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Computer Games & Learning. What are these people doing?. Learning?. Playing?. Both?. What are we doing today?. Thinking about learning Constructivism & exploratory learning Playing PeaceMaker Thinking about learning and games. What makes a good learning experience?.

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Computer Games & Learning

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    1. Computer Games & Learning

    2. What are these people doing? Learning? Playing? Both?

    3. What are we doing today? • Thinking about learning • Constructivism & exploratory learning • Playing PeaceMaker • Thinking about learning and games

    4. What makes a good learning experience?

    5. What makes a good gaming experience?

    6. Why are we interested in the interface between gaming and learning? • Some believe that people’s ways of thinking are changing as a result of their engagement with technologies such as computer games • Prensky’s ‘digital natives’ • Computer games can be immensely motivating and involving – perhaps educators can learn from them to make learning more motivating and involving, too • Aspects of computer games seem to fit some of what we understand about useful environments for learning – perhaps we can use them as environments for learning as well as for fun

    7. How do we learn? Constructivism • Most of the interest in using computer games as environments and vehicles for learning derives from a constructivist account for the learning process • What is constructivism? • The clue’s in the name… • Individual’s ‘construct’ meaning, their understanding of the world • Learning is active and creative, not passive • Learning is a search for meaning • Learning consists of more than learning ‘parts’ of a subject, learners also need to understand ‘wholes’ and how the ‘parts’ fit into the context of these ‘wholes’ • Learning is social and dialogic

    8. Constructivism: Some basic principles • Learners bring unique prior knowledge, experience and beliefs to the learning situation • Knowledge is constructed uniquely and individually and in many ways, via interaction with authentic tools, resources, experiences and contexts • Learning involves a developmental process of accommodating new knowledge in existing cognitive structures, testing hypotheses and reconstructing our understanding of the world to accommodate new learning and thus arrive at new internal structures – learning is exploratory • Social interaction and the negotiation of understanding is central to the constructivist approach and provides the opportunity for multiple perspectives on the learning material

    9. Roles for ‘teachers’ • Constructivism involves an active vision of the learner, interacting with each other and their environments to construct meaning • So what is the role of the teacher? • Scaffolding • Support • Guidance • Facilitation • Zone of Proximal Development & the More Knowledgeable Other

    10. Scaffolding: ZPD & MKO • The Zone of Proximal Development is the ‘space’ between what the learner can do without help and what they cannot do with or without help • The role of the More Knowledgeable Other is to help the learner move across the ZPD, i.e., to extend their learning • This process is often referred to as scaffolding – think of it as the provision of ‘stepping stones’ across the ‘river’ of the ZPD. Note: the learner should still have to cross the river for themselves… • MKO may be a teacher, a peer, a family member, or a computer…

    11. An example • Child language development: Learning the past tense • Material for learning in the environment • Walked • Prepared • Opened • Hypothesis • Verb stem + ‘-ed’ • Test • Go-ed • Reformulation • Verb stem + ‘-ed’ (plus ‘irregular forms of some verbs’)

    12. Exploratory learning • ‘If we learn French by going to France let's learn maths by finding a maths land!’ • Seymour Papert

    13. What is exploratory learning? • Learning through exploring environments, ‘realia’, lived and virtual experiences with peer and tutorial support • By engaging with a modelled version of some aspect of the world, the learner is encouraged to identify patterns, recognise relationships between aspects of the model and draw conclusions about the way the model works • Problem solving • Experiment – test – hypothesis • Reflection • Collaboration (two heads are better than one – why?) • Learning can be transferred into lived experience in the real world, or applied to similar or dissimilar contexts (or can it?)

    14. Some issues • Learning in modelled environments places the learner in an active role, but it does not presume a passive role for the ‘teacher’ (MKO) • A proper level of scaffolding is required or the experience may become frustrational • The underlying rule system in the model will necessarily be a simplified version of the (infinitely complex and fuzzy) real world • Is this significant? • How necessary is it for the model to be ‘accurate’ • Does learning in modelled environments lead to learning about the aspect of the world that is being modelled, or is it more about learning thinking skills and problem solving? • How can links be created between the model and the subject that is being learned?

    15. Games & Learning • A new ‘net generation’? Prensky’s ‘Digital Natives’ • Games & motivation • Fun & intentionality • Learning games & games for learning

    16. Are teachers facing a generation of children who think differently? • Prensky, 2001 - young people are developing a new set of cognitive abilities as a result of their engagement with computer technologies and games (click here for more information): • Twitch speed vs conventional speed • Parallel processing vs linear processing • Graphics first vs text first • Random access vs step by step • Connected vs stand alone • Active vs passive • Play vs work • Pay-off vs patience • Fantasy vs reality • Technology as friend vs technology as foe

    17. Well, …? • Certainly, the technological context that children are developing in is likely to encourage different ways of thinking, but there is as considerable a range of diversity in young people as there is in adults: • Some children play often, some not at all • Children play different kinds of games • Boys and girls seem to have different preferences in terms of games played and how often they play them • Nevertheless, an exploration of the features of games that make them so engaging and motivating may allow us to apply some of those features to educational contexts and thus enhance and encourage learning…

    18. Motivation • What makes computer games so motivating? • Jones suggests that the following are essential to the design of engaging environments: • Task that we can complete • Ability to concentrate on task • Task has clear goals • Task provides immediate feedback • Deep but effortless involvement (losing awareness of worry and frustration of everyday activity) • Exercising a sense of control over our actions • Concern for self disappears during flow, but sense of self is stronger after flow activity • Sense of duration of time is altered • Jones (1998)

