Developing Videogames for Physics Education

Developing Videogames for Physics Education

Kostas Anagnostou (Ionian University, Greece) and Anastasia Pappa (Alibreto Science Communication and Education, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-495-0.ch043
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This chapter reviews the potential of videogames to enhance physics education, and provide guidelines for designing educational videogames that promote physics learning objectives by integrating them into gameplay mechanics. It also presents the available technology solutions for educational videogame development. To put the design of physics educational games into context, the chapter reviews the existing research into videogames for physics education and the main learning theories in light of how they associate to the various videogame genres. Finally, the barriers that currently inhibit widespread adoption of videogames in educational environments are discussed and future directions of research into the field are indicated.
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Traditional Teaching Approaches In Physics Education

Science is considered by the majority of school children as a difficult subject. According to a report by UK’s NESTA (Sandford et al, 2006) pupils in the UK are losing interest in science because too often the subject is being taught as just facts and formulas on a blackboard. Similar results in the USA were documented in Smithers and Robinson (2005) report. It appears that the prevalent approach in delivering physics knowledge across all levels of education (primary, secondary and university level) is by instruction in a lecture based format. Occasionally, this approach is supplemented by the addition of laboratory work and ICT elements. However the main idea firmly remains learning through instruction and textbook.

In addition, instruction aims to present physics concepts mainly through mathematical formulae and definitions, with the conceptual element of physics teaching to be suppressed. Students practice their understanding and test their knowledge primarily through solving end-of-chapter problems. However research suggests that even after successfully solving physics problems, students lack in conceptual understanding. (Kim & Pak, 2002; Twigger et al, 1994).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Physics Simulation: An interactive model of a natural system that is bound by physical laws.

Videogame Genre: A categorization of video games based on their gameplay interaction rather than visual or narrative differences.

Game Engine: A software application that hides technical implementation of the graphics rendering, sound reproduction, asset management, collision detection and physics simulation aspects of game development, allowing the developer to focus on the game logic and interaction.

Reflection: A way of processing experience and events in order to learn from it and improve future action.

Serious Game: A videogame that supports learning objectives while being entertaining and appealing to player.

Game Modding: The process of altering the game content and design while maintaining the game engine technology.

Conceptual Physics: It is an approach to physics teaching which focuses on creating analogies from real-world situations to build a sound understanding of physical principles before introducing formulas.

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