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Fun - A Prerequisite for Learning Games

Fun - A Prerequisite for Learning Games

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Published by Martin
Presentation at ED-Media 2012, Denver, USA
Presentation at ED-Media 2012, Denver, USA

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Published by: Martin on Jun 28, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Draft orginally published at: Hannak, C., Pilz, M. & Ebner, M. (2012). Fun - A Prerequisite for LearningGames. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia andTelecommunications 2012 (pp. 1292-1299). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
Fun - A Prerequisite for Learning Games
Christoph Hannak, Michael Pilz, Martin Ebner Social Learning / Information Technology ServicesGraz University of TechnologyAustriac.hannak@student.tugraz.at,michael.pilz@student.tugraz.at,martin.ebner@tugraz.at 
: Mobile games are booming. On average, every child in Central Europe aged15 years has a mobile phone on his/her own today. If a closer look is taken, it can be pointed out that children mainly own a smart phone running on iOS or Android operatingsystems. With other words, the youth carry very strong and powerful devices in their  pockets, which can and should be used for educational purposes too. In this publicationwe like to introduce a new mobile game basing on the old traditional concept of learningcards but in a new innovative and more collaborating variant. The first prototype is presented that has been tested by a number of students and educators. It can be shownthat the game is motivating and engaging. Furthermore an occurring incidental learningeffect can be carried out, which leads to the assumption that mobile games can play animportant role for the future of education and it makes simply fun.
Since it´s very first day multimedia play an interesting role in education due to the fact that teachers as wellas students consider interactivity as extremely important within educational processes (Kozma, 1991)(Holzinger & Ebner, 2003).Learning is a basic cognitive process that needs to be done by learners themselves. This means that learningis also an active process constructing knowledge and understanding (Holzinger, 2002). Bearing in mindthat not only distributing information, but also engaging learners by authentic tasks – like “Learning ByDoing” as Dewey (1916) argued - will be a necessity for a successful learning approach. According toVygotsky (1978), the relationship between interaction and learning can be summarized in three sentences:
The learner´s achievement level depends on what the learner already knows (previous knowledge).
The mechanism that evolves knowledge is an interaction.
The goal of learning is an interactive problem solving behavior.Thus, the fundamental idea of e-learning is to help learners become actively engaged in collaborativeinteraction by the help of various computer-supported processes. In other words, e-learning potentiallyenables completely new didactic scenarios and in particular it can increase motivation (Holzinger &Maurer, 1999) enhancing traditional learning methods.Moreover, also mobile technologies are increasing dramatically. If a look is taken at the availability of mobile phones amongst the youth the 100% owner rate is reached at an age of about 15 (Hoedl, 2009).Furthermore, in Germany as well as Austria there are more mobile phones than inhabitants (Springer,2006), and according to the Austrian Central Bureau of Statistics 2007 in more than 90% of all privatehouseholds mobile phones are available. Ellis (Ellis, 2003) has already pointed out in 2003 thatPDA/mobile phone device sales will outstrip PC sales, with the majority switching to wireless networks.Therefore the idea of building a mobile game based learning (mGBL) module emerged fulfilling the needsof mobility as well as learning.
Theory of games in education
Game based learning (GBL) is similar to problem based learning (PBL), wherein specific problemscenarios are embedded within a play framework (Barrows & Tamblyn, 1980). PBL as well as GBL provide a more student centered approach and engage the learner to interact with the content stronger (Motschnik-Pitrik & Holzinger, 2002). Furthermore, there are many characteristics of PBL within GBL, for example: unknown outcome, different and numerous paths to reach the learning goal, collaboration possibilities and many more. Bearing in mind that elements of competition and chance are also inherent for games, Mann mentioned that learning through games is manifold (Mann et al., 2002). Especially the possibility to bring real life experiences to the learners is a promising way for learning.The maybe most impressive and essential fact of games is that they are enjoyable. Therefore people ingeneral as well as learners are playing them simply for fun. The player plays primarily a game, because
Draft orginally published at: Hannak, C., Pilz, M. & Ebner, M. (2012). Fun - A Prerequisite for LearningGames. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia andTelecommunications 2012 (pp. 1292-1299). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
