Saturday, April 10, 2010

The effectiveness of educational gaming and the new possibilities of engaged learning.

The potential for computer gaming in the classroom is becoming more and more recognised by teachers as a way of generating engaged learning amongst students. Studies are finding that games make learning fun by using entertainment as an educational tool. The idea is that the child will enjoy themselves and forget that they’re learning, but still maintain the knowledge they pick up while playing.

Play, which is recognised in early childhood as an important part of development, is also being recognised in secondary level students as an important way of learning (Scarlatos, 2009). These active learning experiences help develop students understanding and skill levels by scaffolding, building on their own prior knowledge and the knowledge of their classmates (Scarlotos, 2009). Computer games are becoming increasingly recognised as motivating for children and this strong motivational pull is of particular interest to theorists, who over the last 25 years have been researching this ‘intrinsic motivation’ and the factors that make games motivating (Rigby et al., 2009). Malone (1981) hypothesised that “the appeal of games was largely a function for their ability to evoke challenge, fantasy, and curiosity in players” (Rigby et al., 2009). Satisfaction and competence have also been noted, as well as self-determination, which “supports a framework that can bridge the gap between education and social values” (Rigby et al., 2009).

As an example of self-determination, is a particular study on children’s motivational experiences through video games. The focus was on a group of students from Jackson Creek Secondary School who participated in a study by the School of Education about video games. Researches gathered data on the student’s techniques and decision making in the games to help develop instructional technologies that will convey knowledge in the classroom. Robert Appleman, the coordinator of technology education discussed the use of games in the classroom. Appleman identified that the games were fun for the kids who were smiling, laughing, interacting and socialising with other students. It was found that by focusing on games in study, students can have just as much learning as they would playing.

This enjoyment in learning has also been linked to increased student self-esteem. A case study which focused on the effects of commercial off-the-shelf computer games, researched children’s mental computation skills and aspects of self-perceptions. The participants used games consoles each day, running a ‘brain training’ game. Their results were compared to an alternate group who were learning the same content in a traditional setting. Over a ten week period, significant gains were found in the games console group for both accuracy and speed of calculations. This group also showed gains in self-perception (Miller et al., 2010).

Whilst computer games do offer many opportunities for enhanced learning, there are several issues in incorporating the computer games into schools. This integration challenges the current culture of schools and traditional teacher perceptions (Lim, 2008). Thus, there is the lack of technical support, lack of professional training and resources. In order for the opportunity of computer games to be put in place within the cultural system of schools as an engaged learning tool, Lim suggests certain practices that need to be considered. This includes, redesigning the curriculum to create opportunities for different students with different needs, building upon student’s outside-classroom experiences and “shifting away from evaluative structures that function to support social reproduction and towards opportunities that support learning” (Lim, 2008).

Other criticisms are that games do not meet the needs of the curriculum, teacher, or the whole class of student’s (Scarlatos, 2009). Lim suggests a solution to these issues and questions whether the empowerment of students to create games for one another, based on the school’s curriculum may address the insignificance of computer games in the classroom setting. By creating classroom assignments where the student acts as the designer, harnesses the excitement and engagement among students and reaches an assessable outcome.

Research into the benefits of computer games in education is often limited by how quickly the particular games studied become outdated (Miller et al., 2010). The possibilities, however, for the motivational effects of gaming in the classroom is becoming increasingly accepted. There are still varying concerns and criticisms by educators in regards to the integration of gaming devises. Teachers often abandon technology that they are unfamiliar with (Lim, 2008). However with enough information and ideas about how these games may be effectively used to engage students in their learning, educators may become more confident and interested in exploring their uses.

Gaming in Education, April 24, 2009

Lim, P.C., 2008, Spirit of the game: Empowering students as designers in schools? British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol 39, No. 6

Miller, D.J., and Robertson, D.P., 2010, using a games console in the primary classroom: Effects of ‘Brain Training’ programme on computation and self-esteem, British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol 41, No. 2

Rigby, S.C., and Prybylski, A.K., 2009, virtual worlds and the learner hero: How today’s video games can inform tomorrow’s digital learning environments, Theory and research in education, Vol 7, No. 214

Scarlatos,L.L., and Scarlatos, T., 2009, Teacher directed active learning games, Educational Technology Systems, Vol 37, No. 3

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