li>Story telling </li></ul><ul><li>(Becker, 2007a) </li></ul>
  32. 32. Example 1 - Reigeluth’s Major Strategy Components … applied to games (Teacher Talk) (Translation) An elaboration sequence <ul><li>Well-paced, simple-to-complex sequence progression </li></ul>Learning prerequisite sequences <ul><li>Tutorial/practice mode </li></ul><ul><li>Players only advance from one level to the next when specific challenges have been met and specific status acquired. </li></ul>Summary <ul><li>Game’s “tab sheet” that tracks players’ accomplishments and discoveries </li></ul>Analogies <ul><li>Players create their own analogies by identifying common approaches , tactics and characteristics amongst similar game genres or earlier sequels </li></ul>Cognitive strategies <ul><li>Players’ desire to discover the game’s requisite strategies needed to beat the game move players through planed experiences </li></ul>Learner control <ul><li>Seemingly infinite choices for players </li></ul><ul><li>Individual decision-making within the game’s designed perimeter. </li></ul>
  33. 33. Example 2 - Video games allow players to learn about, and participate in, great stories and myths. (Kelman, 2005). Photo credit: Hulu
  34. 34. Findings (iii) <ul><li>Theories that influence videogame designers may help educators adjust their teaching methods in ways that enhance learning outcomes in the classroom. </li></ul><ul><li>(e.g., Flow theory of optimal experience) </li></ul><ul><li>(Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2006, Van Eck, 2007) </li></ul>
  35. 35. Findings (iv) <ul><li>Students and teachers can benefit from video games, even without their direct </li></ul><ul><li>use in the classroom by: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>incorporating them in class discussions, and </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>by drawing upon the many learning principles captured in the design of video games. </li></ul></ul>
  36. 36. Conclusion No.1 <ul><li>The success of video games as teaching tools remains largely un-established. </li></ul><ul><li>(Akilli, 2007; Buckingham, 2006) </li></ul><ul><li>The extent to which games influence students’ learning in a positive way remains unknown. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Games are amongst the least used technology application in education. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There is a “lack of available well-designed research studies” about teaching and learning with video games (Akilli, 2007, p.6). </li></ul></ul><ul><li>The field of education has a longstanding wariness of the value of games for instructional purposes (Rieber, 1996). </li></ul>
  37. 37. Conclusion No. 2 <ul><li>Teachers (pre-service and practicing) need opportunities to experiment with video games, as well as fora to discuss their experiences and concerns with peers. </li></ul><ul><li>(Schrader, Zheng, and Young, 2006; Squire, 2005) </li></ul>
  38. 38. Conclusion No. 3 <ul><li>To integrate videogames into teaching practices, educators will need to: </li></ul><ul><li>See concrete examples of the educational benefit of videogames. </li></ul><ul><li>Have assurance that methods supporting the use of video games are pedagogically sound. </li></ul><ul><li>Have adequate support available (e.g., institutional, industry, technical). </li></ul><ul><li>(Gibson, Aldrich, and Prensky, 2007; Wright and Vongalis Macrow, 2006; Wright, 2009) </li></ul>
  39. 39. Conclusion No. 4 <ul><li>Video game design and play exemplify sound learning theories </li></ul><ul><li>Look at what is educational about successful video games. </li></ul><ul><li>Try to make teaching practices as game-like as possible. </li></ul><ul><li>(Gee, 2003; Becker, 2007a, 2007b; Prensky, 2006) </li></ul>
  40. 40. Recommend strategies (i) <ul><li>Make maximum use of resource support websites dedicated to digital game-based learning and teaching. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Where possible, contribute to the development of these sites by sharing your findings, experiences, and examples. </li></ul></ul>
  41. 41. Recommended strategies (ii) <ul><li>Model pedagogy on gaming, </li></ul><ul><li>not gaming on pedagogy. </li></ul><ul><li>(Becker, 2007a, 2007b, 2008; Gee, 2003, 2005; Prensky, 2006; </li></ul><ul><li>Royle, 2008) </li></ul>
  42. 42. <ul><li>It is better to examine design elements of successful games and find theories to explain them than design a game based on a learning theory. </li></ul><ul><li>(Becker, 2007a) </li></ul>
  43. 43.
