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Lesson 7: Track B Summaries

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Schedule   ::   Lesson 7   ::   Track A Summaries   ::   Track B Summaries   ::   Both Tracks Summaries

Miller, C. H., Chapter 8: Blending entertainment with other goals

Reading summary/quotes:

Miller defines entertainment as something that “engages and engrosses us (p. 136).”

Miller talks about rewards, and says they can be powerful motivators (p. 137). They can also be used as a 'tracking' tool. You can tell how well a student has understood an educational concept by observing their score.

One of the things that makes simulations both engaging, and instructional, is that a good simulation has a wide spectrum of choices for the learner. They can try things one way, and if that doesn't work, try it another way. If a person has mastered the simulation, they will likely have a good grasp on whatever the simulation is modeling. America's Army is a good example of this. They have just cut to the core learning experience, and allowed a good way for students to explore this topic.

Discussion points/questions:

  • Most people, and Miller does the same thing, begin by assuming that learning is bad, and we need some way to make it 'palatable' so that we can trick students into learning (p. 136). Is this really the case?
  • Miller says that young people love learning (p. 140). I guess his is implying that adults do not. Is this because kids get into a school setting that is more rigid than they prefer, or do adults really lose the love of learning?
  • Miller says, “the key to finding the right mix of educational material and entertainment.” This is based upon the assumption that learning is boring, and entertainment is fun, and therefore if you mix the two, education can become palatable. But what if it's not a matter of mixing boring learning with fun events. What if it is just a matter of fine tuning the learning? If you start from the assumption that learning is fun, then all you have to do is make sure that your game allows a student to learn. It's not a matter of mixing the bitter learning with the fun sugar, rather it's a matter of making sure you don't have the tedious instruction mixed in with the 'pure' instruction (that students find fun).
  • Miller says that “the pedagogical goals still must be considered first: The edu must come before the 'tainment' (p. 142).” Is this true? Which games have taught more people about history, the 'educational games' on history, or the Civilzation series of games. The Civilization games put fun first, and the educational aspect second, and by so doing are quite popular. While you could argue a piece of educational software (in the traditional sense) may teach the subject more efficiently, if nobody bothers to pick it up, then what good is it?

Miller, C. H., Chapter 9: Tackling projects for children

Reading summary/quotes:

Miller talks about how you must understand the target audience (in this case children) to be able to design a good instructional game. He talks about how child developmental psychology and instructional design can give insight into what children are interested in. Children are interested in different things as they advance through different stages of learning, and also are interested in different things based on their gender. Miller then talks about the seven kisses of death, things that can kill interest in a game for a child.

Miller says that kids quickly gravitate to technology. For whatever reason, they are better at picking up on things than adults are. One interesting fact is that in 2003, TV took a back seat to the internet. Children spent more time surfing online than watching the television.

Miller puts kids into four categories:
  • Preschool and kindergarten (3-6)
  • Early elementary (5 to 8)
  • Upper elementary (7-12)
  • Middle and high school (12 and up)

Each of these groups have different interests and tendencies, and it's important to keep this in mind when designing games. Piaget found that the four groups (slightly different from the ones above, play in different ways. The youngest kids like games with practice, the next stage is fascinated with fantasy and imaginative games, the next stage likes rules, structure, and order, and the last stage like to construct things. These aren't hard and fast rules, since many games utilize all four of the types of play. Miller talks about Gender issues. This can be a sensitive topic, and one that you could discuss (argue) about all day. Are gender issues because of society? Do we have them because of something built in? Do we need to treat the children the same or different based on their gender? Miller cuts though it all and says it doesn't matter why there are gender issues, only that there are gender issues. He then outlines some of the differences between the two sexes.

Games also do not unnecessarily cross cultures very well (all your base are belong to us). Miller said that American boys lost interest in one particular game after age 8 and a half, while Asian boys did not lose interest.

Discussion points/questions:

  • Miller goes on to say that while all of this is interesting it is also important to remember that it is often the parents that are buying the games, not the children. This raises an interesting question. Should games be designed to teach children, or should games be designed that make parents believe that they will teach children, or is that the same thing? Should games be designed to appeal to kids, or to make parents think they will appeal to kids?

Contributors: Tom Caswell, Marion Jensen, Jennifer Jorgensen, Jon Scoresby, and Tim Stowell
Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . admin. (2008, May 20). Lesson 7: Track B Summaries. Retrieved January 07, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License
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