The potential of designing games for learning processes

When it comes to learning, the potential of digital games is often seen in enhancing problem solving skills as games basically are a collection of artificially constructed challenges which need to be solved by taking decisions or actions by the players. Moreover, games provide a safe space to try out causes and effects of actions and processes without having to fear any real world consequences (Gee, 2005). Although learners are also active when playing a digital game (compared to watching a film or reading a text), they need to integrate even more skills when designing their own games. The reason is that they need to learn details about game-design like narrative elements, character and world design, reward system and so on (Perry & DeMaria 2009). Beside learning about game-elements, learners need to work in teams, apply different idea-generating methods as well as being able to let go of ideas. There is even another challenge added if the task is to design games whose primary purpose is beyond mere entertainment (Michael & Chen, 2005). If a game should convey meaning or teach about a topic, game-designers need to dive deep into the contents they want to integrate. Gaming fluencies (Kafai & Peppler 2012) should be an objective of constructivist teaching as learners do not only get familiar with game design but also engage in creative, critical and technical aspects of digital media.

Game design is seen as advantageous by advocates of this teaching method because it can enhance creativity as students need to think of new worlds, characters and rules. Making a game usually is a collaborative task and furthers technological skills. Moreover, games are described as a collection of artificial obstacles – which have to be thought of and solved by game designers. Studies have also shown that content-related learning takes place in the context of game-making activities (Kafai & Burke, 2016). Using game design as a constructionist learning environment (cf. Kafai, 1994) has often been researched from the pupils’ and students’ point of view and their learning progress. However, there have also been studies looking at pupils and pre-service teachers to find out about the potential of teaching and learning by creating a virtual game learning environment for others (cf. Kafai et al. 1998; Ruggiero & Green, 2017). Especially when it comes to teaching MINT-subjects or software engineering, this approach has been widely used (cf. Claypool & Claypool, 2005, Shemran et al., 2017). The advantages sought for when using a game-design approach are the many skills learners need for designing a digital game as for example problem-solving and programming skills (VanEck, 2006). Designing digital games has, however, also been used for teaching about games as a cultural medium (Buckingham & Burn, 2007) or to enhance media literacy (Costa et al., 2018) or to make girls more interested in computer programming (Flanagan, 2006). Compared to digital game-based learning, the creation of games is not that widespread. A reason might be that designing digital games provides some barriers as for example the lack of special knowledge in creating games, the high resources regarding hardware and software that are required and finally, the high amount of time that is needed to produce a working digital game.

So why should teachers use game-design as a teaching method? Basically, you can say that game design means active work with media and thus enhances media literacy of students. Before designing their own games, students also need to be able to “read” existing games and to identify elements of a game, find out about what works and what does not work – especially when it comes to rules and reward systems. Moreover, production processes need to be understood – there are certain steps to be taken to come from an idea to a finished product. Designing a game also enhances creativity – students can realize their own ideas, they need to care for grphics, sound, animation as well as texts, design and coding. Digital games are therefore often designed in teams – which means there is another potential of game design. Teamwork needs communication and collaboration as well as project management and being able to give and get feedback. Looking at this long list of skills that can be taught by designing digital games, it becomes obvious that they should be part of every curriculum.

Sonja Gabriel

References

Buckingham, D. & Burn, A. (2007). Game Literacy in Theory and Practice. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 16(3), 323-349.

Claypool, K. & Claypool, M. (2005). Teaching Software Engineering Through Game Design. ITiCSE ’05 Proceedings of the 10th annual SIGCSE conference on Innovation and technology in computer science education, 123-127.

Costa, C., Tyner, K., Henriques, S. & Sousa C. (2018). Game Creation in Youth Media and Information Literacy Education. International Journal of Game-Based Learning, 8(2), 1-13.

Gee, J.P. (2005). Learning by Design: Good Video Games as Learning Machines. E-Learning and Digital Media 2(19, 5-16.

Flanagan, M. (2006). Making Games for Social Change. AI & Society 20, 493-505.

Kafai, Y.B., Burke, Q. (2016). Connected Gaming. What Making Video Games Can Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. Cambridge (MA): MIT Press.

