A Literature Review of Gaming in Education

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A Literature Review of Gaming in Education

A Literature Review of Gaming in Education

The rapid penetration of increasingly sophisticated technologies into every facet of society is causing significant shifts in how, when, and where we work, how individuals, companies, and even nations understand and organize themselves, and how educational systems should be structured to prepare students effectively for life in the 21st century. School-aged children worldwide are growing up immersed in a media-rich, ubiquitous, “always connected” world. Concerns over the need to reform the educational system to effectively prepare students for a much more technology driven, interconnected and competitive “flat world” are being voiced by politicians, educators, parents, and others across the globe (Reimers, 2008; Burke, 2010). Continuing to provide the same types of education to students as the world continues to change will not serve them well. As Bill Gates (2005) noted in his address at the National Educational Summit on High Schools, “Training the workforce of tomorrow with the high schools of today is like trying to teach kids about today’s computers on a 50-year-old mainframe. It’s the wrong tool for the times.” For developed nations who have historically enjoyed a comfortable relationship between high GDP per capita and positive educational performance, the 2010 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results, which showed the United States as average in reading and science but below average in mathematics compared with other countries, serve as “…a warning and an opportunity. High income countries cannot take for granted that they will forever keep their comparative advantage in ‘human capital’” (Gurría, 2010).

The challenges imposed by the rapid rate of technological change on society are significant, as the skills and knowledge imparted by a classical education are no longer seen as adequate preparation for success in life. The rise of various “21st century skills” taxonomies and frameworks highlights the growing discrepancy between current educational outcomes and the skill sets needed to succeed in the quickly shifting world. The next generation of jobs will be characterized by increased technology use, extensive problem solving, and complex communication (Levy & Murnane, 2004). These are skills that go beyond typical reading, writing, and arithmetic of years past. It’s not only what students need to learn that is shifting, but also how and when they learn. Students of today are growing up with laptops, tablets, cell phones, and video calls, and they expect to use this technology in their daily interactions (NCREL & Metiri, 2003).

One area of significant promise in this regard is a movement toward the use of educational video games as learning tools in schools. In response to this movement, several commercial and custom made video games have been used in K-12 classrooms across the world to enhance students’ learning experience (Wastiau, Kearney, & Van den Berghe, 2009). The 2011 Horizon report suggests that augmented reality and game-based learning will gain widespread use in two to three years (Johnson, Smith, Willis, Levine, & Haywood, 2011). Advocates of game-based learning in higher education cite the ability of digital games to teach and reinforce skills important for future jobs such as collaboration, problem-solving, and communication. While in the past educators have been reluctant to use video games or computer games in the classroom, there is an increasing interest across broad and varied parts of the educational establishment to look at the use of digital games as serious learning and assessment tools. In 2005, the Federation of American Scientists, the Entertainment Software Association, and the National Science Foundation brought together nearly 100 experts to consider ways to develop next generation learning games. They found that many of the skills required for success in games such as thinking, planning, learning, and technical skills are also sought by employers

(Federation of American Scientists, 2006). In Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s 2010 National Education Technology Plan, he calls for research in how “assessment technologies, such as simulations, collaborative environments, virtual worlds, games, and cognitive tutors, can be used to engage and motivate learners while assessing complex skills” (United States Department of Education, 2010, p. 15).

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