Real-Life Contexts in Learning Games: Towards a New Typology

Real-Life Contexts in Learning Games: Towards a New Typology

Alex Moseley (University of Leicester, Leicester, UK)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/IJGBL.2018100102
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The use of real contexts in learning has been of central interest to educational developments such as experiential learning, case studies, work placements and simulations. They centre around the benefits of putting students in realistic situations, using real tools to solve real/realistic problems. A growing number of learning games are making use of context in this way: initially focused around serious games (many close in character to simulations) and most recently distilled into immersive and pervasive games, which mix real and imagined contexts for apparently deep learning experiences. This article reviews the existing literature around the use of context in learning, considers the applicability to learning games, and proposes new theoretical developments through the consideration of four models for the integration of context into learning experiences, based on a typology of existing contextual learning experiences and games. To illustrate the models and begin to strengthen the typology, a number of existing case studies are referenced, and further research needs highlighted.
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The Latin origins of the word context give a strong clue to its strength within education: cotexere, to 'weave together'. As will be explored in this paper, context draws a number of facets together, and most importantly, gives meaning to the combined facets greater than the sum of their parts: weaving them together, adding colour and texture.

This is not a new revelation, of course: in daily conversation one will hear a request to ‘give me some context’, or an example that begins ‘to put it in context...’ Context adds relevance; relates a concept to some familiar territory or setting. As such, it has enjoyed long and detailed study by psychologists, educators and social scientists across a number of domains and from a range of perspectives.

By contrast, the role of context in learning games is a potential area of study that, to date, has not drawn focus, despite the fact that the game design process, and games themselves, use context to great effect (immersing players in other worlds, or in deep narratives, or realistic simulations). This paper aims to structure and catalyse research in this area through a study of the types of contextual learning possible within learning games and playful activities.

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