Education activities with video games can now utilise a wide range of information systems to construct meaningful knowledge and help develop communication skills that are needed for collaborative online environments. Simulation and virtual environments can also provide learners with spaces where they can develop strategies to assist their learning through immersive game activities designed by educators to address learning outcomes. Video game information systems and virtual environments can be used to impart, reinforce and assess content by allowing students to play, using trial and error techniques. Importantly, virtual learning spaces can also be used by educators to develop information behaviours for learners so that they are able to approach problem solving activities more strategically and achieve a state of ‘flow’ that results in more engagement and deeper learning.
Liu, Cheng and Huang (2011) have demonstrated that strategic approaches toward problem solving activities in gaming environments are evident in students who use ‘learn by example’ techniques and they are therefore more likely to achieve a state of ‘flow’ (Csikszentmihalyi, 2014) that results in deeper learning. St Pierre (2011) argues that gaming creates environments where learning behaviours such as trial and error can be utilised through feedback information systems, however, simulation environments that include information systems where tutorials can provide instant expert feedback create affordances for learners to instead ‘learn by example’. Students who develop the skill of attaining knowledge through ‘learning by example’ in gaming environments are often more successful in their learning activities and also demonstrate that they have high levels of information literacy because they are more strategic in their approach (Adams, 2009).
Jones (1997) suggests that the design of educational video games needs to consider learners’ stage of cognitive development because to achieve a state of ‘flow’ and achieve deeper learning outcomes the difficulty level of an activity needs to match the learner’s skill level. The design characteristic of ‘flow’ is a complex area of modern gaming information systems because of the immersive affordances of player interfaces or dashboards that learners can customise and receive feedback on their performance (Seely Brown cited in ecorner, 2010). MMORPG gamers in World of Warcraft demonstrate high levels of information literacy by creating ‘mashups’ of their dashboard that can in turn be self and peer assessed using social media websites such as Twitch (twitch, 2014). Adams (2009) argues that these types of information behaviours are evident in other MMO games such as CoH where constructivist approaches toward knowledge and skill development enhance meaning making and deeper learning. While it is common for some high end guild WOW players to spend up to 20 hrs a week training using these gaming informations systems and constructivist approaches, more competitive eSports players spend up to 8 hrs a day collaborating and using the game informations systems to prepare for Counterstrike tournaments (Stockwell and McVeigh, 2015).
The design of, or customisation of COTS video games for learning has a history of social constructivist design goals that have sought to develop information literacy behaviours in players (Filipczak, 1997). The adaptation of COTS games such as DOOM (Filipczak, 1997) and WOW (Sheehy, 2008; 2009; 2014) have been shown to help learners develop problem solving skills that are closely related to information literacy behaviours (Robson and Robinson, 2013; Markey and Leeder, 2011). While the violent nature of MMORPGs such as WOW are a concern for young people’s learning environments, there is a need to recognise that they are a popular and potentially constructive, positive social experience because they enhance meaning making through the creation of social capital (Steinkuehler and Williams, 2006) and social identity (Stets and Burke, 2000).
The collaborative bridging of social capital through collaborative gameplay in MMORPGs can lead to the formation of new identities based on the player’s affiliation with their character’s gameworld. Gameworlds can involve a complex environment with many formal and informal social rules (lores) such as those seen in the WOW’s kingdom of Stormwind or Azeroth (TSGamer, 2013). Educators need to employ social constructivist pedagogical approaches toward game choice or design for classroom learning activities because there are a range of player types whose social and gaming identities have been socially constructed and this can affect their motivation (Mena, 2012). Educators should also seek to create designed experiences for learners that consider the psychological structures of video games such as Counterstrike (Westwood and Griffiths, 2010) and either adapt or create new games that address the individual needs of learners (Quick, 2013).
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