Can Computer Games Motivate and Sustain Learning?

Can Computer Games Motivate and Sustain Learning?

Mabel C.P.O. Okojie (Mississippi State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-569-8.ch017
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A critical examination of the use of computer games as motivation for learning is provided. The examination is addressed by reviewing evidence from the literature dealing with computer games as learning tools. Factors and difficulties associated with games as instructional strategies are discussed. Evidence from the literature indicates that current methods of applying computer games into instruction are not guided by pedagogical principles. It is recognized that the design of educational games be based on learning theories. The current practice of viewing educational games as separate entity from all other educative processes is detrimental to learning. Although, the results of scientific studies on game-based learning are inconclusive, nevertheless, the future of game-based learning is promising partly because games are generally engaging. The results of qualitative interviews reveal that the participants believe that computer games motivate them to have fun but not to learn. Thus, by implication may not sustain learning.
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General Perceptions Of Games/Computer Games

It is pertinent that we examine the perception that guides the development of computer games before considering its motivational influence on learning. Game industries are hard at work trying to develop computer and video games that they claim can be used to facilitate learning and motivate students to learn. The key word is motivation; it is an abstract concept which has several attributes. Because of the elusive properties that make up the word motivation, behavioral and cognitive psychologists, curriculum specialists and other practitioners have not been able to develop reliable, measurable and inspiring activities that can stimulate students to learn. It is ironical to assume that somehow computer game designers can produce games that will motivate students to learn despite the advances made in gaming industry without examining the process of learning. Such assumption ignores the logic upon which computer games and other forms of games are rationalized which is to have fun. Learning on the other hand is a more serious endeavor. Generally, games are perceived as pastime, amusement and entertainment. Such perception has not changed.

Pitzer (2007) believes that people’s perception of a problem shapes their definition of such problem. Using computer games as motivational devices for learning may require a change in their perception. The idea will be to portray computer games as fun but also to show that serious strategies and activities are incorporated into games so that they can be used to enhance learning outside the confine of the game environment. This in part means that computer games will not focus exclusively on fairy tales, fantasies or virtual images. Unfortunately, these attributes are fundamental to computer games and they represent avenues through which games generate fun and engage gamers.

Learning implies the acquisition of knowledge which involves applying knowledge, synthesizing knowledge, transferring knowledge including evaluating knowledge (Bloom, 1956). These characteristics of learning make it a job oriented activity as opposed to computer games that are perceived as fun activities. Lever-Duffy, McDonald and Mizell 2008) have indicated that “learning is a transfer of knowledge that can be ensured only when all the components of the process have been incorporated in the learning event” (p. 10). Ahn Liu & Blum (2006) explain that “despite colossal advances over the past 50 years, computers still don’t possess the basic conceptual intelligence or perceptual capabilities that most humans take for granted” (p. 96).

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