Kafai, Y. B. (1994). Minds in Play. Computer Game Design as a Context for Children’s Learning. New York: Routledge.

Kafai, Y. B., Peppler, K. (2012). Developing Gaming Fluencies with Scratch: Realizing Game Design as an Artistic Process. Steinkuehler, C., Squire, K., Barab, S. (Eds). Games, Learning, and Society. Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age, 355-379.

Michael, D., & Chen, S. (2005). Serious games: Games that educate, train, and inform. Mason: Course Technology PTR.

Perry, D., DeMaria, R. (2009). Game Design. A Brainstorming Toolbox. Boston (MA): Charles River Media.

Ruggiero, D. & Green, L. (2017). Problem Solving Through Digital Game Design: A Quantitative Content Analysis. Computers in Human Behavior, 73, 28-37.

Shemran, R.P., Clark, R.M., Bilec, M. M., Landis, A.E. & Parrish, K. (2017). Developing a Framework to Better Engage Students in STEM via Game Design: Findings from Year 1. ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings.

VanEck, R. (2006). Digital Game-Based Learning: It’s Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless … EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2), 16-30.

The project significance for our school

Today video games are used as an additional or alternative method to traditional education. Video games are beneficial and used for educational purposes in the classroom or at home. So, learning from video games outside the classroom is possible as well.

So, we (five countries from Europe) decided to create the project that is about games and their use at various lessons. Two students from Alytus vocational training centre and three teachers were the core team in this project and were working on the video games. The students were selected of the computer network developer training programme and they had only basic skills of programming before the project.

At first, this project was very challenging and quite complicated for them, because our students had to learn a lot of new things. During the project they learnt HTML5, JavaScript and Canvas programming languages. They have never learned to use these programming languages for video games before. They had been working hard for two years, and finally, they created two games using “Unity” for programming. “The Pirates Looking for Treasure“, “The Maze“ are the video games with mathematical tasks for senior students who are going to take the national Math examination. Our students were very passionate about creating these games and this project was so motivating for them that they are going to study further and become computer programmers in the future.

Our Math teachers and students have already tested these games and it has been more interesting to study Math playing games than traditional lessons which are boring for students. Moreover, this project is really meaningful and beneficial for our school and students because they will use these games during the lessons and they can change the math tasks according to the topics of lessons.

Lilija Dailidaitė

Trip to Austria, Laa An Der Thaya 16-12-2018

Our trip to Austria was thrilling from start to finish starting with our first day in Vienna. Even though we arrived one day later than all the other groups, our welcoming in the country was just as warm and friendly as expected. As we were traveling by a beautiful and innovative train to Vienna we had time to meet some of the students and talk, while also looking at the beautiful scenery of the snowy valeys of the country. First place  we visited was the FLIP museum, that helped us understand more things about economy and money while also having many fun interactive activities. After that we had some free time and then went to the Castle of the princess Sissy, a huge palace with gorgeous gardens, extraordinary sculptures/architecture and a small market in front of it

On the next day, Wednesday, we spent our morning in the school, an imposing, 3 storey building with new equipment, huge classrooms and a big history that goes back to 1940. We all presented our game projects and also played some of them. After lunch all of us went to a special needs school. There, we did fun activities such as baking cookies, cakes and playing table tennis. Our Last activity for the day was going to the cinema and watching a movie in 3D.

On Thursday we went to Vienna again. First we went to the TimeTravel museum. We all sat through a marvellous 5D simulator that showed us the history of Austria throughout times and after that we went to other rooms that had realistic dramatizations of various history stages. Then we went to a town tour and got the chance to look at the beautiful monuments that can be found all around the city. What’s more is that the headmaster of the school talked to us about the history of every place we went, it was really interesting and informative. Lastly we went to a mall, had some free time and returned home by train.

On our last day in Austria with our hosts we went to the school. First thing we did was having an interesting lecture about HTML Canvas. Everybody was able to participate in this activity as we all learned basic things about programming. After that we learned about Unity, a program that gives it’s user the ability to create their own high quality games. After all that we had lunch and an awesome goodbye ceremony. We got our certificates and after a while we had to go.

