de Freitas & Oliver (2006)

de Freitas, S., & Oliver, M. (2006). How can exploratory learning with games and simulations within the curriculum be most effectively evaluated? Computers & Education, 46(3), 249-264. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2005.11.007

My notes are intended to provoke you to disagree, to question, to argue.

In the paper there is a useful but brief review of some of the positions taken around games and learning (p. 251) which is duly dismissed so they can get on with what they see as the real work of evaluating game software for educational purposes.

The paper is useful in that it maps and partially reviews most of the major strands of thought and enquiry in this field. As you will notice, this work fits squarely in the camp of fitting games into the classroom, a variation of the now forty year old attempt to integrate computers into classrooms.

You may pick up that the model that they develop is based on activity theory1.

The important point about approaches like this is that they assume that their reading of the various bits that go into any particular instance of students using software can be anticipated in advance. While this is often the logic employed by teachers to justify game use in classrooms, i.e. software X will produce effect Y, that what we find over and over is that a lot of unanticipated things happen. If we only focus on effect Y will miss everything else that happens. This phenomenon is best illustrated by this little test. There is an elaboration of this experiment here. Attention blindness is also the motif of a recent book by Cathy Davidson2.