Hello and welcome. This is talking favourites show for December’s site of the month which is serious games wiki. I am merely an avatar talking to you and introducing this show about online games. This show is presented by a synthetic voice or to be more accurate a text to speech processor. It is our kind of game in an audio format to do the show this way. We hope you like but if you do not then you are welcome to email to frontdesk at talking favourites dot com


Now, let us get on with the show shall we? I’m with Nick Bow skill here in the Talking Favorites studio.



First of all I noticed that there was a presentation by the Marc Prensky at the Conference. He is supposed to be one of the big names in games based learning and training is he not? Yes he is indeed. He is someone that will always draw a crowd.



Well. What did he have to say?


Prensky talks about bridging the chasm where what seems novel and of no commercial value takes on enough interest and curiosity that it eventually becomes mainstream and very marketable. Prensky is one of the leading names in games online and indeed he has a consultancy around games for learning that seems very popular indeed. The key is evidently to make that market emerge and happen for you.


I understand that you went to view the slides by Kurt Squire. Is that right?




Yes. That’s also right. Kurt Squire is another leading name in this area of work. and his slides are equally interesting. His slides are actually more informative. as they talk about games and learning and he looks at what is known and not known by researchers.


He talks about the early idea of games where it was an individual being tested in different ways on facts. Quite a solitary activity although there was a motivational aspect in the way it was framed as a quiz or whatever. According to Squire modern games are social in nature and more ambiguous with people experimenting and discovering new things as they work there way into the game. It’s this ambiguity and the possibility of exploring and making friends that appeals to girls whereas boys see things in a more binary fashion according to Squire.


Setting aside gender stereotypes Squire constructs a view of different roles being adopted in games based learning including things like nurturer, explorer, socialiser, builder, transgressor etc. More interestingly, squire notes that when games are good they’re appropriated. That is they are changed by the learner. This is something I’ve seen with my daughters many times when they learn a song and then spend their time changing the words and making it funny and making it their own. They make the song into a kind of game. They also do the same with games where they’ll write their own rules to play and create a variant of the game as presented.


Perhaps I could just say something more at this point?


Squire then offers us some examples of games in different science subjects like maths and engineering as well as others. What’s interesting here is that just reading through the features of the game sounds exciting. You have learning activities that include building a franchise, escape an alien space ship and build a robot.


Wow that sounds a whole lot better than plot a number of points on a piece of paper and explain it doesn’t it? From my recollection of viewing those slides I think Squire makes that contrast himself doesn’t he? Anyway, where does the presentation go from there? Can you tell us?


This leads on to a discussion of simulations. I was listening to the m-learning 2005 conference proceedings the other day and one of the speakers was noting that airline pilots may never have flown a given kind of aircraft aside from having used a simulation. The idea was that this was fine if you were already a pilot and it was a case of learning a variant and the issues that may or may not change as you shifted across. Squire in his presentation mentions a quote by Doug Church saying that town planners that should develop their skills in simcity but must not have only used simcity


Squire goes on to point out that these are risky for learning because although they can be effective it is equally possible to make the wrong connections between bits of information or to generate flawed hypotheses. So as an answer to that he talks about the learning context that might be wider than just games but that might include games alongside texts, tutors, communities, graphics, demonstrations, lectures and so on. In this way the games are one of several resources rather than a complete substitute.


Next we move onto assessment and games where Squire talks about the role of peer review in providing a litmus test of competence and knowledge. There’s also the idea of people being required to show competence to the extent that they can give an action replay of their understandings in the games based learning environments. In many ways this is nothing new but rather in a different media format. We’ve had peer review for some time in traditional settings and we’ve required students to lead seminars for a long long time but it does show that it is possible to get the best of both worlds even for assessment.


The key comment in over viewing games based learning for me is the idea of learners being games designers rather than just players. I can recall many variations of this wherein people are required to teach someone else (sometimes referred to as teach back in the literature) as a learning strategy. It’s because you have to sort the information out, make selections, and re-structure the content that you invoke meta-cognition and reflection and so on and thereby support learning. Again this is an idea as old as the hills but interesting to see that this can map onto a games based learning strategy when tutors or trainers think about adopting this approach.



So, I think Prensky is useful because he re-visits this idea of early adopters and shows just whereabouts people can and should think about acting to create and develop innovative ideas. I think Squire is interesting because he provides some ways of comparing early games with others. And then he talks about so many things that are already known in research and tutoring etc but he shows how these needs or designs can map onto games based learning. So although you feel like saying well we knew that long ago he shows you how you can have the best of both worlds.


I think the other thing is that games on their own – like any other resource or strategy – may or may not be effective and that it is probably better to situate games based learning provision in a wider more diverse form of provision that may include tutors or trainers and other resources.


What I find interesting is that games based learning can be effective in an informal learning setting. Indeed for some it IS an informal learning setting so there are support issues but there are also self-directional issues that need investigation here. How do informal learners construct their own richer learning environment beyond but including games? I think there are issues about self-knowledge and direction and motivation and self-efficacy amongst a host of others here that warrant as much research as any other.


That concludes this edition of Talking Favourites recorded by a synthetic voice. And from here we’re into a whole new game!!