On Saturday we left early in the morning. The last minutes with the groups were emotional as no one wanted to leave.

Were I to chose a favorite moment from the trip, it would be our visit to Sissy’s Palace, Saint Stephan’s Church and all of our tours in the outstanding Vienna. What’s also worth mentioning is the fast and efficient public transport that anybody could easily use.

All and all, this was an amazing trip, that has given me many  fun memories that i’ll surely never forget. With such trip we all were able to get a glimpse of life outside Greece as the differences were big.

 Erasmus+ is an program that everybody should to take part in, all the time that is dedicated on it is absolutely worth it.

-Anais Farhat, 2nd Gymnasium of Xanthi, January 2019

Visit to Austria

Last December we visited Austria with the program ERASMUS+.

In the village we stayed, we were hosted by families. Their hospitality was very good both in their homes but also in their school. Some days of the week we visited Vienna’s capital city, Austria. It is a beautiful city with modern and traditional buildings, with interesting museums. From all the places we visited, I liked the most, the palace of Princess Sissy, the cathedral in the center of the city and the huge Christmas market. Also don’t forget to say that we made new friends and we learned a lot of things about how to create a game.

Everything was great, thank you for your hospitality. Hope to meet again!!

Fotini Apostolidou, Xanthi, Greece

Virtual Reality: Useless gimmicks or the way for effective learning in future?

To find your self in a 3D scenario is awesome per se and if, in addition, you can take some actions you are INVOLVED. You are part of the situation, you are fully concentrated and motivated to learn more. VR turns the learner to an explorer.

You will have the chance to take, say, a body apart and have a look on things you are not able to see usually.

You will have the chance to move from one place to another nearly timeless and you can switch between scales, from big size to small size and feel as a giant or a dwarf.

VR provides various possibilities to make things visible and understandable.

So VR obviously is best for education. So will there be VR everywhere in education in future?

Well to get this future scenario we need more VR apps and more VR stations and both to reasonable prices. Maybe if the demand is increasing and the cost per units are decreasing this trend will be rapidly growing and changing the whole educational field. Maybe VR will be standard equipment in all schools in future, same as happened to computers and we are the beginning of a new era. So let`s be prepared.

Renate Wachter

The Benefits of Childhood Games

In this digital era a lot of children like playing computer games using their electronic gadgets at a very young age and they do not want to go out and have a playtime in the yard. Parents find challenging to get them off their couches. Parents understand that their children should have a normal childhood and they have to play simple traditional games which could ensure their children‘s not only physical fitness but also boost their brain power, because playing traditional games is an important part of a child‘s development.

During the meeting in Bucharest, Romania we had the chance to remember our childhood and play childhood games. One day was devoted to playing of childhood games and the motto of the day was the words of the well-known Irish writer George Bernard Shaw associated with playing: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”. Each team had to choose a specific childhood game which is popular in their country. Lithuanian team chose the game with a ball. All teams presented their games, explained the techniques of playing and all pupils had to play that game. After playing the game participants had to estimate if that game was educational or not. Pupils talked about educational objectives of the games, developed skills and acquired knowledge for the game. Some games acquired specific knowledge such as quick thinking, physical fitness, making decisions and so on.

So, we learned that simple games give children the opportunity to develop essential skills, for example, children learn to develop their imagination, experiment, solve problems, make decisions and etc. Because of interaction with their friends they learn to communicate, to share and to solve conflicts. If children play games outside they have a possibility to exercise in the fresh air which is very important for their mental and physical health.

L. Dailidaitė

The Implications of Gamification in Game-Based Learning

In the last decade, more and more behavioral researchers have sought to find out to which psychological needs does the elements that make up a successful video game answer to, and how to use these elements to motivate active participation in problem solving. And they discovered that game mechanics like goals, victory points, ranks and levels, etc., tap into people’s natural desires for competition and achievement. In the educational field, the key question was how to enhance the learning process by using games in general and video games in particular and how to bring effective game mechanics into a serious learning process. In order to answer to this questions the concept of gamification was developed.

