An area I’m particularly interested in is the potential of multi-player games as collaborative learning environments. Here are a couple of papers I’ve been looking at recently that explore some of the issues.
Constance Steinkuehler, a resercher at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, carried out an auto ethnographic study to examine the naturally occuring learning behaviours in online games. In this paper she describes a range of apprenticeship activities that occur:
- modelling successful performance
- focussing attention on key material, social and contextual aspects of the situation
- entrusing more and more control to the apprentice
- allowing opportunities for practice and situated feedback
- proving information ‘just-in-time’ in the context of a goal-driven activity.
Steinkuehler, C. A. 2004. Learning in massively multiplayer online games. In Proceedings of the 6th International Conference on Learning Sciences, Santa Monica,
Ducheneaut and Moore (2005) also carried out ethongraphic work to explore the potential of multi-user games for learning social skills. They present four modes of social learning about the game: in-game discussions; out-of-game discussion (e.g. web sites); observation of other players; and in-situ teaching. They concluded that these games could facilitate a range of social skills, including meeting people, team formation, leadership, empathy and testing interaction strategies, which can then be applied to the real work.
They describe three ways of encouraging social interaction in games: 1) actvivities that require multiple people interacting to achieve success; 2) creation in interdependencies between players (e.g. through professional roles); and 3) building periods of ‘downtime’ into the game play, for example, travel between cities where no fighting takes place. They also talk about the potential of non-combat games for learning and, I think particularly interestingly, suggest “… the expereince-points-based achievement systems in MMORPS could easily be transformed into educational-credits-based achievement systems in which students accumulate credits for accomplishing educational tasks.”
Ducheneaut, N. & Moore, R. J. 2005. More than just ‘XP’: learning social skills in massively multiplayer online games. Interactive Technology & Smart Education, 2, 89–100.