If the Gear Fits, Spin It!: Embodied Education and in-Game Assessments

If the Gear Fits, Spin It!: Embodied Education and in-Game Assessments

Mina C. Johnson-Glenberg (Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA & Radboud University, Nijmegen, NL), David A. Birchfield (SMALLab Learning, LLC, Los Angeles, CA, USA), Colleen Megowan-Romanowicz (Arizona State University, Sacramento, CA, USA & American Modeling Teachers Association, Sacramento, CA, USA) and Erica L. Snow (Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJGCMS.2015100103
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Two embodied gears games were created. Better learners should use fewer gear switches to reflect their knowledge. Twenty–three 7th graders, playing as dyads, used gestures to manipulate virtual gears. The Kinect sensor tracked arm-spinning movements and switched gear diameters. Knowledge tests were administered. Statistically significant knowledge gains were seen. For Game 1 (gear spun one direction), switching significantly predicted only pretest knowledge. For Game 2 (gear spun two directions) switching was also negatively correlated with both tests. For game 2, those who used fewer switches during gameplay understood the construct better scoring higher on both tests. Dyadic analyses revealed the winner used significantly fewer switches. In-process data can provide a window onto knowledge as it is being encoded. However, games should stay within the learner's ZPD, because if the game is too easy (Game 1), meaningful data may be difficult to gather. The use of in ludo data from games with high sensitivity may attenuate the need for repetitive traditional, post-intervention tests.
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The use of games as learning tools and immersive classrooms is becoming more accepted. When a comparative class is instructed using game components versus traditional pedagogy, the game-based class is usally more engaged and reports better learning (Johnson-Glenberg, Birchfield, Koziupa, & Tolentino, 2014). Some sample domains include computer science (Papastergiou, 2009), engineering homework (Coller & Shernoff, 2009), engineering classes (Coller & Scott, 2009) and biological sciences (Lui et al., 2014). Coller and Scott (Coller & Scott, 2009) report that the students who were randomly assigned to their video game-based course spent approximately the same amount of time on their course work as the traditional students, but a concept mapping exercise revealed the game-based students showed deeper learning compared to the traditional class students. Interestingly, a metaanalysis from 2012 found evidence for the effects of video games on language learning, history, and outcomes from exergaming, but, found little support for the academic value of video games in science and math (Young et al., 2012). It should be noted that our field is still not adroit at differentiating between games and simulations, and better games are being created in the past five years.

The empirical study of serious games is a relatively new field, those of us who work as learning scientists/game designers need to know which components are most efficacious for learning and how these components correlate with traditional knowledge tests. For example, some of the more established award mechanisms used in entertainment games, e.g., leaderboards and badges, may not translate well to classroom environments. A recently published 6-week long study by Hanus and Fox found that the two traditional entertainment game “payoffs” of a 1) public board displaying all scores and 2) the awarding of completion badges might actually hinder learning by negatively affecting intrinsic motivation (Hanus & Fox, 2015).

Some of the established entertainment games are now adding educational components to their videogames, e.g., Portal 1 and 2. Early adopter teachers are teachers are optimistic about games (Miller, 2012). Marlow (Marlow, 2012) presents evidence suggests that designing and making games in the context of a well-conceived design curriculum has the potential to stimulate traditional pedagogies and foster student learning, in addition to making teaching and learning more enjoyable and meaningful. We believe more research needs to be conducted to understand which aspects of educational videogames are felicitous to learning and how adding embodiment might also affect learning during a game. In addition, the field of educational videogames needs to develop new methodologies and statistics for mining in-game player data and making sense of the information generated by the learner during gameplay. One gameplay modality that may promise enormous potential for learning is that of embodied learning.

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