This is part of the Context-Embedded Learning section of my dissertation lit review.
Given the title of this section, I’m amazed at how few of my notes on Aldrich’s work came up here. I think this is mostly because my current note-taking and outlining processes hadn’t been established yet when I was reading his books. In any case, I suppose this is only a first draft and I shouldn’t worry about it being comprehensive – actually I think I have no hope of achieving comprehensive… I’m hoping for acceptable. ;)
Aldrich (2005) quotes Will Thalheimer on the role of context in simulations:
â€œThe first thing that makes simulations work is context alignment. The performance situation is similar to the learning situationâ€¦ when the learners enter a real situation, you want the environment to trigger the learning. That results in a 10 to 50 percent learning impactâ€ (Will Thalheimer, as quoted in Aldrich, 2005, p. 84).
When Aldrich (2004) discussed the objectives of designing an interface system for a simulation, his most important points were that a simulation interface should â€œrepresent the actual activity at some levelâ€ (p. 173) and â€œbe a part of the learningâ€ (p. 174) in the sense that simply learning the interface would help a user learn about the subject being learned. Though he advocated for keeping a simulation interface simple and streamlined (p. 175), he was interested in fidelity where it impacted learning. He suggested that a simulation interface should operate in real time such that â€œall options are available all the timeâ€(p. 175). Similarly, he called for simulation design that, like the real world, included all three types of content, linear, cyclical, and open-ended (p. 99). He also opposed simulations that presented the world as it should be rather than as it is, even if this is done in the name of political correctness (p. 215).
Shaffer (2004), too, noted that â€œnew technologies make it easier for students to learn about the world by participating in meaningful activityâ€ (p. 1403). He tied this directly to constructivist tradition, saying that â€œnew technologies support Deweyâ€™s vision of bringing the â€˜life of the childâ€™ into an environment for learningâ€ (p. 1404). Shaffer aimed to apply the following philosophy to the design of educational video games:
“pedagogical praxis seeks to create environments that are thickly authentic. Resnick and I (Shaffer & Resnick, 1999) argued that authenticity is an alignment between activities and some combination of (a) goals that matter to the community outside of the classroom, (b) goals that are personally meaningful to the student, (c) ways of thinking within an established domain, and (d) the means of assessment. Thickly authentic learning environments create all of these alignments simultaneously. For example, in the case of pedagogical praxis, when personally meaningful projects are produced and assessed according to the epistemological and procedural norms of an external community of practice.” (Shaffer, 2004, p. 1406)
Shafferâ€™s epistemic games â€œare about having students do things that matter in the world by immersing them in rigorous professional practices of innovationâ€ (Shaffer & Gee, 2005, p. 12). As Shaffer and Gee explain, â€œin this approach, students do things that have meaning to them and to society, supported all along the way by structure, and lots of itâ€”structure that leads to expertise, professional-like skills, and an ability to innovateâ€ (p. 12). They point out that â€œthe key step in developing the epistemic frame of most communities of innovation is in some form of professional practicumâ€¦ environments in which a learner acts in a supervised setting and then reflects on the results of his or her action with peers and mentorsâ€ (p. 14), and they aimed to use video games to provide this practicum. In such epistemic games â€œstudents learn facts and content in the context of innovative ways of thinking and workingâ€¦ in a way that sticks, because they learn in the process of doing things that matterâ€ (p. 24). Such epistemic games exemplify the learn-by-doing philosophy. In these games, â€œstudents were learning to solve real problems by working on real problems, learning how to think about things that matter in the world by actually doing things that matter in the worldâ€ (Shaffer, 2006, p. 6).
Shaffer (2006) argues that â€œvideo games can change education because computers now make it possible to learn on a massive scale by doing the things that people do in the world outside of schoolâ€ (p. 9). Citing Geeâ€™s principle of performance before competence, Shaffer (2006) explains that with video games students can â€œlearn by doing rather than learning first and doing laterâ€ (p. 68), and that the â€œdifferenceâ€¦ between declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge, or being able to explain something and being able to actually do it â€“ is fundamental to education as we know itâ€ (p. 92). Again invoking Dewey, Shaffer state that â€œthe process of moving from interest to understanding, according to Dewey, was learning by doing â€“ or, to be more precise, learning by trying to do something, making mistakes, and then figuring out how to fix themâ€ (p. 124). Because epistemic games can â€œdevelop professional skills, knowledge, and epistemology in the context of professional values,â€ Shaffer suggests that, â€œepistemic games are thus a potentially important part of childrenâ€™s developmentâ€ (p. 132).
Several other scholars have demonstrated the value of video games in providing a learning context. Like Shaffer, Squire and Jenkins (2003) advocate the use of games â€œin conjunction with real-world simulationsâ€ (p. 9). They also noted that â€œstudents learning in the context of solving complex problems not only retain more information but tend to perform better in solving problemsâ€ (p. 28). Holland, Jenkins, and Squire (2003) explained that â€œembedding challenges within the tool requires users to actively monitor their performance, observing, hypothesizing, acting, and reflectingâ€ (p. 37). As they point out, â€œIn addition to being potentially more motivating for learners, engaging in such critical thinking processes is generally thought to be the basis of meaningful learning… knowledge developed in the context of solving problems is typically recalled better than knowledge learned by rote and more readily mobilized for solving problems in novel contextsâ€ (p. 37). Video games that can exercise such thinking processes â€œgive students a sense of the practice for which theyâ€™re being trainedâ€ (p. 40).
McMahan (2003) also discussed the value of the presence and immersion offered by video games (p. 68-77). And, as Filiciak (2003) expressed it, players â€œdesire the experience of immersion, so we use our intelligence to reinforce rather than to question the reality of the experienceâ€ (p. 99), a factor that can work both for and against the instructional goals of video games.
I’m seeking feedback on this writing, so please let me know what you think in the comments.