Contrasts in student engagement, meaning-making, dislikes, and challenges in a discovery-based program of game design learning

Development Article


This implementation study explores middle school, high school and community college student experiences in Globaloria, an educational pilot program of game design offered in schools within the U.S. state of West Virginia, supported by a non-profit organization based in New York City called the World Wide Workshop Foundation. This study reports on student engagement, meaning making and critique of the program, in their own words. The study’s data source was a mid-program student feedback survey implemented in Pilot Year 2 (2008/2009) of the 5 year design-based research initiative, in which the researchers posed a set of open-ended questions in an online survey questionnaire answered by 199 students. Responses were analyzed using inductive textual analysis. While the initial purpose for data collection was to elicit actionable program improvements as part of a design-based research process, several themes emergent in the data tie into recent debates in the education literature around discovery-based learning. In this paper, we draw linkages from the categories of findings that emerged in student feedback to this literature, and identify new scholarly research questions that can be addressed in the ongoing pilot, the investigation of which might contribute new empirical insights related to recent critiques of discovery based learning, self-determination theory, and the productive failure phenomenon.


Game design Globaloria Social media Wiki Project-based learning Constructionism Discovery-based learning Cognitive load Self-determination theory Productive failure Social learning system Community of practice West Virginia Digital divide Digital literacy Information literacy Blog Design-based research 


  1. American Association of School Librarians. (2007). Standards for the 21st-Century learner. Retrieved November, 2009, from
  2. Bruckman, A., & Resnick, M. (1995). The MediaMOO project: Constructionism and professional community. Convergence, 1(1), 94–109.Google Scholar
  3. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  4. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The what and why of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Facilitating optimal motivation and psychological well-being across life’s domains. Canadian Psychology, 49(1), 14–23.Google Scholar
  6. Edelson, D. C. & Joseph, D. M. (2004). The interest-driven learning design framework: Motivating learning through usefulness. In Y. B. Kafai, W. A. Sandoval, N. Enyedy, A. S. Nixon & F. Herrera (Eds.), Proceedings of the sixth international conference of the learning sciences, Santa Monica, CA, June 22–26, 2004 (pp. 166–173). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. Forte, A., & Guzdial, M. (2005). Motivation and non-majors in computer science: Identifying discrete audiences for introductory courses. IEEE Transactions on Education, 2(48), 248–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gephart, R. P. & Wolfe, R. A. (1989). Qualitative data analysis: Three microcomputer-supported approaches. In Academy of Management best paper proceedings (pp. 382–386).Google Scholar
  9. Guzdial, M., & Soloway, E. (2003). Computer science is more important than calculus: The challenge of living up to our potential. SIGCSE Bulletin, 35(2), 5–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Harel, I. (1991). Children designers: Interdisciplinary constructions for learning and knowing mathematics in a computer-rich school. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.Google Scholar
  11. Harel, I., & Papert, S. (Eds.). (1991). Constructionism. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing.Google Scholar
  12. Hidi, S., & Renninger, A. (2006). A four-phase model of interest development. Educational Psychologist, 41, 111–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Hmelo-Silver, C. E., Duncan, R. G., & Chinn, C. A. (2007). Scaffolding and achievement in problem-based and inquiry learning: A response to Kirschner, Sweller, and Clark (2006). Educational Psychologist, 42, 99–107.Google Scholar
  14. Hobbs, R. (2010). Digital & media literacy: A plan of action. White paper issued by the Aspen Institute. Retrieved, from
  15. International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). NETS for students 2007. Retrieved November, 2009, from
  16. International Society for Technology in Education. (2007). NETS for Teachers 2008. Retrieved November, 2009, from
  17. Jenkins, H. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  18. Kafai, Y. B. (1995). Minds in play: Computer game design as a context for children’s learning. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  19. Kafai, Y. B. (2006). Playing and making games for learning: Instructionist and constructionist perspectives for game studies. Games and Culture, 1(1), 36–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kafai, Y. B., & Ching, C. C. (2004). Children as instructional designers: Principles of learning with guided discoveries. In N. Seel & S. Dijkstra (Eds.), Instructional design: International perspectives, Vol. 3, curricula, plans and processes. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  21. Kafai, Y. B., Peppler, K. A., & Chin, G. (2007). High tech programmers in low income communities: Creating a computer culture in a community technology center. In C. Steinfeld, B. Pentland, M. Ackermann, & N. Contractor (Eds.), Proceedings of the third international conference on communities and technology (pp. 545–562). New York: SpringerGoogle Scholar
  22. Kafai, Y. B., & Resnick, M. (Eds.). (1996). Constructionism in practice: Designing, thinking, and learning in a digital world. Mahwaw, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar
  23. Kapur, M., & Kinzer, C. K. (2009). Productive failure in CSCL groups. Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 4, 21–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kirschner, P. A., Sweller, J., & Clark, R. E. (2006). Why minimal guidance during instruction does not work: An analysis of the failure of constructivist, discovery, problem-based, experiential, and inquiry based teaching. Educational Psychologist, 41, 75–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Klopfer, E. (2008). Augmented learning: Research and design of mobile educational games. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  26. Knight Commission on Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy. (2009). Informing communities: Sustaining democracy in the digital age. Commission Report. Retrieved, from
  27. Marton, F. (2007). Sameness and difference in transfer. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(4), 499–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mossberger, K., Tolbert, C. J., & McNeal, R. S. (2007). Digital citizenship: The internet, society, and participation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  29. National Education Association. (2008). Access, adequacy, and equity in education technology: Results of a survey of America’s teachers and support professionals on technology in public schools and classrooms. Washington, DC: National Education Association Research Department.Google Scholar
  30. National Education Technology Plan of the US Department of Education. (2010). Retrieved, from
  31. Papert, S. (1980). Mindstorms. New York: Basic Books, A Division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Google Scholar
  32. Papert, S. (1996). The connected family. New York: Longstreet Press.Google Scholar
  33. Papert, S. (1998). Does easy do it? Children, games and learning. Game Developer Magazine, June 1998.Google Scholar
  34. Papert, S. (2002). Hard Fun. Bangor Daily News. Bangor, ME. Accessed 5/12/10, from
  35. Reynolds, R. (2008). Reconstructing “digital literacy” in a Constructionist computer club: The Role of motivation, interest, and inquiry in children’s purposive technology use. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Newhouse School of Public Communications, Syracuse University.Google Scholar
  36. Reynolds, R. & Harel Caperton, I. (2009). The emergence of six contemporary learning abilities (6-CLAs) in middle school, high school and community college students as they design web-games and use project-based social media in Globaloria. Presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association, San Diego, CA, April, 2009.Google Scholar
  37. Rich, L., Perry, H., & Guzdial, M. (2004). A CS1 course designed to address interests of women. In SIGCSE 2004 (pp. 190–194).Google Scholar
  38. Schwartz, D. L., & Bransford, J. D. (1998). A time for telling. Cognition and Instruction, 16(4), 475–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Seely Brown, J. (2005). New learning environments for the 21st Century. Paper presented at Forum for the future of higher education, Aspen Symposium, Aspen, CO.Google Scholar
  40. Urrea, C. (2001). Designing robotic artifacts: Rural school-community collaboration for learning. Thinkcycle workshop, Boston, August 2001.Google Scholar
  41. Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Wenger, E. (2003). Communities of practice and social learning systems. In D. Nicolini, S. Gherardi, & D. Yanow (Eds.), Knowing in organizations. A practice-based approach. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe Inc.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Educational Communications and Technology 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rutgers University School of Communication and InformationNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.World Wide Workshop FoundationNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations