WISEstarmap1 surge

CFP Special Issue On: SURGE, Physics Games, and the Role of Design

Submission Due Date
5/15/2017

Guest Editors
Douglas Clark, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA

Introduction
The purpose of this special issue is to investigate the role of design in the efficacy of physics games in terms of what is learned, by whom, and how. Importantly, studies should move beyond basic media comparisons (e.g., game versus non-game) to instead focus on the role of design and specifics about players’ learning processes. Thus, invoking the terminology proposed by Richard Mayer (2011), the focus should be on value-added and cognitive consequences approaches rather than media comparison approaches. Note that a broad range of research methodologies including a full gamut of qualitative, ethnographic, and microgenetic methodologies are encouraged as well as quantitative and data-mining perspectives. Furthermore, the focal outcomes and design qualities analyzed can span the range of functional, emotional, transformational, and social value elements outlined by Almquist, Senior, and Bloch (2016).

Recommended Topics
Authors are invited to submit manuscripts that

 

  • Focus on the role of design beyond simple medium (i.e., move beyond simple of tests of whether physics games can support learning to instead focus on how the design of the game, learning environment, and social setting influence what is learned, by whom, and how).
  • Explore learning in games from the SURGE constellation of physics games and other physics games using qualitative, mixed, design-based research, quantitative, data-mining, or other methodologies.
  • Focus on formal, recreational, and/or informal learning settings.
  • Focus on any combination of player, student, teacher, designer, and/or any of other participants.
  • Answer specific questions such as:
    • How do specific approaches to integrating learning constructs from educational psychology (e.g., work examples, signaling, self-explanation) impact the efficacy of these approaches within digital physics games for learning?
    • How do elements of design impact the value experienced by players in terms of the elements of functional, emotional, transformational, and social value outlined by Almquist, Senior, and Bloch (2016)?
    • What is the role of the teacher in interaction with students and the design of a game in terms of learning outcomes?
    • How does game design interact with gender in terms of what is learned, by whom, and how?
    • How can designers balance learning goals and game-play goals to best support a diverse range of players and learners?
    • How do specific sets of design features interact with players’ learning processes and game-play goals?

Submission Procedure
Potential authors are encouraged to contact Douglas Clark (clark@vanderbilt.edu) to ask about the appropriateness of their topic.
Authors should submit their manuscripts to the submission system using the link at the bottom of the call (Please note authors will need to create a member profile in order to upload a manuscript.).
Manuscripts should be submitted in APA format.
They will typically be 5000-12000 words in length.
Full submission guidelines can be found at: http://www.igi-global.com/publish/contributor-resources/before-you-write/

 

surgeblckbg

All submissions and inquiries should be directed to the attention of:
Douglas Clark
Guest Editor
International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS)
Email: clark@vanderbilt.edu

shut up frog

Play has been removed from schools by non-educators

Brock Dubbels, Ph.D.

Dept. Psychology, Neuroscience, & Behaviour

McMaster University

It was not psychologists, educators, or child development researchers that removed play from schools. According to McCombs & Miller (2007), the emphasis on performance testing and standardization was led by a campaign of politicians and corporate interests to influence what happened in the classroom. With government reports such as Nation At Risk (1983), the National Governors Association (1989) worked to create Goals 2000 (1994) and called for greater levels of accountability for student achievement and rigorous academic standards. They called for more focus on standardized content, standardized content delivery, and standardized tests. This campaign to standardize schools worked to change classroom curriculum, but it contradicted and ignored 100 years of psychological research about human learning (McCombs & Miller, 2007).

The new standards and assessments became mandated performance indicators on how schools were evaluated. For a school to be rated as competent, their students had to meet federal and state performance guidelines, and school funding was tied to student performance on standardized assessments. This situation became so desperate for some schools, that entire school districts (superintendents, principals, and teachers) committed fraud by falsifying assessment data (Dayen, 2015).

Political reasons for standardization over play

Elected officials and journalists reported that American students had fallen behind other industrialized nations in math and science, and the proof was in American student performance on international testing tests called PISA and TIMMS. They warned that without improvements in student performance in math and science, the USA would no longer be competitive on the world stage (US Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century, Science, & (US), 2007).

Reports such as these were political in nature. When American student scores are compared to students of the same income level, students in the United States did significantly better than all other countries:

For every administration of PISA and TIMSS, when controlling for

poverty, U.S. public school students are not only competitive, they

downright lead the world. Even at home nationally, when controlling

for poverty, public school students compete with private school

students in Lutheran, Catholic, and Christian schools when analyzing

NAEP data (Ravitch, 2013).

Poverty plays a central role in student performance. Schools serving lower-income students tend to be organized and operated differently than those serving more affluent students. Poverty is the most significant impact on academic performance. It does not matter if these schools are big or small, private, or religious. Poverty is the most significant predictor of poor academic performance (McNeil & Valenzuela, 2000; Rumberger & Palardy, 2005). Students in poverty often come to school without the social and economic benefits held by many middle-to-high SES students, such as access to books, food, parental support with schoolwork, and financial stability (Sirin, 2005).

In wealthy schools, students are more likely experience playful activities and learner centered pedagogy (Anyon, 1980). Schools that serve children in poverty, not only struggle the most, but are also often the first to get the standardized education, reduction in play, and elimination of electives such as music, arts, and training. We may be compounding the problem, rather than offering a solution by removing these things from children in poverty.

Children in poverty also experience greater exposure to threat and violence, which contributes to play deprivation. Play deprivation has arisen as a medical diagnosis. It means that children do not experience the essential cognitive, social, and affective benefits of learning through play (Milteer, Ginsburg, Health, & Mulligan, 2012). Play is an essential element of learning and development. Removing play in favor of standardization is a mistake.

Standardization is profit-centered, not student-centered

If anything was learned from the standardization campaign, it was that the creation of standards and content has proven to be very financially lucrative to testing companies, and very destructive for school districts (Dayen, 2015). These policies have led to change of control, where classrooms are now legislated through national education standards, and this legislation is often influenced, if not written by, lobbyists that work for the companies that profit from selling tests and curriculum, rather than the people who have experience working with children and child development research (Leistyna, 2007).

The shift to standardized assessment and curriculum has also led to instability. It is very profitable to have standards change. When standards change, schools are required to meet those new standards, and this is often accomplished by paying for new tests and new curriculum. State-based initiatives on Common Core—the standards and assessments—change every 4 years (Porter, McMaken, Hwang, & Yang, 2011). Each shift in standards constitutes a form of educational whack-a-mole, where districts are forced to purchase new curriculum, and states must create new assessments. This is a lucrative market, over $2 billion annually (Strauss, 2015).

To cultivate financial opportunity, educational publishers have been very involved in this process; Pearson Education, ETS (Educational Testing Service), Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and McGraw-Hill collectively spent more than $20 million lobbying in states and on Capitol Hill from 2009 to 2014 (ibid). In many ways, standardization and accountability initiatives have exacerbated the “problems” they set out to solve, and instead, created a lucrative market for pre-packaged curriculum and tests, the deprofessionalization of teachers, and significant cost to American taxpayers.

Standardized methods of assessment often lack the long view, and do not pass the tests of time, retention, and adaptation. According to Atkinson & Mayo, (2010) focus on subject matter and facts only serve to limit student motivation, learning and choice, and reduce the potential for innovation. Additionally, high stakes tests, and the practice of evaluation during instruction is an unreliable index of whether the long-term changes, which constitute learning, have actually taken place (for review, read Soderstrom & Bjork, 2015).

Parents opt-out of standardization

Interestingly, many parents and stakeholders have begun to embrace the long view, and begun to doubt the value of testing; they have begun to “opt-out”, which is now called the “opt-out parents movement” (Layton, 2013). The opt-out movement indicates a trend towards more play-based and learner-centered practices, advocated for by the American Psychological Association (APA) (Alexander & Murphy, 1998; Barbara, 2004; Cornelius-White, 2007; McCombs, 2001; McCombs & Miller, 2007; Weimer, 2013).

The benefits of play

kids play as doctorPlay is not only an imaginative activity of amusement. Play and games serve important roles in cognitive, social, and affective development (Dubbels, 2014; Fisher, 1992; Frost, 1998; Garvey, 1990). In pre-industrial times, pastoral and foraging societies, children did not learn sequestered away from adult contexts (Thomas, 1964). Instead, children participated in playful variations of adult activities, where they could observe adults at work, and were able to imitate and emulate these activities through play without the danger of failure and consequence (Bock, 2005; Rogoff, 1994).

Rubin, Fein, and Vandenberg provided a thorough psychological overview of the early role of play in their chapter in volume four of the Manual of Child Psychology (1983). They observed that humans play longer relative to other mammals that play. Lancaster and Lancaster (1987) built upon this position and state that this extended period of play is essential for development. Bjorklund, (2006) expands upon this view, and states that humans play longer because they are adaptive organisms, and, that extended play is essential, allowing humans the skills and knowledge to become independent in complex environments.

When children engage in complex peer play, they exhibit greater gains in levels of symbolic functional and oral language production, as compared to if they are interacting with an adult (Pellegrini, 1983). Additionally, when a learner experiences learning through play, where they can experience and role-play adult work, they report the activities are more meaningful, and that the activity did not feel like learning (Dubbels, 2010). This aligns with Winkielman & Cacioppo, (2001), who found that when learning new information is experienced as easy, processing is experienced as pleasant and effective.

Learning generated in the context of play, especially social play, can lead to greater engagement, improved recall, comprehension, and be more innovative. Juveniles can observe behaviors and strategies performed by adults but then recombine elements of these behaviors in novel routines in play (Bateson, 2005; Bruner, 1972; Fagen, 1981; Sutton-Smith, 1966). For example, the levels of children’s symbolic functional and oral language production are more varied and complex in peer play, relative to when they are interacting with an adult (Pellegrini, 1983). More importantly, play is a low-cost and low-risk way to learn new behaviors and acquire new skills and knowledge (ibid). Conversely, one could suggest that a limitation of direction instruction, observation, and imitating adults is that this kind of instruction will only transmit existing practices.

Offering activities to children in a playful mood can increase a willingness to take direction, and on-task behavior (Moore, Underwood, & Rosenhan, 1973; Rosenhan, Underwood, & Moore, 1974; Underwood, Froming, & Moore, 1977). To create a more playful mood, participants engage in playful communication, with emphasis on reducing or eliminating all commands, questions, and criticisms.

Play acts as an important organizing principle during developmental growth (Brown, 1998). Play is not only an imaginative activity; play also allows children to imitate and emulate adult work activities without the danger of failure. Children role-play activities from the adult world, and learn to use the tools, rules, and language of adult work. Play is an important part of academic learning. When children play, they develop new strategies and behaviors with minimal costs (Bateson, 2005; Burghardt, 2005; Spinka, Newbury, and Bekoff, 2001).

joyUsing a playful approach in the classroom represents a fundamental change in assessment, offering a philosophy of playful and data-informed assessment, as compared to standardized, data-driven assessment. To be data-informed, assessments are used to guide the way, not to indicate that learning is accomplished. In play-based assessment, one can inform and improve student learning, increase motivation and engagement, and improve our school’s programs by learning from our challenges, progress, and performance.

 

A playful structuring of assessment allows one to integrate play, and utilize assessment as a form of instructional communication, reducing threat, and emphasizing play. The value of such an approach is that it provides support for a range of students, including specialized support to educationally disadvantaged populations, including economically disadvantaged students, English Language Learners, students with disabilities, and students who are at risk of not meeting state academic standards.

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boy_playing200CHA P T E R 4

Pedagogy and Play: Creating a Playful Curriculum for

Academic Achievement and Engaged Learning

Brock R. Dubbels, PhD.,  Dept. Psychology, Neuroscience, & Behavior, McMaster University, Hamilton,

ON, Canada, Dubbels@McMaster.ca

Key Summary Points

Using instructional techniques based upon play can improve achievement. Standardization has created more problems than it solved. Three case studies are presented as demonstrations of the framework.  When children engage in complex peer play, they exhibit greater gains in levels of symbolic functional and oral language production.

Key Terms

Play, Assessment, Learner Centered Practices, Instructional Communication, Curriculum, Cognitive, Affect, Classroom, Instructional Design, Learning

The Benefits of Play

Play is not only an imaginative activity of amusement. Play and games serve important roles in cognitive, social, and affective development (Dubbels, 2014; Fisher, 1992; Frost, 1998; Garvey, 1990). In pre-industrial times, pastoral and foraging societies, children did not learn sequestered away from adult contexts (Thomas, 1964). Instead, children participated in playful variations of adult activities, where they could observe adults at work, and were able to imitate and emulate these activities through play without the danger of failure and consequence (Bock, 2005; Rogoff, 1994). Rubin, Fein, and Vandenberg provided a thorough psychological overview of the early role of play in their chapter in volume four of the Manual of Child Psychology (1983). They observed that humans play longer relative to other mammals that play. Lancaster and Lancaster (1987) built upon this position and state that this extended period of play is essential for development. Bjorklund, (2006) expands upon this view, and states that humans play longer because they are adaptive organisms, and, that extended play is essential, allowing humans the skills and knowledge to become independent in complex environments. When children engage in complex peer play, they exhibit greater gains in levels of symbolic functional and oral language production, as compared to if they are interacting with an adult (Pellegrini, 1983). Additionally, when a learner experiences learning through play, where they can experience and roleplay adult work, they report the activities are more meaningful, and that the activity did not feel like learning (Dubbels, 2010). This aligns with Winkielman & Cacioppo, (2001), who found that when learning new information is experienced as easy, processing is experienced as pleasant and effective.

Read more of this article, download, feel good

esports

CFP: eSports and professional game play

The purpose of this special issue is to investigate the rise of eSports.

Much has happened in the area of professional gaming since the Space Invaders Championship of 1980. We have seen live Internet streaming eclipse televised eSports events, such as on the American show Starcade.

