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ACU faculty, staff present research on learning through video games

For immediate release
March 21, 2005

Using video game technology may create better learning opportunities for students and teachers, according to research done by faculty members at Abilene Christian University.

Dr. Gary Tucker, director of instructional and faculty development; Doug Darby, creative director for the Adams Center for Teaching Excellence, and Dr. Jonathan Wade, a former ACU English professor, now of the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching, presented a paper on their findings at the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education conference in Phoenix, Ariz., March 4. The paper has been accepted for publication by the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education.

Their research, called the Immersive Literature Initiative, was the product of a grant sponsored by ACU’s Adams Center for Teaching Excellence.

"The ILI project has produced some ground breaking work on how immersing a diverse group of learners into creative process through designing video games produces an explosive learning environment where teachers and students alike experience immense learning," Darby said.

The research involved Honors students taking part in the designing process of a video game, to find out if that process could promote a better understanding of classical literature. Research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) about the concept of allowing learners to become actively involved in the designing process to achieve educational goals provided a basis for ACU’s research. 

The ACU study found that the learning environment became explosive when cooperative student teams were placed in the creative process using video game technology, Tucker said.  The game development involved a process that required creativity, ingenuity, complex thinking, problem solving, detailing of the virtual environment, content creation, and interaction planning.  

"Some teams got so involved that the depth of learning went far beyond anything that we originally conceived," Tucker said. 

However, there were some student teams that found the environment so open that they had difficulty being successful. 

Other findings of the research included

• The teams that were successful were diverse in terms of gender, majors, age, and understanding of gaming or technical development

• Successful teams also had a capability to thrive in an open learning environment with few boundaries. 

• The teams that were less successful showed less diversity and seemed to have difficulty operating as a team in an open environment. 

"While the results of this research at this point are speculative, there is a strong indication that using the creative process, such as designing video games, can help create exceptional learning environments," Tucker said. "This is especially true in interdisciplinary settings with cooperative groups who can function in open environments.  However, instructors do need to be careful and provide the necessary structure and guidance for some students to be successful."

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