The impact of digital games in ed...
9/2/12 7:35 PM The impact of digital games in education Page 1 of 16 http://web.archive.org/web/20050405003625/http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_7/xyzgros/index.html The impact of digital games in education by Bego��a Gros In recent years, electronic games, home computers, and the Internet have assumed an important place in the lives and children and adolescents. New media are causing major changes in the nature of learning. There is a vast gap between the way people learn and the way in which new generations approach information and knowledge. Nonetheless, in the formal educational setting the new media are still under-represented. This paper is based on the idea that virtual learning is central in current society, and that the key aspect of this kind of learning is not so much technology itself but the interaction of the learner with the technology. Virtual learning environments offer many advantages: Flexibility, distribution, and adaptability. However, there is another domain with tremendous potential for reaching, motivating, and fully involving learners: The world of games. We believe that games constitute the most interactive multimedia resource in our culture today. Children gain access to the world of digital culture via digital games. Our main hypothesis is that children acquire digital literacy informally, through play, and that neither schools nor other educational institutions take sufficient account of this important aspect. We consider that multimedia design for training and education should combine the most powerful features of interactive multimedia design with the most effective principles of technologically- mediated learning. The paper concludes with recommendations for future study in order to better understand the growing impact of computers on our youth. Contents The digital generation Research on video games Instructional design and video game design The digital generation According to McLuhan (1994), Gutenberg���s printing press created the illiterate public. Printing was a watershed in the history of technology: It drew the line between the medieval and the modern. As nobody is born with the ability to read and write, the printing press paved the way for these two skills to become pillars of the educational system. Today, we are in a situation similar to the one that faced industrial society: How to acquire the knowledge necessary to coexist in the new social, political and economic system. What is special about the challenge confronting us today is that the Internet era presents us with "an everchanging environment to which we must adapt gros/index.html Go FEB APR MAY 5 2003 2005 2008 Close Help
9/2/12 7:35 PM The impact of digital games in education Page 2 of 16 http://web.archive.org/web/20050405003625/http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_7/xyzgros/index.html at an unprecedented speed we must accept that education should equip the individual with the cognitive instruments necessary to cope with this environment" (Fernandez Hermana, 2001). The existence of this ever-changing environment means that education professionals must respond rapidly by designing new educational areas and contexts. But this rapid response is not always forthcoming. Indeed, the general impression is that many inside the school institution are reluctant to introduce new media into their teaching. Proof of this is the resistance of teaching staff to use software that is not directly adapted to their everyday practices, on the grounds that it introduces subjects that are not in teaching programs or requires them to adopt different approaches to their work. The use of video games is a good example of this situation. Video games are among the most direct means of access that children and young people have to the world of technology. Most children in the West play with consoles and their first contact with computers is through a computer game. Throughout this article we will suggest that while playing children are learning basic strategies and skills that will enable them to gain access to the virtual world. Furthermore, video games are programs that can easily be introduced in schools to teach specific curricular contents or to develop strategies and procedures. When teachers want to introduce computers in their classes they usually study the types of educational software available in their discipline (Group F9, 2000). This article will not focus on educational software, but on ways of educating by using software. In other words, we will concentrate on the educational processes we aim to implement, and on how to adapt quality products to the educational context. We believe that video games are a good example. It is still too early to identify the cognitive modifications that the change from a culture based on writing to one based on multimedia will involve. However, a reasonable prediction seems to be that certain features of ICTs will be important elements of change and can guide us in the design of learning materials. The computer environment not only influences the people who use it, but also has a bearing on the whole of the social context. Several of its effects can already be seen in society at large. Although we do not know their scope and their repercussions in the long run, we believe that we should try to take them into consideration in the design of teaching-learning situations. We can highlight ten aspects that seem particularly interesting: (Prensky, 2001, Tapscott, 1998): 1. Speed The digital generation has far more experience in processing information rapidly than its predecessors. The amount of information received and the number of channels available for exchanging information are greater today than they have ever been. Information is processed at high speed, and ��� understandably ��� there is some doubt as to whether this high-speed processing is an aid or an obstacle to knowledge construction. Salomon (2000) defines the "butterfly" effect, and it seems to be a particularly apt metaphor: The choice of a link responds to a split-second impulse that does not often involve much reflection. Nonetheless, this is the aspect that to large extent depends on the educational measures implemented at school and at home. 2. Parallel processing versus linear processing Many parents are surprised that their children are able to do their homework watching television or listening to a walkman at the same time. The digital generation has an ever increasing capacity for parallel processing which involves a more diversified form of concentration ��� probably less intense, and less centred on a single aspect. For some authors, this is the result of a process of adaptation to an environment in which we are likely to be carrying out several tasks at once ��� driving and talking on a cell phone, writing a letter, speaking on the phone and checking our e-mail messages.
9/2/12 7:35 PM The impact of digital games in education Page 3 of 16 http://web.archive.org/web/20050405003625/http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_7/xyzgros/index.html A good example of this design in parallel can be seen on the news channel Bloomberg. As the newscaster reads out the news items, on the screen behind are other images that are totally unrelated to what the newscaster is saying and at the same time other information to do with the economy or current affairs appears at the top or bottom of the screen. Adults are likely to find this much more difficult to follow than the young. 3. The text illustrates the image For many years, images and graphics were used to accompany and illustrate text. Today, in technological media it is often the text that is complementary: It is used to expand on something that has already been presented in image form. Greenfield (1996) speaks of the importance of "visual intelligence" and its intense development since the advent of television, cinema and, of course, multimedia. The challenge for educators is to design ways to use this shift to enhance comprehension, while still maintaining the same richness of information in the new visual context. According to Prensky (2001), "computers and video games designers are specialist in this area, which is a great advantage of digital game- based learning" . 4. The end of linear access to information The digital generation is the first that has experienced a non-linear means of learning. They are comfortable using hypertexts and accessing different parts of the screen in educational games and multimedia, and they regularly surf the Internet. These activities have introduced children and adolescents to a form of organizing information that is totally different from that used in writing. 5. Connectivity The digital generation is growing in a world connected synchronically and asynchronically. Both types of connection offer access to information and to social relations in highly varied ways. For this reason, the new generation tends to approach problems from a different angle their searches for information and communication are carried out via ICTs. 6. Active versus passive There is a big different between reading and interacting with computers. Reading need concentration, silence, working alone. The use of computers introduce more active experiences such as chat, posting, surfing for information. Children and adolescents expect immediate results and become more active. According to Prensky (2001), "we now see much less tolerance n the workplace among the games generations for passive situations such as lectures, corporate classrooms, and even traditional meetings" . 7. Orientation towards problem solving The increasing emphasis on problem-based teaching is no surprise. The digital generation has an approach to things that is similar in many ways to a computer game: performance and constant revision of the action, without any planning of the processes. "Trial and error" is used a great deal, and possibly the task of the educator is to counterbalance this type of action in order to encourage thinking, and strategies for planning and problem-solving. 8. Immediate reward For Prensky, "the challenge for teachers is to understand the great importance of immediate reward for the young, and to find ways of offering significant rewards instead of advising things that will be rewarded in the long term" . This is a very important point, since on occasion we may find the responses of students rather confusing. It is often said that pupils ask about the utility of what they are learning. Adults assume that they are asking about