Transfer from Games to Narratives

The end of the semester and beginning of the summer is always busy: Thousands of things to catch up on, odds jobs that need doing, and countless receptions and ceremonies to attend. I finally had a chance to look at some of the data generated by the experiment I ran in my beginning German class a few months ago.

Basically the experiment was like this: We covered German two-way prepositions and the German recycling system in class, did some in-class exercises, finished some take-home exercises, and then wrote a short story requiring students to apply what they learned towards a solving a problem in a real-world space (i.e., cleaning up the city center of a German town). Students in the experiment group played a custom built 3D video game in which, essentially, they could practice playing their story before writing it down.

With small populations sizes a lot of the data you get is statistically insignificant. You can see trends developing, but nothing that would indicate large impact. For some reason or another, I also had a lot of students in the experiment group drop, which always makes it difficult to find statistical significance, too. I was especially intrigued, therefore, when I got this:

Basically, it seems that the students in the experiment group who played the game wrote narratives that adopted a first-person view of the game. These narratives showed, among other things, more instances of personal agency and embeddedness in a specific setting: “I see a can on the ground. I walk over to the can. I pick it up and then walk over to the recycling container. I throw the can into the container.” Students in the control group had the tendency to write more narratives like this: “I see the can on the ground and I throw it into the recycling container.” I’ll play a bit more with these numbers and work my findings up into an article. But first, I will present my findings next week at CALICO 2012 at Notre Dame University. In any case, more to come!

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