Authors are invited to submit manuscripts that

  • Examine the emergence of eSports
  • The uses of streaming technology
  • Traditions of games that support professional players – chess, go, bridge, poker, league of legends, Dota 2, Starcraft
  • Fan perspectives
  • Professional player perspectives
  • Market analysis
  • Meta-analyses of existing research on eSports
  • Answer specific questions such as:
    • How should game user research examine the emergence of eSports? Should we differentiate pragmatic and hedonic aspects of the game?
    • What are the methodologies for conducting research on eSports?
    • What is the role of player, the audience, the developer, the venue?
  • Case studies, worked examples, empirical and phenomenological, application of psychological and humanist approaches?
  • Field research
  • Face to face interviewing
  • Creation of user tests
  • Gathering and organizing statistics
  • Define Audience
  • User scenarios
  • Creating Personas
  • Product design
  • Feature writing
  • Requirement writing
  • Content surveys
  • Graphic Arts
  • Interaction design
  • Information architecture
  • Process flows
  • Usability
  • Prototype development
  • Interface layout and design
  • Wire frames
  • Visual design
  • Taxonomy and terminology creation
  • Copywriting
  • Working with programmers and SMEs
  • Brainstorm and managing scope (requirement) creep
  • Design and UX culture

Potential authors are encouraged to contact Brock R. Dubbels (Dubbels@mcmaster.ca) to ask about the appropriateness of their topic.

Deadline for Submission July 2016.

Authors should submit their manuscripts to the submission system using the following link:

http://www.igi-global.com/authorseditors/titlesubmission/newproject.aspx

(Please note authors will need to create a member profile in order to upload a manuscript.)

Manuscripts should be submitted in APA format.

They will typically be 5000-8000 words in length.

Full submission guidelines can be found at: http://www.igi-global.com/journals/guidelines-for-submission.aspx

Mission – IJGCMS is a peer-reviewed, international journal devoted to the theoretical and empirical understanding of electronic games and computer-mediated simulations. IJGCMS publishes research articles, theoretical critiques, and book reviews related to the development and evaluation of games and computer-mediated simulations. One main goal of this peer-reviewed, international journal is to promote a deep conceptual and empirical understanding of the roles of electronic games and computer-mediated simulations across multiple disciplines. A second goal is to help build a significant bridge between research and practice on electronic gaming and simulations, supporting the work of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers.

 

 

 

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I want to invite you to a colloquium March 7, at 1430– Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour (PNB)
at McMaster University

Video Games as Learning Tools

Brock Dubbels, PhD.,
G-ScalE Game Development and Testing Lab
McMaster University
Dubbels@McMaster.ca

Should games and play be considered important in designing instructional contexts? Should they be used for professional development, or even become a part of our productivity at work? Games offer individuals a learning environment rich with choice and feedback . . . not only for gathering information about a student’s learning, but that also demand mastery in recall, comprehension, and problem solving. The difficulty with games may be our view that games are a form of play, an undirected, frivolous children’s activity . In this presentation research and examples of games and play inspired activities will be presented for motivating learners, designing effective instruction, improving comprehension and problem solving, providing therapeutic interventions, aiding in work-place productivity, and professional development.

Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour (PNB)
Psychology Building (PC), Room 102
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West

http://www.science.mcmaster.ca/pnb/news-events/colloquium-series-events/details/274-brock-dubbels-tba.html

 

What we cannot know or do individually, we may be capable of collectively.

My research examines the transformation of perceptual knowledge into conceptual knowledge. Conceptual knowledge can be viewed as crystallized, which means that it has become abstracted and is often symbolized in ways that do not make the associated meaning obvious. Crystallized knowledge is the outcome of fluid intelligence, or the ability to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge. I investigate how groups and objects may assist in crystallization of knowledge, or the construction of conceptual understanding.

I am currently approaching this problem from the perspective that cognition is externalized and extended through objects and relationships.  This view posits that skill, competence, knowledge are learned through interaction aided with objects imbued with collective knowledge.

Groups make specialized information available through objects and relationships so that individual members can coordinate their actions and do things that would be hard or impossible for them to enact individually.  To examine this, I use a socio-cognitive approach, which views cognition as distributed, where information processing is imbued in objects and communities and aids learners in problem solving.

This socio-cognitive approach is commonly associated with cognitive ethnography and the study of social networks. In particular, I have special interest in how play, games, modeling, and simulations can be used to enhance comprehension and problem solving through providing interactive learning. In my initial observational studies, I have found that games are structured forms of play, which work on a continuum of complexity:

  • Pretense, imagery and visualization of micro worlds
  • Tools, rules, and roles
  • Branching / probability

Games hold communal knowledge, which can be learned through game play. An example of this comes from the board game Ticket to Ride. In this strategy game players take on the role of a railroad tycoon in the early 1900′s. The goal is to build an empire that spans the United States while making shrewd moves that block your opponents from being able to complete their freight and passenger runs to various cities. Game play scaffolds the learner in the history and implications of early transportation through taking on the role of an entrepreneur and learning the context and process of building up a railroad empire. In the course of the game, concept are introduced, with language, and value systems based upon the problem space created by the game mechanics (artifacts, scoring, rules, and language). The game can be analyzed as a cultural artifact containing historical information; a vehicle for content delivery as a curriculum tool; as well as an intervention for studying player knowledge and decision-making.

I have observed that learners interact with games with growing complexity of the game as a system. As the player gains top sight, a view of the whole system, they play with greater awareness of the economy of resources, and in some cases an aesthetic of play. For beginning players, I have observed the following progression:

  1. Trial and error – forming a mental representation, or situation model of how the roles, rules, tools, and contexts work for problem solving.
  2. Tactical trials – a successful tactic is generated to solve problems using the tools, rules, roles, and contexts.  This tactic may be modified for use in a variety of ways as goals and context change in the game play.
  3. Strategies—the range of tactics of resulted in strategies that come from a theory of how the game works. This approach to problem solving indicates a growing awareness of systems knowledge, the purpose or criteria for winning, and is a step towards top sight. They understand that there are decision branches, and each decision branch comes with risk reward they can evaluate in the context of economizing resources.
  4. Layered strategies—the player is now making choices based upon managing resources because they are now economizing resources and playing for optimal success with a well-developed mental representation of the games criteria for winning, and how to have a high score rather than just finish.
  5. Aesthetic of play—the player understands the system and has learned to use and exploit ambiguities in the rules and environment to play with an aesthetic that sets the player apart from others. The game play is characterized with surprising solutions to the problem space.

For me, games are a structured form of play. As an example, a game may playfully represent an action with associated knowledge, such as becoming a railroad tycoon, driving a high performance racecar, or even raising a family. Games always involve contingent decision-making, forcing the players to learn and interact with cultural knowledge simulated in the game.

Games currently take a significant investment of time and effort to collectively construct. These objects follow in a history of collective construction by groups and communities. Consider the cartography and the creation of a map as an example of collective distributed knowledge imbued in an object.  According to Hutchins (1996),

“A navigation chart represents the accumulation of more observations than any one person could make in a lifetime. It is an artifact that embodies generations of experience and measurement. No navigator has ever had,nor will one ever have, all the knowledge that is in the chart.”

A single individual can use a map to navigate an area with competence, if not expertise. Observing an individual learning to use a map, or even construct one is instructive for learning about comprehension and decision-making. Interestingly, games provide structure to play, just as maps and media appliances provide structure to data to create information. Objects such as maps and games are examples of collective knowledge, and are what Vygotsky termed a pivot.

The term pivot was initially conceptualized in describing children’s play, particularly as a toy. A toy is a representation used in aiding knowledge construction in early childhood development. This is the transition where children may move from recognitive play to symbolic and imaginative play, i.e. the child may play with a phone the way it is supposed to be used to show they can use it (recognitive), and in symbolic or imaginative play, they may pretend a banana is the phone.

This is an important step since representation and abstraction are essential in learning language, especially print and alphabetical systems for reading and other discourse. In this sense, play provides a transitional stage in this direction whenever an object (for example a stick) becomes a pivot for severing meaning of horse from a real horse. The child cannot yet detach thought from object. (Vygotsky, 1976, p 97). For Vygotsky, play represented a transition in comprehension and problem solving –where the child moved from external processing — imagination in action —to internal processing — imagination as play without action.

In my own work, I have studied the play of school children and adults as learning activities. This research has informed my work in classroom instruction and game design. Learning activities can be structured as a game, extending the opportunity to learn content, and extend the context of the game into other aspects of the learner’s life, providing performance data and allowing for self-improvement with feedback, and data collection that is assessed, measured and evaluated for policy.

My research and publications have been informed by my work as a tenured teacher and software developer. A key feature of my work is the importance of designing for learning transfer and construct validity. When I design a learning environment, I do so with research in mind. Action research allows for reflection and analysis of what I created, what the learners experienced, and an opportunity to build theory. What is unique about what I do is the systems approach and the way I reverse engineer play as a deep and effective learning tool into transformative learning, where pleasurable activities can be counted as learning.

Although I have published using a wide variety of methodologies, cognitive ethnography is a methodology typically associated with distributed cognition, and examines how communities contain varying levels of competence and expertise, and how they may imbue that knowledge in objects. I have used it specifically on game and play analysis (Dubbels 2008, 2011). This involves observation and analysis of Space or Context—specifically conceptual space, physical space, and social space. The cognitive ethnographer transforms observational data and interpretation of space into meaningful representations so that cognitive properties of the system become visible (Hutchins, 2010; 1995). Cognitive ethnography seeks to understand cognitive process and context—examining them together, thus, eliminating the false dichotomy between psychology and anthropology. This can be very effective for building theories of learning while being accessible to educators.

My current interest is in the use of cognitive ethnographic methodology with traditional form serves as an opportunity to move between inductive and deductive inquiry and observation to build a Nomological network (Cronbach & Meehl, 1955) using measures and quantified observations with the Multiple Trait and Multiple Method Matrix Analysis (Campbell & Fiske, 1959) for construct validity (Cook & Campbell, 1979; Campbell & Stanley, 1966) especially in relation to comprehension and problem solving based upon the Event Indexing Model (Zwaan & Radvansky, 1998).

We distribute knowledge because it is impossible for a single human being, or even a group to have mastery of all knowledge and all skills (Levy, 1997). For this reason I study access and quality of collective group relations and objects and the resulting comprehension and problem solving. The use of these objects and relations can scaffold learners and inform our understanding of how perceptual knowledge is internalized and transformed into conceptual knowledge through learning and experience.

Specialties

Educational research in cognitive psychology, social learning. identity, curriculum and instruction, game design, theories of play and learning, assessment, instructional design, and technology innovation.

Additionally:

The convergence of media technologies now allow for collection, display, creation, and broadcast of information as narrative, image, and data. This convergence of function makes two ideas important in the study of learning:

  • The ability to create of media communication through narrative, image, and data analysis and information graphics is becoming more accessible to non-experts through media appliances such as phones, tablets, game consoles and personal computers.
    • These media appliances have taken very complex behaviors such as film production, which in the past required teams of people with special skill and knowledge, and have imbued these skills and knowledge in hand-held devices that are easy to use, and are available to the general population.
    • This accessibility allows novices to learn complex media production, analysis, and broadcast, and allows for the study of these devices as object that has been imbued with the knowledge and skill, as externalized cognitionThrough the use of these devices, the general population may learn complex skills and knowledge that may have required years of specialized training in the past. Study of the interaction between of individuals learning to use these appliances and devices can be studied as a progression of internalizing knowledge and skill imbued in objects.
    • The convergence of media technologies into small, single–even handheld—devices emphasizes that technology for producing media may change, but the narrative has remained relatively consistent.
  • This consistency of media as narrative, imagery, and data analysis emphasizes the importance of the continued study of narrative comprehension and problem solving through the use of these media appliances.

 

Gamefuscation?

I am concerned that Gamefication obfuscates the real issue in learning:

Transfer.

Is there evidence that game-based learning leads to far transfer?

Without learning transfer, it doesn’t matter how a person learned–whether from a piece of software, watching an expert, rote memorization, or the back of cereal box. What is important is that learning occurred, and how we know that learning occurred.

This leads to issues of assessment and evaluation.

Transfer and Games: How do we assess this?

The typical response from gameficators is that assessment does not measure the complex learning from games. I have been there and said that.  But I have learned that is overly dismissive of assessment and utterly simplistic. As I investigated assessment and psychometrics, I have learned how simplistic were my statements. Games themselves are assessment tools, and I learned that by learning about assessment.

This Gameficator–(yes I am now going to 3rd person)–had to seek knowledge beyond his ludic and narratological powers. He had to learn the mysteries and great lore of psychometrics, instructional design, and educational psychology. It was through this journey into the dark arts, that he has been able to overcome some of the traps of Captain Obvious, and his insidious powers to sidetrack and obfuscate through jargonification,and worse–like taking credit for previously documented phenomena by imposing a new name. . . kind of like my renaming Canada to the now improved, muchmorebetter name: Candyland.

In reality, I had to learn the language and content domain of learning to be an effective instructional designer, just as children learn the language and content domains of science, literature, math, and civics.

What I have learned through my journey, is that if a learner cannot explain a concept, that this inability to explain and demonstrate may be an indicator that the learning from the game experience is not crystallized–that the learner does not have a conceptual understanding that can be explained or expressed by that learner.

Do games deliver this?

Does gamefied learning deliver this?

Gameficators need to address this if this is to be more than a captivating trend.

I am fearful that the good that comes from this trend will not matter if we are only creating  jargonification (even if it is more accessible). It is not enough to redescribe an established instructional design technique if we cannot demonstrate its effectiveness.  We should be asking how learning in game-like contexts enhances learning and how to measure that.
Measurement and testing are important because well-designed tests and measures can deliver an assessment of crystallized knowledge–does the learner have a chunked conceptual understanding of a concept, such as “resistance”, “average”, “setting”?

Sure, students may have a gist understanding of a concept. The teacher may even see this qualitatively, but the student cannot express it in a test. So is that comprehension? I think not. The point of the test is an un-scaffolded demonstration of comprehension.

Maybe the game player has demonstrated the concept of “resistance” in a game by choosing a boat with less resistance to go faster in the game space– but this is not evidence that they understand the term conceptually. This example from a game may be an important aspect of perceptual learning, that may lead to the eventual ability to explain (conceptual learning); but it is not evidence of comprehension of “resistance” as a concept.

So when we look at game based learning, we should be asking what it does best, not whether it is better. Games can become a type of assessment where contextual knowledge is demonstrated. But we need to go beyond perceptual knowledge–reacting correctly in context and across contexts–to conceptual knowledge: the ability to explain and demonstrate a concept.

My feeling is that one should be skeptical of Gameficators that pontificate without pointing to the traditions in educational research. If Gamefication advocates want to influence education and assessment, they should attempt to learn the history, and provide evidential differences from the established terms they seek  to replace.

A darker shadow is cast

Another concern I have is that  perhaps not all gameficators are created equal. Maybe some gameficators are not really advocatingfor the game elements that are really fundamental aspects of games? Maybe there are people with no ludic-narratological powers donning the cape of gamefication! I must ask, is this leaderboard what makes for “gameness”? Or does a completion task-bar make for gamey experience?

