Steinkuehler on Learning in Massively Multiplayer Online Games

Learning in massively multiplayer online games. (PDF, Via c.a. steinkuehler – MMOG research.) This was a slightly older article. ;) Nevertheless, the title is no disappointment… there were several quotable elements, including the first bit that is directly related to inquiry-driven instruction that I’ve seen in a while (several articles that is). I still feel compelled to say that these quotes are categorized based on the section of my own paper they might appear in. They appear with minimal annotation, and they appear sans any formating – I’ve dragged and dropped from my outliner.


– [ ] In an MMOG “information is given “just in time,” always in the
context of the goal-driven activity that its actually useful for
– and made meaningful by – and always at a time when it can be
immediately put to use.” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 7)


– [ ] “there is a socially- sanctioned precociousness and wonder, that
simple secular instinct that provides motivation for scientific
inquiry (Fisher, 1999): Gamers transform design curiosities into
empirical questions by collecting data (in spreadsheets),
building mathematical models based on that data, and then placing
those models in competition with one another to see which can
most accurately predict (read: exploit) the system (i.e.
minimaxing)” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 7)

Socially Negotiated

– [ ] ZPD: MMOGs “are not mastered by overt instruction but rather
apprenticeship (Gee, 1999; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Tharp &
Gallimore, 1988). Gamers who have already mastered the social and
material practices requisite to game playenculturate, through
scaffolded and supported interactions, newer gamers who lack such
knowledge and skill. ” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 5)
– [ ] ZPD: A more experienced player “scaffolds her students by
modeling successful
performance, focusing her attention on key material, social, and
contextual aspects that are crucial to its success… entrusting
more and more control over the ongoing actions to the
apprenticeship, and allowing numerous opportunity for practice
and situated feedback.” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 7)
– [ ] “newcomers learn the game through full participation in genuine
game play with more knowledgeable/skilled others. You not only
“have to play to learn,” (Turkle, 1995, p. 70), but you also have
to play with others if you ever hope to develop genuine
expertise” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 7)
– [ ] “the mechanisms for learning entailed in gameplay in virtual
cultures/worlds are
contingent on the game not only as a designed object but also as
a social practice” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 8)

21st Century Skills

– [ ] Risk: In MMOGs ” Failure functions as feedback: What you do risk
by failing is minimal and easily recovered (cf. the high stakes
testing practices implemented by the Bush administration under
the No Child Left Behind Act), particularly in the early stages
of game play, and performing at the outer edge of one’s current
competency, which seems to sustain engagement (cf. notion of
flow, Csikszentmihalyi, 1993; zone of proximal
development, Vygotsky, 1978) and to constantly pull one forward
into more complex and demanding tasks, is highly valued and
socially promoted” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 7) Obviously, this
could be mentioned in the subsection on ZPD in the Socially
Negotiated section of my paper.
– [ ] Systems Thinking: “From the very outset of game play, the
individual engages in the virtual social and material world as a
complex, ill structured, dynamic, and evolving system, not some
watered down version of it.” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 7)


– [ ] Role of the Researcher: “Serious commendations are due to those
educational technology designers who are leveraging gaming
technologies toward educational ends.” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p.
– [ ] Role of the Researcher: “we need to better understand what
contemporary informal online learning environments do well and do
miserably if we want to leverage those features that are
productive and eschew those that are not. ” (Steinkuehler,
2004, p. 8)
– [ ] Role of the Researcher: “Designing learning environments is not
merely a matter of getting the curricular material right but is
crucially also a matter of getting the situated, emergent
community structures and practices “right.” In this case, unless
we are designing appropriate social structures to accompany such
technological systems (a feat which may very well not always be
possible, given their situated and emergent nature), we cannot
easily leverage the learning mechanisms within MMOGs for play in
creating MMOGs for instruction.” (Steinkuehler, 2004, p. 8)


Steinkuehler, C. A. (2004). Learning in massively multiplayer online games. In Y. B. Kafai, W. A. Sandoval, N. Enyedy, A. S. Nixon, & F. Herrera (Eds.), Proceedings of the Sixth International Conference of the Learning Sciences (pp. 521-528). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.