The Debating Game
The introduction of How Computer Games Help Children Learn talks about how computers let us work with simulations of the world which we wouldn't necessarily be able to do otherwise. It also defines epistemology as the study of what it means to know something and therefore epistemic games as ones that are about learning to think in innovative ways. Our world values innovation, not standardization so therefore epistemic games are part of the educational solution.
Shaffer defines 'game' as collaborative, ongoing and not necessarily connected to winning. He said they should also be personally and socially meaningful and have a set of rules to follow.
He also says that games allow kids to live in worlds that they are curious about, or afraid of, or want to try out in order to understand the rules, roles and consequences therein.
The Debating Game
The Debating Game is a role playing game where students learned to think, analyze and act in a way that is authentic to the 'real-world'. This activity took place before students read about an event in class. A small group of students took on both the pro and con side of a debate on American involvement during the Spanish American war. Other students in the class watched the debate. The teacher served as the mediator and the other students provided detailed, written feedback to the debaters, which made the process authentic. Debaters were expected to use sources to back up their arguments and to follow the guidelines set up by the teacher. This game taught the students to think like historians - not 'if' a source is biased, but 'how' it is and to use that information to shape their arguments.
I agree with the assertion that it should be our job as educators to teach children to think. That is my number one goal. Shaffer laid out a solid argument for how 'The Debating Game' does just that. I was very intrigued by the idea as a social studies teacher myself. I've had numerous current events debates, and even some historical debates but they have always taken place after studying a topic in-depth. I am intrigued by the idea of using it as a pre-teaching activity and am anxious to try it myself and see how it goes.
What I particularly liked about this activity was that it had students analyzing multiple sources of information, reading, writing, speaking, and reflecting all in one activity. What I failed to see was the tie in to computers here. You could use the computer to research or to write the evaluations, but the computer isn't doing anything other than substituting what a pad of paper and a library could do. Did anyone else find that weird? (or maybe I'm just missing something)