Proposal Synopsis (Proposal ID# 42091315)

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    Session Title Massively Multiplayer Schools: Do MMORPGs Have a Future in Education?
    Session Description Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games are engaging and motivating. Can they also support context-embedded, inquiry-driven, and socially negotiated learning - while encouraging reflection and metacognition?
    Theme and Strand 21st-Century Teaching & Learning:Innovative Learning Technologies
    Keywords videogame, video game, game, constructivism, Walden
    Primary URL http://edtechlife.com/necc2008/
    Exhibitor Status
    Commercial Content
    Audience Type Chief Technology Officers
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    NETS•T I- VI
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Proposal Summary

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    Purpose & Objectives ABSTRACT

Formal K12 education remains much as it did a century ago, but in the era of the Internet, cell phones, and videogames, students have changed. Videogames and simulations show potential as engaging and motivating learning environments. MMORPGs in particular have social and cooperative elements that might be valuable for educational purposes. However, despite a breadth of research about videogames and learning in general, the potential uses of MMORPGs in formal education are poorly understood. Therefore, this study aims to inquire into potential applications for MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in formal K12 education , and to understand related benefits and drawbacks. Two pillars of theory support this study: constructivist learning theory and digital game-based learning theory. The study will employ a grounded theory paradigm of qualitative research and the Delphi method of inquiry. The expert panel will consist of 12 to 24 adult experts drawn from the field of videogames and learning. Both industry professionals and academics will be represented in the population. The concensus of the panel’s predictions, and any outlying or dissenting perspectives, will be reported in the final paper.

PURPOSE

The goal of this study is to identify potential applications of massively multiplayer online role-playing games as constructivist learning environments in the context of formal K12 education. The purpose is to identify the potential benefits and drawbacks of such applications and to recommend courses of action for future research by academics, future game development by industry professionals, and future instructional decisions made by public educators.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

The study will be guided by the following two overarching questions:

- What are the potential benefits of using MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in formal K12 education?

- What are the potential problems related to using MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in formal K12 education?

Additionally, based on the literature review the following six research questions will be used to focus the study:

- Engagement and motivation: How might MMORPGs be used to motivate and engage students, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Context: How might MMORPGs be used to provide a context for student learning, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Inquiry: How might MMORPGs be used to provide students with opportunities for inquiry-based learning, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Social Negotiation: How might MMORPGs be used to support social negotiation of meaning (including facilitated collaboration, cooperation, and competition), and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Reflection: How might MMORPGs be used to encourage student reflection and metacognition, and what problems might be associated with using MMORPGs for this purpose?

- Social Change: How might MMORPGs used in formal K12 education be used to effect positive social change?

    Perspective/Theoretical Framework Two pillars of theory support this study: constructivist learning theory and digital game-based learning theory. The primary underlying theory of learning supporting this study is constructivism, as typified by the works of Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Bruner. The theories of constructivist educational technologists such as Papert and Jonassen also contribute to the constructivist foundation for this inquiry. In particular, six elements of a constructivist learning environment have been identified: engagement and motivation, context-embedded learning, inquiry-driven learning, socially negotiated learning, reflection and metacognition, and the importance of effecting positive social change.
Existing digital game-based learning theories have also been influential in the development of the research problem. Particularly influential works have including those of Prenksy, Gee, Aldrich, Schaffer, Squire, Steinkuehler, Beck and Wade, Michael and Chen and others. Constructivist themes run throughout these books as they suggest that videogames can offer engagement and motivation, a context for learning, opportunities for student inquiry, a framework for collaborative learning, support for reflection and metacognition, and a medium for effecting positive social change.
    Research Methods This qualitative study will employ the Delphi method of inquiry. A panel of experts will be asked to make predictions in response to multiple iterations of a questionaire. After each iteration, responses will be coded and analyzed by the researcher. Following iterations will be modified in light of these responses. Participants’ responses will also be anonymously shared with the other participants so they have an opportunity to alter their predictions prior to the next iteration. Through this process, the panel will move toward concensus in their predictions. Outlying or dissenting predictions will be consideration by the researcher as well.

The research population will be a panel of approximately 12 to 24 adult experts drawn from the field videogames and learning. Both industry professionals and academics will be represented in the population. The researcher will draw upon this population by asking them to complete three iterations of a Delphi questionaire over a period of no more than eight weeks. Each iteration will require one hour or less of their time. The researcher will aim for a panel of at least 12 experts to complete the study. In order to allow for attrition during the study, the researcher will invite as many as 24 experts to participate.

Research data will be collected in the form of participants' written responses to the Delphi study questionnaire. This data will be coded and analyzed by the researcher after each iteration so that results can be presented to the participants and the following iteration of the questionnaire can be composed.

    Results or Expectations This study is a doctoral dissertation at Walden University. The oral defense of the proposal is scheduled for October 10, 2007. Committee approval is anticipated as is subsequent IRB approval - all necessary documents have already been submitted and accepted. The data collection is expected to be complete in December 2007, and the final report should be completed and defended in early 2008. The researcher expects to formally complete his degree and graduate at the end of Winter or Spring quarter. The research will thus be completed well before NECC.

In an effort to avoid research bias in the Delphi process, the researcher is not making any predictions or writing any formal expectations regarding the outcome of the research at this time.

    Educational and/or Scientific Importance The goal of this dissertation is to identify potential applications of MMORPGs as constructivist learning environments in the context of formal K12 education. The purpose is to identify the potential benefits and drawbacks of such applications and to make recommendations for future research by academics, future game development by industry professionals, and future instructional decisions by public educators. In this way, the study aims to contribute to reducing the knowledge gap identified in Chapter 2; currently, there is very little written about the use of MMORPGs for learning, particularly in formal educational environments. This study is also significant because it aims to explore a technology that may have the potential to improve (and perhaps revolutionize) education for 21st century students and educators.
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