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Thursday, October 2, 2008

New DS, Cool Master's Thesis

I am a big fan of the educational possibilities of the Nintendo DS. It's got everything going for it - portability, networking, many types of input (writing, typing, voice). This little machine has so much untapped potential!

Today Nintendo added to that with the announcement of the upcoming DSi, which will also have a camera, the ability to download games via Wifi, and an SD slot. What can't you do with that, I ask?

In celebration I went looking for what I knew was nearly nonexistent research on the educational use of the DS, and found a new Master's thesis that also got me very excited, though I've only read the abstract. I love problem-based learning, I love the DS, whatever this guy did it must be awesome! If the author, Michael David Lipinski, ever happens to read this (maybe by googling your name and ending up here?), please contact me, I'd love to talk to you!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Motivation in games

Not published research, but an interesting essay on using reward systems to keep people playing. Very familiar territory in terms of zones of proximal development and motivation - rewards have to be challenging in order to be motivating, but if they're too difficult or too rare, the motivation drops. Always interesting to note where game design intersects learning theory.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

MMORPGs: Play or Work?

An interesting little piece from Games & Culture by Nick Yee at Stanford on how online games (MMORPGs in particular) blur the line between play and work.

I know from experience it isn't just MMORPGs that do this - Animal Crossing is an essentially single-player game that many people experience as walking that line. AC always felt fun for me, though, even when it veered into work territory - I recently bought Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life for my GameCube, and although I'm not far into it, it feels more like work than play so far. Even the DragonWars application I recently installed on Facebook feels more like a routine than a game... but I keep going back, because I want that most expensive dragon, darn it.

Also, as often as you see play referred to as "children's work," is it really surprising that the boundaries would continue to be blurred into adulthood? Is playing house really that different from playing at a career later? How can this fact (that play can often include the same actions as work, but retains some kind of difference motivationally) be used as an advantage in an educational context? If you convince a child to play at being a scientist, will the lessons learned during the game apply elsewhere? It's not obvious that they would - I doubt the people running pharmaceutical companies in Star Wars Galaxies are out thinking about new drugs in real life... but do they learn something about running a business?

Yee also has an article up on the risks and benefits of kids playing MMORPGs.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Ethnography for Protoyping Educational Toys

Just found this paper from the 2002 Human Factors Conference in Australia (pdf), on using "rapid ethnography" as a development tool for a new web-enabled educational toy. I'm always interested to get a look at the toy design/development process in industry.

Here is a link to the jaredRESEARCH page on their work with LeapFrog.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Video games at APA

Science Daily has an article up about what seems to be a symposium on video games at APA.

The first study is by Fran Blumberg of Fordham University, looking at middle schoolers' problem solving strategies while playing video games, finding that their goal orientation affects how they approach problems in the game. Here (journal, subscription may be needed) is a related 2000 study by Blumberg on the relationship of goal orientation to performance (in video game playing).

Another study by Constance Steinkuehler at Wisconsin - Madison analyzed posts to World of Warcraft forums and found that a majority were using scientific reasoning skills in their approach to the game. You can find many previous WoW (and other) articles by Steinkuehler here. I have to wonder how much the scientific reasoning found generalizes to other environments; are these gamers able to analyze scientific arguments found elsewhere in their daily lives?


I'm starting this blog as a repository for research about learning, play, learning through play, designs for learning and playing, playing at learning, learning to play... as well as development news regarding educational toys, games, video games, etc. I'll likely also throw in news and info on other informal learning environments occasionally, such as TV, books, museums, etc.

I'm starting it for my own edification - as a graduate student in the Learning Sciences who is very interested in informal learning environments, I'd like a place to collect thing things I find around the internet for future reference. Hopefully, though, a few people out there with similar interests will find this useful as well.

If you would like to point me toward any resources to include in future posts, please leave a comment!

A few more things about me: I like toys. I've been a Barbie doll collector since about the age of 12, I love video games and am rarely found without my Nintendo DS. I spent most of my childhood obsessed with educational toys, and only in the past few years have I come to realize that this is a valid area of research interest. My background is in Cognitive Science and Gifted Education.