Practical Applications of Serious Games in Education

Practical Applications of Serious Games in Education

Helen Axe (PIXELearning, UK) and Helen Routledge (PIXELearning, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-495-0.ch044
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There exists a growing body of evidence which supports the use of serious games in education: highlighting increased motivation, engagement, and comprehension among users. However a lack of awareness and understanding of how these games can be used in the classroom is a key barrier to adoption. This chapter will share the success stories and lessons learned from the use of serious games, both in formal education and informal education with the goal to create an increased awareness and understanding among educationalists leading to the creation of a new ecology of learning, fostering collaboration, engagement, and innovation.
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The majority of schooling in the 21st Century is grounded in the traditional methodology of drill and skill and lecture and recite, as the foundation for learning. The use of games in education is still rather a radical concept for many and serious games have, in the main, struggled to make significant impact; it has been more of a trickle than a flood. However an increasing number of educationalists are seeing the potential that games have to offer and these trail blazers are using games in incredibly innovative and imaginative ways in both mainstream and informal education. However it can be argued that this slow uptake is not due to a lack of interest, or a dismissal of the possibilities, but rather a lack of awareness of the potential serious games have to offer the world of education. Most teachers do not have a high level of familiarity with games, and their scepticism is often based on their personal experience, or more accurately, lack of experience with games. It can therefore be difficult to even begin a discussion or investigation into their potential (Oblinger, 2006). This lack of awareness can in part be attributed to the deficiency of tangible evidence to support the effectiveness of games in education (Shelton, 2009).

Games can provide so many opportunities for education and learning leading to innovative teachers embracing this potential over recent years. What is missing however, is common communities of practice to help build a shared understanding of how best to use serious games in the classroom. In most cases, the research does not cover how the serious game was delivered to the students and what instructional strategies were implemented. This is key information that will expedite the uptake of serious games in education.

Awareness is growing, the wheel does not require reinvention; many teachers have embraced serious games, each with a different aim, and strategy, and each building upon the knowledge of their predecessors, but until we truly understand how to use these tools and the potential they have for education, adoption will be limited. Douglas Adams eloquently described this phenomenon…

everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal; anything that gets invented after you’re 30 is against the natural order of things & the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it until it’s been around for about 10 years when it gradually turns out to be alright really. Apply this to movies, rock music, TV, word processors & mobile phones to work out how old you are. Douglas Adams (1999).


The State Of Play

With video games designed to appeal to young children from the age of 3 years old, with 87% of 8-11’s and 88% of 12-15’s regularly playing games on a console at home (Ofcom, 2008) and with 63% of parents (in the United States of America) believing games are a positive part of their children’s lives (ESA Industry Facts, 2009) it is no wonder that video games have become one of the most popular past times of this generation. With computer games now seemingly engrained in our way of life, computer games are as much a part of the media culture young people are growing up in as television, film and music (Williamson, 2009).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Serious Games: Commercial and non commercial games and digital applications which utilise game design principles for educational and instructional purposes.

Ecology of Learning: The environment as it relates to education and learning

Digital Media: Electronic media delivered via computers and hand held devices.

Facilitator: An individual who guides the learning process, encouraging their students to develop knowledge and understanding through an exploratory process.

New media Literacy: The understanding and use of mass media tools, often relating to digital media.

Communities of Practice: Process of social learning developed around common interests where individuals share ideas and collaborate.

Engagement: Level to which an individual is occupied with an experience.

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