Jan. 30, 2017

Designing, Gaming, Learning

Teachers playing games to learn about game-based learning

Designing Games

Educational games are gaining momentum in schools as a way to engage and motivate students. Designing activities, lessons, and courses to be more ‘gameful’ – using goal-driven and engaging game play – is also making a mark on higher education. For Dr. Beaumie Kim, a Master of Education course on game-based learning was the perfect opportunity to teach about gameful learning – using games!

The graduate-level course on game-based learning focused on helping teachers to design engaging games that facilitate deep thinking through play. Games can be an especially powerful tool in the classroom. Such games usually integrate numerous subjects and ideas simultaneously. They can also promote collaborative learning, 21stcentury thinking skills, as well as cognitive, social, and emotional engagement. However, the design of the game must be based on solid principles in order to make this all possible.

For the course, the students were tasked with creating a blueprint for an educational game, and in the course, students played a variety of games, including digital and non-digital games, commercial and educational games, and games or game-like activities devised by Dr. Kim’s team. Dr. Kim, Jerremie Clyde (Associate Librarian specializing in digital media), and a Werklund graduate student, Diali Gupta, designed a role-playing card game to help students think about important design ideas. Using the concepts the students were learning, the card game brought the learning to life, making the in-class activities authentic and playable.

Gameful Learning

Working in groups of 3-5, the card game gave each student a specific role, which was intended to support them in considering various aspects of game design. Over three classes, the students used the card game to engage with ideas and readings on game design and learning with games. The students used the assigned cards, character sheets, and score cards to keep track of, and provide evidence of, the design principles they were using.

Dr. Kim’s team investigated whether the game had been helpful in getting students to think about key concepts and applying them to their design. In particular, they were interested in whether this gameful approach supported the students’ learning, as well as engaging them actively in tasks.

A sample of cards used by the teachers in designing their games

The study found that the game experience was important for helping the students to think about games and their design. It offered the opportunity to use what they are learning, and to consider the experience and perspective of the students who were to play the games. The role-playing game supported the students in engaging meaningfully in their learning, and promoted collaboration and multidisciplinary thinking.

The game also prompted the players to consider their own experience, as educators, gamers, and designers. By playing with the academic content, the students were also able to incorporate their own identities, interests, and expertise to further their gameful learning. The card game helped immerse the students in a gameful mindset, overcoming novel obstacles and challenges, and helped them design games that better relate to their audience.

The Next Level

Dr. Kim hopes to further the impact of gameful teaching and learning in higher education. Especially for teachers, facilitating learning that engages youth authentically through game play may be of particular value. Courses and lessons designed through games can support learning and creative engagement for students of all ages.

Dr. Kim is currently collaborating with a professor from Engineering, Dr. Laleh Bhajat, on using games in higher education. Their work is focused on helping students to be creative engineers and understand engineering algorithms through creating games. She is also collaborating with Dr. Pratim Sengupta and Dr. Marie-Claire Shanahan at the Werklund School on student teachers’ developing identities as science teachers through design activities including games.

Connected Citations

Kim, B., Gupta, D., & Clyde, J. (2016). Gamefulness in designing digital game-based learning through a role-playing game. In M. A. Takeuchi, P. Preciado Babb, & J. V. Lock (Eds.), IDEAS 2016: Designing for Innovation Selected Proceedings (pp. 41–50). Calgary, Canada: University of Calgary. Available Online.

Kim, B. & Gupta, D. (2016). Making design activities gameful using a role-playing card game. In Proceedings of the 12th Games+Learning+Society Conference. Madison, WI, USA: Games Learning Society.

Kim, B., Gupta, D., & Bastani, R. (2017). Becoming gameful in learning: A case of graduate students’ encounters of game-based approaches. Unpublished manuscript under review.