Quest To Learn is a 1-year old public middle school in New York City based on a curriculum of educational video gaming and digital media.
"Games as learning spaces" - learning at Quest to Learn is structured in a game-like way. Students modify and create video games to demonstrate their learning, and assume defined roles during this process. "Systems thinking" is the theoretical framework on which the school's methodology is based.
As I ponder about situated cognition (i.e. learning is inseparable from doing), it seems to me that educational video gaming and creation is the ultimate situatedness for learners - short of immersing them in real domain under study! What I find particularly interesting, is that these students are potentially simultaneously being immersed in 2 cultures - the culture of the subject area content which the video game addresses, and the culture of gamers and gamer creators. Thus achieving "double situatedness" (if these is such a term)!
My classmate, Jillian A. writes: "The theory of legitimate peripheral participation (LPP) states that a newcomer to a community plays an authentic role (or set of roles) on the 'periphery' of community activity, participating 'in the actual practice of an expert, but only to a limited degree and with limited responsibility for the ultimate product as a whole' (Lave & Wenger, 1990; p. 14)". So while these learners may be on the periphery of the subject matter community for which they are creating their video games, their game modification and creation processes place them at the very centre of the gaming community.
Dr. Jennifer Jenson and Dr. Suzanne de Castell have done a lot of research on educational gaming. Recalling a paper I read of theirs last year, I remember their distinction between "as if" and "just like". I believe they were arguing that while simulations gave learners an experience "as if" they were completing an authentic task in a given subject domain, educational video games could give learners an experience "just like" they were doing the real thing. The "just like" experience was deemed a more effective learning experience. I'll have to dig up that paper...
An incredible development in the gaming world - Project Natal's "Milo" - has exciting implications for further and deeper situatedness that promises to blur the line between the virtual and real world:
Pranav Mistry of MIT has created SixthSense technology, using gestures and digital media to further blur the distinction between the physical and the virtual world:
If situatedness closely approximates reality, would this necessarily lead to deeper and more meaningful learning? Why or why not?
I will continue to think about this. My initial thoughts are that the more the situated learning context approximates a realistic context of the domain of study, the deeper and more meaningful the learning will be. This may be due to a heightened sensory experience afforded by the technology contributing to the realism of the learning context.