Gaming in School: Factors Influencing the Use of Serious Games in Public Schools in Middle Germany

Gaming in School: Factors Influencing the Use of Serious Games in Public Schools in Middle Germany

Daniel Schultheiss (Ilmenau University of Technology, Germany) and Maike Helm (Ilmenau University of Technology, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-3673-6.ch010
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As the impact of media on society steadily increases, schools need to teach their students media skills. In this regard, the usage of computers is an inherent part of everyday school life. The recent integration of serious games and their future potential in Middle German general educational schools is the subject of this chapter. With the aid of interviews held with experts the usage and potential of serious games in Middle German schools are examined, and the barriers to integrate computers and serious games into lessons are discussed. Serious game usage has clear potential for development. Games are applied in different subjects and for different age groups, but not all teachers are aware of their existence. The interviewees disagree about factors hindering integration of computers and serious games in school. As a qualitative study, this chapter constitutes a basis for further research and enlarges knowledge about serious games in schools.
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Serious Games

Digital serious games are typically computer and video games (Ritterfeld & Weber 2006). A large variety of serious game genres is available. Among others, military-based games like ‘America's Army’ – designed to recruit soldiers for military service – are well known. Thanks to its free delivery over the Internet it received considerable attention and gave the genre's development and research a real boost (Gudmundsen 2006). Yet military serious games are only a small part of the whole repertoire of serious games. A study of 650 serious games and their genres documented that only 5 per cent of the tested games were of a military nature, 8 per cent were concerned with medicine and health and 14 per cent of the games focused on social issues. The biggest part (65 per cent) was in the school and educational context (Wang et al. 2009). In this context, we define the object of investigation in this chapter:

Serious games are understood as digital games, ‘with a purpose beyond entertainment’ (Heeter et al. 2010, Sherry & Dibble 2009) to strive for real learning goals in natural sciences, health, social and political areas (Bente & Breuer 2009).

For several years, schools have been equipped with computer labs. Those labs could also be used for educational serious games. According to Prensky (2000), today's students are a real ‘game generation’ that can no longer be motivated by a purely traditional teaching style. Indeed, a British study from 2006 shows that 85 per cent of all students use computer games at least once every two weeks. In contrast, 72 per cent of all teachers have never used any computer games at all. Despite this fact 36 per cent of primary and 27 per cent of secondary school teachers have used digital educational games in class (Sandford et al. 2006). This shows not just a generational difference in media use, but also the influence of media change on school education, so a trend towards an increasing use of computer games, including serious games, in educational contexts can be found, which obviously requires changes in the teacher's role. Needless to say that this is not just an issue in education, it is more a societal one. Studies indicate that similar problems exist for example in the field of therapy, where lacks of familiarity also lead to barriers regarding their usage (Ceranoglu 2010).

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