Games, Claims, Genres, and Learning

Games, Claims, Genres, and Learning

Aroutis N. Foster (Michigan State University, USA) and Punya Mishra (Michigan State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch211
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We offer a framework for conducting research on games for learning. Building on a survey of the literature on games, we suggest a categorization scheme (physiological and psychological) of the range of claims made for games. Our survey identifies three critical issues in the current scholarship. They are: a lack of authentic, situated research studies; a lack of sensitivity to the pedagogical affordances of different game genres; and a lack of emphasis on the importance of acquiring disciplinary knowledge (i.e., content). We offer the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) framework as a way to address these concerns and guide future research in this area. We argue that assessment on learning from games needs to consider the specific claims of games, as they interact with genre and content knowledge. Finally, we introduce an ongoing study that utilizes this approach.
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The nature of technology and the way we socialize ourselves has changed over time (Johnson, 2005) and the effects of these changes are reflected in the myriad of arguments about technology integration in schools (Cuban, 1986). Electronics games form a large part of the media environment of today’s children. In 2006, 30% of the most frequent computer game players and 40% of console game players were under 18 years old (Entertainment Software Association, 2006). Further, American children between 8 and 18 years old play video games for an average of seven hours per week (National Institute on Media and the Family, 2005). It is evident that games capture children’s attention and engage them in important ways. Clearly, designers, educators, and researchers need to develop a better understanding of how to integrate electronic games in classroom teaching. This requires knowing that the value of electronic games for learning comes not from merely inserting games into the curriculum, but rather on how different game genres reflect underlying pedagogical strategies that allow for learning in different content areas.

This advent of games in everyday life comes at a time of perceived crisis in education. For instance the President of the Federation of American Scientists, Henry Kelly, says that education in the United States is facing a critical problem in that it must educate students to face the challenges of the 21st century (Federation of American Scientists, 2005; Kelly, 2005). International studies, such as Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), and national assessments such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) show that U.S. students are not performing up to standard in mathematics, science, or literacy (Gonzales et al., 2004; Hampden-Thompson, Johnston, & American Institutes for Research, 2006). The report by the Federation of American Scientists argues that video games may be a powerful way of helping students learn what they need in order to succeed in a globalized world.

Video games capture children’s attention and imagination because they challenge, present fantasy, and generate curiosity through interactivity and intelligent design of game-play (Malone, 1981). Thus, it is not surprising to hear that games present a unique opportunity to educators to use the interests of children as a way to educate them. The use of video games for learning is argued by many to arise from the affordances of video games—in particular, video games allow learners to immerse themselves in highly interactive and engaging experiences. Such experiences can lead to contextual learning of complex activities and the development of understanding, skills, and innovativeness (Fabricatore, 2000; Greenfield et al., 1994; Subrahmanyan, Greenfield, Kraut, & Gross, 2001).

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