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The Trouble with Game-Based Learning Research

From a 2013 Research Roundup on Game-Based Learning:

While serious games have been embraced by educators in and out of the classroom, many questions remain. What are the possible effects of digital gaming, connectivity and multitasking for younger learners, whose bodies and brains are still maturing?

Let me rephrase this just a bit:

While 20th century-style classroom learning has been embraced by educators all over the world, many questions remain. What are the possible effects of one-size-fits-all educational methodology with predetermined curricula and standardized testing, conditioned learning of siloed educational subjects detached from personal experience, and large class sizes solely determined by year of birth, for younger learners whose bodies and brains are still maturing?

What this comes down to is this. With their defensive positions reflected by arguments as well as study designs, game-based learning proponents often paint themselves into a corner. You just can’t conclusively identify (let alone “prove”) the effects and effect sizes of a particular teaching method for all times, ages, and contexts. Moreover, it’s proponents of that archaic industrial processing of learning and learners that we, somewhat misleadingly, call our “modern educational system” who should scramble to legitimite their adherence to outdated structures and methods, not the other way round.

Another thing that’s screwed, of course, is that from twenty studies on game based-learning listed by this particular research roundup mentioned above, only three are freely available — “Video Game–Based Learning: An Emerging Paradigm for Instruction” (Link); “Gamification in a Social Learning Environment” (Link to PDF); “A Meta-Analytic Examination of the Instructional Effectiveness of Computer-Based Simulation Games” (Link). And from the other seventeen arcticles’ overall ten sources even the excellently-equipped university and state library I’m privileged to enjoy research access to does subscribe, again, to three.

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