  44. 44. The Arcade's Revolution “ Games-to Teach” project – MIT and the University of Wisconsin.
  45. 45. Revolution’s characters
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  53. 53. Main presentation websites <ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul><ul><li> </li></ul>
  54. 54. Thank you for your attention <ul><li>Questions, comments? </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>
  55. 55. Read on <ul><li>Games and simulations in online learning: Research and development frameworks. </li></ul><ul><li>David Gibson, Clark Aldrich, and </li></ul><ul><li>Marc Prensky, (Eds.) </li></ul><ul><li>Hershey, PA: Information Science Pub., (2007). </li></ul>

Editor's Notes

  • Introduction Just as young people who play video games first need to learn a game before they can play it (Gee, 2003), teachers must first understand ways in which video games can potentially be used to enhance learning before they can assess the suitability of this new media form for their specific circumstances or how they might adapt video games to their teaching practices. For this to happen, teachers need to: 1) be acquainted with the medium,2) be familiar with the larger sociopolitical issues related to videogames, and 3) be aware of the relevant theories and pedagogical models that can inform, guide and validate their choices to use video games as a teaching tool. That is the purpose of this research project.
  • de Castell, S., Bryson, M. &amp; Jenson, J. (2001). Object lessons: Critical visions of educational technology. In B. Barrell (Ed.) (2001). Technology, teaching and learning: Issues in the integration of technology . Calgary: Detselig. Hawisher, G. and Selfe, C. (1997) (Eds.). Literacy, technology and society: confronting the issues . Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hill. ––––– . (1999). XXX Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., &amp; Salen, K. (2009). Moving learning games forward: Obstacles, opportunities, and openness. An Education Arcade whitepaper. Available at Kress, G. (2000). Design and transformation: New theories of meaning. In G. Cope &amp; M. Kalantzis (Eds.), Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures . London: Routledge. Leu, J. &amp; Kinzer, C. (2000). The convergence of literacy instruction with networked technologies for information and communication. Reading Research Quarterly , 35, 108-127. Snyder, I. (Ed.). (2002). Silicon Literacies: Communication, innovation and education in the electronic age . London: Routledge. Tyner, K. (1998). Literacy in a digital world: Teaching and learning in the age of information . Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Yee, D. (2001). The many faces of ICT leadership for digital technology and Canadian pedagogy. In B. Barrell (Ed.) (2001). Technology, teaching and learning: Issues in the integration of technology . Calgary: Detselig.
  • Becker, K.(2007a). Pedagogy in commercial games. In In D.Gibson, C. Aldrich, &amp; M. Prensky (Eds.), Games and simulations in online learning: Research and development frameworks. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing. pp. 21- 47. ––––– . (2007b). Classifying learning objectives in commercial games. Journal of the Candian Games Study Association,1, (1). Gee, J. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy . New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ––––– . Learning by design: Good video games as learning machines. E-learning, 2, (1), 5-16. Gibson, D., Aldrich, C., &amp; Prensky, M. (Eds.).(2007). Games and simulations in online learning Research and development frameworks . Hersey, PA: Information Science Publication. Johnson, S. (2005). Everything bad is good for you . New York: Riverhead Books. Sanford, k. &amp; Madill, L. (2007). Understanding the power of new literacies through video game play and design. Canadian Journal of Education, 30 , (2) pp. 432-455.
