Video Games in Education: An Annotated Bibliography

The following is a draft of the annotated bibliography I’ve prepared for my advisor based on the last fifteen entries on this blog. (This has been reformated for sharing on this blog.) Perhaps others may find these brief annotations useful…

Annotated Bibliography

The study of computer and video games’ educational value is a relatively new field. Though there were earlier explorations of these ideas, all but two of the articles below were published in 2005, the same year this bibliography was written; one was published in 2004, and one was published in 2000. As cutting-edge theories, few of these articles represent formal research studies. However, all but one were published in peer-reviewed journals, and all of the authors are leading academics and practitioners with a depth of knowledge and experience in the subject of games and learning. They are paving the way for the brave educators of tomorrow, and for the formal research studies that will validate or improve upon these theories.

Appelman, Robert. (2005). Designing experiential modes: a key focus for immersive learning environments. TechTrends. 49 (3) 64-74.

In the tradition of John Dewey experiential learning, Appelman introduced a framework of Experiential Modes (EMs), the smallest components of learning environments: the observable attributes and non-observable perceptions of learners. He also discussed the use of existing and emerging technologies for new learning environments, giving the example of Sasha Barab’s work with Quest Atlantis, and the use of existing commercial games as learning environments, such as Kurt Squire’s exploration of Civilization III in his dissertation. Though this article does not represent a formal research study, Appelman draws on his decades of experience in many mediums as an instructional designer, researcher, and educator to support his discussion. This article is heavy in new jargon, but such efforts at defining a vocabulary for the design of twenty-first century instruction will pave the way for further innovative instructional design.

Blumberg, F. C., and Sokol, L. M. (2004). Boys’ and girls’ use of cognitive strategy when learning to play video games. The Journal of General Psychology. 131 (2), 151-158.

In a formal qualitative study, Blumberg and Sokol tested 104 diverse second grade and fifth grade children to discover how they learn to play a video game. All recorded responses were coded, and statistical analysis of their data did not support the hypothesis that girls would show greater inclination toward external strategies (of learning and problem solving) and that boys would show greater inclination toward internal strategies. However, the authors cautioned that continued investigation is needed in order to understand “the continuing distinctions between boys’ and girls’ preferences for games that may have different ramifications for cognitive gains” (p. 157). In addition, the closing discussion touched on several more important issues, such as the age of the players and their self-efficacy as frequent gamers.

Carstens, A., and Beck, J. (2005). Get ready for the gamer generation. TechTrends. 49 (3) 22-25.

Carstens and Beck provided little specific evidence for their argument that the brains of gamers are “hard wired” differently than non-gamers. However, they commissioned a formal study of 2,5000 Americans and used instruments of previously established reliability to investigate the difference in belief systems between gamers and non-gamers. They found that “gamers showed a range of different opinions and behaviors compared to their non-gamer brethren.” (p. 23) They suggested that gamers have little respect for traditional authority and training, and they provide suggestions for trainers serving gamers, including the suggestion that traditional leaders and leaders of the gamer generation be trained side by side so that they might benefit from the strengths of both styles.

Caperton, I. (2005) For Seymour Papert “hard fun” is the essence of good games AND good education. Telemedium: the journal of media literacy. 52 (1 & 2) 16-19. Madison, WI: National Telemedia Council.

Idit Caperton was the first to graduate with a Ph.D. from the MIT media lab in Papert’s epistemology & learning research group. Seymour Papert has remained her mentor and collaborator for 22 years. Caperton shared stories of Seymour Papert and his philosophies, including his playful style of brainstorming, the story of how he came to love mathematics through his love of gears, and his concept of hard fun. She also related his belief that video games can be like constructionist projects and can help students to learn concepts and ways of thinking that might otherwise be beyond them.

Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillenial learning styles: implications for investments in technology and faculty. Educating the Net Generation Educause.

In this chapter of Educating the Net Generation, Dede explored how emerging media affect learning styles, with a particular focus on virtual environments and augmented realities. He found learning situated in these environments important because of the capacity for transfer of learning to real problems. Like James Paul Gee he found that individual and group identities can also be developed in virtual or augmented environments. He explicitly mentions Whyville, Quest Atlantis, and the commercial MMORG Everquest in his discussion. He also cited Steinkuehler’s research into the social spaces of MMORPGs. Dede’s article also contained examples from his own research into the applications of MUVEs (multiuser virtual environments) in education, and his results were promising. Like Klopfer and Yoon (see below), Dede pointed out that professional development and support will be needed to implement these technologies for educational purposes.

