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Chuck Carney
IU School of Education

Last modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Media advisory: Study of gamers at IU School of Education

Dec. 5, 2007

What: Middle school students subject of research on applying game-learning to educational practice

Where: IU School of Education, Instructional Systems Technology studio (room 2227)

When: Friday, Dec. 7, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Media are invited to observe as Indiana University School of Education researchers gather data Friday morning while 15 middle school students play a variety of video games. The research is focusing on game players' technique and decision-making to help develop instructional technologies to better impart knowledge in the classroom.

Bob Appelman

Bob Appelman, center, in the IU School of Education's Information Systems Technology studio

The students are participants in the School of Education's "Partners in Education" program, established 14 years ago to expose students to the university setting. As the students participate in Friday's program, they also will learn about the research done in the School of Education. The students attend Jackson Creek Middle School, which is in the Monroe County Community School Corp.

This is the third time School of Education researchers will observe middle schoolers for the project.

"These students who come in are just really open to sharing their strategies," said Bob Appelman, clinical associate professor of Information Systems Technology. For that reason, Appelman said the younger gamers often provide more insightful data than the college students often used for such research. "They (college students) are much more closed."

Appelman said there will be eight game stations running at the same time. Students will play the most popular systems, including Wii, Xbox, and PlayStation. The sessions will be videotaped, with an image and sound of both the game and the player. After a session, researchers commonly ask players why they made certain decisions. Each student participating in the study regularly plays video games. Appelman said most will play at least 12 hours a week and some play up to 40 hours a week.

The reason for the research, Appelman said, is that the learning style has changed for today's students, but the content delivery has not adapted. In the standard method of teaching, teachers deliver content and expect memorization, reading, and other work to translate the learning into performing a task.

"Students today are absolutely bored with that approach," Appelman said. "What they want to do is to dive in immediately and say, 'Give me a task that I can learn from.'" The primary learning method gamers employ, he said, is trial and error. "This generation has no problem with failure. They 'die' hundreds of times a day, but they learn from that."

Appelman noted that students will not be playing the most violent video games. No game used in the study will exceed the "T" or "Teen" rating, described by the Entertainment Software Rating Board as suitable for ages 13 and over.

But he also said that the game makers have figured out what makes those types of games popular among younger players.

"They love the control," Appelman said. "No one's in there saying 'You can't do that.' They can just try whatever they want to do. They're so far ahead of educators in terms of what we offer inside our classrooms for students."

Media Outlets: The following comments are available as mp3 files on the IU School of Education Web site at Look for the story headline under "Podcasts."

Appelman says today's students have a different educational approach because of their gaming experience:

"If you look at that world that's going and chugging and where their minds are really embedded, when they come to school there is this huge brick wall that says education is dull, boring and so content memorization specific and they want to interact with it. That's what their whole goal is, to manipulate things and be able to take the content and try out something new. This generation has no problem with failure. They die hundreds of times a day, but they learn from that. They learn from doing, so it's a lot of experiential learning."

The game player can direct the experience, and Appelman says that makes a difference in learning:

"They love the control, the independent control, that no one's in there saying 'You can't do that.' They can just try whatever they want to do. The game developers are now getting sophisticated enough to try to give them so many options to do things that they're so far ahead of educators in terms of what we offer inside our classrooms for students to do. So we're trying to find the good things about game play that we can incorporate into the learning environment."

Appelman says the basic approach to learning has changed because of gaming:

"The primary strategy that students are using today, especially in game play, is trial and error. Error used to be something we would avoid at all costs, and that's why our teaching methodology originally was frontloading a classroom session with content. We would say 'Here's the content. Here's what we want you to understand about the content and there's a lot of memorization learning, reading, etc., that you've got to do. Now go do a task.' Students today are absolutely bored with that approach. They cannot sit still long enough to absorb all that. What they want to do is to dive in immediately and say 'Give me a task to do that I can learn from. Then I'll talk about it. I'll tell you all the decisions I made and why I made them and you tell me where it is that I could have made better decisions. And I'm going to learn from that type of learning approach.' So it's putting pressure on educators to change their teaching methodology, to bring in this new generation of trial-and-error learners and not to worry about the failure, but to take it as more of a Montessori approach, and that's to look at their learning opportunities that make themselves available."

For more information, contact Chuck Carney, IU School of Education, at 812-856-8027 and