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Runninghead:GAMEON:THENEWSCHOOLWAYTOLEARN

SurprisingTrendsinInstructionalTechnology:
GameOn:TheNewSchoolWaytoLearn
NikkiMarcel
CaliforniaStateUniversityMontereyBay

IST524InstructionalTechnology
Dr.BudeSu
October21,2014

GAMEON:THENEWSCHOOLWAYTOLEARN

Sincecomputersbecameavailableinconsumerpackages,innovativeteachershavebeen
lookingforwaystoincorporatethemintotheclassroomandcurriculum.Moststudentsbornin
the80sorearly90swillrememberplayingOregonTrail,possiblyMarioTeachesTyping,anda
myriadofothergames.Someofthesegameskeptourinterest,someofthesegamesfacilitated
learning,butforthemostpartthesegameshavebeenancillarytothemaincurriculum.
Thishasbeenthecaseformanyyears,notonlywitheducationalgamesintheclassroom,
butalsowithavarietyofeducationalgamesbecomingpervasiveinhomes.Manyofthese
gamesarepurchasedbywellmeaningparentshopingtogivetheirchildrenalegupontheir
education.However,withtheamountoftimeanddevelopmentdedicatedtoeducationalgames
itissurprisingthateducationalgameshavenotadvancedatthesamepaceaspurely
entertainmentbasedgames.
Whileeducationalgamesaresomewhatpervasive,theydonotreceivethemillionsof
hoursofplaytimethatareseeneachmonthforgamessuchasWorldofWarcraft,SimCity
games,andmanyothers.Thisisallstartingtochange,however,asmanyofthetechnologies
developedforhomeentertainmentgames,aswellasthestylesofgameplayarebeingcoopted
foreducationalpurposes,revolutionizingtheuseofentertainmenttechnologytocatertoanew
generationofstudents.
Inthepast,educationhasbeenalecturebasedsysteminwhichteachersstandatthefront
oftheclassroomportrayinginformationthatstudentsaremeanttoabsorbbylistening.Certainly
therehavebeenactivitiesandpracticeexercisesincorporatedintothelessonstomakethemmore
handson,butthebasicmodelhasbeenthesame.Theproblemwiththismodelisitisnotactive
learning,itismostlypassive.Itsthispassive,noninteractivelearningthathasmanystudents

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checkedoutandasJessicaTrybusstates,Wheneducationortrainingfeelsdull,wearenot
beingengagedandmotivated.Inotherwords,werenotreallylearning(Trybus,n.d.).Passive
learningthroughlecturesmayprepareahardworkingstudenttoregurgitateinformationonan
exam,butithardlypreparesthemtomakeproductiveuseofthatinformationinarealworld
scenarioasaccordingtoTrybus,Learningdoesntmeanrotememorizationitmeansacquiring
theskillsandthoughtprocessesneededtorespondappropriatelyunderpressure,inavarietyof
situations.(Trybus,n.d.).Asmentionedin
GameBasedLearning
,itisimportantforstudents,
whetherintheclassroomorinjobtraining,tobeactivelyengagedwiththeeducational
materials,takingthelessonsandmanipulatingthemtohaveafullunderstandingoftheconcepts.
...traditional,passivetrainingapproachesdrillusoncertainnarrowprocedures,andthen
evaluateusonourmemoryofwhatweweretold.Evenwhenwesuccessfullyretainthelessons
factsandprocedures,ourbehaviorintruetolifesituationsremainsuntested(Trybus,n.d.).
Aninstructorcanonlycomeupwithandpresentalimitednumberofhypothetical
situationsduringanygivenlessonorlectureperiod,whichcanpreventstudentsfromhavinga
fullunderstandingoftheusesandbreadthofwhateverconceptorideatheyarelearning.With
thevirtuallyunlimitednatureofthecomputergameenvironmentitispossibletopresentstudents
withawiderangeofsituationsinwhichthestudentcanapplywhattheyhavelearnedandseethe
effectsdifferentvariableshaveontheoutcomeofthatapplication.Ingamebased
environments,welearnnotonlythefacts,butalsotheimportant,underlyinghowsandwhys.
Thisunderstandingofdeeper,moreabstractprinciplespreparesustoperformconsistentlyand
effectively,eveninnewandunexpectedsituations(Trybus,n.d.).

