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Notes: Ke, F. (2008). A case study of computer gaming for math: Engaged learning from gameplay?



Citekey: @Ke2008-hw

Ke, F. (2008). A case study of computer gaming for math: Engaged learning from gameplay? Computers & Education, 51(4), 1609–1620.






Therefore, the key question remains misty: Do computer games really foster an engaging, effective learning experience in classrooms? (p. 2)

Quite a few current researchers shy away from drill and practice games and have claimed them as not equally effective in improving learning and skills in comparison to other game genres. (p. 2)

the current study investigated the application of drill and practice computer games in a summer school math program, by focusing on these research questions: (1) How did students interact with computer math games and game- based learning environment? (2) Did math game-playing improve students’ math learning outcomes? (p. 2)

  1. Methods (p. 2)

although the study adopted qualitative case study as the dominant paradigm in order to investigate a contemporary phenomenon – game-based learning – within its real-life context (Yin, 1984, p. 23), where possible, quantitative procedures were employed in the method of this study to corroborate and extend the primarily qualitative approach. (p. 2)

During the open and the ending session, participants could choose to play whatever math games (p. 2)

for the remained sessions they were required to play the games that was assigned to them. It was arranged that in each session participants played a different math game. (p. 3)

2.2. Study participants Fifteen 4th–5th grade students were enrolled in the summer math program and participated in this research project. They were 10–13 years old, with five being socio-economic disadvantaged, 10 being girls, and all being white.2 (p. 3)

2.3. Games and instruments (p. 3)

ASTRA EAGLE, comprising a series of web-based games developed by the Center for Advanced Technologies of the sam- pled school district, was used in this study. The games were designed to reinforce academic standards for mathematics re- quired by Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA (p. 3)

For that reason, the evaluation of games’ outcomes in this study should be a comprehensive measurement of cognitive, metacognitive, and motivational aspects. (p. 3)

A 30-item ‘‘Game Skills Arithmetic Test (GSAT)” was constructed based on the PSSA. It measured cognitive math skills (p. 3)

An inventory on attitudes toward the subject matter was a modification of Tapia’s ‘‘Attitudes Towards Math Inventory” (ATMI, Tapia & Marsh, 2004). (p. 3)

Metacognitive skill was measured by the Junior Metacognitive Awareness Inventory (Jr. MAI) Version A (Sperling, How- ard, Miller, & Murphy 2002). (p. 4)

2.4. Data collection and analysis (p. 4)

Observation: The researcher closely observed participants’ behaviors, verbal and nonverbal, and facial expressions when they interacted with the computer program, peers, and the external environment. A semi-structured observation protocol was developed to guide the researcher’s attention during observation, though the actual observation was open to any situ- ational changes. (p. 4)

Think-aloud: Based on Ericsson and Simon’s (1993) talk-aloud method, the researcher developed an open-ended protocol to facilitate participant thinking but not influence what they said. (p. 4)

Document analysis: the computer game program recorded participants’ on-task time (the time when they logged-in the games), the numbers of math questions they had tried to solve, the questions they had solved correctly, and the gaming scores they earned. These records were collected every week and coded. (p. 4)

Qualitative Data analysis: By following Yin’s (1984) proposition on the case study method, the researcher first did within- case analysis to identify unique patterns within the data for the single case (participant), and then conducted cross-case the- matic analysis to categorize the similarities and differences across the participants in responses and activities, with the goal of finding the recurring themes and organizing the data into systematic categories of analysis. (p. 4)

The statements or meaning units that emerged as possible commonalities from the data were forwarded as initial themes (Creswell, 1998) (p. 4)

The researcher then refined these themes by removing overlapping ones and capturing the main thrust of each theme’s meaning (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). (p. 4)