Does this leaderboard for shoe preference tell us anything but shoe preference? Where is the game?

Are there some hidden game mechanics that I am failing to apprehend?

Is this just villainy?

Here are a couple of ideas that echo my own concerns:

“My concern is that Gamification is like advergaming. It obscures things and makes organizations think they are creating real games.”

” is Gamification actually using the principles of gameplay or is it simply borrowing tiny traits from games and actually utilizing age-old industrial psychology?”

It seems to me, that:

  • some of the elements of gamefication rely heavily on aspects of games that are not new, just rebranded.
  • some of the elements of gamefication aren’t really “gamey”.

What I like about games is that games can provide multimodal experiences, and provide context and prior knowledge without the interference of years of practice-this is new. Games accelerate learning by reducing the some of the gatekeeping issues. Now a person without the strength, dexterity and madness can share in some of the experience of riding skateboard off a ramp.  The benefit of games may be in the increased richness of a virtual interactive experience,  and provide the immediate task competencies without the time required to become competent. Games provide a protocol, expedite, and scalffold players toward a fidelity of conceptual experience.

For example, in RIDE, the player is immediately able to do tricks that require many years of practice because the game exaggerates the fidelity of experience.   This cuts the time it might take to develop conceptual knowledge but reducing the the necessity of coordination, balance, dexterity and insanity to ride a skateboard up a ramp and do a trick in the air and then land unscathed.

Gameficators might embrace this notion.

Games can enhance learning in a classroom, and enhance what is already called experiential learning.

My point:

words, terms, concepts, and domain praxis matter.

Additionally, we seem to be missing the BIG IDEA:

  • that the way we structure problems is likely predictive of a successful solutionHerb Simon expressed the idea in his book The Sciences of the Artificial this way:

“solving a problem simply means representing it so as to make the solution transparent.” (1981: p. 153)

Games can help structure problems.

But do they help learners understand how to structure a problem. Do they deliver conceptualized knowledge? Common vocabulary indicative of a content domain?

The issue is really about What Games are Good at Doing, not whether they are better than some other traditional form of instruction.

Do they help us learn how to learn? Do they lead to crystallized conceptual knowledge that is found in the use of common vocabulary? In physics class, when we mention “resistance”, students should offer more than

“Resistance is futile”

or, a correct but non-applicable answer such as “an unwillingness to comply”.

The key is that the student can express the expected knowledge of the content domain in relation to the word. This is often what we test for. So how do games lead to this outcome?

I am not hear to give gameficators a hard time–I have a gamefication badge (self-created)–but I would like to know that when my learning is gamefied that the gameficator had some knowledge from the last century of instructional design and learning research, just as I want my physics student to know that resistance as an operationalized concept in science, not a popular cultural saying from the BORG.

The concerns expressed here are applicable in most learning contexts. But if we are going to advocate the use games, then perhaps we should look at how good games are effective, as well as how good lessons are structured. Perhaps more importantly,

  • we may need to examine our prevalent misunderstandings about learning assessment;
  • perhaps explore the big ideas and lessons that come from years educational psychology research, rather than just renaming and creating new platform without realizing or acknowledging, that current ideas in gamefication stand on the established shoulders of giants from a century of educational research.

Jargonification is a big concern. So lets make our words matter and also look back as we look forward. Games are potentially powerful tools for learning, but not all may be effective in every purpose or context. What does the research say?

I am hopeful gamefication delivers a closer look at how game-like instructional design may enhance successful learning.

I don’t think anyone would disagree — fostering creativity should be a goal of classroom learning.

However, the terms creativity and innovation are often misused. When used they typically imply that REAL learning cannot be measured. Fortunately, we know A LOT about learning and how it happens now. It is measurable and we can design learning environments that promote it. It is the same with creativity as with intelligence–we can promote growth in creativity and intelligence through creative approaches to pedagogy and assessment. Because data-driven instruction does not kill creativity, it should promote it.

One of the ways we might look at creativity and innovation is through the much maligned tradition of intelligence testing as described in the Wikipedia:

Fluid intelligence or fluid reasoning is the capacity to think logically and solve problems in novel situations, independent of acquired knowledge. It is the ability to analyze novel problems, identify patterns and relationships that underpin these problems and the extrapolation of these using logic. It is necessary for all logical problem solving, especially scientific, mathematical and technical problem solving. Fluid reasoning includes inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning, and is predictive of creativity and innovation.

Crystallized intelligence is indicated by a person’s depth and breadth of general knowledge, vocabulary, and the ability to reason using words and numbers. It is the product of educational and cultural experience in interaction with fluid intelligence and also predicts creativity and innovation.

The Myth of Opposites

Creativity and intelligence are not opposites. It takes both for innovation.

What we often lack are creative ways of measuring learning growth in assessments. When we choose to measure growth in summative evaluations and worksheets over and over , we nurture boredom and kill creativity.

To foster creativity, we need to adopt and implement pedagogy and curriculum that promotes creative problems solving, and also provides criteria that can measure creative problem solving.

What is needed are ways to help students learn content in creative ways through the use of creative assessments.

We often confuse the idea of  learning creatively with trial and error and play, free of any kind of assessment–that somehow the Mona Lisa was created through just free play and doodling. That somehow assessment kills creativity.  Assessment provide learning goals.

Without learning criteria, students are left to make sense of the problem put before them with questions like “what do I do now?” (ad infinitum).

The role of the educator is to design problems so that the solution becomes transparent. This is done through providing information about process, outcome, and quality criteria . . . assessment, is how it is to be judged. For example, “for your next assignment, I want a boat that is beautiful and  that is really fast. Here are some examples of boats that are really fast.  Look at the hull, the materials they are made with, etc. and design me a boat that goes very fast and tell me why it goes fast. Tell me why it is beautiful.” Now use the terms from the criteria. What is beautiful? Are you going to define it? How about fast? Fast compared to what? These open-ended, interest-driven, free play assignments might be motivating, but they lead to quick frustration and lots of “what do I do now?”

But play and self-interest arte not the problem here. The problem is the way we are approaching assessment.

Although play is described as a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment; Pleasure and enjoyment still come from judgements about one’s work–just like assessment–whether finger painting or creating a differential equation. The key feature here is that play seems to involve self-evaluation and discovery of key concepts and patterns. Assessments can be constructed to scaffold and extend this, and this same process can be structured in classrooms through assessment criteria.

Every kind of creative play activity has evaluation and self-judgement: the individual is making judgements about pleasure, and often why it is pleasurable. This is often because they want to replicate this pleasure in the future, and oddly enough, learning is pleasurable. So when we teach a pleasurable activity, the learning may be pleasurable. This means chunking the learning and concepts into larger meaning units such as complex terms and concepts, which represent ideas, patterns, objects, and qualities. Thus, crystallized intelligence can be constructed through play as long as the play experience is linked and connected to help the learner to define and comprehend the terms (assessment criteria). So when the learner talks about their boat, perhaps they should be asked to sketch it first, and then use specific terms to explain their design:

Bow is the frontmost part of the hull

Stern is the rear-most part of the hull

Port is the left side of the boat when facing the Bow

Starboard is the right side of the boat when facing the Bow

Waterline is an imaginary line circumscribing the hull that matches the surface of the water when the hull is not moving.

Midships is the midpoint of the LWL (see below). It is half-way from the forwardmost point on the waterline to the rear-most point on the waterline.

Baseline an imaginary reference line used to measure vertical distances from. It is usually located at the bottom of the hull

Along with the learning activity and targeted learning criteria and content, the student should be asked a guiding question to help structure their description.

So, how do these parts affect the performance of the whole?

Additionally, the learner should be adopting the language (criteria) from the rubric to build comprehension. Taking perception, experience, similarities and contrasts to understand Bow and Stern, or even Beauty.

Experiential Learning for Fluidity and Crystallization

What the tradition of intelligence offers is an insight as to how an educator might support students. What we know is that intelligence is not innate. It can change through learning opportunities. The goal of the teacher should be to provide experiential learning that extends Fluid Intelligence, through developing problem solving, and link this process to crystallized concepts in vocabulary terms that encapsulate complex process, ideas, and description.

The real technology in a 21st Century Classroom is in the presentation and collection of information. It is the art of designing assessment for data-driven decision making. The role of the teacher should be in grounding crystallized academic concepts in experiential learning with assessments the provide structure for creative problem solving. The teacher creates assessments where the learning is the assessment. The learner is scaffolded through the activity with guidance of assessment criteria.

A rubric, which provides criteria for quality and excellence can scaffold creativity innovation, and content learning simultaneously. A well-conceived assessment guides students to understand descriptions of quality and help students to understand crystallized concepts.

An example of a criteria-driven assessment looks like this:

Purpose & Plan Isometric Sketch Vocabulary Explanation
Level up Has identified event and hull design with reasoning for appropriateness. Has drawn a sketch where length, width, and height are represented by lines 120 degrees apart, with all measurements in the same scale. Understanding is clear from the use of five key terms from the word wall to describe how and why the boat hull design will be successful for the chosen event. Clear connection between the hull design, event, sketch, and important terms from word wall and next steps for building a prototype and testing.
Approaching Has chosen a hull that is appropriate for event but cannot connect the two. Has drawn Has drawn a sketch where length, width, and height are represented. Uses five key terms but struggles to demonstrate understanding of the terms in usage. Describes design elements, but cannot make the connection of how they work together.
Do it again Has chosen a hull design but it may not be appropriate for the event. Has drawn a sketch but it does not have length, width, and height represented. Does not use five terms from word wall. Struggles to make a clear connection between design conceptual design stage elements.

What is important about this rubric is that it guides the learner in understanding quality and assessment. It also familiarizes the learner with key crystallized concepts as part of the assessment descriptions. In order to be successful in this playful, experiential activity (boat building),  the learner must learn to comprehend and demonstrate knowledge of the vocabulary scattered throughout the rubric such as: isometric, reasoning, etc. This connection to complex terminology grounded with experience is what builds knowledge and competence. When an educator can coach a student connecting their experiential learning with the assessment criteria, they construct crystallized intelligence through grounding the concept in experiential learning, and potentially expand fluid intelligence through awareness of new patterns in form and structure.

Play is Learning, Learning is Measurable

Just because someone plays, or explores does not mean this learning is immeasurable. The truth is, research on creative breakthroughs demonstrate that authors of great innovation learned through years of dedicated practice and were often judged, assessed, and evaluated.  This feedback from their teachers led them to new understanding and new heights. Great innovators often developed crystallized concepts that resulted from experience in developing fluid intelligence. This can come from copying the genius of others by replicating their breakthroughs; it comes from repetition and making basic skills automatic, so that they could explore the larger patterns resulting from their actions. It was the result of repetition and exploration, where they could reason, experiment, and experience without thinking about the mechanics of their actions.  This meant learning the content and skills from the knowledge domain and developing some level of automaticity. What sets an innovator apart it seems, is tenacity and being playful in their work, and working hard at their play.

According to Thomas Edison:

During all those years of experimentation and research, I never once made a discovery. All my work was deductive, and the results I achieved were those of invention, pure and simple. I would construct a theory and work on its lines until I found it was untenable. Then it would be discarded at once and another theory evolved. This was the only possible way for me to work out the problem. … I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed 3,000 different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently likely to be true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. My chief difficulty was in constructing the carbon filament. . . . Every quarter of the globe was ransacked by my agents, and all sorts of the queerest materials used, until finally the shred of bamboo, now utilized by us, was settled upon.

On his years of research in developing the electric light bulb, as quoted in “Talks with Edison” by George Parsons Lathrop in Harpers magazine, Vol. 80 (February 1890), p. 425

So when we encourage kids to be creative, we must also understand the importance of all the content and practice necessary to creatively breakthrough. Edison was taught how to be methodical, critical, and observant. He understood the known patterns and made variations. It is important to know the known forms to know the importance of breaking forms. This may inv0lve copying someone else’s design or ideas. Thomas Edison also speaks to this when he said:

Everyone steals in commerce and industry. I have stolen a lot myself. But at least I know how to steal.

Edison stole ideas from others, (just as Watson and Crick were accused of doing). The point Watson seems to be making here is that he knew how to steal, meaning, he saw how the parts fit together. He may have taken ideas from a variety of places, but he had the knowledge, skill, and vision to put them together. This synthesis of ideas took awareness of the problem, the outcome, and how things might work. Lots and lots of experience and practice.

To attain this level of knowledge and experience, perhaps stealing ideas, or copying and imitation are not a bad idea for classroom learning? However copying someone else in school is viewed as cheating rather than a starting point. Perhaps instead, we can take the criteria of examples and design classroom problems in ways that allow discovery and the replication of prior findings (the basis of scientific laws). It is often said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. Imitation is also one of the ways we learn. In the tradition of play research, mimesis is imitation–Aristotle held that it was “simulated representation”.

The Role of Play and Games

In close, my hope is that we not use the terms “creativity” and “innovation” as suitcase words to diminish such things as minimum standards. We need minimum standards.

But when we talk about teaching for creativity and innovation, where we need to start is the way that we gather data for assessment. Often assessments are unimaginative in themselves. They are applied in ways that distract from learning, because they have become the learning. One of the worst outcomes of this practice is that students believe that they are knowledgeable after passing a minimum standards test. This is the soft-bigotry of low expectation. Assessment should be adaptive, criteria driven, and modeled as a continuous improvement cycle.

This does not mean that we must  drill and kill kids in grinding mindless repetition. Kids will grind towards a larger goal where they are offered feedback on their progress. They do it in games.

Games are structured forms of play. They are criteria driven, and by their very nature, games assess, measure, and evaluate. But they are only as good as their assessment criteria.

These concepts should be embedded in creative active inquiry that will allow the student to embody their learning and memory. However, many of the creative, inquiry-based lessons I have observed tend to ignore the focus of academic language–the crystallized concepts. Such as, “what is fast?”, “what is beauty”,  “what is balance?”, or “what is conflict?” The focus seems to be on interacting with content rather than building and chunking the concepts with experience. When Plato describes the world of forms, and wants us to understand the essence of the chair, i.e., “what is chairness?” We may have to look at a lot of chairs to understand chairness.  Bu this is how we build conceptual knowledge, and should be considered when constructing curriculum and assessment. A guiding curricular question should be:

How does the experience inform the concepts in the lesson?