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Unfortunately,upuntilrecentlytherehavebeenfewoptionsforeducators.Thetwo
sourcesofinformationintheclassroomweregenerallybooks(orfilmsorotheronedirectional
teachingmaterials),ortheteacher/instructor.Withanywherefromtwentytothirtystudentsto
eachteacher(orevenmoreinsomeuniversitylecturehallclasses)itisnearlyimpossiblefor
teacherstoengageactivelywitheachstudentsuchthattheyareabletoactivelyabsorbthe
lessons.Additionally,studentslearnatdifferentpacesfromoneanother,withsomestudents
learningmoreefficientlythroughvariousmethodologies.Withlimitedresourcesinschoolsitis
unreasonabletoexpectstudentstobeequippedwithcustomizedlearningmaterialstomeettheir
learningstyleaswellaskeeppacewiththeirparticularlearningprogress.
Althoughtraditionaleducationinstitutionspridethemselvesoneducatingcitizens,they
dosoatarelativelysmallscalecomparedwiththemedianowavailable.Unlikelectures,
gamescanbeadaptedtothepaceoftheuser.Gamesalsosimultaneouslypresent
informationinmultiplevisualandauditorymodes,whichcapitalizesondifferentlearning
styles(Mayo,2009).
Unlikeatextbookoralecture,acomputergamecanbeequippedwithbeginning,
intermediate,andadvancedconceptsandlessonsforasingletopic,portrayingtheskilllevelthat
isappropriatetoeachuserasdeterminedthroughbuiltinassessments.Theoneononeaspect
thatisinherenttocomputergames,whereeachuserinterfacesdirectlyandpersonallywiththe
game,allowsthegametocustomizethelessonstoeachuserontheflyandseamlesslysoasnot
tointerferewiththeuserexperience,thusallowingtheusertostayimmersedinthelearning
environment.Computergamesallowtheclassroomtoaccessstudentsonanindividuallevelthat
wasneverpossiblewithprevioustechnology.Toallowtheplayerstobeinchargeoftheir

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education,wedonotdictatewhatthebestgamestrategyistosuccessfullycompletethegame.
Instead,theplayersthemselvesmustdeterminethebestgamestrategybytrialanderror(Kilb,
Rohrlick,Yang,Choo,Ma&Ruzic,2014).
WithcompulsoryeducationintheUnitedStates,wespendalargeportionofouryouthin
classroomswhetherwelikeitornot.AccordingtoJaneMcGonigal(2011),authorofthebook
RealityisBroken
,bytheageof21theaverageAmericanyouthhasrackedupapproximately
10,000hoursofgaming,whichMcGonigalsaysisonlyabout24hourslessthantheywillhave
spentinsideaclassroom.Further,asadults,Americanscanexpecttospendaround40hoursper
weekworkingattheirchosenprofessiontoearnaliving,whileMcGonigalstatesthat5million
Americansareaveragingmorethan40hoursperweekplayingcomputergames.Whyisitthat
thesameteenagerswhoturnsullenanddespondentwhenfacedwithahalfhouroflearning
Frenchverbsororganiccompoundsarehappytospendhoursmasteringthecomputergame
MinecraftsphysicsengineorthecounterfactualhistoryinCallofDuty?(Guttenplan,2012)
Clearlythereissomethingthattheentertainmentgamingcompanieshavefiguredoutthatis
eludingeducationalinstitutions.
WhilespeakingataconferenceinLondonentitled
LearningWithoutFrontiers
,
Neuroscientistandresearcherofeducation,gamebasedlearningandcreativityPaul
HowardJonesattemptedtoexplainthisdisparity.Mr.HowardJonesresearchhasshownthat
computergamesactuallyhaveaneffectonourbrainsthatpassive,lecturebasedlearningdoes
not:computergamesstimulatethebrainsrewardsystemtoproducedopamine,achemical
whichhelpsorientourattentionandenhancesthemakingofconnectionsbetweenneurons,
whichisthephysicalbasisforlearning(HowardJones,2012).