DeKanter, N. (2005). Gaming redefines interactivity for learning. TechTrends. 49 (3) 26-31.

DeKanter, vice president of Muzzy Lane Software, was interested in using technology to develop peoples’ skills, and he believed that networked game simulations can provide a constructivist learning environment. Such games can provide a context for learning by making learning tasks authentic and anchoring them to a larger task or problem. DeKanter also discussed ways in which networked game simulations can provide opportunities for inquiry and collaboration, and ways in which they can provide support for constructivist teaching and learning. One example of such a game is Muzzy Lane Software’s Making History. Though DeKanter writes from the perspective of a commercial developer, his unique experience in developing a multiplayer video game simulation for educational purposes is valuable.

Dickey, M. D. (2005). Engaging by design: how engagement strategies in popular video games can inform instructional design. Educational Technology Research and Development. 53 (2) 67-83.

Drawing explicitly on constructivist and cognitive research, educational psychologist Michele Dickey discussed ways in which “the strategies of design which lead to engagement” (p. 67) in video games might by put to use by instructional designers. She discussed point of view, narrative, setting, characters, and interactive elements, or hooks. Throughout the article, Dickey gives special attention to the importance of multiplayer games. This article does not represent a formal study, but does present a rich scholarly review of literature.

Emrich, Alan. (2005). The gamer generation: and why baby boomers shouldn’t worry about them. Inspired by the book Got Game, John C. Beck, Mitchell Wade (Harvard Business School Press, 2004).

Ludologist Alan Emrich summarized key differences between the way Baby Boomers and the Gamer Generation grew up, between their resulting psyches, and the way they operate in the business world (or school). In addition there is a discussion of the sexism, violence, stereotypes, and isolation issues related to video games which is neither the usual panic inducing line of reasoning, nor the equally unsophisticated debunking argument. Though this article does not represent a formal study, Emerich’s report is a valuable overview of the issues regarding video games and society.

Gee, J. P. (2005). What would a state of the art instructional video game look like? Innovate. 1 (6).

Linguist and cognitive scientist James Paul Gee suggested that “the best commercial video games are already state of the art learning games” (p. 1) because they allow learning to take place situated in activities and experiences. However, he advocated for the importance of teachers, and for a balance between telling everything to learners and letting them experience everything on their own. Gee provided a vision and broad framework for those interested in harnessing the power of video games for educational purposes. However, because his theories are based primarily on his own (rich) experience with games rather than on a formal study, much work needs to be done in order to test and verify his theories, and in order to realistically implement his recommendations.

Jenkins, H., Wright, W. (2005) “Buy these problems because they’re fun to solve!” Telemedium: the journal of media literacy. 52 (1 & 2) 16-19. Madison, WI: National Telemedia Council.

This article is a transcription of the conversation between Henry Jenkins, director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program, and Will Wright, creator of successful games such as SimCity and The Sims, at the Education Arcade conference at E3 on May 11, 2004. Like Caperton (above), they discussed the importance of fun in games, in education, and in problem solving in general. Wright imagined a very different education for students, one in which a game might be marked up with links to web-based information with an option for students to annotate he information. Wright concluded with a series of visionary questions followed by the suggestion that students are already living the education of the future when they get home from school. Though this article does not represent a formal study, it does provide a valuable window into the thinking of a leading academic and a leading developer in the field of games in education.

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.

Instructional designers Kirkley and Kirkley addressed “the challenges and issues of designing next generation learning environments using current 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). They discussed elements of context, collaboration, and support for student learning, and they included a section about the importance of fun in constructivist learning environments. The article concluded with a discussion of a game authoring tool for instructional designers which is under development by Kirkley and Kirkley. This article does not represent a formal study and the authors write from the perspective of commercial developers, but their development experience and their background in academic research contribute to the value of this discussion.

Klopfer, E., and Yoon, S. (2005). Deveoping games and simulations for today and tomorrow’s tech savvy youth. TechTrends 49 (3) 33-41.