There is a way to use data-driven instruction in very creative lessons, just like the very unimaginative drill and kill approach. Teachers and assessment coordinators need to take the leap and learn to use data collection in creative ways in constructive assignments that promote experiential learning with crystallized academic concepts.

If you have kids make a diorama of a story, have them use the concepts that are part of the standards and testing: Plot, Character, Theme, Setting, ETC. Make them demonstrate and explain. If you want kids to learn the physics have them make a boat and connect the terms through discovery. Use their inductive learning and guide them to conceptual understanding.This can be done through the use of informative assessments, such as with rubrics and scales for assessment.  Evaluation and creativity are not contradictory or mutually exclusive. These seeming opposites are complementary, and can be achieved through embedding the crystallized, higher order concepts into meaningful work.

 

Why Video Games Sustain Engagement: A Cage Match between Social Learning Theories

Brock Dubbels

The Center for Cognitive Sciences

Department of Curriculum & Instruction

The University of Minnesota

Abstract: Although games are seen as high interest activities, many children buy them, play them, and move on to another activity. This represents a challenge in creating instructional interventions to achieve an educational outcome or a training effect. This study was conducted to inform an after school program designed to deliver a training effect on female adolescent health. To investigate this, a small sample of young female experts were recruited and interviewed for rich phenomenological descriptions (van Manen, 2002) to examine the aspects engagement as described by (Chapman 2006) as informed through identity construction (Buckingham, 2007, Van Gennep, 1960; Turner, 1969). Interview transcripts were coded and analyzed using methods from discourse analysis (Gee, 1992, 1996, 1999; Fairclough, 2007) using themes from social learning theories such as Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1996), Affinity Groups (Gee, 2001), Positive Interdependence (Deutsch, 1962, Johnson & Johnson, 1989), and Self-Determination (Ryan and Deci, 2008). Implications of this study include understanding the importance of identity construction to motivate and sustain engagement in learning.

Key terms: Dance Dance Revolution, Phenomenology, Identity Construction, Self-Determination Theory, Affinity Groups, Motivation, Engagement, Social Learning, Instructional Design, Rites of Passage, Play, Games, Initiation, Semiotic Domains, Apprenticeship, Transformation.

Citation:

Dubbels, B.R. (2010) Designing Learning Activities for Sustained Engagement — Four Social Learning Theories Coded and Folded into Principals for Instructional Design through Phenomenological Interview and Discourse Analysis. In Discoveries in Gaming Research. IGI Global Publishers.


Introduction

This article seeks to understand what engages young people in learning, and what sustains their interest to continue. It was intended to explore the elements that inform the lived experience of a chosen play activity and examine the possible social learning theories that might inform it. Five social learning theories were examined to ground the aspects engagement as described by (Chapman 2006) and informed through social learning theories such as Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1996), Affinity Groups (Gee, 2001), Positive Interdependence (Deutsch, 1962, Johnson & Johnson, 1989), and Self-Determination (Ryan and Deci, 2008). Implications of this study include understanding the importance of identity construction to motivate and sustain engagement in learning (Buckingham, 2007, Van Gennep, 1960; Turner, 1969).

All of the theories listed above seek to explain the motivation behind learning as socially constructed and distributed phenomena; all seek to describe the process of identity construction as an impetus for situated learning.  The assumption in this study was that it is through the process of identity construction that engagement is sustained and supported through the process of group affiliation and is distributed through apprenticeship, modeling, and group interaction.

Social Learning Theory Scale/Application Author(s)
Engagement Aggregate Chapman, 2006
Communities of Practice Structural Social Wenger, 1996
Positive Interdependence Structural Social Deutsch, 1962, Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Johnson and Holubec, 1998),
Affinity Groups Structural Social Gee, 2001
Self-Determination Social Psychological Deci and Ryan, 2008

 

Identity construction may be an organizing principle in understanding motivation and engagement, and yet these social learning theories do not present themselves as descriptions of the identity construction process, but rather focus on structural factors in relationships Community (Wenger, 1998), (Deutsch, 1962, Johnson & Johnson, 1989; Johnson, Johnson and Holubec, 1998), Activity (Gee, 2001), and needs of the individual (Deci and Ryan, 2008) as organizing principles. For the purposes of this study, these theories were operationalized to provide insight for designing instructional environments that will motivate and sustain the engagement of the learner. It was predicted that identity construction would predict motivation and engagement. This prediction was based upon the recurrence of the theme throughout the social learning theories. The act of identity construction is an act of becoming, Not only do individuals construct a unique description of themselves as an identity, but it I also conferred upon them and reinforced through context, including age, personal history, relationships and history, location, and community status.

Identity construction rituals and rites of passage

Traditionally, communities gather to provide ceremony for initiation and status transition for such things as the celebration of status change from child to adult; initiation single people to married couple; and a multitude of culturally mediated roles, acknowledgement, and transitions. Although there may be many more transitions and ritual’s in today’s society because of the great variety of cultural subgroups, i.e. churches, car clubs, self-help groups like Alcoholic Anonymous, and hobby groups like The Peoples’ Revolutionary Knitting Circle, etc.; many of these groups traditionally necessitated face to face interaction, but with the internet and today’s computing power, these relations can be mediated digitally through portals such as Facebook, Xbox Live, Second Life, and other social networking tools.

The Dance Dance Revolution game club might be represented as a ritual rite of passage to understand how and why people build identities around their play, and sustain engagement to ultimately develop expertise.  Central to the rite of passage is the initiation ritual (Van Gennep, 1960), where new roles and status are conferred through public performance where play, the subjunctive mood (Turner, 1969), situates the activity, so that rules, roles, and consequences are suspended and participants can explore new identities, associated activities, and their semiotic domains and develop new status.

With this in mind, video games may represent new forms of the rite of passage and initiation ritual; games are structured activities that are valued by certain cultural sub-groups, represent expert systems that resemble apprenticeship activities, involve performance initiation, and with similar emphasis on what Sutton-Smith (1976) called the play ethos. The ethos is the context and purpose of the activity. It is as the expectation of consequence of an activity performed. It is the context where play is the subjunctive mood. The subjunctive mood observed in games and ritual are said to decontextualize the action and provide a suspension of rules, roles, and consequences found in ordinary life to allow for the exploration of new identities, rules, roles, actions, and social affiliations and status in a safe space.

Purpose of study

This interview was to inform design features to develop a program for pre-adolescent exercise with Dance Dance Revolution for the study of obesity reduction and increasing bone density. The study was also intended to get a sense of why a young woman sustained engagement with Dance Dance Revolution over three years to develop expertise, and how educators might replicate that kind of commitment to learning and practice.

Background of the study

Health care professionals have observed an increase in levels of childhood obesity. This increase has been attributed in large part to physical inactivity. Physical inactivity not only leads to obesity and poor cardiovascular health, it also has negative effects on bone health. Bones function to support a mechanical load (a force exerted by body weight, muscle, growth, or activity). Bone is constantly formed and reabsorbed throughout life in a generally balanced way. However, in a three- to four-year window during puberty, bone formation is accelerated. In that period, as much bone material is deposited as will be lost during a person’s entire adult life. During these pivotal years of bone development, physical activity is important for optimizing bone health, as it has been shown to reduce the incidence of fractures later in life.

Because it is difficult to motivate children to participate in the type of cardiovascular activities that adults engage in (running, cycling, aerobics), new strategies must be developed, and these may demand elements that             motivate the learner to sustain engagement over a longer period of time in order to promote and sustain life habits for physical conditioning.

Dance Dance Revolution is not your typical video game.


Dance Dance Revolution is a game that you set up with mats, a TV, a game console and a game disk and up to four people can play simultaneously (figure 1).  To play DDR, a participant responds to a series of directional arrows, (see figure 2) displayed on a video or TV screen to perform choreographed dance steps or hops synchronized to music. Song tempo and degree of difficulty increase as the player successfully progresses in the game. Because of the game’s popularity and its cardiovascular exercise and jumping (bone-building) components, it could represent an appealing model for reducing physical inactivity in children.

The video dance game Dance Dance Revolution may be a possible solution to increasing activity and mechanical load because of the amount of jumping activity, but the young person must be motivated to start, and engagement must be sustained for the activity to produce valid and reliable measures of obesity and bone density.

The issue under investigation is how to help young people start an activity and sustain it; the

simple answer to this was, seemingly, to make it fun; to make it a high-interest activity; but many toys, games, and activities are often tried once and then put aside. What came out of the interview was:

  • the importance of aligning the outcomes with a desirable activity,
  • the importance of group and environment to the construction of status and identity that makes belonging to a group desirable;
  • allow for status and relation for reinforcement;
  • the centrality of ritual and rites of passage in group performance,
  • autonomy supporting environments,
  • and again the importance of identity construction for transformation to instantiate sustained engagement conveyed through affiliation, apprenticeship, and expertise.

Interviewee/ informant

To explore this, we recruited Ellen as a DDR expert and possible employee to lead an after school program at one of our sites at the Minneapolis Public Schools. We had posted a hiring description for DDR experts and we had a number of responses; one respondent, Charles, shared that he had a lot of friends who were really good at DDR, and Ellen was listed as one of those people.  Ellen came into the lab to show us her DDR play, and we were impressed with her expertise.

What was interesting about Ellen was that she was not from a subversive or reactionary sub-culture. Ellen is part of one of the least studied cultural sub-group in schools (Buckingham, 2007)—an urban, middle class teen that is successful in school, is respectful to teachers, has a part-time job, plays varsity soccer, traveling band, is part of the International Baccalaureate Program, and has a satisfying home life.

These elements of her identity were surprising. We usually assume that video game players are a disenfranchised fringe group at school who do not engage with the typical academic fare. But Ellen was able to balance not only her academics and music instruction, work a part-time job, but also play sports and have friendships. These elements of balance were enticing and we wanted to know how she was doing it so that we might try and replicate not only the physical health benefits in our bone density study, but also some of the psycho-social and affective elements necessary for sustaining engagement (Chapman 2006) —she seemed like a great role model for creating a curriculum that would rely heavily on identity development and she was an intriguing informant to help us understand how play identities might lead to work habits to form healthy minds and bodies.

Methodology and review of literature

The question driving this investigation is “why did she sustain engagement in learning?”

According to Chapman (2006), engagement is more than behavioral time on task. When looking to measure growth or change, or even to understand whether a learner has truly engaged, an educator should also look for evidence of commitment and positive attitudes related to the activity and subject matter.

  • Engagement is not just doing the work, it is a connection and an affinity to an activity supported from the affective domains (Chapman, 2003).
  • Skinner & Belmont (1993, p.572) report that engaged learners show sustained behavioral involvement in learning activities accompanied by a positive emotional tone and select tasks at the border of their competencies, initiate action when given the opportunity, and exert intense effort and concentration.
  • Pintrich and & De Groot (1990, in Chapman) see engagement as having observable cognitive components that can be seen or elicited through exploring the learner’s use of strategy, metacognition, and self-regulatory behavior to monitor and guide the learning processes.

 

These attributes do not magically appear in an activity because a student is told that it is good for them, and that they should commit to their betterment; Least likely is that they do it because we threaten, or because just because we want them to. A student must make a choice to commit to an activity and have that commitment reaffirmed over time to sustain engagement. True engagement in an activity is in some sense transformative and resembles identity construction, in that it changes who we are through cognitive, affective, and behavioral elements; but it seems likely that without positive reinforcement (Skinner, 1938) the behavior may result in extinction and the game becomes another resident on the island of misfit toys.

Dance Dance Revolution is considered a high interest activity for many young people, and it does have a reward system that gives real time feedback on performance with rewards for successful play; but without aligning those rewards and achievement with social capital, they lack meaning and status, and the reinforcement system remains a token economy (Ferster and Skinner, 1957) whose tokens are unredeemable.  Since these flashing lights and high scores do not buy cars, cell phones and other tokens of esteem for young teens, it seems reasonable that gaining status and respect in a desirable community may provide the value that accompanies success and sustains engagement.

The work of Buckingham on identity development may provide some insight for connecting identity with purpose, motivation, and sustained engagement. Buckingham (2008, p. 3) states that:

Identity is developed by the individual, but it has to be recognized and

confirmed by others. Adolescence is also a period in which young people

negotiate their separation from their family, and develop independent

social competence (for example through participation in “cliques”  and

larger “crowds” of peers, who exert different kinds of influence).

Identity and status were traditionally conferred through rites of passage, and there may have been many culturally specific instances of these rites for different groups and related activities. Video games may represent a new wrinkle in the way that we enact and view rites of passage–games may offer a form of guided,  ritualized behavior for identity construction and group affiliation as an autonomy supporting environment (Ryan & Deci, 1999), Affinity Group (Gee, 2001), or Community of Practice (Wenger, 1998).

A rite of passage does not need to resemble the tribal practices that led to vision quests, ritual markings, or exodus. A rite of passage may be organized in three forms: the process of separation, transition, and integration, (Van Gennep, 1960), but all three of these rites may also be presented as single rite (Barnard and Spencer, 1996). What is important for Van Gennep is the idea of Liminality, or the threshold. In the context of Liminality, the activity space may be far removed from reality, and roles, rules, tools, values, and status may be situated in the flux of play as if a hybrid or interstitial space (Turner, 1969).  This concept of the threshold and liminality seems to validate Geertz (1972) and his description of the “Center Bet” in describing the ritual of Balinese Cockfighting and Benthams’ concept of Deep Play.  According to Turner (1969), there may be many rites of passage in a person’s life through sub-cultural affiliation (Cock Fighting, DDR, First Job) where identity and entitlement are inculcated through desire to become a respected an acknowledged group member, where they can share in and contribute to group activity, participate in group spaces, and publicly perform renewing and furthering status.

Since identity is conferred from others, there are factors that can identify a person as a group member and as having identity markings. For Gee (2001), the activity is primary and provides the motivation, the source of group membership and markings; and this membership comes about from engagement in active communal practice that centers on the activity; the ancillary relationships stem from the interaction related to the activity.  He states that these communities and spaces are hard to identify without knowing the person’s intentions — exactly why people are there.  Whether a person actually claims group membership or is acknowledged can be difficult. For Gee, group membership may not be acknowledged or claimed, but attributes can still be observed. The role of Gee’s work is central to operationalizing identity and group membership through offering observable sociocultural markers that come from the semiotic domains as evidence of group membership.

