Chair: Prof. Nancy Law, Professor, Faculty of Education, The University of Hong Kong
Science of Learning Strategic Focal Research Area
Over the last decade, video games designed to teach academic content have multiplied. Students can learn about Newtonian physics from a game or prepare for entry into the army. An emphasis on this instructionist approach to gaming, however, has overshadowed the constructionist approach, in which students learn by designing their own games themselves. In this talk, I will discuss the educational benefits of constructionist gaming—coding, collaboration, and creativity—and the move from "computational thinking" toward "computational participation." I point to recent developments that support a shift to game making from game playing, including the game industry's acceptance, and even promotion, of "modding" and the growth of a DIY culture. I will show that student-designed games teach not only such technical skills as programming but also academic subjects. Making games also teaches collaboration, as students frequently work in teams to produce content and then share their games within class or with others online. Yet I don't advocate abandoning instructionist for constructionist approaches. Rather, I argue for a more comprehensive, inclusive idea of connected gaming in which both making and gaming play a part as the growing popularity of Minecraft illustrates.
Yasmin Kafai is Professor of Learning Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a researcher and developer of online tools and communities to promote computational participation, crafting, and creativity across K-16. Her book publications include “Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming,” (2014) and “Connected Gaming: What Making Video Games Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy” (2016, both by MIT Press) as well as several edited volumes such as “Textile Messages: Dispatches from the World of Electronic Textiles and Education”, and “Diversifying Barbie and Mortal Kombat: Intersectional Perspectives and Inclusive Designs for Gaming.” She co-authored the 2010 National Educational Technology Plan for the United States Department of Education, wrote the 2006 synthesis report “Under the Microscope: A Decade of Gender Equity Projects in the Sciences” for the American Association of University Women, and was a contributing member to the National Research Council workshop series “Computational Thinking for Everyone.” Kafai earned a doctorate from Harvard University while working with Seymour Papert at the MIT Media Lab. She is an elected Fellow of the American Educational Research Association and past President of the International Society for the Learning Sciences.