Educational Games

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					Educational Games
  An introductory lecture

    Game Theory 10.12.07

         Rasmus Harr
• A bit of history

• Why educational games got popular during the last 5

• The learning theories behind educational games

• The problems of designing educational games
A bit of history
Educational games and the Military
• Chaturanga
  • 7th century, India – the
    predecessor of Chess

• Koenigspiel & Kriegspiel
  • Started as a hobby in
    prussian military circles in
    17th century, but spread.
  • von Reisswitz 1824: LARGE
    war game for training and      Chaturanga
    fun for the German army
Educational games and the Military
 – Start of 20th century: Almost all
   countries use war games to train
   and educate in military strategy

 – World War II extensively “gamed”

 – Today:
     • Marine Doom
     • Delta Force 2
     • Guard Force and Joint Force
     • America’s Army
     • Full Spectrum Warrior
     • Close Combat Marines
     • Full Spectrum Command
   Business games and simulations
• 1956: US Air Force Monopologs
   • Inventory managers managing Air
     Force supply system

• 1957: Top Management Decision
   • University of Washington,
     business college class  success
     of business games and
     simulations has continued ever

• Commercial successes also
                                        Railroad Tycoon
   • The Tycoon-games, Capitalism-
    Educational Computer Games – the
                early days
•   The early years (progressive titles)
     – Oregon Trail, MECC, 1971
     – Lemonade Stand, 1971
     – 1973: Plato: Inspired by Piaget and Dewey –
       make math more everyday like ”2 and 2
       bananas” – proved to by very effective
     – Rocky Boots 1982 (design logical circuits) –
       simulation as key to learning environment
                                                          Oregon Trail 1985 (commercial ed.)
     – The Robot Odyssey 1984

•   The start of behaviorist edutainment too:
     – 1979 Electric Company Math Fun
     – (The more right answers the faster you progress
       through the jungle. If you fail an answer your
       gorilla is thrown in the river and cannot get up
       before answering a new question correctly.)

                                                          Electric Company Math Fun
                80s: Adventure games
•   1982: Snooper Troops
•   1984: Winnie the Pooh in Hundred Acres Wood
•   1985: Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego
•   1985: Oregon Trail (Commercial edition)
•   1986: Mickey's Space Adventure

•   (Close integration between motivation and

•   80s Educational games contested entertainment
    games in terms of sales (titles described at The
    Underdogs, and Mobygames)                          Snooper Troops
    80s and especially 90s: Edutainment
•   1984: Seven Cities of Gold

•   1987: Mavis Beacon teaches typing
•   A curious offspring: ”Typing of the

•   Extrinsic motivation: Learning and game
    are split up

•   Edutainment market grows and
    behaviorist titles slowly become
    dominating pushing other types of
                                              Mavis Beacon teaches typing
    educational computer games out of the
•   Educational games move from game
    industry to educational publishers
•   Adventure games grow less popular after
    the mid-90s, and ed. games almost die
•   Commercial games with educational
     –   SimCity (1989), Lemmings (1990), SimEarth
         (1990), Civilization (1991)
     –   Eco Quest (1992) (designed by Jane Jensen who
         later did the Gabriel Knight-series)
     –   The Incredible Machine 1993
•   Big current edutainment brands are
    started in the mid-90s:
     –   Freddie Fish (1994)
     –   Putt Putt Saves the Zoo (1995)
     –   MS Magic School Bus Explores (1995)
     –   Pajama Sam (1996)                               Pajama Sam
              Today: Serious games
The Serious Games’ initiative

Games for other purposes than
  merely entertainment

   Educational Games
   Business games
   Military games
   Political games
   Simulation Games
          Examples of recent titles
• Making History: The Calm and
  the Storm

• GC: Palestine
   – Trailer                        Making History


• Constructivist and socio-
  cultural approaches

                                 GC: Palestine
      Lots of research world wide
• Starting point: Critique of edutainment
   • Started out as a serious attempt to use games for learning but ended
     in caricatures of games and a conservative use of learning, extrinsic
     motivation bad for learning

