Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chapter 3 - ZPD and Frustration

I just finished reading chapter 3. Again I, I don't really deny that games can help students learn. The research that has been presented so far are in fixed environments with controlled settings - perhaps even "special" that lends itself to different behaviors. Is this feasible in the general school setting? Would Natalie have been successful with the presence of the boys she usually flirts with? My point is not to downplay the effectiveness of these techniques as much as to say that isolated solutions don' t help the general problem that Shaffer acknowledges, "Most schools [and a lot of teachers] in the United States today celebrate declarative knowledge over procedural knowledge." Addressing this problem does not require isolating students from each other or special programs. ' Schaffer left out a component of ZPD, which is frustration. When people are presented with tasks that are too hard, or beyond their ZPD, they experience frustration and potentially give up.

In the first chapter I was really glad to see mention of the game Civilization, which was one of my favorites going through high school and college. I skimmed ahead to find something I could apply to Civics and found Chapter 6 which discusses SimCity and Urban Science. I'm now disappointed because while the chapter goes into detail about the deficits of SimCity and touts Urban Science, the latter is not available. I wound up on the Epistemic Games website to find that these monument games "were designed to be tested not distributed." So, fantastic...there is isolated research on the effectiveness of video games that only exist for the purpose of that isolated research.


  1. Frustrating yes, but perhaps one of us is person that will begin creating some of these epistemic games.

  2. I would agree with your thoughts about these being very controlled environments. I was also frustrated that some of the things that sounded the most interesting weren't available. I plan on trying a few of the games available on the MLTI image this year. Specifically, the government and economics games. I am also always on the look out at for something that would fit into my curriculum.

  3. A lot of retail games can be used for academic just have to be careful with content/graphics

  4. I bet one of the underlying hopes in writing this book was to get teachers interested in using these games. Right now they are not available probably because there is limited commercial interest. But if enough interest is generated, I bet these games will become readily available, most likely not for free. One thing is true that there are a lot more of these type of games being developed, more so than ever before. It will only be a matter of time before they will become a mainstay in school. Will they ever replace the standards based learning model? My guess is no. Shaffer reiterates the point that right now these games are better suited for after school programs, summer camps, and learning centers. However, I bet if you made it optional that instead of a study hall or open time students could go to the computer lab and play edu games that the lab would be full everyday.

    In terms of Escher's World, it kind of reminds me a program I had in my 5th grade class. You basically type in a math equation and the program would generate an image similar to the ones in Escher's World. Back then in 1990, we only had one computer. There was always a line to play that game or the Oregon Trail. You could earn computer time by finishing your work early or helping clean up. So games don't need to be the main way kids learn, but they can easily be fit into the classroom.