Gamers: "puzzling through complex systems"

If this keeps up the image of gamers as socially awkward misfits might have to be retired for good.

Well, at least the misfit image.

Could online gaming be an antidote to the sorry state of science literacy in the United States? In a short post thick with meaning, Constance Steinkuehler at the MacArthur Spotlight on Digital Media believes that kids could be learning more than they realize:

Recent studies of science classrooms and labs show that standard 'inquiry' activities not only fail to teach science but in fact end up fostering dispositions toward how knowledge gets made that are directly antithetical to science. Things like finding the single 'right' answer (i.e. the teacher’s) and just 'rerunning' the experiment until you get it. What’s worse, the American public seems to be increasingly hostile to the scientific enterprise itself.

There is a growing body of research now demonstrating that game technologies (and the kind of communities that seem to come with them) may be one viable alternative - not to teachers and classrooms but to textbooks and science labs. In some of my own work, for example, we found that an overwhelming majority of talk (86% to be exact) on game related forums (in this case, World of Warcraft) consisted of social knowledge construction. Not social banter. Not idle chat. Not just mom jokes and trolling comments about various character classes. More than half were puzzling through complex systems.

Kind of cool, isn't it?

Steinkuehler believes that her study of online gaming demonstrates that fans of these games are cultivating habits of mind that will serve them well in science or other academic pursuits. Like her - and like David Shaffer, who coined the term "epistemic games" - I'm interested in the how knowledge emerges in the field of play, as well as what "knowledge" means in the digital context.

Wayne