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Teaching Online in Texts and Technology

About the Author

Amy VanSchaik is a Digital Access Architect at the Orange County Library System and a student in the Text and Technology Ph.D. program at UCF. Her background is primarily in Digital Media, which has led to a research interest in designing and developing efficient interactive media tools for teaching and learning. Currently she is working on a project that will assist parents and children in preparing for kindergarten through game play with a mobile app:

Research Guide Information

This research guide provides articles, books and weblinks on studies concerning how students adapt to learning from online games, virtual environments, and simulations in the classroom. These resources also provide the software that has been tested in the studies and discusses the human interaction and collaboration that comes into play while using these types of environments. The focus is not that classrooms should be replaced with these online tools but provide another method for teaching using the concepts of constructivist theory.

Recommended Resources

Aldrich, Clark. Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds. California: Jossey-Bass, 2009. Print.
This book covers the discussion of HIVEs (highly interactive virtual environments) and why they work as learning tools - in these virtual worlds users become fully immersed, the simulated environments can provide context for the presented information, and it allows for interaction with the content which is important part of the learning process. These environments allow for the user to experiment and receive feedback versus a real world setting. The author also mentions a common theme among research on games in the classroom, that the teacher provides the initial information for the student to begin but then allows the student to deal with as much of the conflict as possible in the game environment without guiding them through so that the student is fully immersed in the virtual learning (problem solving) experience.


Arnab, Sylvester, et al. "Framing The Adoption Of Serious Games In Formal Education." Electronic Journal Of E-Learning 10.2 (2012): 159-171. ERIC. Web.
Arnab, Sylvester, et al. discuss the use of serious games (games which simulate real world events and situations to teach problem solving; for education purposes versus entertainment) to cover the "gaps" that could be found among students in the classroom. Supporters of serious games see this as a great way to practice "skills like problem solving, decision making, inquiry, multitasking, collaboration and creativity." This article also helps to ease educators who have not experimented with serious games on incorporating them into the classroom by explaining how they can move from being an information provider to a more collaborative classroom.


Barack, Lauren. (April 3, 2013). "California 10th Graders Improve Their Writing Skills—Through an Interactive Fiction Game." School Library Journal. Web.
Barack discusses a practical experiment performed by Jason Sellers, a high school English teacher, while substituting a fellow teacher's 10th grade English classroom for three days. He had the students write an interactive fiction game and instead of designing the game with code elements, the game was developed through regular language using an online tool. "Lessons are based in Playfic, an online community where  users write, share, and play games using Inform 7, a programming system for creating interactive fiction based on natural language."


Chmiel, Marjee. "Learning About The Game: Designing Science Games For A Generation Of Gamers." Cultural Studies Of Science Education 7.4 (2012): 807-812. OmniFile Full Text Mega (H.W. Wilson). Web.
This article focuses on the need to study how students play games, to get a better understanding of how to make more efficient educational games. Chmiel studies how gamers occasionally hack their computer games to achieve the best score, so the challenge for the designer in educational games is finding a way to create this type of invested interest from the students in the game to achieve the most points (without obviously hacking the game) while encouraging them to learn from the content. This article also emphasizes scaffolding (which is discussed in instructional design) as a key method in guiding the user through “intended learning objectives.” The author also points out the value of the interaction occurring not only in the game but also with the teacher and student as well with the students among themselves.


Coffin, Ariane. (June 28, 2012). "Valve Wants Schools to Teach With Portals." Wired. Web.
This web article provides information about the Portal game engine used for the classroom environment. It includes links to the website for Teaching with Portals (with starter lesson plans) as well as links to other teacher's blogs discussing how they implemented the virtual environment in the classroom. The author also addresses concerns by teachers on the addition of this tool to their classrooms.

Frossard, Frederique, Mario Barajas, and Anna Trifonova. "A Learner-Centred Game-Design Approach: Impacts On Teachers' Creativity." Digital Education Review 21 (2012): 13-22. ERIC. Web.
This article was particularly interesting because instead of studying researchers who develop educational games, this study followed grade school teachers (with no game design skills) as they designed games to fit the needs of their classroom (with the guidance of game editors). It also mentions that through the process the teachers would share ideas with one another to build a better concept. The other key factor from this study is that when the games were given to the students in the classroom to play, they began playing individually through the game tasks but eventually began collaborating with other students to help each other progress through the game.


Gaydos, Matthew J., and Kurt D. Squire. "Role Playing Games For Scientific Citizenship." Cultural Studies Of Science Education 7.4 (2012): 821-844. ERIC.
These authors discuss looking at games more than "content delivery", but a way for "new literacy practices, including material, symbolic, and social transformations. In short, researchers need to ask what new meanings are made possible through games..." The discussion covers  two studies, one on meaning making through game play and the other on how games work in a classroom setting. One of the most interesting pieces of information observed from this study is human interaction beyond game play. When the study was conducted in the classroom, the researchers observed that students began playing individually, but eventually seeing each other gain different aspects of the game elements, would start working together to help each other in their game sessions. "A collaborative knowledge sharing space emerged among sub-groups of players (usually clustered groups of three) that monitored one another's games."


Hoffmann, Leah. "Learning Through Games." Communications Of The ACM 52.8 (2009): 21-22. Business Source Premier. Web.
This article begins by discussing various ways teachers have brought games into the classroom from a middle school choir teacher’s interest in using Guitar Hero as a tool to teach music to an English teacher using Myst, a puzzle based game with a virtual environment, to "improve students' writing skills." The author continues by referring to James Paul Gee, a scholar on this subject, and how he points out that these games allow children to explore, experiment, and problem solve. Hoffman concludes by discussing that several new research groups have recently formed to solve the problem of making an efficient educational game. Some are working towards developing "principles and standards that could help people effectively design, build, and use educational games", while others are finding ways to best integrate the informational material into the game interaction.


Miller, Andrew. (April 13, 2012) "Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom." Edutopia. Web.
Miller in his web article provides information about using a virtual game environment, Minecraft, in the classroom. Included in the article are links to the free educational version of the game sandbox as well as teacher blogs for collaboration of ideas on how to use the game in lesson plans. This article provides the following main ideas for implementing the game as a teaching tool: math, reading comprehension, exploring already built historical buildings or having students build them themselves, and survival tactics.


Ray, Beverly, Caroline Faure, and Fay Kelle. "Using Social Impact Games (SIGS) To Support Constructivist Learning: Creating A Foundation For Effective Use In The Secondary Social Studies Education." American Secondary Education 41.2 (2013): 60-70. ERIC. Web.
In this article, SIGs (social impact games), "integrate social studies learning in a manner that allows learners to interact with content within a process of guided decision making." These games make the player more aware of social situations, reflect on the impact of what is going on in the world, and how their decisions can make a difference, all through role-playing in virtual environments. These ideas fall in line with constructivist ideas, as discussed by the authors, due to their problem-solving methods and connection to the content in the game. One of the most interesting ideas to take away from this article is that with SIGs, "teachers continue to play a pivotal role as guides, facilitators, and discussant." They make sure the student get the "correct understanding" of the knowledge gained through the role playing process.