Information Age Education Blog

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Educational Computer Games

Today’s children have grown up routinely viewing computer-generated video and playing computer games. The state of the art in computer graphics includes animated animals and people who are indistinguishable from the “real things.” In recent years, there has been considerable progress in the development of research-based computer games for use in education (Moursund, 2016).

Many companies are developing computer simulations and other computer materials designed to help learners learn. I use the term Highly Interactive Intelligent Computer-assisted Learning (HIICAL) in discussing this type of instructional materials (Moursund, 2002). Quoting from this 15-year old article:

Highly interactive intelligent computer-assisted learning (HIICAL) can be mass-reproduced and mass-distributed. Eventually we will have HIICAL that covers the full range of curriculum that a K-12 student person might want to study. This will be a slow, gradual process. HIICAL will incorporate what is known about the science and practice of effective teaching and learning. Eventually we will have a substantial amount of HIICAL that can teach better than an average classroom teacher who is attempting to teach a whole classroom full of students.

Now, 15 years later, we can see that substantial progress is occurring in this endeavor. A key goal is to develop materials that are both educationally sound and intrinsically interesting to students. A recent article, K12 Embraces Video Games, provides evidence of the progress that is occurring (Whitmer, 5/25/2017). The subtitle of Regina Whitmer’s article is, Game-based Learning Pinpoints Special Ed as Well as Core Subjects and Uses Fictionalized Worlds to Derive Real-world Insight. Quoting from the article:

In a soon-to-be-released study of eighth-graders in seven states, results reveal that game-based learning can not only engage students, leading them to perform better on assessments, but it can be easily incorporated into lessons.

The study, “Substantial Integration of Typical Educational Games into Extended Curricula,” was spearheaded by Vadim Polikov, a research scientist. He partnered with Vanderbilt University. The study reveals that short games used in U.S. history lessons helped all students—particularly special education students—think more critically.

And on assessment tests those who played games outperformed their peers who didn’t use games and just had traditional instruction, Polikov says.

I look forward to reading more about Polikov’s forthcoming study (Polikov, 2017). Quoting from that site:

We are thrilled to launch our game-based learning platform with more than 500 curriculum-based education games for middle school earth and space science, life sciences, and physical science curricula. The science games, created by over 300 games developers, are based on rigorous academic research conducted in partnership with Vanderbilt University.

Social-emotional Learning

Regina Whitmer’s article includes a substantial section on Social-emotional Learning (SEL). This reflects current understanding of the need for K-12 education to place a strong emphasis on social-emotional aspects of learning and schooling. Quoting from the article, Why Social and Emotional Learning Is Essential for Students (Weissberg, et al., 2/15/2016):

Today's schools are increasingly multicultural and multilingual with students from diverse social and economic backgrounds. Educators and community agencies serve students with different motivation for engaging in learning, behaving positively, and performing academically. Social and emotional learning (SEL) provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances students' ability to succeed in school, careers, and life.

The Art and Science of Good Teaching

Probably you are aware of the progress that has been occurring in developing high-quality v

oice input and voice output for computers, and the relatively good language translation capabilities of computers. These are two examples of the rapid progress that is currently being made in artificial intelligence. Certainly, you are familiar with the Web. Such computer capabilities were not available to the early developers of computer-assisted instructional systems. We need considerably more research on how to effectively use such increasing computer capabilities in HIICAL.

Teaching is both a science and an art. Good teaching in a particular situation depends on achieving an appropriate balance between the art and science of teaching—a balance that fits the needs of the specific learner.



Figure 1. The art and science of teaching.

Developers of HIICAL are well aware of the art and science of good teaching, and the varying needs of individual students. Historically, computer-assisted instructional materials tended to take the “science” approach to providing good instruction. Now, many developers of such materials are seeking an appropriate and flexible balance—one that can adjust to the specific needs of individual students. While this remains a major challenge to developers, the examples discussed in Regina Whitmer’s article suggest that good progress is occurring. By and large such materials are expensive to develop, and therefore typically are not available free.

What You Can Do

Expect (demand) more of our schools, and work to provide them with the funding they need to meet these higher expectations. Pay particular attention to changes in curriculum content, instructional processes, and assessment that are being made possible by Information and Communication Technology. If you have children in PreK-12 education, learn how computers are being used in their schooling. If the uses seem rather mundane—for example, low level drill and practice—question why this is the case. I strongly believe you should be looking for and expecting the types of uses discussed in my free book, The Fourth R (Moursund, 12/23/2016).

References and Resources

Moursund, D. (2017). What the future is bringing us (2017). IAE-pedia. Retrieved 2/18/2017 from

Moursund, D. (2016). Learning problem-solving strategies by using games: A guide for educators and parents. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Available online at

Moursund, D. (12/23/2016). The Fourth R. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the Microsoft Word file from Download the PDF file from Access the book online at

Moursund, D.G. (2002). Getting to the second order: Moving beyond amplification uses of information and communications technology in education. Learning and Leading with Technology. Retrieved 5/25/2017 from

Polikov, V. (2017). More than 500 middle school science games now available. Legends of Learning. Retrieved 5/25/2017 from

Weissberg, R., Durlak, J.A., Domitrovich, C.E., & Gullotta, T.P. (2/15/2016). Why social and emotional learning is essential for students. Edutopia. Retrieved 5/15/2017 from

Whitmer, R. (5/25/2017). K12 embraces video games. District Administration. Retrieved 5/25/2017 from

Free Educational Resources from IAE

IAE publishes and makes available four free online resources:

In Terms of Vacuum Tube Dollars, Likely You Are a ...


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Friday, 28 July 2017