• Common Belief
   • Better learning experiences, better technical platforms – learning
     experience is not limited to what happens between player and game
     (Squire/Gee – constructionist/socio-cultural learning theories gain
Why educational games got popular during the last 5
    Why the rise on popularity of Serious Games?
•   Computer games more mainstream
•   More research on computer games
•   Technology
•   Learning is high on the public agenda
     • Life-long learning, home learning,
        supplementary training  a more
        flexible approach to learning
•   Part of the general focus on new
    media and learning
•   Remediation: New media affects and
    are affected by other media – does
    that also apply for education?
•   Games: Engagement and motivation
    Claims about education and new media
•   21st century skills
•   Twitch-speed generation
•   Generation G
•   Before every child is left
•   Teaching for Innovation
•   Staying in front of India
    and China
•   We must look at what
    games have to offer vs.
    other educational media
               10 min. break
• Grab some coffee – after the break its theory!
    How do educational games work?
A look at learning theories used on games



 Socio-Cultural Approach
•   The player practices a specific area through
    repetition while receiving rewards after each
    proper response.

•   Extrinsic Motivation and a focus on transfer rather
    than construction

•   Pavlov: Experiments with dogs

•   Thorndike: Law of Exercise and Effect

•   Skinner: Drill-and-practice machine. Overt actions,
    not reflection, not understanding

•   80s behaviorism was prominent, in the 90s it
    became the norm

•   Typing of the Dead a very good example
      Behavorism – strengths and weaknesses
• Strengths
   – Has been very effective within game design
   – Has been effective within area of health
   – A study of the game Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus, which compares the game
     with watching a documentary (Lieberman 1997, 2001)

• Weaknesses
   – Scope of learning: Focuses merely on training of mechanical operations,
     therefore limits to what one can learn – memorizing/rote learning of specific
     behaviours but no deep understanding (works for writing, typing etc. but not
     much else)

   – Extrinsic Motivation: Makes kids more interested in playing the game than
     learning – ex. getting points for completing a level becomes more important
     than learning
•   How to enhance the learning of video games by
    being aware of the limitations of the humans
    cognitive apparatus
•   Titles: Discovery and inquiry, letting the player
    construct his/her own learning representations in
    an active dialogue with the game
•   Schematas with limits and opportunities
•   Piaget is often referred to as the father of
•   Neuro-science on organization of materials            Phoenix Quest
      – Retrieval, Encoding, Chunking, Modalities,
          Transfer-problems, scaffolding of information

•   Game Example: Phoenix Quest & Super Tangrams

                                                          Super Tangrams
                Cognitivism - continued
•   Malone and Lepper: 1987 Extrinsic motivation is in the way of the learning experience

•   Challenge
     –   Difficulty level, short-term and long-term goals, uncertain outcomes, and facilitating investment of
         self-esteem through meaningful goals
•   Feedback
•   Curiosity
     –   Encourage exploration and organization of the information in relation to both the sensory and the
         cognitive areas. (via pointers towards large unknown information hidden in game)
•   Experience of control
     –   Responsive environment, high degree of choice, ability of player to perform great effects
•   Fantasy
     –   Fantasy elements which appeal to the target group emotionally, metaphors for the learning content,
         and be an endogenous part of the learning material
•   Interpersonal activity
     –   Increased motivation resulting from social context of game: Competition and collaboration with peer.
         Recognition of peers serves as motivation
    Cognitivism - Limitations and potentials
•   Strengths
•   Has a lot to say on the design of the game, and the motivation of the learner
     – Flow experiences, audiovisual props, control of learning process
     – Marshall Jones: Learning games’ theory for flow – explains a great deal on intrinsic
     – Klawe: Strong elements in video games: unlimited number of activities, visualization,
         manipulation, symbolic representations, adaptive sequencing, feedback, and
         meaningful, contextualized activities.

•   Learning outcome: Klawe and Sedighian: Super Tangrams and Phoenix Quest (Math teaching)

•   Weaknesses
•   Cognitivism often focus on meta-skills: Problem-solving, thus less on content-side
•   Still focuses on the relation between the player and the game – does not include context of
•   Emphasizes the active role of the learner and external
    objects in the learning process.

•   Seymore Papert – drawing on Piaget – The Logo
    programming language, uses geometric shapes to draw
    – for children. - Mindstorms book and Lego toys!

