Constructivist Learning Through Computer Gaming

Constructivist Learning Through Computer Gaming

Morris S.Y. Jong (Centre for the Advancement of Information Technology in Education, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong), Junjie Shang (Graduate School of Education, Peking University, Beijing, China) and Fong-lok Lee (The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-934-2.ch014
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Apart from the ability of computer games to make learning more interesting, a number of researchers and educators have been exploring other educational potentials of computer games. In parallel with the advancement of computer and information technology and the advocacy of constructivism in education, the issue of harnessing computer games to create new constructivist learning opportunities has received attention in both education and game research domains. This chapter is aimed at giving an introduction to computer game-based learning. Besides discussing computer games’ intrinsic educational traits favouring constructivist learning from different perspectives, the authors also review a number of instances of two recent foci in the game-based learning domain. The first one is education in games that involves the adoption of existing recreational games in the commercial market for educational use. The second is games in education that entails designing and developing educational games articulated with different constructivist learning paradigms or pedagogical approaches.
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2. Intrinsic Educational Traits Of Games

The discussion of utilizing games for learning and teaching has started since the widespread popularity of Pac-Man in the early 1980s (Squire, 2003). Without doubt, the “games” discussed in most of today’s game-based learning research are quite different from the ones that were used in education in the last few decades. The differences are not only in games’ technical enhancement (e.g., more sophisticated 3D user interfaces, dynamic synchronous players’ interaction, etc.) brought by the advancement of technology, but also their underpinning learning philosophy, shifting from behaviourism (Rachlin, 1991; Skinner, 1938) to constructivism (Bruner, 1960; Papert, 1993; Piaget, 1964, 1970). In direct contrast to behaviourist education, constructivist education emphasizes that students should construct knowledge on their own. Students’ learning is not imposed simply by conditioning and reinforcement, but rather a cognitive and socio-cultural interaction in an engaging and authentic learning environment (Otting & Zwaal, 2007).

Initiating and sustaining students’ learning motives through gaming has been one of the significant research areas of game-based learning (e.g., Bowman, 1982; Cordova & Lepper, 1996; Malone, 1980, 1981; Martens, Gulikers & Bastiaens, 2004). More recently, researchers in the domain (e.g., Aylett, 2005; Gee, 2003, 2005; Kirriemuir & McFarlane, 2004; Mason & Moutahir, 2006; Prensky, 2001, 2006; Shaffer, 2006; Squire, 2005) have also argued that the underlying cognitive and socio-cultural features of games can offer various “educative” opportunities to students. In the following, we will discuss games’ intrinsic educational traits that promote constructivist learning from the motivational, cognitive and socio-cultural perspectives.

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