Epistemic Games - Shaffer's games with meaning

I meant to post this back on the 26th when the book was released, but here it is...

How Computer Games Help Children Learn

David Williamson Shaffer's new book focuses on using video games to immerse students in learning. I just finished reading his article Before every child is left behind which gets at the thesis of his book. He advocates for games not for fun, but for education. Games that help students think like doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals as they play out those roles in the game. His example of Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards being more complex than much of the reading done in elementary school fits right in with video games. If the students are interested in the content or the interface, they are more willing to stay engaged and motivated to succeed. Shaffer identifies that many students can learn facts, but are failing to apply the concepts or to develop new ideas.

Shaffer advocates for the creation and use of "epistemic games" - games that immerse students in real world professional activities in order to get them to understand, create, and innovate within those applications. In other words, he attaches meaning to assignments making them not only relevant to their lives but relevant to their future careers. Shaffer states, "Epistemic games are about knowledge, but they are about knowledge in action-about making knowledge, applying knowledge, and sharing knowledge." The games are there to get the students thinking, acting and caring about real issues.

Sound like information literacy to anyone else?

Our role, as librarians, in these games does not even need to be fundamentally different - information literacy skills are vital to succeeding in these games.
They are researching within the context of their game goals. Students playing these games still need to know what information they need, how to find it, and how to evaluate it - in order to apply to the problem presented within the game. One of Shaffer's games, Madison 2200, deals with urban planning and the students need information from a wide variety of sources. The game could give them that information or the game could allow them to determine what information they need... and here's where information literacy comes into play. Our role is to help them through the process of determining what information they need, finding it and evaluating it.

Research for a game that students want to succeed at is a lot more fun and productive than researching for an assignment they don't care about.

Check out the article link or the book and let me know what you think.

The Chicago Tribune also did a nice article on him back on Christmas day and it also gets at the thesis of his book - check it out here