  • Gee, J.P., Hull, G. &amp; Lankshear, C. (1996). The new work order: Behind the language of the new capitalism . Boulder, CO: Westview Press. Oganization for Economic Development. (2001). What schools for the future? Paris: OECD, Centre for Educational Research and Innovation. Ng, W. (2006). Web-based technologies, technology literacy, and learning. In L. Tan &amp; R. Subramaniam (Eds.), Handbook of research on literacy in technology at the K- 12 level . Hershey, PA: Idea Group Reference. pp. 94-117. Nixon, H., Atkinson, S. &amp; Beavis, K. (2006). New media pathways: Navigating the links between home, school, and the workplace. In L. Tan &amp; R. Subramaniam (Eds.), Handbook of research on literacy in technology at the K-12 level . Hershey, PA: Idea Group Reference. pp. 118- 136. Schaffer, D., Squire, K., Halverson, R., &amp; Gee, G. (2005). Video games and the future of learning. Phi Delta Kappan, 87 , (2), pp. 104-111. Van Heertum, R. &amp; Share, J. (2006). A new direction for multiple literacy education. McGill Journal of Education , 41, 3, 249-265.
  • 2. Historically, the meaning of literacy evolves with the invention of new technologies (Graff, 1987; Tyner, 1998) My interest in videogames emerged, in part, from my research of literacy in the context of new media. Literacy is broadly defined in the social sciences. The socio-cultural perspective that I take sees literacy as a social practice embedded in values, traditions, and experiences that can only be understood when examined within its historical, social, political, economic, and cultural contexts. Researchers in the field New Literacy Studies (NLS) were introduced to serious videogames through sociolinguist James Paul Gee (2003) in his seminal work What Video Games have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. New forms of literacy, and literacy practices, emerge with technological innovation such as video game technology that changes how we communicate, how we think, and how we learn. For example, basic game literacy requires an understanding of the objectives of distinct genres, the approaches and skills needed to play different types of games, and prerequisite knowledge to advance through levels.
  • In Canada, major educational policy-setting bodies now “require teachers to integrate technology directly into classroom practice” (Barrell, 2001 p. 17). Australia, New Zealand, and Britain also have introduced similar policies (Ng, 2006; Nixon, Atkinson and Beavis, 2006; Van Heertum and Share, 2006). With teachers increasingly being mandated to graduate technically competent students, the use of technology in classrooms is no longer an optional add-on. Barrell, B. (Ed.) (2001). Introduction: Tangled in the net. Technology, teaching and learning: Issues in the integration of technology . Calgary: Detselig.
  • Bruner, J. (1996). The culture of education . Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Huizinga, J. (1950). Homo ludens: A study of the play element in culture . New York: Roy Publishers. Ito, M. (2008) Mobilizing the imagination in everyday play: the case of Japanese media mixes. In S. Livingstone &amp; K. Drotner. (Eds.), International handbook of children, media, and culture . pp. 1-17. Piaget, J. (1951). Play, dreams, and imitation in childhood . New York: Norton. Weber, S. &amp; Dixon, S. (Eds.). (2007). Growing up online: Young people and digital technology .
  • Buckingham, D. (2006). Children and new media. In A. Lievrouw and S. Livingstone (Eds.), The handbook of new media: Social shaping and social consequences of ICTs [updated student edition]. London: SAGE. pp. 75-91. Papert, S. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. New York: BasicBooks. Rieber, L. (1996). Seriously considering play: Designing interactive learning environments based on the blending of microworlds, simulations, and games. Educational Technology Research and Development , 44 (2), 43- 53.
  • There is no shortage of arguments against commercial video games in general and their use for educational purposes in particular (Anderson, 2005; Walsh, 2001). According to Jenkins, most critiques are crystallized on the potential of video games to increase violence and addictive behaviors and to promote social isolation. The debate goes on. Anderson, C. (2005). Expert Witness Declaration in the Illinois Video Game Legislation Case, ESA vs. Bloagojevich, accessed at (;name=Sectio ns&amp;file =index&amp;req=viewarticle&amp;artid=88&amp;page=1 ) Accessed April, 3, 2007. Jenkins, H. (2006). The war between effects and meanings: Rethinking the video game violence debate. In D.Buckingham &amp; R. Willett (Eds.), Digital generations: Children, young people, and new media . London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. pp. 19-31. ­­––––– . (2005). Reality bytes: Eight myths about video games debunked. Retrieved November 28, 2005, from For a more detailed account please see: Walsh, D. Video game violence and public policy. National Institution on Media and the Family. Accessed at ( ) April 3,2007.
