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Learning and Games

January 1, 2008

Part of the Volume on the Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning In this chapter, I argue that good video games recruit good learning and that a game's design is inherently connected to designing good learning for players. I start with a perspective on learning now common in the Learning Sciences that argues that people primarily think and learn through experiences they have had, not through abstract calculations and generalizations. People store these experiences in memory -- and human long-term memory is now viewed as nearly limitless -- and use them to run simulations in their minds to prepare for problem solving in new situations. These simulations help them to form hypotheses about how to proceed in the new situation based on past experiences. The chapter also discusses the conditions experience must meet if it is to be optimal for learning and shows how good video games can deliver such optimal learning experiences. Some of the issues covered include: identity and learning; models and model-based thinking; the control of avatars and "empathy for a complex system"; distributed intelligence and cross-functional teams for learning; motivation, and ownership; emotion in learning; and situated meaning, that is, the ways in which games represent verbal meaning through images, actions, and dialogue, not just other words and definitions.

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