Electronic gaming in education remains a theoretical or at best marginal issue as long as it is not adopted in general educational settings. The latter, however, not only depends on the intrinsic values or advantages discussed in other contributions to this volume. Rather, electronic gaming in education provides an interesting example for a complex adoption process where individual choices, organizational frameworks, and educational policies, as well as attitudes in the society at-large, interfere in the diffusion of gaming devices and the adoption of gaming for learning processes. After introducing an analytical framework for structuring such processes of the diffusion of innovations, the authors present empirical evidence from the adoption process of electronic gaming in Germany. The results are discussed focusing on the role of several influencing factors on the scope and the speed of innovations. The chapter concludes with possible generalizations departing from the specific situation and the tradition of education in Germany.
Today, electronic games have a history of more than 25 years and include, besides the original PC-based games, a variety ranging from online games for one, for two, or for thousands of simultaneous players to games played on mobile devices (like Game Boys or mobile phones) and even combinations thereof (e.g., Kolo & Baur, 2004). Technological improvements, specific and intense marketing activities by the game industry, as well as an increasingly widespread access to electronic devices and competence in computer usage, have led to the fact that from the early ‘90s, electronic games became a matter-of-course in the everyday life of young people, including children in most industrialized countries (e.g., Fromme, 2003). This cultural and social significance of electronic games (e.g., Livingstone & Bovill, 2001; Singer & Singer, 2002) is also pedagogically relevant for at least three reasons:
Efforts by public institutions like schools at increasing ICT skills or media competence are generally preceded by children growing up (among others) within their “computer gaming culture.”
As a time-consuming leisure activity, gaming plays an important role in the psychology of childhood development and in the ways social networks are knit among children but also among (young) adults. This in turn moulds—at least partly—formal and informal learning processes.
Games and gaming are eventually also seen as a new means for teaching and learning in a variety of subjects to support individualized learning processes.
This chapter is focused particularly on the latter of these three aspects of electronic games in the context of education. However, the public discourse on the first and second aspects strongly influences the pick-up of electronic games as an educational innovation. Effects of electronic games on childhood development are generally seen as very critical with few exceptions (e.g., Greenfield, 1984, 1996, as one of the earliest and persistent examples discussing also possible positive effects). Though the empirical evidence is ambivalent, even children and young people who are very engaged, in terms of frequency and general interest in playing electronic games, apparently do not give up other activities or become socially isolated (Fromme, 2003; Kolo & Baur, 2004). The discussion in Germany is mainly led by critics who regard electronic games as motors for social isolation, aggressive behavior, decreased school performance, and gender divide (e.g., Aarsand, 2007; Dittler & Hoyer, 2006; Schindler & Wiemken, 1996; Spitzer, 2005). Unfortunately, no empirical evidence is documented in English. In media and political debates, gaming activities of children and young people are rather associated with violence and crime. A link to teaching and learning is rarely found, neither in research nor in practice.
We follow the theory of mediatization (Hepp, Krotz, Moores, & Winter, 2007; Krotz, 2001), which assumes that “new” media do not replace traditional media, but enrich the media ensemble that is used. In management training, simulation games are increasingly common, though far from being widespread in Germany. There is strong evidence that gaming applications in this sphere are supporting learning processes in an efficient and effective way (e.g., Dörner, 2003). Other examples for the successful integration of simulation or gaming applications to support learning come from higher education (e.g., Ebner & Holzinger, 2007).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Adoption of an Innovation: The decision to make full use of an innovation as the best course of action available. Members of a social system typically draw this decision at different points in time according to varying levels of their knowledge about the innovation and their general attitude towards new ideas (innovativeness).
Innovation Decision Process (of Individuals): The process through which an individual passes from first knowledge of an innovation to forming an attitude towards the innovation, to a decision to adopt or reject, to implementation and use of the new idea, and to the confirmation of this decision.
Adopter Categories: According to their innovativeness, members of a social system may be classified into adopter categories: innovators, early adopters, early and late majority, and laggards.
German Education System: States (Bundeslaender) are responsible; 16 different educational systems, federal government with little influence, three tracks: 9/10 years (Hauptschule), 10 years (Realschule), 12/13 years (Gymnasium).
Innovation: An idea, practice, or object is regarded as an innovation when it is perceived as new by an individual or another unit of adoption. This is in contrast to an invention, which denotes the process by which a new idea, practice, or object is discovered or created, but without being adopted yet.
Media Competence: Term coined by German sociologist Baacke; can be analyzed in four dimensions: (1) knowing about different media and how to use them, (2) reflecting the role of media in society, (3) designing media, and (4) critical thinking.
Diffusion of Innovation: Denotes the process in which an innovation is communicated through certain channels over time among the members of a social system.
Innovation Stages Theory: Developed by Nolan on empirical evidence in corporate institutions, organizational adoption of IT follows an S-shaped curve, from initialization and contagion to limited control and finally integration.
Attitude: A hypothetical construct that represents an individual’s like or dislike for an item. Attitudes are positive, negative, or neutral views of an “attitude object.” Most attitudes in individuals are a result of observational learning from their environment. In that respect, they are shaped by interactions within the social system.
Innovativeness: The degree to which an individual or other unit of adoption is relatively earlier in adopting new ideas than the other members of a system.
Innovations in Organizations: In an organization, understood as a stable system of individuals who work together to achieve common goals through a hierarchy of ranks and a division of labor, innovations are usually bound to collective and authority innovation decisions. In such cases an individual cannot adopt a new idea unless the organization has previously adopted it. Compared to the innovation decision process by individuals, the innovation process in organizations is much more complex. This is particularly the case in the implementation phase, which typically involves a number of individuals–both opponents and champions of the new idea. Further, implementation amounts to mutual adaptation in which both the innovation and the organization change in important ways.
PISA: OECD Programme of International Student Assessment; regular standardized tests on student performance (15 years old) in 32 OECD countries. The test focus is on literacy, math, and science, taking social and organizational framework conditions (school form, school climate, infrastructure, socio-economical factors) into account.