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Educational Games


The Tycoon-games, Capitalism-games. Railroad Tycoon. Educational ... Putt Putt Saves the Zoo (1995) MS Magic School Bus Explores (1995) Pajama Sam (1996) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Educational Games

Educational Games
  • An introductory lecture

Game Theory 10.12.07 Rasmus Harr rasmusharr_at_itu.d
  • A bit of history
  • Why educational games got popular during the last
    5 years
  • The learning theories behind educational games
  • The problems of designing educational games

A bit of history
Educational games and the Military
  • Chaturanga
  • 7th century, India the predecessor of Chess
  • Koenigspiel Kriegspiel
  • Started as a hobby in prussian military circles
    in 17th century, but spread.
  • von Reisswitz 1824 LARGE war game for training
    and fun for the German army

Educational games and the Military
  • Start of 20th century Almost all countries use
    war games to train and educate in military
  • World War II extensively gamed
  • Today
  • Marine Doom
  • Delta Force 2
  • Guard Force and Joint Force Employment
  • Americas Army
  • Full Spectrum Warrior
  • Close Combat Marines
  • Full Spectrum Command

Business games and simulations
  • 1956 US Air Force Monopologs
  • Inventory managers managing Air Force supply
  • 1957 Top Management Decision Simulation
  • University of Washington, business college class
    ? success of business games and simulations has
    continued ever since
  • Commercial successes also
  • The Tycoon-games, Capitalism-games

Railroad Tycoon
Educational Computer Games the early days
  • The early years (progressive titles)
  • Oregon Trail, MECC, 1971
  • Lemonade Stand, 1971
  • 1973 Plato Inspired by Piaget and Dewey make
    math more everyday like 2 and 2 bananas
    proved to by very effective
  • Rocky Boots 1982 (design logical circuits)
    simulation as key to learning environment
  • The Robot Odyssey 1984
  • The start of behaviorist edutainment too
  • 1979 Electric Company Math Fun
  • (The more right answers the faster you progress
    through the jungle. If you fail an answer your
    gorilla is thrown in the river and cannot get up
    before answering a new question correctly.)

Oregon Trail 1985 (commercial ed.)
Electric Company Math Fun
80s Adventure games
  • 1982 Snooper Troops
  • 1984 Winnie the Pooh in Hundred Acres Wood
  • 1985 Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego
  • 1985 Oregon Trail (Commercial edition)
  • 1986 Mickey's Space Adventure
  • (Close integration between motivation and
  • 80s Educational games contested entertainment
    games in terms of sales (titles described at The
    Underdogs, and Mobygames)

Snooper Troops
80s and especially 90s Edutainment
  • 1984 Seven Cities of Gold
  • 1987 Mavis Beacon teaches typing
  • A curious offspring Typing of the Dead
  • Extrinsic motivation Learning and game are split
  • Edutainment market grows and behaviorist titles
    slowly become dominating pushing other types of
    educational computer games out of the market

Mavis Beacon teaches typing
  • Educational games move from game industry to
    educational publishers
  • Adventure games grow less popular after the
    mid-90s, and ed. games almost die out
  • Commercial games with educational elements
  • SimCity (1989), Lemmings (1990), SimEarth (1990),
    Civilization (1991)
  • Eco Quest (1992) (designed by Jane Jensen who
    later did the Gabriel Knight-series)
  • The Incredible Machine 1993
  • Big current edutainment brands are started in the
  • Freddie Fish (1994)
  • Putt Putt Saves the Zoo (1995)
  • MS Magic School Bus Explores (1995)
  • Pajama Sam (1996)

Pajama Sam
Today Serious games
  • The Serious Games initiative 2002
  • Games for other purposes than merely
    entertainmentEducational GamesEdutainmentAdver
    gamesBusiness gamesMilitary gamesPolitical
    gamesSimulation Games

Examples of recent titles
  • Making History The Calm and the Storm
  • GC Palestine
  • Trailer
  • Constructivist and socio-cultural approaches

Making History
GC Palestine
Lots of research world wide
  • Starting point Critique of edutainment
  • Started out as a serious attempt to use games for
    learning but ended in caricatures of games and a
    conservative use of learning, extrinsic
    motivation bad for learning
  • Common Belief
  • Better learning experiences, better technical
    platforms learning experience is not limited to
    what happens between player and game (Squire/Gee
    constructionist/socio-cultural learning
    theories gain ground)

