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Designing for the epistemological entailments of physics through game-centered dialogical activity cycles
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Paper presented at the 8th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2008, Utrecht, The Netherlands, June 23-28, 2008
This study examines a secondary-level science curriculum centered on a multi-user,
"serious game" called Escape from Centauri 7. The game engine depicts qualitative physics
phenomena via dynamics tied to player actions. Players progressively engage the
epistemological entailments of charged particles through new phenomena they encounter as
the game unfolds. We engineered discretely bounded gaming episodes to arrange transitions
between game play, small group, and whole class discussions. Together, these elements of
game play and discussion constitute recurring, game-centered dialogic activity cycles.
Through this design, we investigate how gaming fosters intuitive physics understandings, how
activity structures and materials engage learners and enlist gaming experiences in discussion,
and how both game play and discussion shape subsequent participation. Analyses of
trajectories of participation in and across cycles underscore the plausibility of this approach
while also illuminating emerging tensions that we discuss in terms of epistemic reflexivity.
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