he/she wants to accomplish the game rather than to learn its content or subject. Due to the fact that learningoccurs by playing a game it is called incidental learning. According to Lankard (1995), incidental learningoccurs when it is unexpected – a byproduct of other activities, such as, for example, playing a game.Malone (1982) pointed out in his studies that there are three essential characteristics for computer games toanswer the questions, what makes computer applications enjoyable: challenge, fantasy and curiosity. Dueto fact that nowadays mobile devices are very similar to former Personal Computers these principles surelycan by assigned also to mobile games.In our specific case we merely concentrate on the issues challenge and curiosity. The aspect of fantasy wasneglected. It was supposed to be more interesting for so called adventure games, providing different figuresand landscapes. The characteristics of a challenging game are to provide a clear goal and good performanceas well as adjustable difficult levels and scoring. The goal should be uncertain and not predicable. Finally,games should be designed to provoke player’s curiosity on an optimal level of information complexity(Piaget, 1951). Malone (1980) emphasizes that the game environments should be neither too complicatednor too simple.Within this publication we like to introduce a new mobile game and present research results about the long-time effect on students’ performance. Further questions are whether learning occurs by gaming on mobile phones and whether games benefits from location awareness.
The Mobile Game "Smartass"
General ConceptFig. 1.
Startscreen of the application
The goal of the game called "Smartass" is to seamlessly integrate e-learning into the social and mobileeveryday life of students. This game was implemented as a distributed, asynchronous, fast-paced triviagame so as to take advantage of the general popularity and motivation of participating in quiz shows, pubquizzes, and playing trivia games (Holzinger A., Pichler A., Maurer H. 2001). Since it is known that peopleactually unintentionally learn through playing trivia games (Holzinger A. 1999), this was the mostreasonable context for an e-learning game. Different from common games in the e-learning field,"Smartass" focuses even more on game mechanics and competition character, partially based on the game"You don't know Jack".Basically users are confronted with a set of relevant statements from a broad range of topics, accompaniedwith images when applicable. These statements are answered with either true or false. The game can be played in an asynchronous duel mode as well as with GPS-based statement-pools. For every answer a user gives, he/she receives an immediate feedback about accuracy. Furthermore, it is possible to select a set of topical statements just to have fun on your own. Amongst badges for achievements, statistics, rankings, and
Draft orginally published at: Hannak, C., Pilz, M. & Ebner, M. (2012). Fun - A Prerequisite for LearningGames. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia andTelecommunications 2012 (pp. 1292-1299). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
a level-system, it features jokers that add the biggest gaming element to "Smartass". These features providethe motivational framework that facilitates the engagement of users (Zichermann G. and Cunningham C.2011).
Detailed Game Description
 Duel Mode
Like mentioned above, the basis of this game is to play against another user. Each player can select hischoice of opponent for the challenge. A challenge consists of 15 statements, known as a set, either randomly selected from all existing statements or from a specific category. A duel operatesasynchronously, which allows the user to challenge his/her opponent even if the other is offline. This is amajor bonus as it does not restrict gaming times for the user. The challenge does not require much time,and can be the perfect solution to occupying time in a productive manner. A player only has to answer thestatements from the created challenge. After the player answered all statements, the result will be sent tohis/her opponent. When the opponent goes online, he/she will receive a notification regarding the newchallenge. The opponent will then have to answer similar statements to his/her challenger. In this case theuser, who had been challenged, plays against a fictional character representing the challenger. After this isdone, both players will get a message containing details about their points and the duel result. The pointsare calculated on base of the number of accurately answered statements and the cumulated time.
GPS-based Mode
The so called “GEO sets” are a special kind of statement sets. Here, the user has the opportunity to link aset of statements to GPS coordinates. These GPS sets can only be played in case the user is close to thegiven location coordinates. For example, the user creates a set of statements for famous sights in Europeand links them to the GPS coordinate of the Eiffel Tower, the Big Ben, or the Colloseum. When another user is visiting these sights, he/she will receive a notification that he/she could play the GEO set for thiscity. GEO sets can also be grouped. If a user has played all the GEO sets of a group and he/she is deemedthe best player off each set, he/she is awarded a badge of achievement. For example, it could be named"best sights of Europe" badge. GPS sets should take advantage of location based services available today,and their growing amount of users.
 Jokers and other Game Mechanics
Jokers are the most important game mechanics in this game. They can be regarded as a way of counteringthe opponent with exciting obstacles to enhance the competition amongst the two competitors. Jokers can be bought with credits earned through level-ups and achievements. Thus, the desire to create a greater challenge for their opponents with the use of jokers would be a motivation for users to play and enhancetheir learning more. This will enable the accumulation of a personal set of jokers to store up for later usage.Jokers can roughly be divided into two groups, the fun jokers and the learning jokers.

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