Why educational games got popular during the last
5 years
Why the rise on popularity of Serious Games?
  • Computer games more mainstream
  • More research on computer games
  • Technology
  • Learning is high on the public agenda
  • Life-long learning, home learning, supplementary
    training ? a more flexible approach to learning
  • Part of the general focus on new media and
  • Remediation New media affects and are affected
    by other media does that also apply for
  • Games Engagement and motivation

Claims about education and new media
  • 21st century skills
  • Twitch-speed generation
  • Generation G
  • Before every child is leftbehind
  • Teaching for Innovation
  • Staying in front of Indiaand China
  • We must look at what games have to offer vs.
    other educational media

10 min. break
  • Grab some coffee after the break its theory!

How do educational games work?A look at learning
theories used on games
Behaviorism Cognitivism Constructionism Socio-C
ultural Approach
  • The player practices a specific area through
    repetition while receiving rewards after each
    proper response.
  • Extrinsic Motivation and a focus on transfer
    rather than construction
  • Pavlov Experiments with dogs
  • Thorndike Law of Exercise and Effect
  • Skinner Drill-and-practice machine. Overt
    actions, not reflection, not understanding
  • 80s behaviorism was prominent, in the 90s it
    became the norm
  • Typing of the Dead a very good example

Behavorism strengths and weaknesses
  • Strengths
  • Has been very effective within game design
  • Has been effective within area of health
  • A study of the game Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus,
    which compares the game with watching a
    documentary (Lieberman 1997, 2001)
  • Weaknesses
  • Scope of learning Focuses merely on training of
    mechanical operations, therefore limits to what
    one can learn memorizing/rote learning of
    specific behaviours but no deep understanding
    (works for writing, typing etc. but not much
  • Extrinsic Motivation Makes kids more interested
    in playing the game than learning ex. getting
    points for completing a level becomes more
    important than learning

  • How to enhance the learning of video games by
    being aware of the limitations of the humans
    cognitive apparatus
  • Titles Discovery and inquiry, letting the player
    construct his/her own learning representations in
    an active dialogue with the game
  • Schematas with limits and opportunities
  • Piaget is often referred to as the father of
  • Neuro-science on organization of materials
  • Retrieval, Encoding, Chunking, Modalities,
    Transfer-problems, scaffolding of information
  • Game Example Phoenix Quest Super Tangrams

Phoenix Quest
Super Tangrams
Cognitivism - continued
  • Malone and Lepper 1987 Extrinsic motivation is
    in the way of the learning experience
  • Challenge
  • Difficulty level, short-term and long-term goals,
    uncertain outcomes, and facilitating investment
    of self-esteem through meaningful goals
  • Feedback
  • Curiosity
  • Encourage exploration and organization of the
    information in relation to both the sensory and
    the cognitive areas. (via pointers towards large
    unknown information hidden in game)
  • Experience of control
  • Responsive environment, high degree of choice,
    ability of player to perform great effects
  • Fantasy
  • Fantasy elements which appeal to the target group
    emotionally, metaphors for the learning content,
    and be an endogenous part of the learning
  • Interpersonal activity
  • Increased motivation resulting from social
    context of game Competition and collaboration
    with peer. Recognition of peers serves as

Cognitivism - Limitations and potentials
  • Strengths
  • Has a lot to say on the design of the game, and
    the motivation of the learner
  • Flow experiences, audiovisual props, control of
    learning process
  • Marshall Jones Learning games theory for flow
    explains a great deal on intrinsic motivation
  • Klawe Strong elements in video games unlimited
    number of activities, visualization,
    manipulation, symbolic representations, adaptive
    sequencing, feedback, and meaningful,
    contextualized activities.
  • Learning outcome Klawe and Sedighian Super
    Tangrams and Phoenix Quest (Math teaching)
  • Weaknesses
  • Cognitivism often focus on meta-skills
    Problem-solving, thus less on content-side
  • Still focuses on the relation between the player
    and the game does not include context of play

