The Path between Pedagogy and Technology: Establishing a Theoretical Basis for the Development of Educational Game Environments

The Path between Pedagogy and Technology: Establishing a Theoretical Basis for the Development of Educational Game Environments

Colin Price (University of Worcester, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-360-9.ch012
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The power of computer game technology is currently being harnessed to produce “serious games”. These “games” are targeted at the education and training marketplace, and employ various key game-engine components such as the graphics and physics engines to produce realistic “digital-world” simulations of the real “physical world”. Many approaches are driven by the technology and often lack a consideration of a firm pedagogical underpinning. The authors believe that an analysis and deployment of both the technological and pedagogical dimensions should occur together, with the pedagogical dimension providing the lead. This chapter explores the relationship between these two dimensions, and explores how “pedagogy may inform the use of technology”, how various learning theories may be mapped onto the use of the affordances of computer game engines. Autonomous and collaborative learning approaches are discussed. The design of a serious game is broken down into spatial and temporal elements. The spatial dimension is related to the theories of knowledge structures, especially “concept maps”. The temporal dimension is related to “experiential learning”, especially the approach of Kolb. The multi-player aspect of serious games is related to theories of “collaborative learning” which is broken down into a discussion of “discourse” versus “dialogue”. Several general guiding principles are explored, such as the use of “metaphor” (including metaphors of space, embodiment, systems thinking, the internet and emergence). The topological design of a serious game is also highlighted. The discussion of pedagogy is related to various serious games we have recently produced and researched, and is presented in the hope of informing the “serious game community”.
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The use of computer game technology, especially the deployment of commercial game engines such as Unreal Tournament 2004 (UT2004) is becoming an established activity with ‘Serious Games’ research projects. Despite these projects, there has been little attempt to develop a theoretical basis for the production of educational and training immersive environments (IEs). In this chapter we discuss our approach to establishing a theoretical basis for the construction of Serious Game IEs based upon pedagogical principles. The domain discussed in this paper refers to physics education, though our research has included other domains such as software programming, education of architects and artists, and training of police officers. In this section we establish a correspondence between the various affordances of the game engine and associated pedagogical principles. In subsequent sections we discuss several pedagogical principles which map neatly onto game engine affordances. Within a discussion of (i) non-collaborative, i.e. instructional and autonomous learning and (ii) collaborative learning, we highlight approaches derived from Concept Maps, Experiential Learning Theory, Adaptive Learning and the socio-cultural theory of Vygotsky. Within (ii) we apply theories of collaborative learning based on the cognitive approaches of Dillenbourg, discourse analysis and contemporary dialogic theory according to Bakhtin. Theoretical approaches are juxtaposed with a discussion of the practical affordances of the UT2004 game engine. Many, but not all of our theories and design principles have been tested in various IEs, yet we believe that a theoretical approach, as suggested here, may be of great use to educational game developers. There is of yet, no ‘theory’ of computer games, since the discipline is too young, there is insufficient material to be subject to a scientific analysis and therefore to the establishment of a theory. The design of computer games is grounded in principles which have been informed by classical (e.g. board) games, as well as the digital technology which supports the development of commercial games.

An example of an IE created with UT2004 is shown in Figure 1. Here, in this room, two learners and an instructor are engaged in collaborative discussion about a physics experiment involving objects, shown as spheres, which move under the influence of gravity with or without the friction provided by air resistance. Each person has ‘logged in’ through an internet connection to the game engine supporting the IE. The engine faithfully represents the motion of the objects (through the physics engine component). Collaborative learning is supported through spoken communication; each person has headphones and a microphone. Through discussion they may negotiate which experiment to perform and how to perform it, setting parameters and analysing logged data. This room is connected to other rooms where additional approaches to learning about gravity are explored. Further rooms explore additional concepts associated with this aspect of physics. This structure provides a rich learning environment which supports linking of concepts, attention to individual learning styles, and approaches to collaborative and adaptive learning. This chapter explores theoretical approaches to aid the construction of such rich learning environments.

Figure 1.

We suggest that the generation of educational materials must be grounded in theories based on pedagogy and not solely driven by contemporary technology. There is a clear dialectic here which must be resolved. As a first step in addressing this, we have aligned ‘affordances’ of computer game technology (the tools and game elements available for use) and have set these affordances alongside pedagogical principles; the result of this mapping is shown in Table 1.