•   Constructionist titles: Microworlds – engage with
    artefacts in microworlds and learn about them

•   The constructivist edutainment microworlds simulate a
    part of the world allowing the player to explore

•   The focus is not on hard content as such, but rather on
    the general skills of creativity, problem-solving, critical-
    thinking skills, sequential planning, and memory
                                                                   My Make-believe Castle

•   Kafai: Research w. letting kids design games – new
    media literacy
     Constructionism - continued
• Strengths
  – Includes the context more in the learning
  – Works for maths and programming-teaching (Kafai)

• Weaknesses
  – Kafai (1996) Design of microworlds is a lot harder than drill-and-
    practice games
      • The topic in the microworld has to be integrated, no well-tested action
        formula blueprint as with behaviorist or cognitivist titles
  – Does not say much about the game
                   Socio-cultural approach
•   Video games are not the learning experience per se –
    but the tool for creating a learning experience.

•   Rote learning is not what video games is about –
    instead they are about mediating discussions,
    reflection, facts, and analysis via the surrounding
    classroom cultures.

•   Vygotsky: Video game as an embodied tool extends
    action of a given agent (learner) and creates
    opportunities and limitations for the learner.

•   Different contexts and tools facilitate a variety of   Civilization 3
    learning experiences.

•   Carsten Jessen’s research: Peer-learning around
    gaming. Informal learning processes

•   Squire 2004: Civilization 3 in the classroom for
    mediating History discussions
    Socio-cultural approach - continued
•   Proximate development (Vygotsky):
    How far can I get alone, how far can I
    get with help?
     – From actual point of development
        to potential point of development.

•   Tools/helper are mediators to
    facilitate the learner’s appreciation of
    a given activity

•   Video game as an embodied tool
    extends action of a given agent
    (learner) and creates opportunities
    and limitations for the learner.
    Tensions between the 4 theoretical frameworks
•    Learning vs. Playing: A whole or two parts? Extrinsic or intrinsic motivation?

•    Freedom vs. control: How much freedom to students? Teachers creating a firm setting w.
     educational goals

•    Drill-and-practice vs. microworlds: Benefit of drill and practice is limited, but it is cheap to
     create, most research is on micro-worlds, but few games reflect that (Making History and GC:

•    Transmission vs. Construction: Only behaviorism and early cognitivism believes in learning as
     transmission, most other theories are about constructing knowledge

•    Transfer: Immersive effects of video games lead to lack of awareness of contents, structures,
     and concepts in game – results in weaker learning and transfer. Stealth or explicit learning?

•    Teacher intervention vs. no teacher intervention: Behaviorism and cognitivism neglect
     teacher approach even though a lot of research says it is important
The problems of designing educational games
                   Practical Barriers
• Practical/structural
   – Technical limitations
   – Limited space
   – Time slots for lessons
• Game-related
   –   Learning the game
   –   Complexity of the game
   –   Students a wide target audience w. diff. prefs. and skills.
   –   Balance between playing/learning and integration of computer games
       with teaching
• Expectations
   – The students’ and the teachers’ initial way of thinking about computer
     games, history, learning, and teaching.
      History teaching as an example
• Procedural skills
  Civilization 3, Making History – often counter-factual history –
  understand the system behind history (as opposed to facts)
   – History the Niall Ferguson- or Jared Diamond way

• Microworld
  GC: Palestine – simulate the experience – realism, understand
  the places and the people behind a Discovery-like experience

• Often a mix:
   – Epistemic Games – both the system and a simulation of the experience
     – ex:, games for companies
           Design with all 4 theories?
•   Behaviorism
     – Examines the narrow relation between video game and students focusing on the role
       of motivation (no context at all – very focused on cause-and-effect)

•   Cognitivism
     – Examines how knowledge of the human cognitive apparatus can be used to facilitate
        learning and motivation (a little more context, focuses on the “why” also, as well as
        preferences of the individual player)

•   Constructionism
     – Shows us how video games can be used as a shared artifact for constructing
       knowledge (a lot more context – how the game is just one tool on the road to
       learning, includes a social aspect)

•   Socio-cultural approach
     – Examines the environment that emerges around video games in negotiating and
       constructing knowledge. Collaboration, debriefing, and discussion (focuses on
       EVERYTHING – how the game can be a small part in an educational and cultural

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