  • A growing number of scholars now dismiss the notion that playing video games is a “mindless” activity (Buckingham, 2006), a “waste of time” (Gee, 2003) or can be harmful (Goldstein, 2005). Goldstein, J. (2005). Violent video games. In J. Goldstein and J. Raessens, (eds), Handbook of computer game studies , Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press. Tyner, K. (1998). Literacy in a digital world: Teaching and learning in the age of information . Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Livingstone, S. &amp; Bovill, M. (1999). Young people, new media . Report of the research project ‘Children, Young People and the Changing Media Environment.’ London: London School of Economics and Political Science. Available at
  • What makes video games engaging is that people find them fun to play. The reason why playing video games is so enjoyable is that game designers have developed successful strategies that motivate players to move through progressive levels of difficulty where by players come to view obstacles or constraints as motivating factors to be overcome. Prensky, M. (2006). “Don’t bother me mom – I’m learning!” St. Paul, Minnesota: Paragon House.
  • Commercial videogame designers draw upon Csikszentmilialyi’s (1991) Flow Theory of Optimal Experience developed in the field of human-computer interaction (HDI). Game designers use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to get players to a flow state - where they loose themselves in the virtual environment – and then keep them there. AI makes it possible to tailor the game play in real time to match individual player’s abilities and skills. Modern video games seamlessly adapt to each player’s speed, playing style, and preferences as though it was custom made. The pleasure from mastering successively higher levels of difficulties by being kept in the optimal zone where the game is just hard enough to feel challenged is referred to as being in a “flow state”. Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1991). Flow: The psychology of optimal experience . New York: Harper Perennial. McMillan, S. (2006). Exploring models of interactivity from multiple research traditions: Users, documents and systems. In A. Lievrouw and S. Livingstone (Eds.), The handbook of new media: Social shaping and social consequences of ICTs [updated student edition]. London: SAGE. pp. 203-229.
  • Commercial videogame designers also draw upon Malone’s (Malone and Lepper, 1987) criteria of engagement. Malone, T. &amp; Lepper, m. (1987). Making learning fun: A taxonomy of intrinsic motivations for learning. In R. Snow &amp; M. Farr (Eds), Aptitude, learning, and instruction, III: Cognitive and affective process analysis . Hillside, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp. 223-253. Akilli, G. (2007). Games and simulations: A new approach in education? In D.Gibson, C. Aldrich, &amp; M. Prensky (Eds.), Games and simulations in online learning: Research and development frameworks. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing. pp. 1-20.
  • Gee, J. (2003). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy . New York: Palgrave Macmillan. (p. 23)
  • Several authors point to the overlap between the abilities and skills needed to play modern video games and those needed to live, work and participate in the 21st century. Based on my literature review, I developed this typology of the key competencies that can be learned from playing commercial video games. Socializing skills – Through external gaming communities (both virtual and real), players often make friends and develop social connections. As such, video games teach young people how to cooperate with and influence others. Life skills –Since games allow players to attempt tasks as many times as is needed to succeed, they also teach the values of persistence, patience and coping with failure by taking set backs in stride. Players learn to view obstacles and constraints as challenges to be overcome. Strategizing skills – Video games improve players risk taking abilities by teaching players to assess short-term gains against long-term winning. Players also learn to recognize cause-and-effect patterns in individual behavior and in complex systems, thereby helping them to set realistic goals for themselves. Collaborative skills - For many of the complex multi-player games, players can only progress through a game and move to higher levels by helping and collaborating with other players. Problem-solving – Video games develop problem-solving skills that, in turn, improve decision making capabilities. Decision making skills ­– Videogame play conditions players to formulate and test hypotheses and to make decisions under very demanding and ever-changing circumstances. Additionally, it teaches them to manage the consequences of their decisions and to live with their decisions over time. Social values – Many role-playing video games help young people learn what is socially acceptable behavior and appropriate etiquette within specific social environments. By developing a sense of what is socially permissible, they learn to obey rules, differentiate between right and wrong and develop empathy for others.
