Thursday, September 25, 2014

Quiz Games and Learning Taxonomies

A few days ago, I posted about the SOLO Taxonomy and my desire to incorporate its ideas into educational game design. Yesterday's serious game design class provided just such an opportunity.

This week was my students' first opportunity to present game concepts. Over the coming weeks, they will be presenting additional concepts as well as multiple iterations of prototypes, as I described in my course planning post. This was their first real opportunity to show something original, and most of them chose to make games based around the International Space Station, a topic of particular interest to the class' partner, The Children's Museum of Indianapolis. The designs varied in genre, scope, and clarity, as to be expected from a first pass. One particular design was essentially a series of questions, where each question was worth a point. That is, this design was essentially a quiz, with no interesting or relevant decisions being made by the player.

I told the students how, in general, I don't have much interest in quiz-style games. Coincidentally, they had just read The Education Arcade whitepaper, “Moving Learning Games Forward,” and I was able to draw on some of the ideas in that whitepaper to justify my indifference. Looking at quiz-style games from the perspective of SOLO, they clearly fall into either the unistructural or multistructural levels of the taxonomy. That is, either the player is recalling a single idea (identify or name) or sets of ideas (list, enumerate). SOLO makes it clear that these games exist at the lower level of learning activity. By contrast, a game that requires analysis or application of domain knowledge would place the learning activity at the relational level, and a game that requires invention or theory-building would be at the extended abstract level. These levels inherently reflect what Burgun calls endogenously meaningful ambiguous decision-making, which I find to be a useful heuristic for evaluating whether or not a game concept will be worth prototyping.

It seems to me that identifying quiz games as low-level learning is just as easy with Bloom's Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain: quiz games are usually situated at the Remember or possibly the Understand level, the very lowest levels of the taxonomy. The applicability of SOLO vs. Bloom seems to get murkier once when adds meaningful choices to the game. This gives me a direction in which to consider these taxonomies as I move forward with this semester's serious game design efforts.

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