Kirkley and Kirkley on Creating Next Generation Blended Learning Environments Using Mixed Reality, Video Games, and Simulations

NOTE: These authors also cite many of the others I have been writing about, including the constructivists Piaget and Jonassen.. and von Glaseerrsfeld, whose work I was introduced to during an intensive seminar during the Walden summer residency in July.

Kirkley and Kirkley (2005) addressed “the challnges and issues of designing next generation learning environments using curent and emerging technologies” (p. 42). Throughout the discussion they were concerned with how to “balance design tensions between meeting learning objectives and creating engaging and fun learning environments” (p. 42).

Their theoretical framework explores “factors related to designing a learning environment” (p. 43) and explicitly states that the authors believe constructivist and situated learning theories “offer the best approach to learning environment design and for integrating these new technologies into education” (p. 43). They discuss elements of context and collaboration; they wrote about the importance of “negotiating… meaning with others” (p. 43). They also included a section about the importance of fun in a constructivist learning environment; in an argument reminiscent of Papert’s ideal of “hard fun”, Kirkley and Kirkley cited game design theorist Raph Koster’s definition of fun as “the feedback the brain gives us when we are absorbing patterns for learning purposes” (p. 96).

The authors then turned to next generation technologies. Though they spent several pages covering mixed and virtual reality technologies, the sections most relevant to this research were those on video games and simulations. These can “provide an authentic context to facilitate learning” (p. 48) as well as opportunities for inquiry-based learning by allowing “learners to control and manipulate a wide range of interrelated variables within a complex system” (p. 48). Games can also provide “a safe environment” (p. 48) for students to practice the twenty-first century skill of risk taking. Games can even offer support for student reflection (and assessment by instructors) through the “capabilities to record and track various learners’ actions and choices” (p. 48), and direct support for learning through what Kirkley and Kirkley call “embedded scaffolds – scaffolding that is embedded within the learning technology such as a… simulation” (p. 49).

The article concluded with a discussion of a game authoring tool for instructional designers which is under development by Kirkley and Kirkley.


Kirkley, S. E. and Kirkley, J. R. (2005). Creating next generation blended learning environments using mixed reality, video games, and simulations. TechTrends. 49 (3) 42-53.