2.5. Researcher’s position (p. 4)

As Creswell (1998) pointed out, the problem of participant observation in qualitative inquiry was that the researcher’s pre-understandings predisposed her to interpret the nature of the phenome- non. To bracket these predispositions, the researcher was explicit here. (p. 4)

less than completely comfortable with using computer games as a stand-alone instructional tool in the classroom. These tendencies certainly impact the data analysis and the resulting findings as they are part of the lens brought to the study. However, it is important to understand that these feelings did not remain unbracketed, but rather were part of the inter- pretation of the findings that emerged. Additionally, the researcher applied member checks – involving the participants in the inspection and rectification of transcribed think-aloud and observation data (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). (p. 4)

  1. Findings and discussion (p. 5)

3.1. Quantitative results (p. 5)

Therefore, there was no credible evidence suggesting that computer gaming facilitated students’ achievements in cognitive math skills or metacognitive awareness. (p. 5)

However, there was a significant difference between par- ticipants’pretestandposttest scoresinATMIattitudesmeasure, F(1,14) = 5.34,p = .04.Henceit can beconcludedthatstudents developed significantly more positive attitudes toward math learning through the math gaming treatment. (p. 5)

there may be a ceiling effect: in the measurement of metacognitive awareness before the treatment, the average group mean for self-reported inventory score was 29.3 (out of 36), which made it difficult to further improve the metacognitive score through a five-week treatment. (p. 5)

3.2. Qualitative results (p. 5)

Four general patterns on participants’ experiences in game-based learning environment emerged through within-case and cross-case thematic analysis. (p. 5)

3.2.1. Learning outside of the gameplay versus learning within the gameplay (p. 5)

But as time passed by, quite a few participants reported being disappointed and bored: (p. 5)

According to these participants, a learning game’s engagement power would be spoiled if in this game students were asked to ‘‘step out of the game world” to do math learning (Van Eck, 2006, p. 22). (p. 6)

This observation explains why most educational gaming researchers recommend learning by stealth, that is learning can only be engaging when it is concealed within games and thus unconscious to the learners, when it is integral to the story of game world, and when it is designed as authentic activities associated with a virtual identity or character (Gee, 2003; Prensky, 2001). (p. 6) Wandering mouse – Random clicking. (p. 6) Learning situated within the gameplay. (p. 7)

It was also observed that participants tended to perform effortful game-based learning activities when they considered a challenge as within their regime of competence (Gee, 2003), or high-stake for accomplishing the game goal (e.g. solving this problem would decide whether they can pass a game level or not). (p. 7)

3.2.2. Gaming without reflection (p. 7)

, very few participants reflected on their performance to gain lessons for future problem solving. They only attended to their feelings, by expressing happiness or disappointment with a success or failure, then moving on straight away. (p. 7)

3.2.3. Play-based communication (p. 8)

collective game-playing facilitated peer communication. Over all of the two-hour gaming sessions, game players were very active in exchanging game scores, expressing feelings about the games, and in certain cases, doing social talk that was irrelevant to the learning tasks. However, these peer communications were mostly play-based rather than learning-oriented. (p. 8)

3.2.4. Offline learning tools (p. 9)

participants used offline tools to assist online-game-based problem solving. Generally there were two formats of offline learning tool: technical tools such as pencil with paper or a calculator, and instructor’s scaffolding. (p. 9)

  1. Conclusions and implications (p. 10)

Conclusively, this study informed that computer math drill games, even through being more simplistic than commercial role-playing games in terms of visual, activity, and interaction design, still significantly enhance students’ positive attitudes toward math learning. (p. 10)

However, it should be noted that not every computer math drill game would engage children in committed learning. The observation and participants’ thinking aloud protocols have generally supported the propositions of gaming researchers (Garris et al., 2002; Gee, 2003; Van Eck, 2006) on good learning game design principles, such as situating learning activities within the game story and characters that players will take on, making games pleasantly challenging, and scaffolding reflec- tions. In addition, the study findings also highlight the value of designing suitable off-computer activities that will enhance the game-based learning process, such as the usage of offline assistive learning tools, game-based collaborative activities, and the just-in-time guidance of an instructor. (p. 10)