  • Becker (2007a) asserts that video games design and the game play they evoke almost always captures all of Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences. According to Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, individuals use diverse learning strategies that are linked to strengths and abilities in eight different intelligences. For instance, the competitive elements demanded to “beat a game” along with the need to engage other players and seek alliances with the protagonist and other game characters in multiplayer games, builds interpersonal intelligence. [1] Gardner’s remain categories of intelligences are: linguistic, logical-mathematical, intrapersonal, and naturalistic. Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences . New York: Basic Books. Becker, K.(2007a). Pedagogy in commercial games. In In D.Gibson, C. Aldrich, &amp; M. Prensky (Eds.), Games and simulations in online learning: Research and development frameworks. Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing. pp. 21- 47.
  • Matching learning and teaching styles According to Felder’s index of learning styles (2002), optimal learning occurs when teaching and learning styles match. This optimal condition is achieved through the use of artificial intelligence that paces players’ abilities and adjusts game play to the right level of challenge. Fitting the playing/learning to personality types Keirsey’s temperament sorter (Keirsey and Bates, 1984), grounded in Jungian psychology, classifies character and personality according to temperament types (artisans, guardians, idealists, and rationalists). Players’ natural dispositions and preferences emerge in personal avatar attributes and in character choices in role-playing games. Gregorc’s system of learning (1985), which relies on left/right brain studies, organizes learning styles according to perceptual preferences (from concrete to abstract) and ordering preferences (from sequential to random).. Players’ ordering preferences are met when they can advance through a game in either an orderly or random manner. Felder, R. (2002). Preface. In Learning and teaching styles in engineering education. Retrieved March 12, 2005 from Gregorc, A. (1985). Inside styles: Questions and answers on style . Maynard, MA: Gabriel Systems. Keirsey, D. &amp; Bates, M. (1984). Please understand me: Character &amp; temperament types (5th ed.). Del Mar, CA: Prometheus Nemesis Book Co. Kolb, D. &amp; Fry, R. (1975). Toward an applied theory of experiential learning. In C. Cooper (Ed.), Theories of group process . London: John Wiley. pp. 33-58.
  • Royle, K. (2008). Game-based learning: A different perspective. Innovate, 4 (4).
  • According to Akilli and Cagiltay (2006), while the need for instructional design/development models for game-like learning environments is clearly demonstrated in the literature (Bates, 2000; Morrison and Aldrich, 2003), very few such models actually exist. Further, regardless of how pedagogically-sound existing models may be (e.g., the FRIDGE model developed by Akilli &amp; Cailtay, 2006), their value is rarely, if ever recognized by teachers (Becker, 2007). Akilli, G. &amp; Cagiltay, K. (2006). An instructional design/development model for game-like learning environments: The FRIDGE model. In M. Pivec (Ed.), Affective and emotional aspects of human-computer interaction game-based and innovative learning approaches . Amsterdam, Netherlands: IOS Press. Vol. 1, pp. 93-112. Bates, A. (2000). Managing technological change: Strategies for college and university leaders . San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Morrsion J. &amp; Aldrich C. (2003). Simulations and the learning revolution: An interview with Clark Aldrich. The Technology Source . Retrieved August 11, 2003 from;id=2003
  • According to Becker (2007a), the advantage of using established educational theories and models of learning and teaching is that educators can evaluate the benefits of using commercial video games in their teaching, based on the conventional pedagogical paradigms they are familiar with. Becker, K. (2007b). Classifying learning objectives in commercial games. Journal of the Candian Games Study Association,1, (1). ––––– . (2008). The invention of good games: Understanding learning design in commercial video games. Doctoral dissertation. University of Calgary, Canada. Gibson, D., Aldrich, C., &amp; Prensky, M. (Eds.).(2007). Games and simulations in online learning Research and development frameworks . Hersey, PA: Information Science Publication.
