To the Editor:
In your article “Researchers See Video Games as Testing Tools” (Aug. 7, 2013), Constance Steinkuehler, a researcher and professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and her colleagues continue to demonstrate the richness and value that can be found in digital games and play environments. Play has always had a critical role in the process of cultivating children’s social skills, and discovering how to scaffold the practice of those skills in digital games is exciting.
It seems important, though, to ask some hard questions about using games as assessment environments. In our own research on games, my colleagues and I have chosen to avoid this burgeoning field because, as the article noted, there are many open questions about knowledge transfer and also the validity of conclusions drawn from these data. More importantly, we question the premise that play is the most authentic or appropriate context for measuring knowledge or mastery, particularly for children.
Questions abound when it comes to judging the intent of users based on their online behavior, and those judgments often have real-world impact, particularly when it comes to assessment.
In these discussions, we should consider children’s often-limited opportunities to speak up for their interests or control their digital lives. Play without the freedom to subvert, ignore, or otherwise upend the intent of adults—even game designers—is no longer truly play.
Katherine McMillan Culp
Director of Research
Center for Children and Technology
Education Development Center Inc.
New York, N.Y.
A version of this article appeared in the September 11, 2013 edition of Education Week as Game Use in Assessment Raises ‘Hard Questions’