A Research Lens for Studying Power in Learning Games: Critical Ciné-Ethnography

A Research Lens for Studying Power in Learning Games: Critical Ciné-Ethnography

Scott Joseph Warren (University of North Texas, USA) and Jonathan S. Gratch (State University of New York at Oneonta, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8847-6.ch012
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Abstract

Digital games have been used to support learning since the 1980s. However, the last decade has seen games, simulations and virtual world use take firm hold of the academic imagination. There also has been a rapid expansion of sponsored, formal research, informal inquiry, and a growing body of theory supporting the use of learning games. As a result, several challenges to their use have been identified such as flaws in the games themselves, inadequate methods of assessment due to complex, confounding variables, and the perceptions of students and teachers. This piece describes a research method called Critical CinéEthnography meant to address this lack. It stems from a discursive, systems-oriented view of learning that explores of the arguments and truth claims made by learners and teachers. The method employs video capture of out-of-game discussion, artifacts, and body language that should allow researchers to build a complex picture of participant experiences that can be easily shared with academics and practitioners alike.
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Challenges: Learning Game Implementation

Some challenges to the use of games for learning have been noted in the literature. Researchers have identified in the way the learning game systems themselves are constructed (Baker, C., 2008; Baker, R., et al., 2008) and confounding variables stemming from complex game designs that make relationships between treatment and outcomes unclear (Rupp, Gushta, Mislevy, & Shaffer, 2010). The authors have identified other difficulties such as the use of multi-user virtual environments (MUVEs) to build learning games when the tool was not intended to support them (Warren, Dondlinger, Stein, & Barab, 2009), a poor understanding of the complexity of interactions in multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft (Warren, Jones, & Trombley, 2011), as well as perceptual barriers that make integrating learning games presented by teachers, students, and parents (Jones & Warren, 2011). Others noted included inadequate reporting of the instructional designs of games that decontextualize findings in research publications (Warren, Jones, et al., 2011) leading to an inability to reproduce findings, limited time to implement games in classrooms (Jones & Warren, 2008), failures to conduct usability testing prior to game use (Warren, Jones, & Lin, 2010), and a need to consider the ethics of learning game design for protected populations such as children.

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