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OneofthereasonsthatMr.HowardJonesattributesforthisphenomenonisthat
computergamesincorporatealevelofchanceorgameelementstotherewardstructure,which
accordingtohisresearchincreasesdopamineproductioninthebrain,thusincreasingdesireor
drivetocontinueplaying.HowardJonesnotedthatthisisinstarkcontrasttothecontrolled,
predictablerelationshipbetweenachievementandrewardthateducatorshavebeenstrivingto
maintainthroughouttraditionaleducationmethods.Mr.HowardJonesbelievesthat
incorporatingtheelementofchancefromtraditionalgames,aswellasthestandardadvancement
basedonachievementmodelintoeducationalgamingwilldrivestudentstolearnmoreandbe
morewilling,ifnotenthusiastic,tocontinuethelearningprocess.
Theideaofeducationalgamesintheclassroomisnotjustanideapostulatedby
academicsinresearchpapers,regularteachersinpublicschoolsarefindingthateducational
gamescanbeausefultoolintheirclassrooms.InastudythatwaspartiallyfundedbytheBill
andMelindaGatesFoundationandrunbytheGamesandLearningPublishingCouncil,more
andmoreteachersareincorporatingthesetechnologiesintothecurriculums.Resultspublished
intheSummerof2014indicatedthatoftheover500teachers/educatorsthatresponded,55%
reportedthateducationalcomputergamesareusedintheirclassroomsatleastonceperweek,
with32%reportingthatthegamesareusedatleasttwotofourtimesperweek.Only10%of
respondentsreportedonlyusingcomputergamesonetotwotimesperyear(TeachersSurveyed
onUsingDigitalGamesinClass,2014).
Whilethesenumbersthemselvesseemlikeanimpressivetrend,westillseethat45%of
instructorssurveyedareusingcomputergameslessthanonceaweek,andover20%areusing
themlessthanonceamonth.Whenaskedaboutthebarrierstocomputergameimplementation,

GAMEON:THENEWSCHOOLWAYTOLEARN

educatorsgaveanumberofreasonsthatexplainthedisparity.Thefirstthreedealtwithavailable
time,cost,andaccess(respectively)totechresourcessuchascomputers,tablets,wifi,etc.These
problems,forthemostpart,areresolvingthemselvesasmoreandmoreschoolsareslowly
investinginhightechresourcesfortheirclassrooms,andasthecostoftheseresourcescomes
down.Aseducatorshavemoreaccesstotheseeducationaltechnologiestheywilllikelyfeel
morecomfortableintegratingthemintotheirlessonplans,replacingsomeoldmethodswithnew
andthusnullifyingtheclassroomtimeissue.
Thenextthreereasonsgivenbyeducatorsseemedtobeabitmoretellingofthepresent
stateoftheeducationalgamingindustry,althoughtheytooseemontheprecipiceofnullification.
Thosethreereasonsweredifficultyfindinggamestofitcurriculum,emphasisonstandardized
testscores,andbeingunsurewheretofindqualitygames.Inessencethesethreereasonsareone
inthesame:educatorsdontknowwheretolooktofindengaginggamesthatwillbeusefulto
themintheclassroom.Thisproblemcanbeeasilysolvedineitheroneorbothoftwoways:by
adaptingexistinggamestomeetcurriculumneeds,orbygamingcompaniesdevelopinganew
generationofeducationalgamestofullyembracedemandingcurriculumrequirementswhilestill
keepingwithahighstandardofplayabilityforthestudents.Luckilyforstudentsandeducators
aliketheproblemisbeingconfrontedonbothlevels.
Therehavebeenmanyexamplesofexistinggamesbeingusedbyeducatorsforthe
classroom,aswellasthirdpartygroupsadaptingandmodifyingcurrentgamestomakethem
evenmorerelevanttothecurriculum.OnesuchexampleisQCraft,anaddonforthepopular
entertainmentgameMinecraftwhichisplayedbytensofmillionsofpeopleathome.Minecraft
isbasicallyagamewhereusersminedifferentresourceswhichcanbeusedasbuildingblocks

