An Investigation of Current Online Educational Games

An Investigation of Current Online Educational Games

Yufeng Qian (St. Thomas University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch702
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Abstract

Electronic games are becoming an important part of many American children’s life today. Electronic educational gaming, as a new instructional technique and media, holds great potential for the new millennium of learners. To reflect the preferences and meet the needs of this generation of learners, many various online games for educational purposes are made available?the sheer number of existing educational games is overwhelming. The purpose of this chapter is to investigate the current state of educational games on the Internet, targeting K-12 learners in the United States. Major game providers and salient design features are identified, and future directions of game development for educational purposes are discussed.
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Introduction

Digital games have emerged as one of the largest forms of entertainment in pop culture, and playing video and computer games is an important part of many children’s leisure life in the United States (Entertainment Software Association, 2007). Gaming is ranked among the top applications of the Internet (Pew Internet and American Life, 2005); kids between 2 and 18 years of age spend 20-33 minutes a day playing digital games (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2002). As a multi-billion-dollar industry rivaling with Hollywood’s cultural influence, playing digital games is a dominant play culture and is increasingly affecting the way kids grow and their informal learning outside school.

Digital games’ popularity and influence have aroused an intense interest in exploring their educational uses and benefits. Prensky (2001), Gee (2003), Aldrich (2005), and Squire (2005a) are among the early pioneers who have attempted to understand the inherent lure of games, as well as to uncover the power of digital game-based learning. Meanwhile, a number of research centers and initiatives dedicated to game study have emerged, including the Media Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and its Games-to-Teach Project, the Games and Professional Practice Simulations (GAPPS) Group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University, the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and the Digital Games Research Center at North Carolina State University. Digital game-based learning is said to be the next generation’s educational media that holds great potential for meeting the needs and learning styles of the millennial generation of learners (Aldrich, 2005; Gee, 2003; Oblinger, 2004; Prensky, 2001).

To reflect and cater to the needs and preferences of the millennials, myriad educational games are constantly being developed and made available on the Internet. A Google search of “online educational games” returned about 14.5 millions hits. Companies, organizations, or services targeting children compete to offer free online games intended to help children learn while playing. Some educational organizations and agencies have categorized or recognized top educational game Web sites monthly or annually. For example, EduHound (affiliated with T.H.E. Journal) identifies and updates its listing of “Fun & Games” Web sites for kids (http://apps.exploratorium.edu/10cool/index.php).

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