Venturing Into Games
Games are among the oldest forms of entertainment in the world. In addition to sporting games, board games, and social games, newer kinds of video and computer-based games can be used to support meaningful learning in classrooms. In this brief section, we describe how different kinds of computer games can be used in classrooms.
Among the oldest forms of computer-based educational games are quiz games, where quizzes are embedded in a quiz show context. For example, Games2Train (http://www.games2train.com/games) produces a game maker called Pick-it! for teachers to construct quiz games. The game maker resembles the television quiz show Jeopardy, allowing game players to select topics and values and play against others. The degree of meaningfulness of the learning from these games depends on the nature of the responses that are required. More often than not, quiz games require only memorization performance. While memorization of domain content may be important, these games do not readily engage students in deeper-level, meaningful learning activities (e.g., application and synthesis).
More complex games, such as the different versions of Sid Meier’s Civilization (http://simcity.ea.com/), engage students in complex problem solving while trying to manage their civilization. Students can select different civilizations to explore, from Sumerians to the mystical Mayans. In the game, students can map the world using satellite images. They can form armies and attack other civilizations or forge alliances with them. They can choose the form of government they wish to impose on their civilization (e.g., fascism, feudalism, tribal council, or imperialism). They can also use a well-developed trade system to manage resources, trade routes, and the spread of technology. Civilization is obviously appropriate for social studies classes in which the teacher wants students to understand the political, military, social, cultural, and historical complexities of the world.
Games, especially complex, interactive games such as Civilization interactive, can engage learners in very meaningful learning. Gee (2003) has identified a number of principles that underlie modern game design that can teach us a lot about learning. We list some of them here.
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