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Game-Based Literacies & Learning Hiller A. Spires Professor & Senior Research Fellow College of Education NC State University What is the New Literacies Collaborative (NLC)?

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Game-Based Literacies & Learning

Hiller A. SpiresProfessor & Senior Research Fellow

College of Education

NC State University

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What is the New Literacies Collaborative (NLC)?

A multidisciplinary team of researchers and educators who promote research, professional development, and global connections around new literacies.

New literacies emerge from the theoretical and practical intersection of literacy, technology, and media.

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Join Us!

  • New Literacies Collaborative

  • New Literacies Teacher Leader Institute

    July 12 – 17, 2009 at the Friday Institute

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Pew Internet & American Life Project(September, 2008)

  • Game playing is universal--almost all 12-17 year olds play games.

  • Most popular game categories (puzzle, sports, action and adventure).

  • Game playing is social--most teens play games with others at least some of the time.

  • Almost a third of teens play games that are listed as appropriate only for people older than they are.

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10 Most Frequently Played Games

  • Guitar Hero 158

  • Halo 3 104

  • Madden NFL (no specific version) 77

  • Solitaire 65

  • Dance Dance Revolution 60

  • Madden NFL 08 59

  • Tetris 59

  • Grand Theft Auto (no specific version) 58

  • Halo (no specific version) 57

  • The Sims (no specific version) 54

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Games and 21st Century Learning

American Federation of Scientists (2006)

Game players are able to:

Rapidly analyze new situations

Interact with characters they don’t really know

Solve problems quickly and independently

Think strategically in a chaotic world

Collaborate effectively in teams

Becker & Wade, 2004

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NLC Research: Game-based Learning

  • Bayesian Pedagogical Agents for Dynamic High Performance Inquiry-Based Science Learning Environment (NSF-0632450)

  • Research Team

    • James Lester, Computer Science

    • Hiller Spires, Literacy & Technology

    • John Nietfeld, Educational Psychology

    • Scott McQuiggan, Kim Turner, Eleni

      Lobeni, Kristin Hoffman, Sunyoung

      Lee - Graduate Assistants

    • Betty Welsh & Ada Lopez - Teachers

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Research Questions

  • What are the effects of game-based performance on science content learning?

  • What game-based student performance profiles can be derived from time series data of student actions and plot points?

  • How do individual student differences contribute to clusters of game-based performance?

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  • Participants

    • 54 female and 62 male 8th grade students randomly assigned to three conditions

  • Curricular Development

    • Five Curricular Goals

      • Defining pathogens

      • Defining virtual, bacterial, and fungal pathogens

      • Integration and comparisons of different types of pathogens

      • Scientific method and hypothesis testing

      • Treatment and prevention of pathogenic illnesses

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  • Measures

    • Microbiology Content Pre- and Post-Test

    • Problem Solving Measure (PISA, 2006)

    • Computer and Gaming Interest Survey

    • Interest in the Intervention Survey

  • Procedures

    • Three conditions: CI Narrative (n = 58), CI Narrative-Lite (n = 55), and Control (n = 34)

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Results Among Experimental Conditions

CI Narrative

CI Narrative-Lite


  • Science Content Learning

  • Problem-Solving

    • No differences across conditions

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Results Across Experimental Conditions

CI Narrative CI Narrative-Lite Control

Self-Reported Interest in Intervention

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Clusters of Navigation Traces within the Narrative Condition

Navigation traces describe how each student maneuvered through the game environment

Operationalized by the number of cumulative actions, number of plot points completed, and completion time

Hierarchical clustering, using SAS JMP, to cluster students into three groups

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Theoretical Implications Condition

  • Narrative Centered Learning Theory

  • Transactional Theory (Rosenblatt, 1983, 2004; McEneaney, 2006)

  • Cognitive Load Theory (Sweller, 1999, 2005; Mayer, 2005, 2008)

    • Extraneous processing

    • Essential processing

    • Generative processing

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Future Studies Condition

  • Implement multiple assessment measures, including performance-based assessment

  • Provide intelligent scaffolding informed by students’ game behaviors

  • Pair think-aloud protocols with navigation traces to determine transactional strategy use

  • Assess effects of student collaborative problem-solving

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The Promise and Peril of Games Condition

2nd Grader

Child: Guess what? I got to spend 15 extra minutes playing a computer game at school today.

Mom: Oh great. What were you learning with the game?

Child: *sigh* Mom, you don’t learn stuff with games – you just play.