Dede, C. (2011). Developing a research agenda for educational games and simulations. Computer games and instruction, pp. 233-250. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
In his article, Developing a Research Agenda for Educational Games and Simulations, Dede makes 5 fundamental assumptions about developing a research agenda for educational games and simulations. His first assumption is that the research agenda should involve generation of usable knowledge when studying learning within games and simulations, in which many stakeholders collaboratively develop and create knowledge in a community orientation. These stakeholders include those who do the research, practice the material being studied and establish policy. The stakeholders would also include specialized theorists such as constructivists, behaviorists and cognitivists. Since games and simulations which are examined in educational research are varied in complexity, design, and applicability, it is better that many eyeballs are looking at the same things and brainstorming to find the usefulness, usability, and usage which can be applied to generating new knowledge in the research study. He discusses that instead of the usual focused independent study based upon intellectual curiosity when examining existing games and simulations, as well as analyzing the independent findings from scholars, that first a problem needs to be defined in educational science. Then as the stakeholders study simulations and games in that problem context, they can better find solutions and create usable knowledge, from a practical standpoint, to apply to the subject being studied. His second assumption about studying games and simulations involves collective research, as contrasted with rogue studies which come to conclusions in a somewhat isolated manner. In order to find solutions that attack the problem from as many angles as possible, the researchers must deliberatively and continually collaborate and combine, creating portfolio knowledge that is distributed among many sub-contexts and perspectives on the larger problem. This gives the research study substance and depth because of the synergies and catalysts that come from collaborative focus. Thirdly, he assumes that game and simulation studies should focus on what works, when, for whom. Since there is no be-all and end-all solution for learning in educational games and simulations, each individual experiencing the game or simulation has potentially different sets of take-aways. So, by individualized the study and applying the usability and efficacy of an instance of a game/simulation to each learner, a deeper understanding of what works for each person, can be determined. If multiple games and/or simulations are included, each one may resonate differently with the people using them. He likens how the variant ways that people do such mundane things as sleep and eat, and more complex things such as bonding with others, can be applied to the ways that people perform other activities, especially when in an environment that tries to approximate the real world. The real-world affects the situated virtual world, so applying real-world knowledge is necessarily applicable to simulated worlds. To measure the learning efficacy of a given game or simulation, the researchers must personalize the experience and take into account the complexities and preferences of the learner. The fourth and fifth assumptions Dede states is the treatment effects considered when developing agendas for studying games and simulations. The treatment effects he is concerned about is how the different ways that studies are conducted will affect whether the knowledge generated can be applied in a general way to other research. Depending upon how the study is designed, implemented, and analyzed, it may not be as valuable and worthwhile as a different approach. So, by normalizing and standardizing the approach to study games and simulations, there is less room for going down the wrong path and wasting time and money. Some studies may just be superficial if designed the wrong way. He states the risks of studies simply being summative studies and not having the depth of a well-run research study. Small flaws in the study design and implementation could have large effects on the results. Lastly, Dede examines the scalability, demonstrating it through a five dimensional framework from River City multi-user virtual environment for middle school science. To scale a study, it must have depth of effectiveness, sustainability in design, spreadability in an economic way, shifting to be generalized and applied, and evolvability as new information is learned.
By making his five assumptions about forming agendas for studying the educational technology of games and simulation, Dede, in one fell swoop, both focuses on how to properly study this mode of learning, while expanding the understanding that simulations should be treated with a myriad of objectives in mind. Since learning from different technological enhanced media and modalities is not fully understood, a framework needs to be developed for each one. In the case of games and simulations, having the guidelines/assumptions which Dede proposes, gives researchers a sound and sane way to approach studying something that tries to replicate the real or exaggerated world through computer generated images, sounds and scenarios.
The paper which Dede integrates the five assumptions can be applied to researching any educational technology. By attacking one of the more complex types, games and simulations, he sets the standard for studying other types, that may simply involve components of simulations such as animation, hypertext, audio, video, etc. He gives a usable framework by focusing on the five assumptions and giving future researchers a manageable way to start studying simulations. Since computer simulations and games are emergent and complex learning tools, researchers need a way to tackle their complexity through a divide-and-conquer approach. Dede segregates the approach to study how learning science can benefit from games and simulations, treating them more as a problem to be managed before being solved.