Stephen Downes

Knowledge, Learning, Community

Games and Learning

May 21, 2007

This is a good paper, though it's frustrating to watch a completely undefended approach to learning being applied over and over again. The authors, after describing how games support learning in general, attempt to apply this to the formal environment. Part of the problem is a lack of experience with the games - the authors complain that the 'enemies' in war games are usually German, Vietnamese or Arab, for example, without realizing that in many games players can pick either side to play. But mostly, the authors' application of the games to a classroom environment contorts them - in the case study involving Civilization, for example, a value of the game is that players learn that there isn't a simple cause-effect relation between actions and consequences, but in the chart (pp. 18-19) the authors say that the players should be able to "infer from the feedback supplied how their actions have caused particular effects." In the recommendations (p.30) the authors state that "Educators should be clear about the exact learning goals they are hoping to achieve when using games." This does not follow at all from the description of games previous, and reflects nothing more than presumption on the part of the authors. Via Alexander Hayes, who links to several other useful reports from FutureLab.


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