Learning with Video Games
July 2010

Learning with Video Games

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Video games can be used in the school environment to fulfill certain pedagogical functions, such as tutoring, exploration, entertainment, attitudinal change and the practice of certain personal and social competencies or skills

Educational video games are inscribed in the historical continuity of a long tradition associated with the dissemination of pedagogical games. From the doll to the toy soldier, the puzzle to the role play, the presence of these artifacts indicates educational situations apparently far removed from the school context. Often the conveyors of sociocultural stereotypes, these games and toys reflect evolving techniques and mentalities; they illustrate the growing impact of scholarly knowledge on recreational learning activities.

Concurrently with media education, there is a growing interest in the usage of video games as learning tools. Current research in the area is focused on usage in schools of titles marketed to the general public and of video games created specifically for the school context. As in the medieval,
“We shape our tools, and afterwards our tools shape us,” wrote Marshall MacLuhan in 1964 about television. Today, young people subjected to the universe of the media, computer technology and video games are developing new cognitive and relational skills, and a growing number of teachers and researchers believe that video games facilitate the development of
children’s abilities and so, in that sense, shape them as well. Prensky (2000) has summarized these new skills. Description of cognitive or behavioural skills: Accelerated and simultaneous
information processing; • Ability to process and distinguish several types of information from various sources rapidly and simultaneously; Prevalence of image over text; Preference for searching for meaning via visual content and then spending time on text to refi ne, expand and explore understanding of the subject; Random and distant access instead of step-by-step and local; Ability to jump from one kernel of information to another by creating connections rather than following an information narrative or hierarchy; Familiarity with the concept of
synchronous and asynchronous •modes of access to scattered and distant resources; Activity and play rather than passivity and work; Tendency to prefer an active learning model (trial-and-error method) rather than learning in order to be able to act ; The game is valued and becomes relevant because it is played on the computer; Gratifi cation and fantasy instead of patience and reality; Expectation of gratifi cation based on effort; Computer universe as a metaphorical space of fantastic and entertaining ,
To develop a motivating educational video game environment, some qualitative criteria should be observed  in order to adopt players’ or teachers’ points-of-view. An important study of 40 educational video games presented a series of players’ recommendations. Nearly eighty percent of the respondents said they used an exploratory trial-anderror method. That method is defi ned as the absence of a planned action strategy and involves actions/ reactions depending  on the circumstances, consequences and feedback of the interface or the system.
Learning about the way to play the game is acquired through accumulation, that is, observation and active participation in the game rather than reading the instructions and rules. The reasons justifying this approach are the lack of clear instructions and objectives and a desire to explore the object of the game freely. Players often begin their exploration with the trialand- error method and then possibly will look for a form of support, assistance or guidance by reading the instructions or hints appearing on the screen. Therefore, learning games must be presented in the form of an exploratory space for discovery with help functions that can be consulted in context as needed. The announcement of a purpose or objectives to be attained seems important for encouraging more commitment to this type of game.
Csikszentmihalyi’s fl ow concept is the basis of all criteria promoting involvementand motivation in video games. Flow is the physical and mental immersion people experience when they are involved in an activity so deeply that nothing around them seems to matter. In the fl ow state (being in the “zone”) the proposed problem and the skill to resolve it are in balance.

Several research questions related to learning using video games are on hold. These include investigation of the long term effects certain types of video games may have on cognitive, identity and social development for younger generations. The study of adaptive learning systems is only in its early stages, opening the way for several types of experimentation, especially with clients who have cognitive defi cits or learning disabilities. In parallel, the all digital paradigm has encouraged the emergence of social and cultural practices that emphasize visual and iconic thought as well as social connection. This has led to the birth of a new perception of space and fragmented time, and the actual sensation of presence even when
at a distance. Finally, the emergence of social networks (Web 2.0) bears the seed of a collaborative intelligence that is wide spread and very dynamic. These knowledge aggregators, by virtue of the phenomenal quantity not only of information but also of individuals whom they connect, put a much fi ner point on the issues of cognitive overload and the disorientation that results from virtually infi nite hypermedia navigatio

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