This paper describes the process and results of a project to incorporate Augmented Reality (AR) technologies and pedagogical approaches into a Virginian elementary school and a corresponding process to train a group of Australian teachers to develop AR experiences for their own educational settings. The process involved training a group of 5th grade teachers in Newport News Virginia and a corresponding group of k-12 teachers in Queensland, Australia on the design and production of narrative-based AR games in order to give them the skills to build their own AR games. This chapter focuses on describing the training process, the pedagogical approach, and an exploration of the practical issues that arose from these projects (e.g. policy and fiscal issues that dictated the choice of technology). The discussion of the results from this effort demonstrates the promise of the approach, and shows the potential for educational practices.
Before going further, however, it is important to define what is meant by the term “game.” There are numerous definitions of the term. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines games as activities “engaged in for diversion or amusement” (Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2011), however, the focus in this definition on “diversion or amusement” creates difficulties for educational institutions that see this sort of game as a distraction from educational efforts rather than a necessary component of them. Koster (2005), in his book A Theory of Fun for Game Design, dismissively quotes definitions by Roger Caillois (“activity which is…voluntary…uncertain, unproductive, governed by rules, make believe”), Johan Huizinga (“free activity…outside ‘ordinary’ life…”) and Jesper Juul (“a rule-based formal system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome, the player feels attached to the outcome, and the consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable”) but fails to see how any of these are helpful in making games “fun” (p. 12).
There have been several recent efforts to move beyond the view of games as “unproductive” or “diversions”, and to work towards seeing games in a more positive light. For example, McGonigal (2011) quotes Bernard Suits, who defines games as “the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles” (p. 22). Not only is this a more elegant and simple definition than those offered before, it is also a much more educationally sound view of games as it speaks directly to the type of engagement that educators wish to engender in their classrooms.
The question, though, is what kinds of games would be most advantageous to learning environments? This is particularly important given the high-stakes nature of the current accountability movements. Shaffer (2008) takes exception to the underlying foundations of the high-stakes testing movement by saying: