Note that the following summaries and comments about this published information are provided for readers who intend to use this information only for educational purposes. The comments here are not the work of the cited authors. For additional inquires or full reference information, please contact Erica Kleinknecht, at

1. Learners conceptualizing education: widening participation through creative engagement (Craft, Chappell & Twining, 2008)

  • Discussion of the Aspire Pilot project, underway in the UK; re-envisioning education for the knowledge age, by including students in the conversation
  • Emphasizing use of “Possibility thinking” as a means of facilitating creativity
  • Emphasizing the need for student buy-in and sense of agency
  • Website:

2. Question posing and question responding: the heart of “possibility thinking” in the early years (Chappell, Craft, Burnard, & Cremin, 2008)

  • Authors state that the creative ability centers on “possibility thinking”
  • They select two “early years” schools in the UK, schools that have received national notoriety in the degree to which creativity is emphasized, and examine student-teacher and student-student interactions
  • Authors report that when introducing, engaging, and evaluating creative learning exercises, the following tact is taken:
    • Leading questions are posed by the teacher, to frame the process (means of stating the distal goal of the exercise)
    • Service questions are posed either by the teacher or by peers to move the problem solving/project engagement along in smaller steps (i.e., proximal steps pointing towards the distal goal)
    • Follow through questions then serve as check-ins to ensure proper progress, after a service question has been put forth
    • Authors note that all these questions can range from broad, to narrow in focus, depending on how much scaffolding/support the learners need and a skilled teacher knows just how to phrase a question to properly motivate and support without giving the answer away

3. Creative learning conversations: producing living dialogic spaces (Chappell & Craft, 2011)

4. An empirical analysis of children’s thinking and learning in a computer game context (Ko, 2002).

  • Author took two versions of a game: one computerized, the other in board-game format; noted that no differences in performance existed between platforms, however children really enjoyed using the computer (full between-subjects design with random assignment to platform conditions)
  • Participants were children aged 7 & 10. Children played the game 8 times in a row; researchers compared their performance to chance, assessed improvement across trials, and examined separately high and low ability players (ability based on average score across trials)
    • Most 7-year-olds performed at chance levels, though some individuals were able to use the strategy described in instructions
    • Most 10-year-olds used the rules as explained (thus weren’t guessing), and those deemed “poor players” did appear to improve a bit in the last half of the session
    • The “strong players” in the 10-year-old group played well throughout – they didn’t change (i.e., they didn’t learn anything new from playing the game; perhaps a ceiling effect, though the author didn’t call it that)

[Note: results are unsurprising and consistent with other research on the development of strategic learning processes]

5. Gamestar Mechanic: learning a designer mindset through communicational competence with the language of games (Games, 2010).

  • Intent of the program (after school program for middle schoolers, 12 week sessions) is to develop a way to teach youth skills necessary to function in the 21st century; successful engagement in the workforce assumes active engagement, critical thought, and self-regulation – things not often taught (well, at least) in school (i.e., EKO’s note: see Paul Tough’s recent book “How Children Succeed” for more on that)
  • Nice discussion of how principle’s from Vygotsky’s theory of cognition and it’s development can be used to justify teaching “designer language” and programming skills (EKO’s paraphrase: language is a tool that enables higher level interaction in culture and that enables more mature members of society to transmit their knowledge and skills – effective tool use – to less mature members of society)
  • Adults guide youth “mechanics” through the game experience with leading questions aimed at prompting reflective (i.e., modeling metacognition)
  • In general, youth learn game design principles, learn how to repair dysfunctional games, and learn to design their own games from scratch
  • “Mechanics” engage at a number of iterative levels:
1. Material dialogue: Design Game Play Re-design
2. Ideal player dialogue: think about how others might view your game-fix
3. Real player dialogue: put your ideas into action with real players (i.e., youth mechanics looks at and evaluate each other’s work)

[Note: great description of the program with claims made, but no evidence of growth provided. Logically, the description of the aims of the “Gamestar Mechanic” game fit nicely with the theoretical view that autonomous motivation (a mindset needed for success no matter the area in life) comes from attention paid towards building metacognitive abilities; point-of-entry to the pathway is via social-cognitive learning opportunities that build task-specific efficacy. See graphic on how to foster motivation for academic achievement.]

6. Learning from Social Worlds
  • Resource weblog outlining the broad scope of work of this research group, centered in the UK and aiming to effect positive change to the status quo of education in England

7. The games psychologists play (and the data they provide; Washburn, 2003).

  • Discussion of the costs and benefits to using computer simulations in research
  • Noted that the dynamic nature of game-playing can increase performance (i.e., relayed several examples of situations where identical tasks, that differ only in “cover story” and dynamism, yielded differential performance – when participants feel like they are playing a game, they work harder and do better).
  • Though the author doesn’t make the connection, this is akin to the results of the 1970s “preschool marker study” that made the “intrinsic – extrinsic” motivation distinction on the map (i.e., the precursor to the current “Self Determination Theory”)

8. Computer Games created by middle school girls: Can they be used to measure understanding of computer science concepts? (Denner, Werner, & Ortiz, 2012)

  • Useful as a cautionary tale – authors describe their experience with a 14 month after school program for middle schoolers and discuss their aims & evaluate the outcomes
  • “lessons learned:”
    • Not enough direct instruction nor directive oversight during the process
    • No mechanism in place to foster motivation
    • No mechanism in place to scaffold students’ note-taking/documentation of decision making
    • Authors express dismay at how few complex concepts appeared in students final game-products, but during the process didn’t require any specific levels of complexity to appear
    • Appear not to show much sensitivity to students expected cog- and social-cog developmental level
    • Appears as if they blended training/coding instruction and game creation together. These elements should be separate – train to a specified level of mastery first, then progress to game design

Ideas to improve upon what Denner et al did:

  • Have a template in mind for the degree of complexity and kinds of elements teachers want to see in students final products
  • Keeping the point above in mind, first spend time doing repeated training modules to make sure students are comfortable with the programming elements; decide in advance what constitutes sufficient mastery
  • Have students maintain e-portfolios of their progress; divide into 4 sections where they (1) document their emerging skills, (2) reflect on their experiences, (3) once they start designing, tracking their decision-making; (4) then at the end, have them highlight their best work. This process should reinforce learning and motivation by building efficacy).
  • Train teachers in how to best interact with students to avoid instilling “fixed mindset” self-talk, and to rather nurture “malleable mindset” self-talk.
  • Make sure teachers interact/mediate with students in deliberate ways; too much discovery can lead to disappointing results, as noted by Denner et al

9. Rethinking science through digital games and simulations: Genres, examples, and evidence (Clark, Nelson, Sengupta & Angelo, nd).

Other resources:
1. How Children Succeed: Grit, curiosity, and the hidden power of character. Paul Tough, 2012
2. The Global Achievement Gap: Why even out best schools don’t teach the new survival skills out children need – and what you can do about it. Tony Wagner, 2009
3. Why Don’t Students Like School? Daniel Willingham, 2009