    19. Clear goals: an objective is distinctly defined; immediate feedback: one knows instantly how well one is doing. The opportunities for acting decisively are relatively high, and they are matched by one's perceived ability to act. In other words, personal skills are well suited to given challenges. Action & awareness merge; one-pointedness of mind. Concentration on the task at hand; irrelevant stimuli disappear from consciousness, worries & concerns are temporarily suspended. A sense of potential control. Loss of self-consciousness, transcendence of ego boundaries, a sense of growth and of being part of some greater entity. Altered sense of time, which usually seems to pass faster. Experience becomes autotelic: If several of the previous conditions are present, what one does becomes autotelic, or worth doing for its own sake. Csikszentmihalyi, 1994 Flow state – ‘In the Zone…’ Much of the thought about computer games and motivation is based around Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow state’, which arises when one is engaged in self-controlled, goal-related, meaningful actions.

    20. Is it all about ‘fun’? • Rule-based, goal-directed challenging play generates ‘fun’ • ‘Hard fun’A phrase used by a small boy when describing what he thought about programming a Lego robot at MIT (a development of Papert’s work with Logo – constructivism in practice) • Fun doesn’t equate to ‘easy’ • Should we be treating learners as players? Providing learners with experiences in which they do not know that they are learning? • ‘Stealth learning’?

    21. ‘If nobody makes you do it, it counts as fun…’

    22. ‘What are your intentions?’ • School-based learning is ‘intention-driven’ • Learning objectives • Learning outcomes • Curriculum design • Lesson planning • Is ‘intentionality’ important? • Do learners need a specific learning goal in order to learn in a game, or game-like environment? • Some important questions for educators • How can we find out what learners are learning in a game? • How can we make learners aware of what they have learned? • How can we encourage learners to make use of what they have learned in other contexts?

    23. Learning games • Laurillard (1995) • Multimedia learning environments for children • Making sense of complex environments is difficult • Knowing what to look for and then what to do with it is difficult • Hypermedia environments can lead to superficial approaches to learning as the learner links from one area to another ‘information grazing’ • Laurillard proposes the need for the following to be built into these environments: • Scaffolding • Goal-oriented-ness • Learning tools (notepads for capturing information and ideas) • Skills development (helping learners become better learners) • Expert models

    24. Some learning games (‘edugames’) • Granny’s Garden • (Very old… still found in Primary schools) • Programs > Education > General • Crystal Rain Forest • Introduction to Logo • Programs > Education > Science & Technology • Food Force • United Nations World Food Programme •

    25. To think about • What features of these games are intended to enhance and encourage learning? • What kind of thinking did they involve? • What were you and your partner talking about while engaged with the games • What were you learning?

    26. What features should learning games have? • Pre-set starter scenarios • Accuracy • Saving & restarting • Teacher information • Control of sound and other features • Progress • Interface • Challenge & collaboration • Real world ‘expertise’ • Time • McFarlane et al, 2002

    27. Learning with games • TEEM study (McFarlane et al) – Computer games supporting learning in the classroom • Adventure/quest games • Age of Empires • Simulations • Championship Manager • Race games • Microracers • Maze games • Alpha Team • Edutainment • Tweenies: Ready to Play • Creative model building • Sim City (Also, see here) • Shooting/arcade games • Critical Zone

    28. What kind of learning? • Skills development • Communication and collaborative work • Discussion, decision making, presenting arguments and finding agreement • Problem-solving • Exploratory learning, working out solutions, developing their own understandings of the game’s rule systems • Mathematical development • Working with ‘budgets’ • Describing position • ICT skills • Motivation (may not coincide with learning objectives…) • Thinking skills • Reasoning, enquiry, evaluation, strategic thinking, decision-making, planning, evaluating, hypothesising

    29. Further reading • Atherton J S (2005) Learning and Teaching:  Angles on learning, particularly after the schooling years. Retrieved on 20th March, 2007 from • Facer, K. (No date). Computer games and learning: Why do we think it’s worth talking about games and learning in the same breath. Nesta Futurelab discussion paper.[Online].Retrieved on 20th March, 2007 from • de Freitas, S. (2006). Learning in immersive worlds: A review of game-based learning. JISC. [Online]. Retrieved on 20th March, 2007 from • de Freitas, S. & Oliver, M. (2006) How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Computers and Education, 46 (3). pp. 249-264 [Online] Retrieved on March 20th from

    30. Further reading (cont’d) • Laurillard, D. (1995). ‘Multimedia and the changing experience of the learner’. British Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), 179-189. [Online]. Retrieved on 20th March, 2007 from (Note this is not quite the same article as in the journal, but it does cover the same content and issues) • McFarlane, A., Sparrowhawk, A. & Heald, Ysanne (2002). Report on the educational use of games. Cambridge: TEEM. [Online].Retrieved on 20th March, 2007 from • Mitchell, A. & Savill-Smith, C. (2004). The use of computer and video games for learning: A review of the literature. London: Learning & Skills Development Agency. [Online]. Retrieved on 20th March, 2007 from

    31. Further reading (continued) • Papert, S. (No date). Seymour Papert’s website. [Online]. Retrieven on March 20th, 2007 from • Prensky, M. (2001) Digital Game-based Learning. New York: McGraw-HIll • Sandford, R., Ulicsak, Facer, K. & Rudd, T. (2006). Teaching with games: using comnmercial offf-the-shelf games computer games in formal education. Futurelab. [Online]. Retrieved on March 20th, 2007 from