Questions To Guide the Use of Problem Solving Computer Games

  1. Is the Content Accurate?
    Be careful of out-of-date or incorrect content information. Most computer games are prepared by marketers and software developers, not educators. Check the information presented. Also check the production date, and whether regular updates are provided, or scheduled.

  2. Is the Work Required of the Learner Useful, Interesting, and Free of Bias?
    Will exposure to the content material of the game help move the learner toward the acquisition of more effective writing skills? Will this movement be accomplished in a meaningful way for both student and teacher? As for bias, remember that many second language learners will have different world, social, economic, and religious perspectives than what might be portrayed in problem solving computer games developed and marketed for another cultural context.

  3. Is the Game Relatively Easy to Organize?
    Can the game be adapted easily for group as well as individual work? Can various scenarios be constructed around the game that facilitate pedagogical and curricular concerns?

  4. Is the Game Free of "Bugs" (problems that prevent it from working correctly, or completely)?
    Well developed computer programs should work correctly and completely. Known problems should be detailed in the instructional materials. But, a teacher should try a computer game before asking learners to use it---not only to check for problems but also to become familiar with the program itself.

  5. Does the Game Provide Clear Instructions?
    The tendency of developers to produce computer programs that can be utilized effectively without a great deal of instruction is laudable but there will be many occasions when clear instructions, not only written on paper but also online, may be not only helpful but required. Check the instructions, both written and online, to determine whether they provide sufficient information to solve any problems or answer any questions the teacher and learners may have.

  6. Does It Allow the User To Control the Speed and Difficulty?
    Some learners will be more adept at dealing with the interactive features of a problem solving game. Others may require more time. Can learners control the pace of the game in a way that best suits their particular learning needs?

  7. Does It Allow for Teacher Implementation and Modification?
    Can the teacher customize the problem solving game to make it match more closely with information presented in the classroom? Can specific components be included in the game to support and augment classroom activities?

  8. Does It Take Advantage of the Computer's Capabilities (color, sound, interaction, etc)?
    Chances are good that any computer game will rely heavily on these capabilities in order to be attractive to potential players. For teaching and learning contexts, however, decide whether these capabilities help or hinder the desired underlying learning scenario being promoted by the use of the computer game.

  9. Are Language and Language Skills Intrinsic to the Game?
    Point and shoot, demolition, or fighting and conquering games may not be well suited to the teaching and learning of language skills as they rely mostly on hand-eye coordination and fast reflexes. In order to promote language acquisition and utilization and computer game must be based on the use of language. In the case of the model presented in this essay, the basis of language utilization is problem solving. Other desired pedagogical outcomes will require different language and language skills.

  10. Is the Language and Its Use Sufficient to Justify the Use of the Game?
    A good feature of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is that the level of problem solving increases with the ability of players to successfully solve crimes. Thus, the game's language use is constantly changing and will often depend on players choices as they work through particular scenarios. This is more desirable than a computer game with only a few paths of language utilization that do not, or cannot, vary. Learners will eventually discover they are repeating themselves and quickly become bored.