Sunday, July 31, 2011

Computer Games Chapter 1

In this first chapter, Shaffer makes the case for authentic learning. An educational progressive, Shaffer argues that students "should be able to pass the test and problem solve". (my emphasis)

The Debating Game is an example of how students use argumentation and content knowledge to "role play". The use of argumentation, a necessary skill, is what makes the game authentic. Students are role playing because they are just pretending to be judges and historians.

Like Kate, as a math, science and newly minted social studies teacher, this concept of teaching and learning certainly caught my attention. This activity makes sense to me and I would like to try this.

I am not so sure that I could sell this activity as a game. My students see games as competition that provide immediate feedback and, in the case of computer games, endless "do-overs". I think the motivation would be feedback from others.

The author lists four types of gamers:
- those who like to succeed at tasks
- those who like to find out as much as they can
- socializers
- those who like power
I wonder how I can move students into the "find out as much as they can" category?

Shaffer concludes this chapter, and all the others, with open-ended questions that an educator or parent might ask when evaluating a game.

- Does the feedback, points or game action, give the student an indication of their successful reasoning?

- Is the game authentic in it's learning?

This chapter caused me to evaluate my learning activities. How many are authentic learning vs learning for facts and what is the balance? I am certain that there are some facts to be learned, spelling rules, for instance, but I am just as convinced that we could do a better job of teaching students to think critically.

(Picture from


  1. I was intrigued by the statement that “school was designed –deliberately designed—in and for life in industrial America.”(38) This says to me that since schools haven't changed and both society and technology have, that schools also need to change. Today's students are not the same as students during the 60's when I went to school, and we can't teach them the same way. Just like the games, they want everything to move faster and they want to be involved in the learning. I had students debate informally often when I taught social studies and they loved it. It got them to see both sides of an issue and it is the thinking that I want them to do. It might be that if we could teach our students to see different viewpoints, there might be less strife in the schools and in the world.

    To return to games, they are a great way to involve students in their learning. Teachers will have more of their attention if they think they might have fun. I am always teaching my students “cheats” in math because that word gets their attention. Cheats are thinks that make games easier and my cheats make math easier. The Distributive Property is a “cheat” because you can take the numbers apart and either multiply the easier pieces or add them depending on what you want to do. I have quite a few that I teach but that's the only one I remember right now. Games like Cribbage and Yahtzee are often used in math classes and I start every class with the Set Game. ( Songs were used in the past to teach and now we have games and computers. As Bob Dylan said, “The Times they are a Changing.”

  2. I agree with Laura that it is hard for students to see a game as a game if it isn't connected to winning. Collaborative is sometimes hard for them as well. I'm always shocked when I sit down to play games with kids and certain ones start acting like maniacs because they are winning or losing. The dynamics of the class change entirely.

    I thought it interesting that the first game talked about wasn't a computer game. I liked how it was set up and that they did the debate before reading about the event. I also liked how it made students think like historians and question sources of information. I've done debates before but never set up this way. It is definitely something that I would like to try.

  3. Kate,
    Your comment made me think of Ethan on the night of the Puzzle Marathon.

    Ethan is normally a very quite, mild mannered guy. He and I made a bet as to whether I would finish a puzzle by midnight. Am I right Kate?

    At any rate, Ethan became more and more animated as the time passed and by the time we were down to seconds, he was jumping and yelling. He was totally out of character, but for that brief time channeled energy like never before.

  4. There is a so many times schools use a game for sake of using a game NOT because it teaches concept. As you used Scratch I hope you saw the difference is now you can make a game that fits your requirements.

    Also social based games works better then a "First Person Shooter" style game.