John Martin

laughing through grad school
(academic stuff) (hints of life beyond
school and work)
(Flying Moose videos, photos, stories, etc.) (observations)


Learning by playing and designing Handheld Augmented Reality Place-based Games

My most current research, with concrete examples, can be found on my AR page.

I. The Changing Face of Education: Motivation through Technology and Games

Traditional classroom teaching does not know how to handle the social spaces that technology and the Web 2.0 are opening up -- and that students are inhabiting. My research recognizes that people have a deep need to valued in communities, and are therefore motivated to learn the cultural stories of their peers and role models. It further acknowledges that most of this learning takes place through experiences in informal environments like the home, church, and social groups through very un-school-ish activities in video games and online spaces. I think that if we, as educators, don't venture into those spaces, we'll further marginalize ourselves.

2. Starting Local: Place and Experiential Learning

While video games and online spaces offer rich learning environments, they are not as rich as the wholly-immersive environments of our day-to-day lives, the homes we live in, the parks we visit, the neighborhoods we inhabit, etc. These are the places where our primary relationships, stories, and experiences occur. They are, however, often too close under our noses to recognize and appreciate. Games and quests can help. Place-Based Inquiry (PBI) is the natural child of Place-Based Education, Inquiry-Based Learning, Design-Based Learning, and Project-Based learning.

3. Life History of Place: Culture, Identity, and Agency in a Community of Boys

Building off thesis research undertaken for my masters degree, I examine the cultural stories of place -- a residential deep woods camp for boys, and their effect on its participants. I use narrative analysis to consider similarities and differences between the espoused cultural models (Holland 1987) of the camp directors and those of the campers. This undergirds the primary thread of my research.

4. Immersive ARG (Augmented Reality Game) Experience

The specific focus of my research examines the effect of locative technologies, like four-day immersive AR game experiences at Flying Moose Lodge. What affect did the use of locative technologies, (GPS units and an AR Game) have on the experiences? I have collected data, and am beginning to analyze results.

5. Comparison to Non-Immersive ARG Experience, and Immersive Non-ARG Experience

A segment of my research compares and contrast the four-day immersive AR Game with two overlapping experiences -- a four day non-ARG wilderness trip, and 1-2 hour AR Games.

Significance of the Problem

The time is right to develop tools for situated learning. Locative technologies are becoming ubiquitous -- in the form of navigation systems in vehicles, handheld GPS units, or even the locative technologies in all U.S. mobile phones since 2002 that let authorities locate 911 callers to within 100 square feet. Additionally, social movements are springing up that emphasize and support local foods, local business, local neighborhoods and cultures. Web-based applications like Mapquest, Google Local and Google Earth are being developed to address our desire to learn about the spaces we live and move in.

At the same time, video games have emerged as a tremendous force in society with sales and popularity approaching movies. Kids are turning away from television and to video games in their leisure time. Combining technologies that so broadly and richly support the spaces we live in with the immensely popular medium of video games could is an endeavor that can and must now be taken.

Educational research in games is, for the most part, presently focused on examining the learning principles in games, and considering how to shoehorn existing placeless curriculum into video games for "anytime, anywhere learning" (Microsoft). Relatively little research looks at the use of games for learning that is situated in the cultures of place, and none that I have seen investigates the potential of game design for socially-situated places. The research I am proposing pulls on research from sociocultural learning, place-based pedagogies, and design-based research, through the medium of video games.