Video Games and The Future of Learning – Review

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The following article is a powerful challenge to education to consider how games are the future of learning., Squire, Halverson, and Gee explain the benefits of games in learning through the lens of “epistemographies of practice.”  Professionals / Experts in a specific field have a way of unique way of thinking about facts, ideas, theories and applications in their specific field.  This way of thinking is called an epistemic frame.

  • Educators have a unique way of thinking about instruction,  learning, and how to measure understanding.
  • Engineers have a unique way of thinking about designing solutions.
  • FBI agents have a unique way of thinking about evidence and strategic pursuit.
  • Doctors have  a unique way of thinking about the human body.
  • Artists have a unique way of thinking about color and space.

At the end of the day, a novice can not teach another novice an epistemic frame, or way of thinking in a field.  A novice can teach facts and ideas about a field, but separate from the way experts in that field think about those facts and ideas.

For example, a novice chess player can teach another novice chess player the rules for how each piece can be moved. But as a novice they can’t explain or teach the strategic thinking behind combinations of moves or game strategy.  This is true because they themselves don’t possess the epistemic frame of the chess domain.

Although educators may have extensive knowledge of different topics, they are not experts in the fields that use that knowledge and thus don’t possess the epistemic frame of that field.   If we truly want to train our children in how to “think” then we need to put them situations where the epistemic frame is embedded in the experience such that the learner learns the facts and ideas in the context of the thinking that uses those facts and ideas.

Games can do that.  Designers can set up the world using an expert’s epistemic frame to create the tasks, the rules, the player’s choices etc. This is a more authentic way to “learn” the facts and ideas, as well as the thinking of a particular field.

It also is more fun.  (See Jill’s blog elaborating on this idea of epistemic frames.