According to Ackermann (2004), constructivism provides children with the opportunity to be “the builders of their own cognitive tools, as well as of their external realities.” By creating activities that inspire students to acquire their own sense of knowledge, they will be able to see that knowledge is an experience that is “actively built, both individually and collectively” and is “both construed and interpreted through action, and mediated through symbol use”. Like Vygotsky, Ackermann (2004) emphasizes on the idea that knowledge is also “progressively shaped and formed through people’s interactions/transactions”.
Computer games are great ways (economically and cognitively) to construct knowledge and understanding of historical facts. The nature of computer games makes it easier for students to tinker around and explore all kinds of possibilities. Furthermore, it allows the history classes to dig deep into the content that was once inaccessible before. As Papert and Harel (1991) pointed out, “[c]omputer-aided instruction may seem to refer to method rather than content, but what counts as a change in method depends on what one sees as the essential features of the existing methods”. Papert (2000) also emphasized on the revolutionary effect computers have on education by saying that “[t]he metaphor of computer as mathematics-speaking entity puts the learner in a qualitatively new kind of relationship to an important domain of knowledge”.
The rich details in every single moment of history was considered impossible to be re-experienced by modern human beings, because it was hard and costly to simulate a world for an individual to explore and interact with. However, with the help of computer technology, the simulation can be virtual reality instead of physical reality, and repeating it for a second individual does not elevate the cost at all. For “[t]hose who like to play with images of structures emerging from their own chaos, lifting themselves by their own bootstraps” (Papert & Harel, 1991), computer simulation on history events and character relations gives them an opportunity to construct their own knowledge for what history is really like. By playing this game, player will be able to construct their own knowledge by making important economic, social, or strategic decisions as a character in a particular historical event.
According to Obikwelu, Read, and Sim (2012), “providing guidance to students has been necessary to enhance their learning experience, especially when introducing students to a new instructional environment such as an educational, computer game”. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate scaffolding into the game design in order to provide clearly articulated goals and learning objectives and enable the students to extend their existing levels of understanding. One way to integrate scaffolding in to design is through feedback. As Obikwelu et al. (2012) stated, “feedback provides an opportunity to support children’s learning of unfamiliar educational content by ‘scaffolding’ them into successfully solving a problem”. Scardamalia and Bereiter (1994) also acknowledged the importance of teacher’s feedback, by saying that “[w]hen there are [classroom] discussions that could be construed as knowledge building, they are generally led by the teacher. Socratic dialogue is the model, which means that the teacher, playing Socrates, gives the discussion such direction as it has and is therefore likely to be the only one whose goals have substantive influence on the outcome”. Therefore, to scaffold students’ performance and learning through the game, feedback for reasons on each historical character’s decisions is essential in providing additional support for students as they keep trying to make sense of what they experienced in the game.
Today, I officially give up on developing a full graphic version of the game I proposed. The workload for such a design disproportionately demand too much time on graphic that I find it really hard to focus on delivering the essence of my design. Had I have a team of graphic designers to support my project, what I pictured were still possible. Hard as it may be, this decision is inevitable and long overdue. I hope that one day I can come back and give this project a more vivid and intriguing user interface. For now, I will be fully focused on the core mechanisms of the game, and a low-fidelity prototype (using Twine) to justify my design.