A semiotic domain recruits one or more modalities (e.g., oral or written language,

images, equations, symbols, sounds, gestures, graphs, artifacts, and so forth) to

communicate distinctive types of messages.  By the word “fluent” I mean that the

learner achieves some degree of mastery, not just rote knowledge. . . Semiotic

domains are, of course, human creations.  As such, each and every one of them is

associated with a group of people who have differentially mastered the domain, but

who share norms, values, and knowledge about what constitutes degrees of mastery

in the domain and what sorts of people are, more or less, “insiders” or “outsiders”.

Such a group of people share a set of practices, a set of common goals or endeavors,

and a set of values and norms, however much each of the individuals in the group may

also have their own individual styles and goals, as well as other affiliations.

Gee (2001, pg. 2).

This work allows for certain attributes of group membership to be observable rather than subjective. A young person may have grown up participating in an activity with parents and young friends, but during the puberty years, may reject that affiliation based upon new goals for group membership. A new group may be more desirable than a current group, and the young person may cast of markings that identify them with the old group such as a hat from a uniform, ways of speaking, values, etc. This does not mean that markings of prior group membership with parents, family, and childhood affiliations are not still observable. For Gee it is the activities and the group practices that provide evidence of social learning and group membership from semiotic domains, and it is activity that is central to identity construction.

For Wenger, (1998) identity is central to human learning; identity construction and learning are distributed through community and relations; learning is socially constructed; and motivation is based on a desire for sharing and participatory culture. The work of Wenger shares many attributes with Gee’s work, but the focus for Wenger was on socially distributed cognition and learning as social participation. Earlier work explored the role of learning in apprenticeship, where newcomers would enter into a space where learning was situated and contextualized, and goals and purpose were evident due to entering the space. One entered the space to gain apprenticeship and attempt to acquire and learn the sociocultural practices of the community. Thus the individual is drawn to the group and begins to engage and learn by finding their role in a distributed, networked, cultural-cognitive process with the purpose of the individual as an active participant in the practices of a social community. This participation leads to the construction of his/her identity through these communities. From this understanding develops the concept of the community of practice: a group of individuals participating in communal activity– creating their shared identity through engaging in and contributing to the practices of their communities.

The difficulty with this theory is that group membership is hard to define. A person may want to be part of group and claim group membership, but not have the identifiable characteristics that define the membership, but it did lay the groundwork for many of the same features of Gee’s construct.

For Deci and Ryan (2008) these same attributes are also shared, but the focus of Self-Determination Theory comes from work on motivation with a focus on Autonomy — possibly built from early work by White (1959) where organisms have an innate need to experience competence, and experience joy and pleasure with the new behaviors when they assert competence over the environment.—what he called effectance motivation.

For Ryan and Deci motivation is based on the degree that an activity or value has been internalized, and this is based upon the degree to which the behavior has meaning within the context of the arena of performance. In this sense, the feelings of relatedness and belonging in a social, or group setting, play a part in the internalization process along with an inherent desire for competence and autonomy. In order to feel belonging and relatedness, an individual develops autonomy through competence and creates the identity for relatedness and belonging. This process can happen from belonging to competence to autonomy, or other sequences. The key motivating factor for Deci and Ryan is autonomy.

In order to sustain engagement for Deci and Ryan, motivation must be internalized . . . the external contingency must be “swallowed whole”. By swallowed whole, the learner identifies the value of the new behavior with other values that are part of the self. This process of engagement is the transformation of an extrinsic motive, one that is reinforced from outside the learners’ values, into an activity that is assimilated and internalized by the learner as an intrinsic value that is part of their personal identity. This process involves constructing values aligned with the group and environment, and thus assimilates behavioral norms that were originally external as part of a new identity. Based on the degree of control exerted by external factors, levels of extrinsic motivation can be aligned along a continuum (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

 

 

  • External regulation: doing something for the sake of achieving a reward or avoiding a punishment.
  • Introjected regulation: partial internalization of extrinsic motives.
  • Identified regulation: doing an activity because the individual identifies with the values and accepts it as his own.

Identified regulation is autonomous and not merely controlled by external factors. It is motivation for an activity that has been integrated as part of the learner’s values, and refers to identification with thvalues and meanings of the activity to the extent that it becomes fully internalized and autonomous (Ryan & Deci, 2000).

Themes for coding

Play 

Subjunctive Mood

Activity Space Desirable social grouping
Ritual Rites of Passage Belonging/ Relatedness
Desirable Activity Identified regulation Apprenticeship
Affective commitment Autonomy/ Competence Cognitive theories of action

 



 

Eleven themes from these theories of identity construction, ritual/ rites of passage, engagement, motivation, and social learning were taken in order to code the interview transcript to inform analysis and make decisions on what factors might be important for the construction our afterschool program so that we can track design efficacy and measure performance.

Data collection

The phenomenological interview methodology (van Manon, 200*) was used to try and elicit responses beyond descriptions of rationale to gather “thick descriptions” (Geertz, 1973) of affective, social, corporeal, and cognitive behaviors (which the researcher hoped for but did not expect) behind the activity and experience of playing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), but also to encourage descriptions that were thick enough that the researcher might be able to identify instances of engagement situated and distributed learning across networks of time and space, mediated through shared activity,  and perhaps to see if there were evidence indicating whether identity construction and choice did inform motivation and engagement.

Data Analysis

The critical discourse methods as espoused by Gee (1999) and Fairclough (2003) not only provide methodologies that are fundamental to qualitative analysis, but are also fundamental to the study of “the scaffolding of human affiliation within cultures and social groups and institutions,” Gee (1999, pg 1) and “how do existing societies provide people with the possibilities and resources for rich and fulfilling lives,” Fairclough (2003, pg 202). It was for this reason that these methods were used to explore and code the phenomenological interview transcript. Although a sample of one participant is not very robust for generalization, it provided a starting point for more focused theory testing, as well as to provide insights for ourselves as designers, and education practitioners.

Interview

This first excerpt from the interview begins to describe the motivation to learn to play Dance Dance Revolution. Ellen and I met on a nice spring day in the Whittier neighborhood near the Minneapolis Institute of Arts at a coffee shop called Spy House.  When I had asked her what was the experience of playing DDR, she said:

The first time I ever played Dance Dance Revolution was with my

friends Tyler and Ben. They had it at Devon’s house and everyone

was playing this game. Really, I wanted to hang out with them, I

wanted to participate and so that’s when I started learning. Then it

was after playing with those guys for so long that I really started to

enjoy the game. I actually didn’t have a play station before that, so

I went out and bought a play station just so I could play DDR, yeah. . .

yeah, I didn’t want to be left out of it. Games are fun and I just wanted

to spend time with my friends and this is something that they were

all doing.

The basis for Ellen’s learning was to Belong to a Desirable Group. This idea of relatedness and Belonging were fundamental in her development of skills and collection of resources to develop as a player. However, she did not have the feeling of connectedness until she was really able to engage in the activity as a participating member —Autonomy/Competence. Also of interest was that the activity was not initially a Desirable Activity, “I wanted to participate and so that’s when I started learning”. After some time participating, she found enjoyment along with her sense of Belonging to a Desirable Group. This phenomenon suggests precedence of Belonging to a Desirable Group over Desirable Activity, and also suggests that an individual can develop interest in activity that might not have been initially motivating. Speculatively, there may be some indication for the importance of play as a subjunctive for developing affinity for an activity. It was clear that she had already identified with the people, but, based on the next excerpt, she had not identified or been identified with the activity.

I was excited because this was something I could participate in. I’ve played Halo and I’m not that good at it and everyone was starting out on this for the first time, so I thought I could be one of those good people at it and get respect from people. I was really excited. They have this huge TV at Devon’s house and everyone’s around you. I was kind of nervous too because you have to do this in front of people. Well, we were all kind of sitting on the couch watching the men and I was like I want to try it. I mean, some of them were interested in seeing me probably because they knew I never played before and they made me where I was probably going to fail, but then I actually really wanted to do it, so I was like I want to do it next! I thought I was going to be better at the game than I thought I was because I’m thinking oh these guys they don’t have any coordination. This’ll be easy for me. I’m kind of in shape, so I was thinking it would be pretty easy and then I do some of these songs and I was like oh, I need to go down a level! I thought I caught on fairly quickly.

What was clear from this passage was the importance of the activity and her feeling that she could be successful participating and “be one of those good people at it and get respect from people.” There are several parts to this that are especially interesting:

  1. Belief in her ability to succeed was essential in her willingness to perform publicly. Research on adolescents’ engagement in literacy for example has found that adolescent perceptions of their competence and ability to succeed may be a more important predictor of whether they will engage than their past performance. (Alvermann, 2001; Anderman et al., 2001; Bean, 2000; Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000). Studies of adolescents have also found that they prefer to perform where they know they will have success (Csikzhentmihaly, 200*).
  2. The fear of performing in front of the group with Autonomy/ Competence but that since people were just starting out, she might have a chance to be good at it and to be respected. Thismay have played an even larger role because she was one of the girls who watch, not one of “the men” who play the games and perform.
  3. The importance of the Activity Space and its affordances as well as the possible change in atmosphere with this new game, where there may have been more emphasis on Play as the Subjunctive Mood.

This makes a case for the importance of Affective Commitment, Competence as well as a Cognitive Theory of Action. Although these seem to be sublevels of Desirable Activity and Belong to a Desirable Group, that inform and reinforce action. She had created a Cognitive Theory of Action and knew that it was essential for her to perform to be acknowledged and claim membership — another indication of Chapman’s (2006) description of engagement and evidence of Identifiable Regulation. To claim Belonging to this Desirable Social Group, she realized whether implicitly or not, that she needed to participate through performance (Autonomy/Competence) to Belong. This supports Deci and Ryan’s position that Autonomy, Belonging, and Competence are basic needs that underlie motivation and engagement and satisfy Skinner and Belmont’s assertion of affective involvement.

In addition, Ellen had already aligned her values internally as Identifiable Regulation— but she had not found an opportunity with a Desirable Activity where she might have success in the Activity Space where she could feel confident that she would succeed and enjoy the activity,

I could be one of those good people at it and get respect from people”

Halo and Counterstrike she described as work (Sutton-Smith, 1996), which has consequences for failure — the desirable group may have been much more advanced in their performance in Halo and Counterstrike, and perhaps took playing the game much more seriously and raised the stakes of the performance.

Games and play are often about choices without life-threatening consequences, but that does not mean that games are not taken seriously. They can be performance tests (Autonomy/ Competence) and Ritual/Rites of Passage that allow for the development and affirmation of a place within a group, establishment of pecking orders, and through this, community status and entitlement . . . and it is possible that the experience of being positioned to perform and possibly fail was some sort of initiation, a form of deep play (Bentham in Geertz, 1975).

This act of bettering oneself in public is a tricky situation—but it really must occur in public for a person to be seen as Competent/Autonomous and an acknowledged group member (Belonging). This Ritualistic phenomenon was described by Geertz as the “Center Bet” in “Deep Play”, (1975) and based upon Ellen’s description, it may be that as play in an activity advances, the play gets more serious and the stakes and status of the Ritual change, and the work ethos takes precedence over Play as Subjunctive Mood.

In the DDR trial, Ellen was tested to see how she would respond to public failure: she could have quit and gone home, or she could laugh it off and find the fun in learning and work towards acceptance. As will be shown in the next excerpt, Ellen found that there were others who were beginners that she could get better with, and more experienced players were actually helpful and willing (Apprenticeship) to teach — she also found that there is no substitute for experience, and that in order to become a part of the group, she had to go through the rites of practice and public initiation–according to Van Gennep (1960) this ritualized process is common to many societies where an individual passes from one stage of life to another, and it  can involve separation from childhood environment, transition, and incorporation with new status.  For Turner (1969), this game may not be as monumental as rites celebrating marriage or death, but still represents a moment of social transition and eventual change in status. The importance of this is the public acknowledgement of Competence, and this seems to be essential to identity construction and acceptance as a member of a group (Buckingham, 2007).

The performance/ initiation

Previously, Ellen may have wanted to be part of the group, but Ellen stated that the games they were playing did not provide her with much interest to play, even though she wanted to belong with the group and participate in their space. Because of this, she may not have been considered as part of the group, but maybe more of a tourist or poser; because belonging seemed contingent on being able to “do”.

I have a lot of friends who play Counterstrike and a lot of . . . almost every guy I know plays Halo. You can enjoy watching those games. I don’t enjoy it as much. Like I said, it’s just way more serious. They get more serious. Well, it’s like everyone is more quiet and focused, like they really get into trying to hunt these people down and kill them before they are hunted down and killed. DDR, you are playing against someone but then with Halo and Counterstrike you’re against all these people and you have to be like watching your back all the time. Even the people watching, they zone out and just watch it. For me it’s not as fun. As for DDR, it’s more like people jumping around and are less serious but it’s still a lot of fun.

Prior to Ellen’s embrace of the game, she was a groupie. She could talk about how Devon did, but not about her own experience. This came in part as being recognized as a player by her community, but it was also a confidence that came of public performance (Autonomy/ Competence) and embrace of public performance; sustaining engagement with the practice; working hard to develop status and identity related to the group and the activity and the freedoms and responsibilities that accompany them.

So what followed was me just trying to find where I could go to play. Then I kind

of got eventually frustrated with it—well, not frustrated but I wanted to play more,

so I decided to buy it for myself.

Yeah.

You play by yourself to get better to play with other people. I mean, it’s always fun to play by yourself and unlock new songs and things like that.

I got it for Christmas from my parents, so I didn’t have to buy it but I had to persuade them and make sure they got me what I wanted. They didn’t really understand but they felt okay about it because it wasn’t something violent or anything like that.

Then I was like look what I can do! They watched me. They thought it was kind of interesting. This was with my family on Christmas. Then my uncles and my little cousin who was maybe like seven, they all got really interested by it. So my fifty-year-old uncles are trying it and they’re getting really excited. My little cousin, she’s getting excited too. She doesn’t even really understand what’s happening on the screen but she’s like jumping around on the pad.

 

The need for Activity Spaces should not be underestimated, but it seemed clear that Ellen was ready and willing to share her activity in a space, her parents’ holiday party to get the game system, mats, and software.

Ellen’s playing the game with family coincides with the Ritual of Integration/Aggregation as described by Van Gennep (1960), where Ellen has returned to her family with a new status. This status may not rival her accomplishments in sports, band or academics in her family’s values, but in many ways it was a revealing of how she had become different – how she had created difference and separated and returned, and her family’s embrace of this new part of her identity — “gamer girl”.

