Learning facts and rules

Facts are man-made, as the etymological origin ‚facere‘ suggests. The creation of this kind of knowledge, facts, follows certain meta-facts, called rules. One can see a vague anaologon to declarative and procedural knowledge, „knowing that“ and „knowing how“, both calling for different ways of transfer respectivly acquisition.

While a fact may be taught ‚as whole‘, a rule will stay in it’s dormant stage as just another fact if treated alike. This, too, is already known: To effectively teach or learn a rule, its application has to be an integral part of the fact.

Games and serious simulations both provide for the learning of rules with a „what if…?“ approach. But while a serious simulation approach in the end usually aims for a correct application of rules, games, due to their experimental and fun character, sometimes allow for or even challenge aberratic cognitive behaviour: Misusuing the game (cheating, changin of rules etc.) or enjoying unwanted or dismissed behaviour. While in a serious simulation the final goal may be to be able to safely land a plane, in a playful state-of-mind it may be to crash it in the most enjoyable way.

Compared to Ernst von Glasersfeld’s metapher of cognition, of a blind man who wants to get through a dense wood and bumps against unseen trees, learning with games resembles blindfolded playing tag and hide-and-seek within this very wood: Its character is more mapmaking than pathfinding.

Thus using games just to transfer facts – like in quiz games or linear adventure games, the mainstay of commercial edutainment – forfeits the possibility to present rules and render them experiencable as something cognitively ‚tangible‘.