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Kurt Squire
Thomas Connolly, Mark Stansfield, Liz Boyle
Chapter 1
Stephen Tang, Martin Hanneghan, Abdennour El Rhalibi
Games-based learning takes advantage of gaming technologies to create a fun, motivating, and interactive virtual learning environment that promotes... Sample PDF
Introduction to Games-Based Learning
Chapter 2
Nicola Whitton
This chapter examines the rationale for the use of computer games in learning, teaching, and assessment in Higher Education. It considers their... Sample PDF
Learning and Teaching with Computer Games in Higher Education
Chapter 3
Daniel Livingstone, Jeremy Kemp, Edmund Edgar, Chris Surridge, Peter Bloomfield
Alongside the growth of interest in Games-Based Learning, there has been a notable explosion of interest in the use of 3D graphical multi-user... Sample PDF
Multi-User Virtual Environments for Learning Meet Learning Management
Chapter 4
Jean-Charles Marty, Thibault Carron, Jean-Mathias Heraud
In this chapter, the authors propose a Game-Based LMS called the pedagogical dungeon equipped with cooperation abilities for particular activities.... Sample PDF
Observation as a Requisite for Game-Based Learning Environments
Chapter 5
Marco A. Gómez-Martín, Pedro P. Gómez-Martín, Pedro A. González-Calero
A key challenge to move forward the state of the art in games-based learning systems is to facilitate instructional content creation by the domain... Sample PDF
Content Integration in Games-Based Learning Systems
Chapter 6
Matt Seeney, Helen Routledge
One of the most important differentiators between Commercial Games and Serious Games is content; delivered in a way that is successfully integrated... Sample PDF
Drawing Circles in the Sand: Integrating Content into Serious Games
Chapter 7
Mark McMahon
This chapter proposes a document-oriented instructional design model to inform the development of serious games. The model has key features in that... Sample PDF
The DODDEL Model: A Flexible Document-Oriented Model for the Design of Serious Games
Chapter 8
Daniel Burgos, Christof van Nimwegen
Serious games are suitable for learning. They are a good environment for improving the learning experience. As a key part of this setting, feedback... Sample PDF
Games-Based Learning, Destination Feedback and Adaptation: A Case Study of an Educational Planning Simulation
Chapter 9
Patrick Felicia, Ian Pitt
For a long time, users’ emotions and behaviours have been considered to obstruct rather than to help the cognitive process. Educational systems have... Sample PDF
Profiling Users in Educational Games
Chapter 10
Marco Greco
The use of Role-Playing is becoming prominent in Serious Games due to its positive effects on learning. In this chapter the author will provide a... Sample PDF
The Use of Role–Playing in Learning
Chapter 11
Sanna-Mari Tikka, Marja Kankaanranta, Tuula Nousiainen, Mari Hankala
In the context of computer games, learning is an inherent feature of computer game playing. Computer games can be seen as multimodal texts that... Sample PDF
Telling Stories with Digital Board Games: Narrative Game Worlds in Literacies Learning
Chapter 12
Colin Price
The power of computer game technology is currently being harnessed to produce “serious games”. These “games” are targeted at the education and... Sample PDF
The Path between Pedagogy and Technology: Establishing a Theoretical Basis for the Development of Educational Game Environments
Chapter 13
Sara de Freitas, Steve Jarvis
This chapter reviews some of the key research supporting the use of serious games for training in work contexts. The review indicates why serious... Sample PDF
Towards a Development Approach to Serious Games
Chapter 14
Pieter Wouters, Erik D. van der Spek, Herre van Oostendorp
Despite scant empirical substantiation, serious games are in widespread use. The authors review 28 studies with empirical data from a learning... Sample PDF
Current Practices in Serious Game Research: A Review from a Learning Outcomes Perspective
Chapter 15
Thomas Connolly, Mark Stansfield, Thomas Hainey
The field of games-based learning (GBL) has a dearth of empirical evidence supporting the validity of the approach (Connolly, Stansfield, & Hainey... Sample PDF
Towards the Development of a Games-Based Learning Evaluation Framework
Chapter 16
Helen Routledge
Based on real-world experiences using a variety of digital games, this chapter presents a guide for teachers on how to use games-based learning in... Sample PDF
Games-Based Learning in the Classroom and How it can Work!
Chapter 17
Elizabeth A. Boyle, Thomas Connolly
Developing educational computer games that will appeal to both males and females adds an additional level of complexity to an already complicated... Sample PDF
Games for Learning: Does Gender Make a Difference?
Chapter 18
Maria Saridaki, Dimitris Gouscos, Michael G. Meimaris
Students with Intellectual Disability (ID) are often described as “slow learners” and cannot easily integrate to the normal curriculum. Still, the... Sample PDF
Digital Games-Based Learning for Students with Intellectual Disability
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