For a long time, constructivist educators, those learning-by-doing folks, have been trying to find a way to incorporate gaming (games are called simulations in the educational environment) into their craft. Why? Because kids love games and, according to constructivists, they should love learning too. So, constructivists reason, why not combine the passion and commitment that gaming seems to have for children into a library of educational tools that can be used to learn specific educational skills.
Instead of learning to feel at home in complex 3-D structures, educators would like their charges to learn to perform in real-world landscapes, landscapes created for specific learning outcomes, or structures designed to produce unique learning experiences. Instead of gaining expertise with weapons or magic spells, educators want their young scholars to use similar procedures to inculcate physical and/or mental skills that will further their formal education. Instead of students thinking through adventure plots for their game avatar, educators are interested in having them learn to think through real-life adventure plots that will help them acquire the skills, knowledge, and dispositions that will help them to become successful in life.
Big names in educational technology, including Roger Schank, Chris Dede, and Bernie Dodge, have been involved in the game creation arena. Great hopes were promulgated and heralded. Papers have been presented, scenarios conceived. But relatively little has been filtered into the schools. In this article, we will review the gaming past, and point toward a future for this powerful tool of education.
Roger Schank and the Engines of Education
This section title itself may sound like the title of a fantasy game, but Dr. Roger Schank, then-chair of the Institute of Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, detailed the principles of the use of games (simulations) in the educational realm in his seminal work, Engines of Education (Schank, 1995). In this book, Schank detailed the 10 major reasons that the public school system is failing.
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