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#6916300 Oct 30, 2012 at 03:05 PM
6 Posts
I want to collect - in a thread here or if there is one already started - a list of educational/psychological theories of learning and how they may or may not impact game learning.

I see three theories banded about as support for game learning:
Activity Theory
Experiential Learning
Situated Learning

There are also theorist who's ideas play well with game learning and theorists who's ideas may or may not play well.

For example: John Dewey - he looks at cyclical learning and if you think about "Do and Die Over" as a cyclical learning experience with opportunities for reflection after each experience I think this theory plays well.


BF Skinner's ideas on first brush may seem to fit as well except that I think behaviorism does not look closely enough at the pre-dose experience of their subjects. Then again Skinner emphasized that his ideas were probabilities. Still Pavlov, Thorndike, and Skinner did have some reasonable ideas in terms of game behavior.

Games offer a classical conditioning environment in terms of a players response to stimulus and also reinforces this - causing some operant behaviors...(summarizing)

Key games features would be the reinforcers games offer: points, power-ups, bonuses, unlocking a level, increasing difficulty, health decline/gain, status, leaderboards, etc. The simple attempts at gamification that I have seen are very much in this line. I would class these experiences - when they are this simplistic - as edutainment as they don't encourage immersion or shift from extrinsic rewards to intrinsic rewards - again, behaviorism with its emphasis on dosing to solve a problem does not look to building that intrinsic and thus immersing is all outside in. (feel free to correct me and develop this idea in greater detail).


I don't really understand this very well but basically the idea is that learning is an internal process dependent on capacity (IQ? If so I already dislike this theory), motivation, and determination.

This would be the realm of Piaget and Bruner I believe. This idea takes into account the missing piece that I felt behaviorists miss with the idea that the individuals mind has a role to play (not just stimulus and response) and works to change an individuals understanding. I dislike that this theory lives in a land of expert transmitting information. In our society today there are so many sources for information that experts are anything but expert.


I think constructivism is the more popular theory for game learning. The active role of the learner fits with game learning a lot more and the interpreting of information is a high priority. I am confused as to who the leading theorists are but there are several writers that I have looked to for information: Seymour Papert.... Boethel, and Dimock wrote Constructing Knowledge with Technology and I am sure there are others out there. I should really read Cooper's Paradigm Shifts in Designing Instruction so that I can get a better sense of the links between these first three theories.


Not even sure if that is a word but back to one of the theories I mentioned at the top...

This fits with Dewey in some ways - we learn from our experiences and effective learning environments (games?) have problem solving as their base trait. Lots of people in this world - David Kolb developed an experiential model and Dewey and Piaget play nicely with this idea. The facilitator model is also present....and I am not sure educators need to be facilitators in game learning - they can but what if instead of facilitators we thought of ourselves as the big bad boss.....posing challenges....

I know Kae likes to play as the big bad boss with her barriers to education.

Social Learning

I like this one the best - it refers to what I think may be one of the prime motivators for game play - socialization. Becoming part of a community of practice - like this games mooc - is really fashionable anyways.

In this system the learner, people, equipment, technologies and the whole culture are part of the whole. Learning happens through the social interactions. Vygotsky really identified this experience when he talked about scaffolding that could include verbal (social) assistance, questioning, directions, etc....loads of social stuff to help with learning. I also find the zone of proximal development useful. In behaviorism it seems the idea is to develop a central area of wider and wider berth where the learner is always comfortable but I agree with the idea that people don't truly learn until they move slightly outside the zone of comfort and into a zone of slight anxiety. If you are calm and happy do you really need to learn or are you more likely to act instinctually? (behaviorism) If you are pushed outside your happy boundaries and confronted with a situation that makes you anxious but not panicked will you not interact, cognate, explore and figure something out? (Social Constructivist).

Other theories and ideas? Theorists? Would love to gather ideas here and maybe even make an infographic detailing learning theories and their convergence or divergence with relation to game learning.

Teaching and Learning in Portland, Oregon

"The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery" -- Mark van Doren
#6943605 Nov 05, 2012 at 11:30 PM
45 Posts
One behaviourist (I guess) is Dave Grossman, the former US Army officer turned psychologist and founder of the field known as Killology -- the psychology of killing.

Grossman's book "On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society" says (basically) that modern militaries have discovered the secret to making people kill: dehumanisation and conditioning responses through continual drilling and psychological techniques.

Grossman has some contentious things to say about computer games and especially war-training games -- that they can be made to serve as part of this process.

Most people, according to Grossman, will not kill even to save their own lives. There has to be a process that makes the victim "inhuman" -- obscuring the face, camouflaging the human shape, killing from a great distance using electronic/robotic means. Coupled with the ability to deflect responsibility (someone dies but the officer says he didn't pull the trigger, the rifleman says he didn't give the order) almost anyone can be made to kill.

Of course, this doesn't prevent post-traumatic psychiatric injury. The perpetrators still go mad, it just takes a little longer.
(Being "down under" doesn't make me backward)
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