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Learning Science Through Computer Games and Simulations
TABLE 4-1 Comparison of Informal and Formal Contexts for Learning with Games
Largely age divided
Degree of Authenticity
Uniformity of Outcomes
SOURCE: Squire and Patterson (2009). Reprinted with permission.
(e.g., a home, a school classroom hosting an after-school club, the outdoors), the social and cultural influences, and the technology supporting the simulation or game. Another dimension is the degree to which an individual’s interaction with a simulation or game is structured, ranging from completely unstructured game-playing at home to highly structured workshops (Squire and Patterson, 2009).
OPPORTUNITIES PROVIDED BYINFORMAL SETTINGS
Squire and Patterson (2009) observe that informal science educators are largely free to pursue a variety of science learning goals, from increasing ethnic diversity among scientists, to increasing interest in science careers, to increasing the scientific literacy of the general population. This diversity in goals, together with the diversity of informal learning contexts, presents both an opportunity and a challenge. The opportunity is that educational game designers are free to create experiences that appeal to individual students’ interests or span home, school, and after-school contexts. At the same time, however, this diversity of goals, contexts, and methods for reaching those goals makes for a fragmented field.
Freedom to Pursue Diverse Learning Goals
As an example of the opportunities for games in informal settings, DeVane, Durga, and Squire (2009) describe their attempts to build systemic ecological-economic thinking among Civilization game players in an after-school gaming club.1 This curriculum linked ecological, economic, and
Civilization is a historical simulation game. Players lead a civilization over a time period, managing its utilization of natural resources, cities’ production, and strategic goals.