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Cracking the Code of Electronic Games: Some Lessons for Educators

by Gadi Alexander, Isabelle Eaton & Kieran Egan - 2010

Background/Context: Students’ ready engagement in electronic games and the relative ease with which they sometimes learn complex rules have intrigued some educators and learning researchers. There has been growing interest in studying electronic gaming with the aim of trying to work out how learning principles that are evident in games can be harnessed to make everyday academic learning more engaging and productive. Many studies of students’ learning while gaming have yielded recommendations for teaching and learning in regular classrooms.

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus: The intent of this work is to describe various ways in which students’ ready engagement in, and quick learning when playing, electronic games have been assumed to provide useful guidance to educators. This goal is pursued by means of analysis of the relevant research and the prescriptions for classroom teaching and learning that have emerged it. Close critical examination of these attempts to infer educational practices from electronic gaming yields three general strategies that have been pursued. The focus of this study has been on evaluating the relative value of these three general strategies.

Research Design: This is an analytic article that provides a description of an array of attempts to derive educational principles from the perceived success of students’ learning while they are engaged in electronic games, a meta-analytic organization of these attempts into three general categories, and an evaluation of each of these categories’ success in contributing to education or failure to do so.

Conclusions/Recommendations: The analysis leads to the conclusion that the three main approaches to understanding the connection between gaming and education have included, first, seeing games as teaching desirable learning skills through the simple act of playing; second, a focus on the integration of curriculum content into games; and, third, an effort to abstract learning principles embedded in electronic games and applying these to educational content. Close examination of each of these three approaches in turn leads to the conclusion that the third approach is the one that holds the greatest potential value for educational practice.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 112 Number 7, 2010, p. 1830-1850
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15917, Date Accessed: 9/26/2021 11:37:56 PM

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About the Author
  • Gadi Alexander
    Ben Gurion University
    GADI ALEXANDER completed his PhD in 1976 in curriculum planning at UCLA (with John I. Goodlad). Since then, he has been a member of the department of education at Ben Gurion University in Israel. He has been involved in many educational reform projects in Israel and the United States focusing on creative thinking and the integration of computers in schools. He has headed the curriculum development division in a computer company for 3 years and served as chair of several academic programs at his department. He is currently chairing a special master’s program, called the Educators program, at Ben Gurion University, focusing on a the promises and disappointments of educational innovations.
  • Isabelle Eaton
    Canadian Council on Learning
    ISABELLE EATON is a researcher with the Canadian Council on Learning (CCL), an independent nonprofit corporation that promotes and supports research to improve all aspects of learning across all walks of life. Before joining CCL, she worked as a research associate with the Imaginative Education Research Group at Simon Fraser University. She has pursued studies in political science and economics and graduate research in education, focusing her work on children’s understanding of the narratives of video games. She is interested in children’s understanding of stories and their use of information and communication technologies (ITC), in health literacy and ITC use by adult learners, and in factors that support knowledge mobilization and knowledge exchange, particularly through new media.
  • Kieran Egan
    Simon Fraser University
    KIERAN EGAN is a professor of education interested in roles of the imagination in learning. His recent publications include An Imaginative Approach to Teaching (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass) and The Future of Education: Reimagining the School From the Ground Up (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press).
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