This study explored the nature and design of a compelling experience: game design. Thirty-six college juniors in the software engineering major participated in a semester-long project to design games for Chinese language learning. The project was designed to help engineering students understand educational and other issues in designing educational games. Results show that game design expanded students’ perceptive capacity; enhanced their subject-matter understanding, problem-solving skills, meta-learning ability and motivation; and facilitated students’ reflection on themselves as well as their environments. Factors are discussed to make a game design learning experience compelling
Game Design As A Compelling Learning Experience
This chapter addresses the nature and design of a compelling experience: game design. Game design has been increasingly used to engage students in various subject matter learning such as math, science (Harel & Papert, 1990; Resnick, 1996), and software design (Cagiltay, 2007). There are many claims about the benefits of using games in education: games are a motivator to engage students in exploration and reflection (Gee, 2003); as the native language of the digital world, games can reach a younger generation (the digital natives) more easily; design can help establish dialogues and break social and cultural boundaries inside and outside of classrooms (Pivec, 2007); and finally game design enables students to develop knowledge and skills that they need to succeed in the digital world (Cagiltay, 2007).
However, game design does not automatically lead to better learning. The educative values of game design can only be realized when it is appropriately developed according to the pedagogical goals and the characteristics of the learner. Thus, to more effectively use game design as an educational medium, we need to have a deeper understanding of the key components of effective game-design learning environments as well as the psychological and social conditions and processes triggered by game design.
The intention of this study was to answer three related questions: (1) what makes a game design learning environment effective; (2) what learning outcomes do students accomplish in the game design process, and (3) why game design makes such kind of learning happen. As an initial attempt, we created a game design learning experience for our students to achieve three goals: cognitive growth, emotional engagement, and self-discovery. We examined the learning outcomes that the students had made as well as the lessons that we had learned as learning experience designers. We discussed the implications of this design-for-learning experience for curriculum designers, teachers, and learners.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Digital Native: A term coined by Marc Prensky. It is applied to the individuals who have grown up immersed in technology.
Lethal Mutation: This biological term was introduced in discussions of education reform and implementation by Ann Brown in 1992. Brown refers the concept to the kind of educational reform that has a poor match between theory and its implementation in a particular context.7
Transformative Learning: A process of getting beyond gaining factual knowledge alone to instead become changed by what one learns in some meaningful way. It involves questioning assumptions, beliefs and values, and considering multiple points of view, while always seeking to verify reasoning.8
Distributed Learning: An instructional model that allows instructor, students, and content to be located in different, non-centralized locations so that instruction and learning can take place independent of time and place. The distributed learning model can be used in combination with traditional classroom-based courses, with traditional distance learning courses, or it can be used to create wholly virtual classrooms.5
Design-Based Research (DBR): A way to carry out formative research to test and refine educational designs based on principles derived from prior research.4
Constructionism: A learning theory inspired by constructivist theories of learning. According to Seymour Papert’s definition of constructionism, learning is most effective when learners are consciously engaged in constructing a pubic entity. Examples of constructionism include the Logo programming language and the Lego system.
Experiential Education: A process through which a learner constructs knowledge, skills, and values from direct experience.6