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Eric Klopfer

Eric Klopfer is Associate Professor of Science Education at MIT, Director of MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program (STEP), President of Learning Games Network, and author of Augmented Learning: Research and Design of Mobile Educational Games (MIT Press).

Titles by This Author

NBC News, Educational Innovation, and Learning from Failure

In 2006, young people were flocking to MySpace, discovering the joys of watching videos of cute animals on YouTube, and playing online games. Not many of them were watching network news on television; they got most of their information online. So when NBC and MIT launched iCue, an interactive learning venture that combined social networking, online video, and gaming in one multimedia educational site, it was perfectly in tune with the times. iCue was a surefire way for NBC to reach younger viewers and for MIT to test innovative educational methods in the real world. But iCue was a failure: it never developed an audience and was canceled as if it were a sitcom with bad ratings. In The More We Know, Eric Klopfer and Jason Haas, both part of the MIT development team, describe the rise and fall of iCue and what it can teach us about new media, old media, education, and the challenges of innovating in educational media.

Klopfer and Haas show that iCue was hampered by, among other things, an educational establishment focused on “teaching to the test,” television producers uncomfortable with participatory media, and confusion about the market. But this is not just a cautionary tale; sometimes more can be learned from an interesting failure than a string of successes. Today’s educational technology visionaries (iPads for everyone!) might keep this lesson in mind.

Research and Design of Mobile Educational Games

New technology has brought with it new tools for learning, and research has shown that the educational potential of video games resonates with scholars, teachers, and students alike. In Augmented Learning, Eric Klopfer describes the largely untapped potential of mobile learning games--games played on such handheld devices as cell phones, Game Boys, and Sony PSPs--to make a substantial impact on learning. Examining mobile games from both educational and gaming perspectives, Klopfer argues that the strengths of the mobile platform--its portability, context sensitivity, connectivity, and ubiquity--make it ideal for learning games in elementary, secondary, university, and lifelong education. Klopfer begins by exploring the past and present of education, educational technology, “edutainment,” and mobile games, and then offers a series of case studies of mobile educational games that have been developed and implemented in recent years. These games--either participatory (which require interaction with other players) or augmented reality (which augment the real world with virtual information)--can be produced at lower cost than PC or full-size console games. They use social dynamics and real-world context to enhance game play, they can be integrated into the natural flow of instruction more easily than their big-screen counterparts, and they can create compelling educational and engaging environments for learners. They are especially well-suited for helping learners at every level develop twenty-first century skills--including the ability to tackle complex problems and acquire information in “just-in-time” fashion. All of this, Klopfer argues, puts mobile learning games in a unique and powerful position within educational technology. Eric Klopfer is Associate Professor of Education at MIT, Director of MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program (TEP), with a joint appointment at the MIT Media Lab. [title from author 7/25/07]