Dance Dance Revolution, and other games played in Devon’s basement provided an experience that offered the separation and initiation for obtaining group identity through the ritual of public performance that could be recognized not only by the group, but also by others away from the basement and through this the identity and status are further reinforced through the rite of integration. It was through the activity that Ellen was conferred status and identity as member not only by her new friends, but through her family and the community that had the power to convey her status and acceptance. This conferred new identity and acceptance allowed her to become that gamer beyond her normal relations and to extend her community network and be recognized by others to develop new relations and status:

because we shared this thing, so it would be like oh so who’s house are we going to go to tonight to play DDR? Okay. Well, my friend Devon, his house was the main DDR house just because he had a great room for it and everything and his parents didn’t really care how much noise we made or how late we stayed there, so his house is generally the DDR house. Tyler, who was my friend prior, we would get together                   and practice a lot. Michael, he bought DDR around the time that I did and we were basically kind of on the same level and I got to know him better that way just by spending time with all these people. Nick, all these other guys, I had kind of known beforehand but now we spent all this time together. So it was basically we all met at Devon’s house and that’s what we would do for weekend after weekend after                     weekend.

If we can draw from these Activity Spaces and domains and inspire the learner to feel a connection and affinity to traditional academic fare like engineering, literature, mathematics, etc. What is also evident that we can create Desirable Activities that align with academic learning where the learning outcomes are embedded in the activity, that supports committed participation and engagement.

What makes Devon’s house a desirable Activity Space was probably the Autonomy they were given in the basement. Devon’s parents gave them access to a big television, let them come and go, let them choose their hours, and allowed them to express themselves with their music played loud in activities of their choice. This was probably trust earned versus parental apathy judging from Ellen and her friends, but this kind of Autonomy cannot be underestimated. What seems to make an Activity Space desirable is the ability to have Autonomy/ Competence, and perhaps this is one of the factors that make for a Desirable Group and the desire for Belonging/Relatedness as well as in creating a Desirable Activity.

Although there seemed to be many homes the kids could have had their gatherings, none of them seemed very prominent in her description, and the only mention Ellen made in the interview of Activity Spaces other than Devon’s were her parents’ house on holiday, when she was showing new friends how to play that were not part of her DDR group at Devon’s; when she would practice to ready herself for Devon’s; and the hotel room on her band trip to New York City.

As Ellen’s ability with the game progressed, she was being recognized as DDR “gamer girl”, and this conferred a new identity and status. She began to find new connections throughout her school experience, as more people knew about her new status as a “gamer girl” beyond her former status as an International Baccalaureate student (Academic), varsity soccer player (Jock/Athlete), Band Member (Musician). It may have been important for Ellen to branch out and change people’s perceptions In the same way that she described the Desirable Group:

Really, I wanted to hang out with them . . . games are fun.”

and the proposition that  might follow as if a syllogism, is that:

gamers are fun, and I want to be fun too.

Perhaps all that work in Academics, Sports, and Band had made her appear too serious, and maybe she felt constrained by all of her commitments and wanted to break out to meet new, fun people? It is only conjecture and anecdotal, and she did not abandon her commitment to band, sports, or academics — she did graduate with an IB diploma — but as can be imagined, all that work in those areas may have made it important to find friends who had interests beyond her everyday world, and that being with them would allow her to step away from conversations about the team, assignments, practicing to perform, and set her apart.

Developing these relations more than fun, but a coping tool. The importance of play, according to Vygotsky (1972), is decontextualization, where an individual can gain gratification and pleasure even in the midst of unresolved issues and larger, time consuming projects. The role of pretense and imagination can bring about pleasure and in the face of uncontrollable circumstances; this can provide some relief. Perhaps the gaming provided an opportunity to decompress and laugh in the midst of all that responsibility and preparation. An example of this may be seen in Ellen’s bringing the game on a band trip.

Yeah, it was a school band trip. So a lot of us went and it turned out that a whole bunch of people knew what DDR was. It was interesting to see them play. Tyler and I, we kind of felt cool because our group that we had played with had progressed better than these other people that we were seeing play. They were like oh man this kid is so good and we play with him all the time. Tyler and I played against these                 people— Yeah, we beat them pretty bad.

In this instance, the game activity did extend beyond the familiar Activity Spaces like Devon’s basement; it even seemed to provide an activity that she could share with new groups as a Desirable Activity that would make others see her as part of a Desirable Group that others would seek Belonging/ Relatedness. The game seems to have supplanted the importance of being part of the gamer group in Devon’s basement, and the activity became a means for extending her friend network as Gee (2001) as an Affinity Group, where people affiliate because of an affinity for an activity. The next section demonstrates this. As the activity began to change for the group members, relationships started to change, and the emphasis on the game diminished.

Well, a lot of the guys that I started playing it with, they moved on to other games because that’s what they do. They focus in on something for a really long time and then they’ll find something else will be just released and everybody else will just be playing that, so they’ll jump into that. Then there was always the people who have it, like Tyler and I, who will still play it. We didn’t get bored with it; it’s just then there       were other things. No. I don’t play it as much as I do anymore and my friendships through that have become different. I mean, we’re all still friends. DDR was just like this common thing that we had to like start us talking and then after that we talked about normal things. I became pretty good friends with a lot of people. I dated one of  the guys that I met for awhile. I don’t know, it wasn’t like any different than like you           meet people playing for a sports team. You have something in common and that’s what you’re coming together to do, and then you talk about other stuff because we’re not just focused on DDR. Well, at my work it’s kind of similar too. We’re all stuck working together and so then we get talking. Soccer and sports a lot. Any kind of group that you all come together and you have something to talk about and then we  just eventually expand on that and that’s how we became friends.

The DDR game did facilitate the relationship in ways that other games and activities did not, but in the end, the initial motivation may need to come from purpose only the individual can formulate. But play can facilitate this and may make the entrance to a group, the practice, and eventual mastery of knowledge, activity space, and activity more likely to be enticing and possibly provide for sustained engagement and eventual mastery. This makes a case for Play as a Subjunctive Mood.

Playgroups, and the activities that support them, provide a common ground for interaction. There is definitely a pecking order that comes from demonstrable competence and evidence of knowledge from the semiotic domains from the game. Games are built upon play, pretense, and decontextualization, but once these activities no longer provide pleasure and gratification, the activity may quickly end and the relationships and spaces that contextualize and support them may change in the way that Ellen’s DDR group cooled off: “and my friendships though have become different. I mean, we’re all still friends.

Games are structured forms of play, Dubbels (2008) that provide rules and roles that are defined to help members to decontextualize from the ordinary world where they have responsibility, deadlines, and environments they cannot control. These same rules and roles also help them know their status in the game, share common, spontaneous, and authentic experience without going too deep into personal motives, negative feelings, and Freudian meltdowns. Corsaro (1985) called this play group phenomenon the Actors Dilemma, and according to Corsaro, the Freudian meltdown, or oversharing, is one of the most common causes of playgroup breakup—perhaps play is the coping mechanism that allows for detachment and the ability to constructively work on what can be changed and separating from that which cannot be. Game roles may also allows for exploration of other peoples’ values and experience in a safe space without getting too deep or real, which represents an opportunity to try on and project different emotions, and build comfort and trust through common experience.

In terms of Ritual/ Rites of Passage, a game  would be a means for rite of passage, where the Activity Space is no longer like the ordinary world, and rules and roles are different and even changed for the sake of experimentation and normal social and interpersonal boundaries can be tested without endangering status and relationships. With Play as the Subjunctive Mood, different parts of person can emerge and people can try on different personae without recrimination — because they are only playing.

 

Conclusion

In answering the original question, “why did she sustain engagement?” it became evident that her motivation to sustain engagement over time changed. She was attracted to the activity because she wanted to be friends with the kids who hung out at Devon’s basement — she wanted to be an acknowledged member of the group, not part of the fan club. To do this she had to perform and risk ridicule and a possible reduction in status. Geertz (1976) described this spatially in that the further away you were from the Center Bet, where the desirable activity takes place, the lower your status and importance to the main event and performers.

In order to be part of this group, she needed to perform, but she might was hesitant to try because of the games they were playing did not mesh with her sense of play and fun—perhaps because the play of these group members with these games (Halo, Counterstrike) was already too far advanced for them to tolerate a “newb” (new player) at the controller; and it might be better not impose oneself and risk ridicule or contempt if one is not contributing to the play, learning, and or status of the group.

The role of Play as a Subjunctive Mood in these Activity Spaces and Desirable Groups may be the organizing principle that makes these groups and activities desirable as part of identity construction, as well as the means for identity construction. The subjunctive mood situates and mediates the discourse around the group desirability, the space and possibilities for interaction, and the perceived activity and likelihood for success and may be the basis for initial motivation to engage and represent the one constant throughout Ellen’s experience with the game, group, and space. For a person to facilitate and construct an identity, they may need to play, just as children play doctors, firefighters, teachers, mothers, and even animals in games. It is through pretense that we are able to imagine and create cognitive theories of action and circumstance and it is through play that we develop this capacity. If we want to sustain engagement, we need to help students develop the capacity for Identified Regulation, where they may turn their play into meaningful performance when asked to perform in activities that begin to resemble rites of initiation and deep play. This process creates a subtle transition where the initial play activity becomes serious and is approached with the focus of work, like what Ellen experienced watching advanced players of Halo and Counterstrike, and eventually what she experienced in practicing between school, homework, and lessons to prepare for DDR at Devon’s.

What was desirable about this Desirable Group? Probably their reputations as gamers and their ability to talk as insiders about what they were doing in an Activity Space where they were given Autonomy and Competence; it may have been their ability to create spontaneous neutral experiences that they could talk about in the grind of school-band-sports-work, and how they could look forward to this Ritual space away from the ordinary, where Play was the Subjunctive Mood and replicate this feeling in difficult circumstances to separate from stress and worry.

This ability to detach and decontextualize can be a very valuable trait when dealing with pressures of studying for exams, working, and other responsibilities that cannot offer immediate gratification.  This inability to decontextualize and detach is one of the central behaviors inherent in Play Deprivation (Brown, 1999). The original diagnosis in the 1960’s in describing the incredible violence of Charles Whitmore and his shooting spree from the bell tower at Texas A& M University. It was found that Whitmore was raised in very rigid environment where he was not allowed friends or play. He experienced a life that looked very successful on the surface. But in 1966 he committed what was the largest mass matter in the history of the USA. According to the National Institute for Play website (last visited 4/9/09, http://nifplay.org/whitman.html), Brown, who was a psychiatrist at Baylor College of Medicine at the time, collected behavioral data for a team of expert researchers appointed by the Texas governor to understand what led to Whitmore’s mass murder. What was found through interview, diary, and reconstructing Whitmore

had been under extreme, unrelenting, stress.  After many unsuccessful

efforts to resolve the stress, he ultimately succumbed to a sense of

powerlessness;  he felt no option was left other than the homicidal-suicidal

. . . Whitman had been raised in a tyrannical, abusive household.  From

birth through age 18, Whitman’s natural playfulness had been systematically

and dramatically suppressed by an overbearing father. A lifelong lack of play

deprived him of opportunities to view life with optimism, test alternatives, or

learn the social skills that, as part of spontaneous play, prepare individuals to

cope with life stress. The committee concluded that lack of play was a key

factor in Whitman’s homicidal actions – if he had experienced regular moments

of spontaneous play during his life, they believed he would have developed the skill,

flexibility, and strength to cope with the stressful situations without violence.

Brown continued exploring Play Deprivation as a construct and found similar patterns in other violent offenders, and even traffic deaths related to aggression and chemical issues. The role of play cannot be underestimated for its ability to decontextualize and reframe experience. Play therapy currently is a treatment in child psychology for helping children talk about and understand forces beyond their control.

Play may be vital to our well-being. It has been said that the opposite of play is depression, and depression can lead to feelings of powerlessness — the opposite of what we saw in Ellen’s attempt at Autonomy/ Competence and her efforts to connect. In this way, Play as a Subjunctive Mood may perform an important function in the ability to adapt, perform under stress, and create flexibility and adaptation for dealing with seemingly impossible situations — play may offer way out, a way to cope. But play demands time and space– especially spontaneous play – an activity, as was mentioned, where often we see young people working out issues they have no control over (as in play therapy).

It seems that all three of the social learning theories are context dependent based upon the needs of the individual at the time. Ellen, she was attracted to a Desirable Group as in Communities of Practice (Wenger, 1998) because of the activities and space where this group interacted. And there may have been factors that led to her admiration of these boys . . . it may have come from her admiration of how these kids conducted themselves at school and their reputations that they were fun “gamers”; but it was not until there was a Desirable Activity (Gee, 2001) that she could participate; and participation in a public performance was necessary for her to be acknowledged and feel Belonging/Relatedness (Deci & Ryan, 2008). As the group changed their focus on activity, the relationships changed, and new relations were created through the activity; but eventually the activity diminished and new activities and groups presented themselves as desirable.

The utility of this analysis comes from these recalled phenomena as a pattern for planning instruction and understanding why people learn. We learn to become. We create and engage to gain new experience and entitlement and gain status without danger in our social network, as well as to learn from others, whether it is a workplace competency, gaining social skills, or as a means of adapting to stress.

Implications / lessons for designing instructional environments

This transcript from Ellen’s experience makes a case for developing instructional environments that allow for playful, autonomous group interaction structured as a game to allow for play in much the same way that ritual demands play.

This process of making work playful, or working hard at play, is in some ways like finding a vocation or calling . . . in some sense the performance as ritual play, as described by Schechner (1994), is not far off when it comes to identity construction.  Identity is bestowed through communal rites of passage, where individuals are sent away, learn, and perform, and then return to be recognized with a new identity and set of responsibilities.  They are judged and identified based upon their performance. This idea seems especially appropriate for adolescents, who are in the process of identity construction, and are trying to find out who they are through trying out new activities, people, places, attitudes, identities, and things in society that has so many rituals and groups, but none communally organized that focus new identities and vocations.

There is distrust for activities that resemble rituals, games, and play.  Part of this may stem from the independence required of play; the time involved in the rituals and competency development, and our general distrust of play as adult activity. Wohlwend (2007) looked at this notion of work and play through showing teachers video of children in classroom activity centers. Although there were clear examples of what was taken to be off-task behavior (Play), she found that teachers were able to find value in their students play if they were generative in creating connections and transfer to the students’ process and linking it to academic discourse.

