draft_lens1948214module13171130photo_1230617971making_voki.jpgComputer Games - The Power of Play
by Connie Learn


Definition/Description of Computer Games
Since we are discussing computer games used in education, we will refer to these as edugames. To be considered an edugame, games need 3 features: “they must have worthwhile learning objectives, they must be fun, and the game’s goals (winning) must reinforce the learning goals.” (Alessi & Trollip, 2001, p. 298). In a research-based study, these factors were listed as needed to sustain interest: “Players want challenging games with clear and concise instructions, help functions, and control over gaming options such as speed, difficulty, and timing. High-quality screen design, color, action, animation, and appropriate use of sound and feedback are desirable.” (Dempsey, Haynes, Lucassen & Casey 2002, p.157). Many computer games have the power of play, meaning that they are self-motivating, so if we can tap into this power of play using edugames, we may have found another door that opens the way for more students to be successful in school. I believe edugames should be used in conjunction
with other learning tools, not as the sole means of instruction.

Why Aren't Edugames Used More Often in Education?
How many kids play video games? According to a nationally representative sample with a telephone survey done in 2008 on 1,102 children ages 12 to 17, 97% play video games (99% of the boys. 94% of the girls)! So, if video games are so popular, why aren't they being used more often in education? There are numerous barriers such as making the curriculum match the game, software/hardware issues for high-tech games, assessment showing use of the games is effective, teacher training and support, and costs (computers, accessories, maintenance, design, development), - just to name a few. (Stansbury, 2009)



Summary of Computer Games
As early as 3000 B.C., games have been used as an instructional tool, but with the increased use of computers since the 1960s, computer games have really taken off. “Play is not a luxury but rather a crucial dynamic of healthy physical, intellectual, and social-emotional development at all age levels.” (Elkind, 2007, p. 4) In David Elkind’s book, The Power of Play (2007) he discusses the three dispositions in our lives (play, love, and work), and how we learn best when all three come together. “The resulting change in priorities among the three dispositions [play, love, work] helps account for the seventh grade slump – declining interest in academics during the first years of puberty. If we were wise, we would do away with seventh grade and instead have young people put on a play, build a boat, or set up a store for learning basic relationship and coping skills. Such projects would bring together the three dispositions in an age-appropriate way.” (Elkind, 2007, p. 10) As a teacher of seventh and eighth grade students, this makes complete sense to me! At this age getting basic students to complete homework is like pulling teeth. Most honors and GATE students manage somehow not to get completely lost in the world of adolescence and somehow complete most of their homework, but for others, it is a sinking ship, so how can we motivate students to do homework and learn? Would edugames do the trick?

“Formal instruction is work. For it to be effective, play and love need to be made part of the process. Parents and teachers are most effective if they build on children’s love of stories, contrasts, rhythm and rhyme, unexpected facts, and humor.” (Elkind, 2007, p. 127) Elkind continues to explain that the attraction to use computer games in education is that they are
self-motivating. "From a theory of play perspective, computer games allow for student input (play), challenge and excitement (love), and learning about the world (work).” (Elkind, 2007, p. 59) If we can find edugames that match our learning objectives, we may help many more students find success in school. Finding a solution to motivate students to complete homework and to finish required reading would be half the battle.

If we can find/make successful edugames, another benefit would be differentiated learning. “Until now most schools have favored children with reading and math skills. But as we saw in the examples above, some games require more reasoning, others more visual spatial abilities; action games require good visual motor coordination. If curriculum materials can be presented in different game formats that address differences in learning styles and ability patterns, we can significantly reduce school failure.” (Elkind, 2007, p. 60) How cool would that be to have different programs that provide accommodations to students' preferred learning styles that also cover the same material? Trying to provide good accommodations for our struggling and/or advanced learners is time consuming. Unfortunately all too often, the accommodations and/or reteaching turn out to be just more of the same material in the same format. Edugames could change all that.

In several research-based studies, the value of using multisensory environments has been tested out by cognitive psychologist Richard Mayer. He divided the room into three groups. One group received information from one sense like audio, and another group received information from another sense like sight, and a third group received information from both of these senses. In his experiments the multisensory group always did better than the other two groups. (Medina, 2008, p. 208) Edugames offer that multisensory approach. We can see things on the computer screen; we can hear a narration, an explanation, or sound with a computer; and we involve the kinesthetic feature when our fingers navigate/manipulate the mouse or keyboard.

Will edugames find a substantial place in education one day? Time and money are only two of the abundant obstacles. Many other barriers exist, including the bias that many parents and educators have against computer games, but I cannot help but believe that somewhere in this wide world, there has got to be the Bill Gate of edugames just waiting to bloom. If someone can match up the popularity of video games with good educational content and objectives in edugames, learners might become self-motivated through the power of play and unlock the door to a whole new way of learning.


Resources/Links:
This links to a study that discusses computer games for educational instruction and covers 40 computers games with160 observations on the games. http://sag.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/33/2/157
This links to applying computer gaming principles to E-learning http://www.spcollege.edu/eagle/research/beep/beep54.htm
This is a link for citations/references for Second Life and virtual worlds.
http://www.uncp.edu/home/acurtis/NewMedia/SecondLife/SecondLifeCitations.html**
Can gaming change education? http://www.eschoolnews.com/2009/12/09/can-gaming-change-education/**
Computer game related sites http://www.ithaca.edu/faculty/kgregson/game_related.html
Picture on top: Royaltyfree draft_lens1948214module13171130photo_1230617971making_
References
• Alessi, S. & Trollip, S. (2001). Multimedia for learning. Needham Heights, Massahusetts: Allyn & Bacon.
• Dempsey, J.V., Haynes, L.A., Lucassen, B. A.& Casey, M. S. (2002). Forty simple computer games and what they could mean to educators. Simulation Gaming. 33, (2),157.
• Elkind, D. (2007). The power of play: Learning what comes naturally. Philadelphia: Da Capo Press.
• Irvine, M., (2008).
Survey: 97 Percent of Children Play Video Games. Retrieved April 11, 2010. from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/09/16/survey-97-percent-of-chil_n_126948.html
• Medina, J. (2008). Brain rules. Seattle, WA: Pear Press.
• Stansbury, M. (2009).
Can gaming change education? Retrieved April 10, 2010, fromhttp://www.eschoolnews.com/2009/12/09/can-gaming-change-education/
• Young, J. (2009) Wired campus TV: Creator of the Sims talks educational gaming. Retrieved April 11, 2010, from http://chronicle.com/blogPost/Wired-Campus-TV-Creator-of/7273/