  • Emphasizes the active role of the learner and
    external objects in the learning process.
  • Seymore Papert drawing on Piaget The Logo
    programming language, uses geometric shapes to
    draw for children. - Mindstorms book and Lego
  • Constructionist titles Microworlds engage with
    artefacts in microworlds and learn about them
  • The constructivist edutainment microworlds
    simulate a part of the world allowing the player
    to explore
  • The focus is not on hard content as such, but
    rather on the general skills of creativity,
    problem-solving, critical-thinking skills,
    sequential planning, and memory
  • Kafai Research w. letting kids design games
    new media literacy

My Make-believe Castle
Constructionism - continued
  • Strengths
  • Includes the context more in the learning
  • Works for maths and programming-teaching (Kafai)
  • Weaknesses
  • Kafai (1996) Design of microworlds is a lot
    harder than drill-and-practice games
  • The topic in the microworld has to be integrated,
    no well-tested action formula blueprint as with
    behaviorist or cognitivist titles
  • Does not say much about the game

Socio-cultural approach
  • Video games are not the learning experience per
    se but the tool for creating a learning
  • Rote learning is not what video games is about
    instead they are about mediating discussions,
    reflection, facts, and analysis via the
    surrounding classroom cultures.
  • Vygotsky Video game as an embodied tool extends
    action of a given agent (learner) and creates
    opportunities and limitations for the learner.
  • Different contexts and tools facilitate a variety
    of learning experiences.
  • Carsten Jessens research Peer-learning around
    gaming. Informal learning processes
  • Squire 2004 Civilization 3 in the classroom for
    mediating History discussions

Civilization 3
Socio-cultural approach - continued
  • Proximate development (Vygotsky) How far can I
    get alone, how far can I get with help?
  • From actual point of development to potential
    point of development.
  • Tools/helper are mediators to facilitate the
    learners appreciation of a given activity
  • Video game as an embodied tool extends action of
    a given agent (learner) and creates opportunities
    and limitations for the learner.

Tensions between the 4 theoretical frameworks
  • Learning vs. Playing A whole or two parts?
    Extrinsic or intrinsic motivation?
  • Freedom vs. control How much freedom to
    students? Teachers creating a firm setting w.
    educational goals
  • Drill-and-practice vs. microworlds Benefit of
    drill and practice is limited, but it is cheap to
    create, most research is on micro-worlds, but few
    games reflect that (Making History and GC
  • Transmission vs. Construction Only behaviorism
    and early cognitivism believes in learning as
    transmission, most other theories are about
    constructing knowledge
  • Transfer Immersive effects of video games lead
    to lack of awareness of contents, structures, and
    concepts in game results in weaker learning and
    transfer. Stealth or explicit learning?
  • Teacher intervention vs. no teacher intervention
    Behaviorism and cognitivism neglect teacher
    approach even though a lot of research says it is

The problems of designing educational games
Practical Barriers
  • Practical/structural
  • Technical limitations
  • Limited space
  • Time slots for lessons
  • Game-related
  • Learning the game
  • Complexity of the game
  • Students a wide target audience w. diff. prefs.
    and skills.
  • Balance between playing/learning and integration
    of computer games with teaching
  • Expectations
  • The students and the teachers initial way of
    thinking about computer games, history, learning,
    and teaching.

History teaching as an example
  • Procedural skillsCivilization 3, Making History
    often counter-factual history understand the
    system behind history (as opposed to facts)
  • History the Niall Ferguson- or Jared Diamond way
  • MicroworldGC Palestine simulate the
    experience realism, understand the places and
    the people behind a Discovery-like experience
  • Often a mix
  • Epistemic Games both the system and a
    simulation of the experience ex,
    games for companies

Design with all 4 theories?
  • Behaviorism
  • Examines the narrow relation between video game
    and students focusing on the role of motivation
    (no context at all very focused on
  • Cognitivism
  • Examines how knowledge of the human cognitive
    apparatus can be used to facilitate learning and
    motivation (a little more context, focuses on the
    why also, as well as preferences of the
    individual player)
  • Constructionism
  • Shows us how video games can be used as a shared
    artifact for constructing knowledge (a lot more
    context how the game is just one tool on the
    road to learning, includes a social aspect)
  • Socio-cultural approach
  • Examines the environment that emerges around
    video games in negotiating and constructing
    knowledge. Collaboration, debriefing, and
    discussion (focuses on EVERYTHING how the game
    can be a small part in an educational and
    cultural context)