Course notes: These ‘flow’ activities are indirectly present in many (but not all) video games. Vygotsky defined the zone of proximal development as “the distance between the actual developmental level as determined by independent problem solving and the level of potential development as determined through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers” (1978, p. 86). While digital games are widely available, not all are suitable for a host of reasons.


Course notes continued:

(Brom, Šisler, & Slavík, 2009). Re:  a framework for implementing DGBL, the authors confirm what many teachers suspect:

Notable issues:

  •  lack of acceptance of games as an educational tool,
  • problems with integration of games into formal schooling environments
  • the so-called transfer problem, which is the problem of the inherent tension between game play and learning objectives, the tension that mitigates the ability of students to transfer knowledge gained in the video game to the real-world context (p.23).
  • few curricula have considered the modality of games as a way of learning or assessment.
  • DGBL presented as part ‘digital society’ but somewhat an outsider. Increasingly, school systems are including DGBL as part of the holistic approach to ‘digital learning’ e.g. Dept. Education,Victoria lists DGBL as a constituent of modern learning on its eLearning page, but there is little information about it.
  • Many games which are designed with clear curricula goals in mind such as Mathletics or  workplace training simulation. These are main domain of ‘educational games’ currently. They are activity based, employ instructional design and are used in conjunction with facilitated theoretical underpinnings, debriefing and reflection.
    • One approach to using and designing games involves teaching as involving conceptual change/development intentions with student focused strategies (Trigwell & Prosser, 2013) e.g. using Minecraft, Myst, Portal or other entertainment games can be intentionally used towards educational goals.
  • Biggs (1998) argues teachers tend to use practices that encourage low cognitive level activities such as recall of isolated items of knowledge, norm-references in such a way that feedback confirms their low ability and assessment …. Contrastingly, where metacognition and reflection are part of the learning process “students themselves, without teacher help can focus on the gap between their actual position, and the desired position, until the the calendar dictates when the learning must stop” (p.107).
  • … game-playing, where fun and immersion drive metacognitive, reflective experiences such as World of Warcraft, Destiny, Halo, Guild Wars, Lord Of the Rings and so on – many players are almost entirely focused on the gap between current position and the ‘next level’ … The game level, or rather information processes at that game level, are entirely designed to give feedback to the player….. Therefore the sound, graphics and animation might appear ‘basic’ to the student, however emphasizing what and why they are learning using it should re-assure the learner that the teacher has a deliberate plan for learning (and assessment).
  • Constructive alignment: principle used for devising teaching and learning activities, and assessment tasks, that directly address the learning outcomes intended in a way not typically achieved in traditional lectures, tutorial classes and examinations (Biggs, 1996).
    • what is learnt is achieved depending on the student’s own intention and attitudes towards learning it.
  • Implementing games can therefore be approached in two key ways.
    • Designing and implementing games –  focus on curriculum (Educational Games: learning in a game and simulations)
    • Designing and implementing epistemic games (Epistemic Games: learning through games and simulations)

Video: Ruben Puentedura on Applying the SAMR Model

Reflect: What games and game characteristics would you place on the SAMR scale? Is it possible to position DBGL within the context of existing models?

A lot of connections with the talk by Puentedura with games, such as his question regarding the SAMR scale would be echoed by gamers i.e. How can I do this better? Game players are continually playing, reflecting and ‘going back’ in order to move forward. A game is based on the principle of trial and error (van Meegen & Limpens, 2010; St-Pierre, 2011) with game players evolving in their practice.

The interaction and connection with other players and the deeper conversations that result, as part of this social practice is echoed in both SAMR and games.

Finally, both game players and students within the SAMR model take charge of their education and learning. Their is excitement, motivation and ownership.

Role of play in learning

Reference: Barnett, L. A. (1976). Current thinking about children’s play: Learning to play or playing to learn? Quest(00336297), 26(1), 5–16.

  • how children use (or could use) play to explore new objects, settings and information
  • children switch between modes of exploration to make sense of the world
    • specific explorations (directed toward identification and determination of the functional characteristics of a stimulus)
    • diversive exploration (variation-seeking activity where activity is directed toward generating new and different sources of stimulation).

For the purposes of discussing alignment of games, and game-like approaches in the classroom … literature around constructive alignment, teacher approaches and student experience suggests a move from situations where a teacher has an emphasis on extrinsic motivators (syllabus, tests, marks) often using the teacher’s own experience as examples to one where they are utilising and respecting the student’s own experience.

It is important not to conceive game-based learning as a binary proposition between one teaching method and another, nor does it conceptually usurp or replace existing methods, which include other media forms.

For designers and teachers, the essential questions revolve around approaches to teaching and the conceptions about ‘the object of study’. If the design for learning accommodates choice, variation, student interests etc.., then the overall teaching approach and outlook is more likely not to be ‘information transmission’.

The literature on implementing game -based learning is connected with the broader discourse about the act of teaching, student and teacher belief, social, economic and political controversies about quality teaching, the needs of civic society and of course the role emerging digital media (which includes games) has had, or might have in the future.