Sheltons Organic Turkey

if I empty out all the unimportant stuff here, maybe there'll be more room in my head for important things

name: shelton brett
location: western u.s.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

random thoughts extended

At this conference, a reoccurring theme in nearly all sessions either dealt directly or around the push-pull issues of instructional design for educational games.

The attempts to reconcile the differences between designing educational games and the traditional models for designing instruction are daunting at the least, and extremely messy. One recent attempt was so convoluted and necessitated so many constraints for the game that the recommendations included aspects of AI, pedagogical agents, appropriate reflection, and of course had to be driven from highly organized and structured models. A fantastic attempt at “getting it all” without leaving out anything, but one wonders if any game could incorporate each of the issues, especially at a moderate or low-level of technical sophistication. The idea eschews a system that can be transferred across areas of content and instructional materials, it should be useful for many subjects with the same gameplay underneath.

This is in sharp contrast to my experience and ideas of others (an early session at the conference) who describe game activity as related to meaningful learning. In their session we started with a game that included bidding a number of beads to “win” the card. The players were asked to redesign the game to teach a number of different subjects, from Shakespeare to trigonometry. Our group was assigned “interpersonal relationships.” From what I could tell, all groups failed in their attempt to modify the current game in a way that could really produce complex learning. This seemed to confirm my expectation—learning activity needs to be aligned with instructional objectives.

In other words, you can’t just stick content into exiting game structures and expect the game to be fun, or have the same results as a game whose content was specifically designed for that activity. Learning games must be considered as contextual entities, especially from a design standpoint, if they are to truly be beneficial for complex thinking. This is a lesson we learned in learning sciences, moving away from traditional instructional design models and practices that did not allow for significant flexibility and modification in its procedures. It’s also a lesson they’re slowly learning in the design and development of learning objects. Packets of information created for use, reuse, and remixing need to be flexible enough to come in different sizes and cultures. In other words, to be effective the learning object must be adaptable and localizable to whatever context in which it will be used. Perhaps this is the lesson we should take for "reconciling" the push-pull of educational game design.