Serious Educational Games

Scholarly Critique to DiCerbo, K. 2015. EDUCAUSE Review. Taking Serious Games Seriously in Education.

Scholarly Critique #1

The main reason this particular article grabbed my attention is because it is centered around two particular examples of educational games: Mars Generation One and Nephrotex: An epistemic game. The game of Nephrotex is developed to prepare students for conducting research, examining research reports, develop and test hypotheses based on research in the field of bio engineering. Although, interesting, my attention is focused on the first example of a “serious” game – the “Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy”. The game promotes building skills of argumentation, identifying evidences, matching claims to evidences to form arguments. The most fascinating aspect of the game is that it is situated in the first colony on Mars and deals with the questions or the debate around how the colony should be run, and what are some of the food challenges, what should be the primary source of protein, etc. Building such skills and knowledge becomes very important especially considering the reality of Mars One mission. Such questions are of major importance currently in the design and function of the mission: how are the astronauts will get their water and oxygen supply, how is the food going to be produced, etc.

To track students learning, extensive data collection was embedded in the game design and analyzed using statistical models and progress reports. The learning trajectories were built based on preliminary extensive research conducted in the learning progressions, specific to argumentation (as a focus skill of Mars Generation One game. In learning argumentation, the students are expected to master the following stages of an argument: generate a reason to support a specific point, generate multiple reasons and counter others’ arguments in familiar context and build logical, hierarchically structured arguments supported by evidence. The game levels were than aligned to these three stages using technologies for receiving immediate feedback based on students choices.

The article poses some interesting questions, such as: What learning model is embedded in the game, what skills need to be targeted and how are they sequenced in the game, targeting cognitive and non-cognitive skills and most importantly, how is learning evaluated. Although DiCerbo makes the argument of taking games seriously in education, especially what she calls “serious” games, her argument is not game specific. The questions posed are relevant to designing any learning environment, game-based or not. It is simply good instructional design practice and lessons learned from the intersection of education and neuroscience on how learning is achieved. What I would liked to see is deeper approach to how games further influence the learning process beyond the rules for good design of a learning environment and using statistics in the line of “hits” or clicks and automated feedback responses.