Eric Klopfer, director of the MIT Teacher Education Program, and Susan Yoon, a post-doctoral fellow in same program, were explicitly constructivist, opening their article with their interested in an authentic learning context and in collaborative learning (p. 33). Later, they also explicitly discuss the importance of inquiry-based learning (p. 40). Parts of the article are reminiscent of Prensky and Gee’s work, and the authors also drew on the work of Dede (above), the MIT Teacher Education Program, Games to Teach, and the Education Arcade. Finally, Klopfer and Yoon do not ignore the importance of professional development and assessment when these ideas are implemented in a real-world school, especially in the political climate of No Child Left Behind. Though this article does not represent a formal study, the authors write from a rich background in the formal development of new educational software tools and pedagogy to support these tools.

Noble, A., Best, D., Sidwell, C., Strang, J. (2000). Is an arcade-style computer game an effective medium for providing drug education to schoolchildren? Education for Health. 13 (3) 404-406.

With a subtly constructivist perspective, the authors explored an “interactive approach” (p. 404) to drug education for children. In a formal study they tested the effects of “an interactive CR-ROM based arcade-style motorcycle racing game” (p. 405) on students’ understanding of the drug cocaine. Through analysis of interview responses gathered from 101 students aged 10 or 11, the authors concluded the game was successful in transmitting their message to the students, in large part because of “high levels of acceptability, even enthusiasm” from the students (p. 405). They did, however, caution that implementing the program would require “careful piloting and ongoing management” (p. 406).

Pillay, H. (2005). An investigation of cognitive processes engaged by recreational computer game players: implications for skills of the future. Journal of research on technology in education. 34 (3) 336-450.

Working from a constructivist perspective, Pillay explored “the value of computer games as a means for enhancing educational instruction” (p. 338). His formal study aimed to “analyze the cognitive processes engaged in while playing recreational computer games to help us understand how they might affect students’ performance in subsequent tasks within a computer-based learning environment” (p. 340). With some qualifications, he was able to suggest that “playing recreational computer games may increase the time efficiency in accomplishing set educational tasks and obtaining correct solutions” (p. 345). The most serious limitation of his research was that he explored only the transfer of skills from games to other computer-based activities, and not to other non-computer-based activities. Also, the games used in this study were unsophisticated games that were very like the other computer based academic activities. Still, as an exploratory study, this research was valuable.

Williamson, B., and Facer, K, (2004). More than ‘just a game’: the implications for schools of children’s computer games communities. Education, Communication, & Information. 4 (2/3) 255-270.

“Drawing on recent research on children’s use of information and communication technology out of school, and on complementary research within media, cultural, and youth studies” (p. 255), Williamson and Facer provided an overview of “policy, industry, and educational research perspectives” (p. 256), which are focused “on exploiting the potential of games’ interfaces in schools” (p. 256). However, they were more interested in “how children’s existing habits when playing computer games are situated within social contexts and practices, and how these practices, rather than the games software on which they are centered, might provide insights of relevance to more formal educational settings” (p. 256) They discussed playing games in peer groups (p. 259), expert gamers (p. 260), wider social resources for learning about games (p. 262), social contexts for learning in online games (p. 263), gender (p. 261), socio-economic status (p. 261), and “the potential applications of games practices to the formal educational setting” (p. 264). This included references to Gee, Prensky, MIT’s Games-To-Teach project, and the Education Arcade consortium among others. Their closing discussion also included online role-playing as an example of “authentic practice within social context” (emphasis in the original, p. 267). Though this article does not represent a formal study, the authors, both from the NESTA Futurelab in the UK, provide a valuable overview of the topics above.

Winograd, D. (2005). Chris Dede on emerging technologies that enable distributed-learning communities. TechTrends. 49 (1) 39-40.

Winograd, an assistant professor of Academic Computing and Educational Communications York College in the City University of New York, recounted Dede’s keynote at the AECT Conference in Chicago. Dede discussed ways in which multi-player video games could provide a context for learning and a framework for collaboration. He had previously been interested in the potential of Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORGPs), such as Everquest, but spoke in Chicago about Multi-User Virtual Environments Experiential Simulators (MUVEES). While the games may provide support for student learning, Dede pointed out that educational technologists will need to serve as change agents and provide support for the implementing teachers. This article does not represent a formal study, but as an educational technologists impressions of Dede’s theories it is a valuable resource.

… there is more to come, too. I am working on the application section of my current Knowledge Area Module, but will move on to more research soon… and am reading the rest of the Innovate issue in the meantime. Also, I’ve finally gotten my feet wet in World of Warcraft. Eva and I finished playing Lord of the Rings: The Third Age together, so I am hoping to talk her into playing WoW with me. :)