Squire and Jenkins on Harnessing the Power of Games in Education

Harnessing the Power of Games in Education (Via Kurt’s Research.) This is one of Squire’s articles (co-authored with Henry Jenkins) that is most relevant to my own research regarding the use of video games in formal k12 education, and the use of video games as constructivist learning environments in general. Again, the quotes I’m sharing at this point are only categorized by the section of my own paper that they may appear in… with some light annotations. It’s motivating to get something online related to the work I am doing for this Knowledge Area Module (KAM) on Principles of Societal Development at Walden University. Again, I hope you’ll pardon the format… this is what comes in from my outliner… and I hope this might prove useful for someone else.


– [ ] Orson Scott Card’s 1985 science fiction novel Ender’s Game:
“games teach by encouraging competition, experimentation,
exploration, innovation, and transgression… a constructivist
utopia.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 7)
– [ ] “Instead of replacing the textbook, [Card] argued, educational
games should be more like the school corridors, where kids
experiment, interact, create,
and share what they create with others, outside the rigid
structures that contemporary
games impose.2 At their best, games are imaginary worlds,
hypothetical spaces where
players can test ideas and experience their consequences.”
(Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 8)
– [ ] “[Card] predicted the more open ended, highly responsive
environments represented by next-
generation games such as Grand Theft Auto 3, Morrowind, or Deus
Ex.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 8)

Motivation and Engagement – I sometimes lose sight of this.

– [ ] “Games have the power to compel players to engage in disciplinary
practices, such as planning scientific investigations in
Environmental Detectives or reading primary documents in
Revolution” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 28)


– [ ] In the millitary: “Games are used
in conjunction with real-world
simulations” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 9)
– [ ] revolution: “The game world is big enough so that each student
can play an important part, small enough that their actions
matter in shaping what happens” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 16)
– [ ] revolution: “a central assumption underlying the game is the
interplay between personal
and local concerns (making a living, marrying off your children,
preparing for a party)
and the kinds of national and very public concerns that are the
focus of American
history classes (the Stamp Tax, the Boston Tea Party, the shots
fired at Lexington, the
winter at Valley Forge)” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 17)
– [ ] revolution: “embeds primary documents form the period in the
game” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 18)
– [ ] a new concept: “ubiquitous gaming… Ubiquitous games can be
played anytime, anywhere and often play out across multiple
media.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 22) augmented reality GPS
– [ ] “students learning in the context of solving complex problems not
only retain more information but tend to perform better in
solving problems.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 28)
– [ ] ”Games encourage role playing, which can… help students… to
adopt different social roles or historical subjectivities.”
(Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 28)


– [ ] Civilization III: “Exactly what students learn from the
game-playing experience depends heavily on the goals they set for
themselves.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 13)
– [ ] More Civ III: “questions are also driven by the students’
personal histories” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 14)
– [ ] civ III: ““What if?” questions can motivate further reading or
discussion, helping
them to refocus on why the actual events unfolded the way they
did” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 14)
– [ ] “students can draw meaning from every element in their
environment to solve problems that grow organically from their
own goals and interests.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 15)
– [ ] Prospero’s Island: students can “reshape the world and reqork the
narative of the original play” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 21)
– [ ] Prospero’s Island: “This focus on the performance process suits a
nonlinear, more open-ended medium where no two players will have
exactly the same experience” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 21)

Socially Negotiated

– [ ] ZPD: Enders Game “and the games automatically adjust to the skill
level and objectives of each student” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p.
– [ ] In the military: Learning is guided by more experienced members
of the military community, and the meaning of these activities is
negotiated through social interactions” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004,
p. 9)
– [ ] “Deploying a multiplayer framework allows the town to become a
real social community, reflecting the differing opinions and
competing interests that shaped how people up and down the
eastern seaboard responded to what were, for them, current
events.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 17)
– [ ] “The game can be consumed by individual students on their own
time and then brought into the classroom as an object for
analysis and interpretation” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 20)
– [ ] “Meta-gaming, the conversation that goes on around the game,
becomes a form of literary analysis” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p.
– [ ] “Clearly, Biohazardis no replacement for experience—or even field
trials and manuals. Rather, it is a tool that responders can use
to explore ideas and talk about their practice.” (Squire &
Jenkins, 2004, p. 27)
– [ ] “games encourage collaboration among players and thus provide a
context for peer-to-peer teaching and for the emergence of
learning communities” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 29)

21st Century Skills

– [ ] systems content: “Civilization III players encounter history not
as a grand narrative but as the
product of several dynamic interrelated forces” (Squire &
Jenkins, 2004, p. 14)
– [ ] “Games are not replacements for traditional resources such as
maps, texts, or educational
films; rather, students are motivated to return to those media to
do better in the games.
They don’t memorize facts; they mobilize information to solve
game-related problems.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 14)
– [ ] “Cognitive scientists often talk about the importance of causing
perturbations in
students’ thinking, helping them see where their current
knowledge and beliefs break
down, and only then providing them with structured information
such as lectures or
readings.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 25)
– [ ] “Good games are about choices and consequences, and good
educational games force players to form theories and test their
thinking against simulated outcomes” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p.

Role of the Teacher

– [ ] Enders Game: “teachers monitor the game play to increase their
grasp of each students’s potential. The teachers are counting on
the holding power of games to push these already gifted students
to their limits” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004, p. 7)
– [ ] “We leave it up to teachers how much they want to emphasize
cooperative versus competitive gaming.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004,
p. 24)


– [ ] “The real problem is that the kind of immersive, experiential
learning that games
support runs directly counter to contemporary trends in
education. Games may be seen
as suspect in an era of standardized tests, where knowledge is
considered measurable by
scan-tron sheets, where teachers are held in suspicion for their
practices, and where
education debates center around what instructional methods
produce the largest
increases in standardized test scores.” (Squire & Jenkins, 2004,
p. 30)
– [ ] “Using games to create rich learning environments in schools may
mean changing the “game”
of school itself so that routinized knowledge of facts or high
performance on
standardized tests are not the ultimate end goal. Instead,
students’ ability to participate
in complex social practices; learn new knowledge; and perform
well in novel, changing
situations needs to be considered valuable learning” (Squire &
Jenkins, 2004, p. 31)


Squire, K., Jenkins, H. (2004). Harnessing the power of games in education. Insight, 3 (5), 7-33.