Games for Learning
December 7, 2011 1:00 PM   Subscribe

I'm interested in how effective edutainment (specifically using games for learning) is, and especially interested in critical articles or books about edutainment as an industry. Much of the stuff that I read is very positive about educational gaming, but I have a gut feeling that there has to be a negative perspective as well. Can anyone recommend resources that deal with this?
posted by codacorolla to Education (5 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You may want to browse the the games network on the CUNY Academic Commons.
posted by hermitosis at 1:13 PM on December 7, 2011

Scott Nicholson's work might interest you. He's trying to get boardgames into libraries.
posted by backwards guitar at 3:47 PM on December 7, 2011

You might want to look into military training uses for video games. I worked on a few programs like this at Sarnoff. Google came up with this article by John Keller on the subject, but there's plenty of research.
posted by Mad_Carew at 4:07 PM on December 7, 2011

If you're specifically looking for information critical of educational games, I don't have much in the way of resources but I might be able to give you some ideas for issues you might want to be aware of (and might serve as a jumping off point for research).

Very little research has been done in educational games with the intent to prove they are bad at teaching their goals. Most studies that focus on the negative impact of games on children or adults focus specifically on violent media, and that's really where all the funding is.

What you might want to check out, though, is whether commercial games that are marketed as edutainment actually have proven they are educational. There's lots of games made capitalizing on the learning aspect but without much evidence to back their claims. Many edutainment games are made without any education or child development professionals involved in the process. When it comes to mainstream consoles (Wii, PS3, 360, DS), the people making these games are almost never involved in education in any way. There's more education professionals working in PC games and games made for the variety of small, child-friendly handhelds you find in Toys R Us but not by much. Very rarely will you find a game that was actually developed with instructors or a curriculum in hand.

As an example, people touted that the DS game Brain Age improves your general problem solving and mental speed, but a follow-up study showed that it really just makes you better at solving the types of puzzles in the game rather than any general improvements. Then, another follow-up study claimed it improved some kids math skills. The studies go back and forth, but the word of mouth opinion gives the game much more credit than it deserves. (It's basically the Baby Einstein problem - people think it's educational, and they market them as educational, then a study finally comes around it has no proven educational value but parents still recommend the videos for everyone anyway).

If your interest is more in the lines of edutainment for adults, such as creating training simulations for EMTs or explaining the stock market, there's a bit more information out there by searching "Serious Games". The best book on the topic (written - mind you - by game developers) is Serious Games: Games That Educate, Train, and Inform. Ian Bogost is an important leader in serious games and newsgames/games-as-journalism and someone to look into. Pretty much all of the evidence on games for training is, indeed, overwhelmingly positive.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 5:00 PM on December 7, 2011

There's been a lot of stuff on a very simple memory game called "dual n-back." Some research has suggested it helps with ADD, although many others are skeptical. It's not really edutainment though -- the game is excruciatingly difficult and boring.
posted by miyabo at 6:59 AM on December 8, 2011

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