  • Building on prior learning Gagné’s nine events of instruction (Gagné, Briggs, and Wager, 1992) outlines the conditions needed to develop different learning capabilities the various instructional approaches they require. [1] Becker finds each of Gagné’s five categories of learning is aptly met in video games. For example, basic game literacy (i.e., objectives of distinct genres and the approaches and skills needed to play different types of games, and prerequisite knowledge to advance through levels) serves to stimulate recall of prior learning. Experience gained from playing games remind players of past accomplishments as well as successful and unsuccessful strategies, while players’ reliance on prior knowledge and experience to advance to higher levels reinforces prior learning. In addition, Becker claims that educators can also use Gagné’s criteria as a guideline for media selection. [Gagné’s nine events are: gaining attention; informing learners of objectives; stimulating recall of prior learning; presenting the stimulus; providing learner guidance; assessing performance; and enhancing retention and transfer. His five categories of learning focus on: 1) Verbal information, 2) intellectual skills, 3) cognitive strategies, 4) motor skills, and 5) attitudes]. Great myths and storytelling Bruner (1996), who is largely credited for formulating constructivist thought, maintains that education is situated within a broad cultural landscape and culturally-embedded symbol systems. Becker argues that the type of learning that takes place in commercial video games is overwhelmingly constructivist. For her, it is the significance Burner places on the narrative in developing and maintaining culture that makes his approach so relevant to learning with video games. For example, the contexts of stories and the re-occurring themes used in games makes players identify with characters and incites them to connect to experiences that transcend time and space and to share those experiences with others. Gagné, R., Briggs, L., &amp; Wager, W. (1992). Principles of instructional design (4th ed.). Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers.
  • Adapted from Becker (2007a) and Akilli (2007). Reigeluth, C. (1999). What is instructional-design theory and how is it changing? In C. M. Reigeluth (Ed.), Instructional design theories and models: A new paradigm of instructional theory . Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. Vol. 4, pp. 5-29.
  • According to Nic Kelma, game play is first and foremost a narrative experience. Kelman links the narrative structure of video games to their relationship with traditional mythology and the quests of epic heroes. For example, he sees the game God of War as a modern interpretation of Homer’s The Odyssey . The videogame protagonist that defeats his enemies to progress to another level mirrors the epic narrative of Ulysses’ throughout his long journey home that is marked by endless battles. Kelman, N. (2005). VIDEOGAMEART . New York: Assouline Publishing.
  • Van Eck, R. (2007). Building artificially intelligent learning games. In D. Gibson, C. Aldrich &amp; M. Prensky (Eds.), Games and simulations in online learning: Research and development frameworks . Hersey, PA: Information Science Publication. pp. 271-307.
  • It seems reasonable to presuppose that video games may serve as a middle ground where children’s leisure and home-based activities can merge with teachers’ abilities to assist young people to put their video games into context. (Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2006) For lists of commercially available video games that can easily be incorporated into the standards-based curriculum for a wide range of ages and subjects, please visit : (Accessed May, 2009) (Accessed January, 2009)
  • Videogames are still striving to gain legitimacy as an effective learning and teaching instrument. This new media appears to have great potential as a learning and teaching resource, but further experimentation and additional research is needed to realize its full potential.
  • Schrader, P., Zheng, D., &amp; Young, M. (2006). Teachers&apos; perceptions of video games: MMOGs and the future of preservice teacher education. Innovate 2 (3).;id=125 (accessed on March 3, 2009). Archived Squire, K. (2005). Changing the game: What happens when video games enter the classroom? Innovate 1 (6);id=82 (accessed June 8, 2008). Archived at;id=493
  • Wright, P. &amp; Vongalis Macrow, A. (2006). Integrating ICT into pre-service education: Reframing teacher education. [conference paper]. Archived at Wright,P. (2009). Trainee teachers’ e-learning experiences of computer play. Innovate, 5, (4).
