Digital Mobile Games in Education

Digital Mobile Games in Education

Xiaoming Liu (Towson University, USA) and Qing Li (Towson University, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch038
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The engaging, interactive power of digital games makes them a compelling tool for teaching and learning. With the emergence of mobile technologies into our daily life, mobile digital games start to gain attention from both researchers and educators. In this paper, the authors synthesize the existing literature on mobile digital games in the field of education. This review of the current state of educational mobile games indicates the following four strands. The first strand of literature focuses on exploring the attitudes of both students and educators towards mobile digital games in classrooms. The second body of literature addresses the educational values of mobile digital games. The third line of research focuses on ways to integrate mobile digital game design into current teaching and learning practices. Finally, some studies examine the specific challenges when developing mobile digital games both from designers' perspectives and educators' points of view. This article finishes with a discussion of the future direction of research related to educational digital mobile games.
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Digital games, hereafter games, remain a powerful learning platform due to the features such as motivating, engaging, and immersive (de Feritas, Savill-Smith, & Attewell, 2006; Maleno, 1981). Digital games on mobile devices provide a unique learning opportunity that is ubiquitous (anywhere, anytime). This chapter focuses on a review of current literature on educational use of digital games on mobile devices, that is, mobile game based learning.

With the fast development of mobile technologies, we are observing a trend that moves the traditional video games or computer games to digital games played on mobile devices like smartphones, Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), or handheld consoles. A mobile game is defined as “an electronic game played on a mobile phone, smart phone, PDA, handheld computer, or any type of handheld or wireless device” (Demirbilek, 2010, p. 237). An educational mobile game, sometimes known as Mobile Serious Games (MSGs), is an integration of mobile games and educational content. It connects education to the daily life experiences of learners and their learning styles with the main purpose of delivering specific learning goals, outcomes, and experiences (Demirbilek, 2010; Proserpio & Viola, 2007; Sanchez & Olivarez, 2011; Stone, 2005; Vahey, Tatar, & Roschelle, 2007).

Researchers (e.g. Montola, Stenros & Waern, 2009; Broll, Ohlengurg, Lindt, Herbst, & Braun, 2006) have identified some advantages of mobile games over traditional videogames and conventional computer games. Mobility is one of the vital aspects of mobile game based learning that gives it more advantages than other types of learning. For example, mobile technologies allow just-in-time and just-in-place learning to occur. Mobile games also allow players higher degrees of freedom to interact with the game and other players because they are no longer limited by location, time, or space. Another unique benefit, when compared with conventional computer games or console games, is that mobile technology can easily blend the real world with the virtual game world. This advantage of mobile games has led to the establishment and development of a new field: pervasive game where the virtual game world integrates with our real physical world (Montola et al, 2009). According to Broll and his colleagues (2006), pervasive games can bring out the best of digital games, the traditional board games and outdoor games. One such development is the genre of location-aware games and in particular, Pervasive Augmented Reality (AR) games, defined as “a special type of location-aware pervasive games, which use AR to enhance the real world of the players by virtual objects” (Broll et al., 2006, p. 1).

Pervasive games can be indoor only, outdoor only, or a combination of indoor and outdoor game play. Many of these games use the existing internet services combined with GPS devices. Earlier AR games include the famous PS2 game EyeToy (, the Invisible Train, Human Pacman (Cheok et al., 2004) among others. The Invisible Train is an indoor game where PDAs are used to control a virtual train (Broll et al., 2006). Human Pacman, on the other hand is an AR outdoor game where wearable computers with different sensors are used for the game play (Cheok et al., 2004). Pervasive games will be further discussed later.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Digital Games: Game is defined as a “system in which players engage in artificial conflict, defined by rules, that results in a quantifiable outcome” ( Salen & Zimmerman, 2004 , p. 80). A digital game is a game that integrates digital technology.

Mobile Games: Mobile games are often defined as digital games played on a smartphone or other mobile devices like iPads, iPods, and tablet computers.

Learn By Mobile Game Design: Learning by mobile game design is a pedagogical approach that promotes students’ learning of content knowledge by immersing them in the complex mobile game design and development tasks.

Educational Mobile Games: Educational mobile games refer to mobile digital games that have educational components and are intended for teaching and learning purposes.

Game Based Learning: Game based learning is an approach focusing on the use of games for educational purposes. When mobility is introduced, that is, when games are played in mobile devices, the potential of game based learning can be further increased (Lavin-Mera, Moreno-Ger, & Fermandez-Manjon, 2008 AU57: Anchored Object 9 ).

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