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tocreateavirtualworldaroundthem.Resourceblockshavedifferentcharacteristicsandpeople
haveusedtheoriginalgametocreateeverythingfromreplicasofmonuments,tocomplex
machineslikerollercoasters,toevenareplicaplayableponggame.WhattheQCraftaddon
bringstothetableisthatitallowsfortheresourceblockstohavequantumpropertiesthatalign
withtheprinciplesofquantumphysics.Therearemanybasicpropertiesthateducatorscantake
advantageoftodemonstrateintroductoryprinciplesofquantumphysicssuchasobservational
dependency,superposition,andentanglement.InstructorscanuseQCrafttodemonstrateand
explaintheseprinciples,andthenletstudentsexploreontheirownandinteractwiththese
conceptsinahandsonenvironment.Themostinterestingpartofthisaddon,though,isthateven
thedesignersareunsureofeverythingthatthisquantumphysicsaddoncandointheworldof
Minecraft.Itwillbethroughexplorationofusersexperimentingwithquantumphysics
principlesduringgameplaythatwillrevealthefullpotential.
Anothergameadaptationthattacklestheissueofclassroomimplementationinanother
way.SimCityhasbeenagameofpolitics,problemsolvingandstrategydevelopmentformany
years.Eveninitsoriginalhomeentertainmentformitcanbequiteusefulfordevelopingcertain
skills.Oneofthedownsidesisthatthedesignofthegameisnotsetupforstandardassessment
ofstudentprogress.InstepsSimCityEDU:PollutionChallenge!,whichismodeledafterthe
standardSimCitygameplaythathaskeptthefranchisepopularforovertwodecades.This
versionisacollaborationbetweenPearsonEducation,oneofthebiggestplayersineducational
technology,andETStomergethebestresearchineducationwithsomeofthemostsuccessful
computergamedesigninhistory.Inthisversion,however,therearetwodifferences.Thefirst
isasimplechangetoingamemissionstoemphasizeenvironmentalissuesinadditiontothe

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standardissuesofbuildingandrunningametropolitanempire,whichmeetsnewcommoncore
standardsforseventhandeighthgradestudents.Thesecondadditionisthegamesabilityto
provideformativeassessmentinformationaboutstudentsabilitytoproblemsolve,explainthe
relationshipsincomplexsystems,andreadinformationaltextsanddiagrams.(SimCityEDU
2013).Thegamecomeswithtoolslikelessonplans,teacherandstudentdashboards,student
datareporting,andmore.Thegamealsoprovidespersonalizedlearningtoeachstudentensuring
thatstudentsarenotheldbackorleftbehind.SimCityEDUisinbetatestingrightnowandhas
gottengreatfeedbacknotonlyfromeducatorsbutalsofromstudentswhoexpressinterestin
playingathomeaswellasintheclassroom.
QCraftandSimCityEDUarenottheonlygamesgettinginontheaction.Manyother
companiesarecurrentlydevelopinghighengagementeducationalgamesandmoreresearchis
beingdoneonthetopicallthetime.StanfordUniversityrecentlydidastudyonanalyzingways
tointroducethealmostaddictiverewardstructuresinsomeofthemostpopularonlinegames
intoeducationalgamestoincreasestudentengagement.Coupledwiththerapiddisseminationof
technologicalresourcestoschools,thisnewwaveofeducationalgameswilleliminatethecurrent
barrierstowidespreadimplementationintheclassroom.Toolongoureducationsystemhas
beenhandcuffedtoinefficientmodelsthatdontalwaysmeetthelearningneedsofallstudents,
holdingsomebackandleavingsomebehind.Withtheseleapsineducationalgamingtechnology
wecanmakecurriculumdisseminationmoreefficient,engaging,andaccessibletoawider
population.Thoughtherearestillafewskeptics,theyarebeingconvertedatarapidrate.Most
wouldnothaveseenthistrendcomingevenafewyearsago,butnowitlooksasthough
computergamesineducationareimminentandnecessarytotakeeducationintothefuture.

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References
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Guttenplan,D.(2012,January19).HarnessingGamingfortheClassroom.
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Kilb,D.,Rohrlick,D.,Yang,A.,Choo,Y.,Ma,L.,&Ruzic,R.(2014).TheGameofCuriosity:
UsingVideogamestoCultivateFutureScientists.
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