schaller-games - Introduction Theodore Koterwas, New Media...

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2 W D I L Introduction Theodore Koterwas, New Media Director, Exploratorium Games are hot. The hype is that the commercial game industry will soon be bigger than Hollywood. Kids and hard- core gamers are glued to their game consoles, personal computers, and PlayStation portables. Conferences are springing up right and left about how to capitalize on their popularity in other disciplines and pursuits, including education and social progress. I doubt there will be a conference this summer that does not discuss games in some way. Professor James Gee has become almost a celebrity in education circles by describing video games in constructivist terms. Everybody seems to want to build a game. (I bet they’re even talking about it at the James Joyce Conference at Cornell right now—no one really under- stands the rules, but . ..) It may sound like I’m setting this up as overblown in order to tear it down, but despite the knee-jerk desire to critique what has become almost comically fashionable, I think the issue bears serious consideration. There are a lot of very smart people who believe in games and yes, they are mostly gamers them- selves—one of Gee’s central points is that you must actually play games and even make them to really understand their power. Coe Leta Stafford, Brent Lowrie, David Schaller, and Jake Cressman are gamers who are making games or looking at them to inform their practice. What Makes a Learning Game? David Schaller, Principal, Educational Web Adventures Games have broad appeal, making it tempting to call almost any computer learning interactive a game. But although games take many different forms, there are fundamental characteristics that distinguish a true game from other types of interactives. Thoughtful analysis of these charac- teristics in relation to any particular interactive will help clarify its true nature, and provide honest branding for users. Such analysis can also suggest its potential as a learning game, although user evaluation is necessary to truly understand its effectiveness. Malone and Lepper (1987) provide valuable guid- ance with their list of key characteristics of a learning game: How do these characteristics manifest themselves in something that claims to be a learning game? This first example interactive is an interactive mystery called Pest Detective , from the National Pest Management Association’s Pestworld for Kids Web site ( (Although the subject matter may seem pejorative towards the natural world, the site defines pests as “animals out of place” and thus explores pest ecology rather than pest elimination.) a) Challenge is created by having clear, fixed goals that are relevant for the learner. Uncertain outcomes provide challenge by offering variable difficulty levels, hidden information, and random- ness. Feedback on performance should be fre- quent, unambiguous, and supportive. Lastly, the activity should promote feelings of competence for the person involved. b) Curiosity
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This note was uploaded on 10/25/2011 for the course ECON 2301 taught by Professor Staff during the Spring '08 term at HCCS.

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schaller-games - Introduction Theodore Koterwas, New Media...

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