  • For a detailed discussion, see Prensky (2006) and Gee (2003).
  • A few recommendations Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., Groff, J. &amp; Haas, J. (2009). Using the technology of today, in the classroom today: The instructional power of digital games, social networking, and simulations and how teachers can leverage them. An Education Arcade whitepaper. Available at Klopfer, E., Osterweil, S., &amp; Salen, K. (2009). Moving learning games forward: Obstacles, opportunities, and openness. An Education Arcade whitepaper. Available at Se also
  • One way for teachers to develop an understanding of how video games can be used in classrooms is to look at great examples (Becker, 2007b). The Education Arcade, founded by Henry Jenkins, is a collaborative research group that develops and tests curricular games designed to emulate the learning and engaging game-play that is found in the design of commercial video games. Background image: Labyrinth The Arcades newest game - An online puzzle adventure game, designed to promote math and literacy learning.
  • The “Games-to-Teach” project aims to develop and test games that emulate the learning and engaging type of digital play found in the design of commercial video games. One challenge of tying to replicate this leisure-type of play in classrooms is dealing with schools’ schedules that greatly interrupt players’ ability to stay in the immersive flow state many argue is crucial for optimal learning to take place. Revolution has been designed, in part, to address this type of curriculum constraint. Revolution is a multi-player role-playing circular game that places middle school students in the situated learning context of the 18th century Virginia prior to the American Revolution. Students experience the daily social, economic, and political lives of the town&apos;s inhabitants during this violent period from different social perspectives in their chosen roles (politician, lawyer, merchant, farmer, blacksmith, servant, African American house slave).
  • Players’ choices and actions have real consequences that depend on one&apos;s politics, gender and class. Each character&apos;s gender, class standing, and political affiliation in colonial society affects how computer-controlled characters respond verbally and physically to the player&apos;s actions. As part of the game testing process, students put together short day-in-the-life &amp;quot;video diaries&amp;quot; chronicling their experiences in the game that are later presented for classroom discussion. It is important to note that while curricular games like Revolution are being developed and tested, these games are research prototypes. Therefore, games such as these will remain largely out of reach for most teachers for many years. However, the ideas, examples and research findings from this research consortium are available for educators to draw upon today.
  • Anne Hass Dyson (1997) argues that commercial media provides a common frame of reference for young people that educators can and should make use of. This is exactly what Tim Rylands is doing in a small elementary school near Bristol, England. His approach speaks to the notion of collectively mobilizing the imagination and creativity. Ryland projects Myst ’s rich 3D environments onto the class walls. Once immersed in their imaginary world, the children actively engage with the media by constructing narratives and musical scores together as they explore the game’s magical world. This example confirms Marsha Kinder’s (1991) argument that commercial media stimulates children’s imagination of everyday life. Dyson, A. (1997). Writing superheros: Contemporary childhood, popular culture, and classroom literacy . New York: Teachers College Press. Kinder, M. (1991). Playing with power in movies, television, and video games . Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Myst designer Rand Miller and his team liked Tim Ryland’s approach so much that they decided to visit Tim’s classroom.
  • This site is in development and open to accepting submissions. Please see: Teaching guides  K- 12 For example, Also a “Teaching guide template” is available for those who would like to develop a guide to post.
  • As previously mentioned, the research presented here is intended to inform educators and educational researchers (like myself) who have little or no pre-knowledge of commercial video games and would like to explore their pedagogical value. Comments from the Modulation and Simulation community that can inform my future research are welcome and appreciated.
  • In particular, see See in particular, Chapter 1 - Games and simulations: A new approach in education? Göknur Kaplan Akilli. Chapter 2 – Pedagogy in commercial video games. Katrin Becker. Chapter 14 – Building artificially intelligent learning games. Richard Van Eck.
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