Games and Simulations in Informal Science Education

WCER Working Paper No. 2010-14

Kurt Squire and Nathan Patterson

December 2010, 25 pp.

ABSTRACT: Video games and simulations have emerged as an important cultural—and increasingly, educational—medium. The goals and contexts of informal science education make it a natural fit for games and simulations. In particular, informal science educators’ desire to increase motivation and facilitate identity transformation matches well with the affordances of games. At the same time, key features of games (e.g., interest-driven learning) make research on game-based learning in informal contexts challenging. This paper reviews the challenges and opportunities for the use of games and simulations in informal science education and concludes that not only do opportunities exist, but that educators need to engage with commercial designers and content providers if they hope to avoid—to paraphrase Reigeluth (1989, p. 67)—“standing on the sidelines of their own ballgame."

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keywords: Informal Science Education; Video Games; Simulations