Why Games Don’t Teach
Ruth Clark claims that “games don’t teach,” an obviously false statement. She has some legitimate points about matching the game design to the learning outcomes, but her claim that no research supports using games for anything other than “drill and practice” type activities is clearly incorrect. She makes this claim without addressing any work by Squire, Aldrich, etc., so it appears she didn’t do a literature review prior to writing.
She cites one study with two games that were less effective at helping learners remember, and she believes that discounts the dozens of other studies on the topic. First, maybe those games were poorly designed. Second, if you’re just measuring “transfer and retention” rather than application and behavior change, I wouldn’t be surprised that a game didn’t do as well. Games are often better at moving from recall to application–but of course, she didn’t measure application.
The goal of the research was to compare learning efficiency and effectiveness from a narrative game to a slide presentation of the content. Students who played the Crystal Island game learned less and rated the lesson more difficult than students who viewed a slide presentation without any game narrative or hands on activities. Results were similar with the Cache 17 game. The authors conclude that their findings “show that the two well-designed narrative discovery games…were less effective than corresponding slideshows in promoting learning outcomes based on transfer and retention of the games’ academic content” (p. 246).
Often the features of a game are at counter-purposes to the learning objectives. For example, many games incorporate an onscreen clock requiring the learner to achieve the goal in seconds or minutes. For learning outcomes that are based on understanding and critical thinking, games with time goals that reinforce fast responses are a poor match.
Despite the uncontested popularity of commercial games and a lot of hype in the training community, the reality is that there is scarce credible evidence on how and when to best use games to improve instructional outcomes and motivation. At this stage, I recommend games to implement drill and practice exercises for tasks that require immediate and accurate responses.
Our Thoughts on Articulate Storyline | E-Learning Uncovered
Podcast comparing Articulate Storyline with Articulate Studio, Captivate, and Lectora in multiple categories, explaining the advantages and drawbacks of each.
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