A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning
Chapter 1. Games for Learning
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Humans have been using games and stories to teach for thousands of years. Developmental psychologist Jean Piaget based his theories of constructivism (“learn by doing”) on his observations of children playing marbles. Learning theorist Lev Vygotsky and educator Maria Montessori also wrote about childhood games. Games provide a social construct and structure to deliver meaning to activities.
Video games entered schools around the same time as desktop computers. I still remember playing Oregon Trail on an Apple II computer when I was in 7th grade. Over the years, games and computer became more sophisticated. To understand how we got to where we are today, it helps to review the ups and downs of past initiatives. For many, the term “educational games” calls to mind boring experiences that focused on content over delivery. In this chapter, I review the so-called edutainment era as a way to frame what to look for in a game—and what to avoid.
James Gee is the Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University, as well as the co-founder of the Center for Games and Impact. In 2003 he first published What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. In it, he connected problem-solving skills to skills used with commercial video games. The book included a set of “Learning Principles” about what ← 9 | 10 → games can teach. For example, the “Probing Principle” connected the trial and error one does while exploring a...
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