The trouble with the perceptions of practitioners and policy makers seems to arise in the misperception between what Sutton-Smith (1997) called the Ethos of Work and Play. Given the opportunity, we may find that Play is a reasonable portal to motivation and sustained engagement through linking to the deeper learning that comes from identity construction and these oddly transformative communities that rise up out of them. In many ways, activities in formal and informal learning environments may not mesh with the intended identity of the learner, and this may indicate the difference between education and socialization along the lines of hegemony. The learner may choose a group affiliation antithetical to the purpose of the classroom.

So how might an educator integrate play, games, and lessons from these social learning theories?

I have used these principles on several occasions to explore games and play as effective methods for aligning content and process with resistant and reluctant learners.

Principle 1 — Play as a Subjunctive Mode

Engineering can be a very fun class, but the curriculum I was supposed to teach was very un-fun. In fact the curriculum was the source of the dysfunction. I was being asked to start class by presenting standards, why the standards were important, and tell the students why they were learning what they were learning. I found that this was much more for the benefit of observers evaluating the quality of my teaching than it was to motivate and engage the students.

I still use standards, and I still feel it is important to share the larger scheme of things behind activities and what they might be preparing for, but I do it with Play as the Subjunctive Mood. The first thing I did was to quit thinking these kids would commit to a curriculum where they were asked to redesign a coffee mug as an activity to learn engineering principles, fulfill standards and a rubric on a power point that came with the packaged curriculum. Fear of failure was not a big deal. Many of them were accustomed to it. They had checked out as an act of integrity and in doing so had found that they could dictate terms to teachers because of their disruptive behavior. Although my departure from redefining coffee mugs and the “do it or fail” curriculum did not sit well with the administrators, it did result in engagement from my students.

I told them that we were going to be having a boat race, and that I would be bringing in my wading pool from home, and that we would be making sail boats out of Styrofoam to race across the pool. I structured all of the engineering principles so that they were embodied in the task, and that through experience, we could discover them. What was essential in this case was not in joining a desirable group, but in participating in a desirable activity where their group could interact in the activity space semi-independently, and that the task was one where they believed that they would have early and instant success.

In addition to this, I also tried an experiment where I used a different approach to creation of subjunctive mood:

Work — I told the kids that we were really behind and that we would have to work hard and be rigorous in our approach to these boats. That it was incumbent upon us to learn terms like resistance, surface area, momentum, and force and apply them into our hull designs.  What came from this my disappearance from their radar. I was talking, but they were ignoring me, tuning me out. When I asked them what they were supposed to do, many of them did not know, and many of them defaulted to resistant behavior.

Play — I told the class that we had a fun activity where we were going to be building boats and that we were going to have four kinds of races: speed, weight bearing, stability, and general purpose. I told them that I was going to be showing them examples of boat hulls and that they should play with them a bit to decide what style of boat they were going to make for the races they were going to participate in. I found that kids had listened, knew what to do, and really wanted to start. All of the same principles and terms were still present in the unit, but they now had permission to be playful and perhaps fail. Play implies failure recovery and experimentation. Many of the kids made crazy boats that would never work, but they were fairly successful in using the terms to justify their design for each race. It is not always what you do, or whom you do it with – it is how you do it.

Principle 2 — Desirable Groups

The role of Desirable Groups was primary for Ellen as a motivator for her becoming a DDR expert, but the tricky part about Desirable Groups was that underneath it was the issue of Play as Subjunctive Mood. A person may be attracted to a group for a number of reasons as we noticed from the three social learning theories.  The grouping provides basic needs as in Self-Determination Theory; it provides apprenticeship and acknowledgement (Lave, 1998); and it may be ancillary, as in the attraction to participate with others in an activity.  A Desirable Group can be a great motivator, but what was found was that eventually the Desirable Activity gets old and people move on and the group affiliation was not all that was necessary for sustaining engagement. This could be because the aspirant group member now understands what is behind Cool Kids Curtain Number One and the mystery of the cool kids is solved; or because the lesson from the apprenticeship has been assimilated. Whatever the motivation, indications were that she did join the group to learn who they were and why they were cool, and that after the fun with the activity wore out, the friendships drifted apart and they moved on to new activities. In addition, that the activity was used to branch out and connect with new groups.

With this in mind, we can situate and structure relations, change communication and status dynamics with Desirable Activities that are well-structured through Activity Spaces that have entitlement and opportunity. In thinking through some of the most well-constructed methods for creating cooperative groups, Cooperative Learning depends heavily on structuring Positive Interdependence (Deutsch, 1962, Johnson & Johnson, 1989) of the sort all three theories seek to describe, as well as construct through what was described from Play Group Literature (Corsaro, 19**) as spontaneous neutral experience, where people could build trust and common purpose.–where to succeed, everyone must succeed.(Johnson and Jonson, 2008, http://www.co-operation.org/pages/cl.html#interdependence).

The key element of groups seems to be status and what a person must do to get it. The danger of the Center Bet and the amount of support that comes with affiliation might be the deciding factor – Perceived Ability to Succeed—but it seems more likely that creating an atmosphere with Play as the Subjunctive Mood may be the best predictor of Group Desirability—which seems to come from status, space, activity, likelihood of success and acknowledgement.

Principle three — Spaces

Spaces are where we offer autonomy, equity, entitlement, objects, atmosphere, interaction, and relationships. By creating spaces where learners can self-govern to an extent, we make them desirable, especially if there are desirable tools and resources as affordances. What I did with the boat unit was to create a rite of passage to get from one learning space to another. An initiation where students had to perform to move to the next room — to make that desirable, I put the tools and materials there and gave the students (trustworthy students always get there first because they listen and finish the work early) and allowed them the autonomy to start and work with autonomy and privilege.

The students were told that in order to use the tools and start on their hull designs, that they had to use the hull examples and sketch a hull design In their engineering notebook, and then explain why and how the hull would perform well in specific race conditions (speed, weight-bearing, stability, general purpose) using the key vocabulary postered on the wall. When they were able to describe why and how their hull would perform well, they could go and begin building. This separation from one room to another was where I was able to coach, counsel, and cajole students into thinking more deeply about their designs, make suggestions, and enter their grades. All roads went through me as the Center Bet.

Principal four — Desirable Activities

One of the key issues in creating sustained engagement and identified regulation is in creating activities that align with the goals and purposes of the learner, or exposing the learner to something they think is really cool and they want to do. Making boats was not what many teens would consider a “cool” activity, but it did hold attraction for them when I showed them the tools, the materials, and gave a brief overview of what they would have to do.  Getting kids to engage may just be a matter of creating some fun, and showing that they can have early and instant success; and, that they can make adjustments if they make mistakes. There must be time allowed to go deeply into learning to allow for the student to commit to expression in the work – the work has a part of them in it.

That will allow them to create a cognitive theory of the activity, and also allow for a belief in their future success. Add to this the opportunity to work cooperatively and learn from the work of other class members — some call this copying, I call it modeling and apprenticeship — then they can make a start (often full of errors and mistakes!) and adjust for excellence as they work with others and begin to better understand the project/activity. In this way we enable the spontaneous neutral experience that can be useful for beginning the learning process and also building relationships/ belonging, and autonomy and competence through the activity.

The key to this principle is in embedding the learning in the activity so that learners can discover the learning principles in the process of the activity through performance and reflection, where they compare what they have done with the work of others, and the instructor can provide encouragement to scaffold further development. Oddly, this is how scientific principles often presented in the textbooks were discovered before they were in the textbooks for memorization– they were tripped over by the scientists and then operationalized into methodology that some memorize as students, and others are lucky enough to rediscover in class. This can be done when we think of instruction as games and learning as structured forms of play. Some important elements for designing instruction as play are offered in this taxonomy of play for instructional design:

  • Cognitive Theories of Action: we capture the imagination and build cognitive theories of action through imagery/ visualization (mental modeling).
    • A key word for the instruction should be “IMAGINE”.

This first category in the taxonomy provides a basis for testing comprehension. It is important to be able to create mental model and theory of the action. The key attributes are visualization and imaginatively creating mental models and segmenting process and attributes for indexing in memory. If learners index and visualize well, they will likely have fine grain memory of the experience to draw upon for future use. So creating these mental images is very important for creating the motivation to engage, belief in future success, and a cognitive theory of action.

 

  • Roles: provide roles and identities they can try on and play with, and offer the ability to change roles and play with the identities.
    • A key word for instruction should be “IMITATE”

Working with others:  A great draw because it allows for interaction. Many students need to be able to copy other students until they are able to IMAGINE and create a cognitive theory of action. Some learners do not learn well from instructors. They need to watch another learner translate the experience. Trough this, they not only learn how to start the assignment, but also how to create a cognitive theory of action on which they can improvise and express themselves through and commit to the activity. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen resistant learners get into a groove and not want to stop the project once they finally get started!

  • Roles: In the case of the boat project, they became Naval Architects and Marine Engineers; just learning about what these folks do as a profession, and, that these professions exist opened a lot of high school eyes and creates schema for the semiotic domains of each role. They also had Learning and Functional roles – see Appendix B.
  • Structuring group work: The creation of roles in cooperative learning as Johnson and Johnson suggest (200*) is very powerful and also what we see in early childhood play, as well as more advanced game experience for video games, teaching empathy, and modeling interaction for professional development. In structuring the work through roles, each group member has role specific tasks. Play Return to Castle Wolfenstein or look at game specific roles (character classes) in Appendix A, and imagine how these roles would culminate in teamwork for a mission. Each character class has several unique abilities and these come with different learning roles and functional roles.

 

  • Rules — aka, the Identity Tool Box — Provide rules, values, language, actions, and tools associated with the roles and identities (semiotic domains) that they can work with and act upon that are inherent to the task, where the performance is the assessment. The role of the Naval Architect is to design a marine vessel for specific activities. The elements that define this role are the tools, activities, language, values, and outcomes associated with the role, and ultimately, the boat floats or it doesn’t. This embodiment is informative assessment, where the action provides immediate feedback through complete or partial mastery, or failure and the role provides for measure of progress and schema development based upon knowledge of the semiotic domains.
  • Branching — Create choices and branching decision networks — and it is important here that the learners explain their cognitive theories of action and are asked to utilize and explain the identity tool box to support their choices and why they did what they did, and what might be next.
  • Contingency/ Probability — this comes about when we consider the possible contingencies that might come from an action through prediction and hypothesis testing.  Examples of this are resource management; awareness of likelihood of an action based upon knowledge of the game/ instructional environment, and attempted quantification and probability of failure/ success.

This structure for instructional design is a variation of A Taxonomy for Play from Dubbels (2008) and has been the basis for a number of successful curriculum units as well as digital games and is also available at www.vgalt.com.

A final note ~ Play as Subjunctive Mood

A brief experiment testing this occurred at Games Learning Society in a session called Real Time Research, where groups of participants from the RTR session went into the conference and conducted research on games. The author created a tool for measuring engagement to test whether Play as a Subjunctive Mood, or Work as a Subjunctive Mood would yield the greatest engagement from GLS conference participants. The hypothesis we were seeking to test was whether talk about play would elicit greater engagement on social, affective, and cognitive levels as compared to work.

The hypothesis was that people would engage with their descriptions differently when talking about work and play, and the sock puppet would elicit play behaviors and greater engagement. This would be gauged through analysis of the discourse captured in the video recordings of the interviews and then coded with a framework built from elements of engagement as summarized by Chapman (2003) and codified (see Appendix C).

The interviewees really engaged and took risks with the sock puppets. What is compelling about this experiment was that we were able to elicit more of the person with the sock puppet than we were with simple talk—there was much greater engagement and the participants seemed to enjoy the experience. The changes in treatments through creating different subjunctive mood –play versus work—were really quite dramatic.

What is important about these observations, as well as the finding of the analysis of Ellen’s experience with Dance Dance Revolution seems to be the expectations about interaction and purpose: Play as the Subjunctive Mood seems to represent a portal to engagement and its sustenance.
Appendix A

From the Wikipedia:

Soldier: The soldier is the only class that can use heavy weapons. They are: mortar, portable machine gun (MG42), flamethrower, and bazooka/Panzerfaust. On the No-Quarter mod the Venom machine-gun and the BAR (Allies) or StG44 (Axis) have been added as well. Leveling up gives the Soldier benefits such as the ability to run with heavy weapons (instead of being slowed down).

 

Medic: The medic has the unique ability to drop health packs, as well as revive fallen players with a syringe. They also regenerate health at a constant rate, and have a higher base health than any other class, which makes them the most common class for close-in combat. When a player has achieved skill level 4 in medic, they get Self Adrenaline, which enables them to sprint for, longer and take less damage for a certain amount of time. Some of the medics act as Rambo Medics. Their emphasis is on killing rather than healing or reviving.

Engineer: The engineer is the only class which comes equipped with pliers, which can be used to repair vehicles, to arm/defuse (dynamite or land mines), or to construct (command posts, machine-gun nests, and barriers). As most missions require some amount of construction and/or blowing up of the enemy’s construction to win the objective, and as defusing dynamite can be very useful, engineers are often invaluable, and one of the most commonly chosen classes. The engineer is also the only class capable of using rifle muzzle grenades.

 

Field ops: The field ops is a support class which has the ability to drop ammo packs for other players, as well as call air strikes (by throwing a colored smoke-grenade at the target) and artillery strikes (by looking through the binoculars and choosing where they want the artillery support fired). This class has low initial health, but makes up for having an unlimited supply of ammunition.

 

Covert ops: The covert ops is the only class which can use the scoped FG42 automatic rifle, the silenced Sten submachine gun (or MP-34 on some Mods), and a silenced, scoped rifle (M1 Garand for Allies, K43 Mauser for Axis). The covert ops has the ability to wear a fallen enemy soldier’s clothes to go about disguised, throw smoke-grenades to reduce visibility temporarily, and place and remotely detonate explosive satchels. By looking through a pair of binoculars, the covert ops can spot enemy landmines, bringing them up on their team-map. The covert ops also shows enemy soldiers on the team-map. Medic, Engineer,   This creates a fluid transition to the next category.
Appendix B

Functional Roles – Adopted from http://www.myread.org/organisation.htm (last visited 3/9/09)

ENCOURAGER and COP

  • Reads instructions and directs participation
  • Read the instructions
  • Call for speakers
  • Organize turn-taking
  • Call for votes
  • Count votes
  • State agreed position

 

ENCOURAGER and SPY

  • Summarizes findings and trades

ideas with other groups

  • Check up on other groups
  • Trade ideas with other groups

*Allowed to leave your place when directed by the teacher

 

ENCOURAGER and SCRIBE

  • Writes and reports groups ideas;

is not a gatekeeper.