So…Why do we talk about gamification?

The concept of gamification includes the motivational elements, like reward systems, that trigger behaviors valuable for the pupil in the learning process. So, in the context of teaching and learning we can say that the process of adding games or elements of games to encourage engagement and participation to a task is called Gamification.

The motivational elements that we talked about above are called game mechanics. Game mechanics are rules or methods designed for immersion providing this way an engaging game play. In order to gamify a classical educational activity we can use a large range of game mechanics which have proven to be effective. Simple ones like goals, quests, victory points etc. or others that involve more complex behaviors like turns, resource management, role playing etc.

So a long teaching-learning process can be improved by gamifying it. This way we can allow participants to solve problems, win awards and be acknowledged while learning through first person experience.

How can students and teachers work together to create educational video games?

By sharing knowledge. Teachers place their experience in organizing educational activities in logical sequences ranging from simple to complex, and students can indicate what motivates them and keep them active and involved in an activity.

ILONA CHIRIAC

Why is it necessary to know the types of intelligence and the types of learning in order to create games?

Each child has a predominant and special form of intelligence, and any teacher should have the knowledge to recognize this intelligence and its capabilities. Multiple Intelligence Theory was developed in 1983 by Howard Gardner. He had suggested that the traditional notion of intelligence (IQ – the intelligence coefficient) has its limitations and instead he had proposeed eight different types of intelligence to cover a much wider palette of the human intellect.

On the other hand, there are 8 learning styles associated with types of intelligence at school There are eight types of intelligence: verbal, kinesthetic, naturalistic, logic-mathematical, spatial, musical, intrapersonal, interpersonal.  For each type of intelligence there is a corresponding learning style. Depending on the type of intelligence a child has, you can find the essential methods and techniques that make learning easier for this particular child.

For each educational game created it is necessary to consider certain objectives in order to develop a certain skill. Starting from this remark, educational games created by our pupils involved in this project will transform the learning process into a very enjoyable and entertaining one. These games should make pupils aware of the peculiarities of the learning process and so they will better understand our world!

ALEXANDRINA ROCA

Game-Based Learning for Pupils with Speacial Needs

Learning is a process by which pupils may acquire knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for their personal and social life.

Learning as a process involves: the transmission of  knowledge from the teacher to pupils (i.e., the teacher is a performer) and the participation of pupils (i.e., pupils participate by using their previous knowledge and accumulate new knowledge in the course of this process).

In the process of learning, we memorize 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, 50% of what we see and hear at the same time, 80% of what we say, 90% what we say and do at the same time.

Learning can be done by simulating, by playing at different disciplines (trips to an imaginary map, battles, wars, or historical events). It is a formative method and has an active-participative character, pupils participating directly and consciously in documenting, proposing solutions, and interpreting roles.

A game is a form of organizing cognition and, implicitly, a way of organizing knowledge, being a specific human activity. The rules of games are the rules of learning. For a little child, a game is a central activity. A child has a playful motivation in relation to the objects, but after the age of 6, games must have a educational role, and finally at adulthood games become a relaxing activity. The stages of cognition development correspond to a precise forms of play.

Each educational game includes: content, a didactic task, the rules of the game, and the action of the game.

Optimal learning conditions are the goal and motivation of pupils, which are fully met by using games in the learning process.

The educational value of games has been recognized  by Plato since Antiquity, but also by the Renaissance thinkers.

For pupils with special needs, a game is a permanent form of a learning process.

In the Romanian special education system, the entire learning activity is structured around games. It is more engaging for pupils with special needs to get involved in a game activity than to ask them to work on certain tasks as happens for “ordinary” pupils.

A didactic game stimulates pupils’ initiative and creativity. Children are more easily mobilized, engaged, when they know that they are playing. A game has a therapeutic role, it is a source of satisfaction through the rewards they receive, it eliminates stress, fatigue, fear of failure, channeling energy to attractive and tonic activities.

It can be seen that the importance of game-based learning cannot be disputed. By playing, by creating games, the pupil is in the situation of being an actor and not just a spectator.

SORINA PERSINARU

CORINA IONESCU