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Technology & Change Book Review:

How Computer Games Help

Children Learn
Cong-Kai Jin
EDCI 888: ProSeminar 2

Book Author:

David Williamson Shaffer

Professor, Department of Educational Psychology,
University of Wisconsin
PhD, Media Arts and Sciences, MIT

Book foreword by:

James Paul Gee

Professor of Literacy Studies, Arizona State
Faculty affiliate of the Games, Learning, and Society
group, University of WisconsinMadison

Gees words:
Technology of any sort is not adequate all by
itself for deep learning;
Technology must be built into rich and welldesigned learning systems. (p. xi)

Shaffer examed games such as:

The Debating Game for Epistemology.
Digital Zoo for Knowledge
Eschers World for Skills
The Pandora Project for Values for Identity
Urban Science for future urban planning.

Shaffers argument:
Game must have real-life relevance.
Game design should allow kids to act and
think like professionals in the real world.

Shaffers argument: (cont.)

Game should allow learning beyond the basics and
beyond standardized skills;
Epistemic game could enable learning for real
problem solving and innovation.

What is Epistemic Game?

Epistemic game requires you to think in a
particular way about the world (p. 34)
Players are acting and thinking like the professional
in the real world.

Game with Epistemic frame:

A practicum which allows
learners to own and operate
a tool kit of knowledge,
skills, and valueswhat
Shaffer calls its epistemic
framethat it uses to look
at and act on the world in a
distinctive way.




Game with Epistemic frame: (cont.)

Epistemic games offer a
new way of thinking about
learningone that is critical
to education in the hightech, digital world of global
competition. (p. 167)




Commercial games vs. Epistemic games:

Helping young people develop important skills,
knowledge, identities, values, and ways of
innovative thinking.
There are many games out there that are fun to play
and that can help children learn.

Commercial games vs. Epistemic games:

Fun and learning can be quite compatible.
But the focus of a game matters in the end.
In the most extreme cases, commercial games can
give dangerously inaccurate portrayals of the way
things work in the real world.

Seymour Papert:
When it comes to learning:
What can be done is a technological question;
What should be done is a pedagogical question, and ;
What will be done is a political question. (p. 191)

The best hope for a better way:

The future of education depends not only on whether
epistemic games work, but on whether we have the will to
change how we think about thinking and learning in a
changing society. (p. 191).
The best hope for a better way of educating children for
life in the digital age is for adults to think about learning
in a new way: to think about helping young people develop
the epistemic frames of professional innovation. (p. 192).

The take-home messages:

Game matters!
Think about the skills, knowledge, identities,
values, and especially the epistemology of the
games you play and the games your children play.

Questions & Criteria:

What is worth doing in the world? What kinds of
thinking will matter to young peoples success,
happiness, and ability to make the world a better
These are the things worth learningand thus the
games worth playing.

My Evaluations:
Setting knowledge, skills, and values as ideal criteria for
educational game design.

Epistemic games are much like professional practicum,
which are not necessary fun to play unless players
already have genuine interests in this regard.

Thank you!

Shaffer, D. W. (2006).How computer games
help children learn.New York: Palgrave