  • Record all ideas

 

  • Don’t block
  • Seek clarification

ENCOURAGER and STORE KEEPER

Locates, collects and distributes resources including informational resources like web pages and encyclopedia entries

  • Get all the materials for the entire group
  • Collect worksheets from the teacher

 

  • Sharpen pencils
  • Tidy up

*Allowed to leave your place without teacher permission

 


LEARNING ROLE for LITERACY–

 

Freebody (1992) and Freebody and Luke (1990) identify the roles literate people take on.

CODE BREAKER

How do I crack this code?

· What words are interesting, difficult or tricky? How did you work them out?

· What words have unusual spelling?

· What words have the same sound or letter pattern or number of syllables?

· What words have the same base word or prefix or suffix?

· What words mean the same (synonyms)?

· What smaller word can you find in this word to help you work it out?

· What words are tricky to pronounce?

· How is this word used in this context?

· What different reading strategies did you use to decode this text?

· Are the pictures close ups, mid or long shots?

· Are the pictures high angle or low angle?

· Were there any word pictures, eg similes and metaphors? How did you work them out?

USER

What do I do with this text?

· What sort of text is this? (information, story/narrative) How do you know?

· Is it fact or opinion? How do you know?

· How can you find information in this text?

· How did the author start this text? Did it suit its purpose?

· Who would read a text like this? Why?

· If you wrote a text like this what words and phrases would you use?

· How is the language the same/ different from other similar texts you have read?

· Could the text help solve a real life problem?

· If you were going to put this text on a web page, how would it be different to the print version?

· What is the purpose of this text?

Could you use these ideas in a poem, story, play,

advertisement, report, brochure or poster?

· How would the language, structure and change?

 

PARTICIPANT (EXPERT)

What does this text mean to me?

· Does the text remind you of something that has happened to you or to someone else you know?

· What does the title/cover suggest that the text is about?

· What might happen next? What words or phrases give you this idea?

· What are the characters thinking and feeling? How do you know?

· What message is the author presenting?

· What are the main ideas presented?

· What do the pictures (graphs, diagrams, tables, captions, illustrations) tell us?

· Do they fit in with the text and do they provide more information?

· What did you feel as you read this part?

· Describe or draw a picture of a character, event or scene from the text.

 

ANALYST (INVESTIGATOR)

What does this text do to me?

· Is the text fair?

· What would the text be like if the main characters were girls rather than boys and vice versa?

Consider different race and cultural backgrounds too.

· How would the text be different if told from another point of view?

· How would the text be different if told in another time or place, eg 1900 or 2100?

· Why do you think the author chose this title?

· Think about why the author chose particular words and phrases.

· Are there stereotypes in the text?

· Who does the text favor or represent?

· Who does the text reject or silence?

· How does this text claim authority? (consider language, structure and content)

· Who is allowed to speak? Who is quoted?

 


Appendix C — Scoring for Play as Subjunctive Mood

Scoring categories for checklist:

A review of play research from Brown (http://nifplay.org/polar-husky.html, last visited 2/12/09) Informs this chekliostindicates that there are social cues that indicate play will be the subjunctive mood in an interaction.

SYM/ ASSM (Symmetrical/ Asymmetrical):

Symmetry indicates threat, standing ground, seriousness, and a willingness to confront and fight, whereas asymmetry indicates the willingness to play. The difference between SYM and ASSYM was the positioning of the body with eye contact, head positioning with arms, legs, chest, etc. ASSYM should be an indicator that the participant is in a play mood and interested in attachment/bonding.

ANIM/ NONANIM (Animated/ Non-Animated)

Play indicates an animated persona, where physical cues might include intentional clumsiness, excitement and affective energy, smiling, laughing. This links to affective involvement as well as cognitive theories of action.

 

 

POSTURE STIFF/ RELAXED

This is repetition of SYM/ASSYM, but represents a more general evaluation of body language regarding anxiety, fight or flight. This links to affective involvement as well as cognitive theories of action.

 

 

VOLUME VAR/CONSIST (Volume is varied / consistent)

This category indicates that the volume changes in tone, volume, and pitch. This variation indicates excitement and engagement, a commitment to playful behavior and task– as compared to monotone, where the person may be disengaged, depressed, or threatening. This links to affective involvement as well as cognitive theories of action.

 

 

EMPHASIS LESS/MORE

This category also refers to vocalization, where there are greater changes in emphasis in articulation–where words are shortened or lengthened for emphasis. This use of emphasis usually indicates more playfulness as compared to “measured emphasis” where words and elocution are carefully annunciated for the effect of seriousness. This links to affective involvement as well as cognitive theories of action.

 

 

COMPLEX VERBOSE/TERSE

This category also refers to vocalization, but is more focused on information than voice. The position is that a relaxed playful description will be more descriptive/ verbose. There will be more said in the explanation according Chapman (2006).

 

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The work I have done surrounding games has led to improvement in reading scores. In 2006-2007, I took over the Language Arts Instruction for an entire middle school in Minneapolis, MN. The students were primarily drawn from North Minneapolis, qualified for free and reduced lunch, and were very bright, but were not scoring well on the standardized assessments. I implemented a curriculum that studied video games as new forms of narrative. Games tell stories, just like the anthologies stacked on my shelves. The difference was that when I pulled out the anthologies, classroom management became more challenging, as most of the kids were willing to get a behavioral referral than sit through a reading of “The Treasure of Lemon Brown” from the anthology.

These referrals were a lot of work, and there is no academic learning happening during that process.

I decided that instead of pushing stories at them, I should ask them what kind of media they liked. Most of them told me that they played video games and liked television, but few if any had any idea that there was anything of value in games besides entertainment. My role was to get them to understand literary elements, genre patterns, and critical thinking–the things being tested in the new standardized tests! The games provided an easy entry into narrative fiction, with the opportunity to also discuss genre and film techniques, as well as interaction and games studies.

 

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Often people assume that kids are naturally good at games. That because they are young, that children are digital natives, and can comprehend and problem solves like secret genius in the wilds away from the classroom. Surprisingly, most kids are not fluent in how games work, they struggle with in-game problem solving, and they are often limited in discussing how games work. Surprised? One would have thought there would be an easy transfer of learning from games to books. But it was just not so.

There was no hidden genius here–many of the kids knew all about games, but few actually played them. Is this a digital native? When we use that term, we assume that these kids have great knowledge and critical thinking skills because of video games and television, and if we could only tap into them, they would show us the expertise we hoped was there with digital media, where they lacked with printed text. This was also found in a previous study.

 

Disappointing as that can be, games do offer a high interest, and more accessible narrative.  I decided to use this opportunity to use their interest in games to develop their potential genius in books. Games provide interaction, social capital, and complex situations that kids can describe when taught to compose walkthroughs and multimedia book reports. The video games are actually were more accessible to kids: they have the same literary patterns,  but the kids don’t have to take the step of decoding the words. This means we can practice literary elements with more accessible text. And I don’t mean infantilized  “readability” accessible. I mean that the students were interacting with age appropriate, high interest, complex stories, and getting feedback as part of the game play. They could play and discuss, and build their awareness of the story, just like we do with reading circles.

 

The intent was to study games like we would study a printed text. Many of the students were game players, but few were very successful game players. This 9 week unit was well-received, as many of the students were interested in learning more about games, getting better at them, and doing something we did not ordinarily get to do in a classroom.

The difficulty that I was facing came from cultural beliefs about games. Many believe that games are devoid of learning and academic uses. This was especially true for many of my colleagues. They had the feeling that kids were just participating with weapons of mass distraction, and there would be a debt to pay on the upcoming state MCA2 reading test. For this reason, I made sure I educated my administrators, Milken TAP observers, and parents after I had done my planning.  I made sue to invite stakeholders in to my room to observe, evaluate my instruction, and to interview kids and make them justify the unit by asking them direct questions about the value of studying games at school.

The kids did defend the unit, and made sure to back up what they were saying with examples. One student, Tony, when asked what value there was in studying Sonic the Hedghog replied, “you don’t understand, Sonic is just like the Odyssey story, he just wants to get home.”

 

Because a large percentage (38%) of my students were not even close to passing the Minnesota Basic Skills Test, I was questioned about the usefulness of this unit when I should be doing reading drill and practice. However, my administrators thought I had an innovative idea, and parents supported this unit.

So 38% of my eighth-graders had a cut score of 1 on the Minnesota Basic Skills Test (MBST) — a test based upon recall– and we were about to face the Minnesota Comprehension Assessment 2 (MCA2), which is a comprehension assessment based upon genre patterns and literary elements. The standards for reading and literature asked for the students to understand plot, setting, theme, etc. This is not a recall test.

My kids were all bright, but they had disengaged from the testing process, and the preparation for it. Saying something would be on the test was not motivating, but comparing a game title they looked to other texts we read was motivating. Now we were getting the practice necessary for identifying the kind of conceptual information necessary to do well on the MCA2: they began learning literary elements and genre patterns.

I created this curriculum of game study. The organizing principle was that games are new forms of narrative, and that by studying game narratives, I could teach them literary elements and genre patterns. I created rubrics and assignments from the literary elements from the Minnesota state standards and integrated ideas from traditional Language Arts curriculum.

This is what happened:

You will notice that between Seventh grade (Blue) and the Eighth grade the following year (Green) there was significant improvement. During that eighth grade year, we had better scores on a harder test. In a year when we switched from the Minnesota Basic Skills Test to the  Minnesota Comprehension Assessment to the MCA2, we had significant improvement across the cut scores.

 

What you see in comparing my eighth-graders (GREEN–took the harder MCA2) with the eighth-graders the year before (RED — took the MBS) was that there was a significant difference in achievement differences in the bottom performers. There were significantly fewer in the bottom cut score:  a 9% movement out of “Does Not Meet”.

 

When comparing tmy students 05-06 seventh-grade students their scores as eighth-graders, there was a 12% improvement.

Not only was there improved test performance, but I was seeing my students return to school, and showing improved performance in the classroom, and on the test. The return of these kids was very satisfying and I had fun teaching the unit. What was great was the change in the learning culture. The kids really valued the time we spent and professed that they were learning. But it was also satisfying to see an increase in the amount of students who met or exceeded the higher standard.

The unit was not easy, but the students had something interesting and more concrete to apply the concepts I want them to learn. Remember, I built my games unit on the standards. Games are another narrative. They have all the same literary elements and genre patterns. My students were basically doing a technical writing assignment in the form of a multimedia book report.

The bottom line, they surpassed expectations on the more difficult MCA2 test. We were expected to go down 12%. We went completely the other way.

We did do complementary readings, like The Odyssey, Raisin in the Sun, Sonny’s Blues, Langston Hughes, and more. The key element was that the kids now had a portal into these other areas. The video games unit gave them success, and showed them they could do it. A big part of this was the creation of meaningful rubrics, and my taking a role as facilitator rather than know-it-all. I could ask, I could use the language of the rubrics like roadmaps for assessments.

But the learning did not stop there. The kids opened to the learning,and the became willing to open the books. And I know it worked. We were taken on a field trip to the Guthrie Theater, and on our tour, we were taken under the stage. The docent told us that where we were under the stage was called “the underworld”. The kids ALL looked at me, and said, “is this why you brought us here? Just like in the Odyssey?”

I said, “of course, yeah!” not having any idea, and we laughed.

We had practiced using the abstract concepts like literary elements and genre patterns with more accessible narratives (games), and applied what we learned about game studies to talk about literature. We used game studies to leverage printed text. Stanovich calls this compensation–warming up cognitive cold spots with warm ones.

This unit valorized activities that kids choose and participate in outside of school. It created a situation where kids who were often not high achievers, but were smart and understood the games, could now take leadership, and use their prior knowledge and experience with games, and help classmates. This was a win-win for developing academic skills, and life skills.

Central to the student’s success was that the instruction and assessment were grounded with an empirical model of reading comprehension, which viewed comprehension as the construction of mental representation. The better kids are at creating mental representation, the better they will be at questions and problem solving.

Once students can visualize and create mental representation, the can reflect upon the story and begin to apply the literary concepts and genre patterns. This was easier with games because they did not have to learn from a text, and get to the content through decoding symbols into meaning. When they payed a game, they saw and experienced, and could conceptualize from what Piaget called Image Schemas–mental representations from the senses, and learn the characteristics of the literary terms in the context of the things they were abstracted from.

What many kids who struggle with reading face is not cognitive deficits, but a poverty of experience, and thus experience with the world to attach to the words and concepts we want them to learn. If you don’t know about music, reading about it will not give you a personal, or deep understanding. You may understand in theory, by learning one abstraction by connecting it to another–but this is wholly different than having experience to develop concepts through induction, rather than deduction.

But that is often what we do in the classroom. Present the abstract concept, and ask them to learn in by reading–another abstract process dependent upon decoding and translating symbols into mental images. This seems backwards. Imagine a child who has never seen a peach, or known anything about peaches trying to decode, “he lifted the peach to his mouth and was surprised to be tickled as he took a bite.”

Without prior knowledge and experience, the child cannot know about peach fur. Would you imagine arms and tickling fingers?

Games and objects ground instruction, and provide the basis for experience and mental representation — comprehension. When we have this, we can spend less time decoding and more time discussing printed text. So by writing about accessible narratives such as games, we were more successful when reading related printed text. We had learned process, concepts, and deconstructing problems. This led to huge changes in student academic performance and confidence.

 

The majority of my curriculum that year was in studying video games as new narratives.

Here is the curriculum

Here is a story about what we were doing

Here is a class you can take I have been offering for the last seven years. You can take it online here at Professional Learning Board.

There is a lot to learn in a game, but there is a whole lot more to learn outside of the game in documenting, listening, presenting ideas, and extending them, than just playing the games themselves.

If you want, there is a whole bunch of games curriculum on my teaching blog  for language arts, reading, engineering, computer science, etc.

Everything from board games to curriculum for analysis of a time line. You might notice that they are set up to be run like a game.

I am hoping that this article makes a start for teachers embracing a model where they consider Learning by Design.Interestingly, games are also involved in assessment, and kids like to know their scores. The scores are an indication of learning.

And the learning is the fun part, the content and the problems are hard and learning is not always easy, but it can be desirable. Games are hard too, oddly enough, but when enough kids play them, and it creates enough buzz as social capital, there will be interest and some sacrifice to try and persevere in learning.

Tenacity,  and metacognition are learned traits. With games and play, we can teach them.