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Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria

Martin Boeckle , Martin Ebner
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Institute for Information Systems and Computer Media, Graz University of Technology, Graz, Austria Faculty mentor

Abstract
At Graz University of Technology an educational ash game has been developed. The game, called iGeo, aims to assist students in secondary school in the subject of Geography. The application helps to improve the learning process. Objective: Our main research question was to gure out and gain insight, whether challenging online games have the ability to motivate students to learn and reaching better results as a non assisted group. Experimental Setting: The application was tested for the rst time in a class with seventeen students at lower secondary school level. Methods: Pretest/posttest experimental control group design with questionnaires. Results: The group with iGeo reached a signi cant better result as the control group in the nal examination. Additionally it can be mentioned that playing a game leads to more “fun” for participants. Conclusion: According to the results and the general impression of the students, Game Based Learning (GBL) has de nitely a positive impact in the eld of secondary education, in this case in Geography. Figure one represents the game design of the application.

Experimental Design - Setting
The Game was tested at the secondary school Kirchengasse Graz, in a fourth class of lower grade from the 10th of May until the 2nd of June 2010. Parallel to the game class the control group got traditional lectures by the Geography teacher. Professor Pacher taught this class about the content of iGeo, during the other students were playing the game. As methods, we used the pretest/posttest experimental control group design with questionnaires for the students. There were seventeen students (n=17) in the gaming class and twenty six (n=26) in class B.

Technical Implementation
The application was programmed and designed in Flash CS4, the development environment. For programming the game we used Action Script 3 which is a powerful, object-oriented programming language and is ideally suited to build rapidly rich internet applications. Especially for interactive online games, Action Script o ers a wide range of tools to have access and listen on user events. The game consists of a highscore, where the students are listed with names and score they reached. For this option the game interacts with a SQL database using PHP. To interpret the results of the students, we saved all the clicks in the database.

Results

Murau - Progress
620 600 580

Points

560 540 520 500 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Game Class
Artithmetic Mean XM: 2,65 Standard Deviation: 2,06 (n = 17) T-Distribution / Increase: 7,8% T-Distribution /Posttest: 3,3% T-Distribution /Pretest: 40,4%

Traditional Class
Artithmetic Mean XM: 1,76 Standard Deviation: 2,84 (n = 26)

Number of Games

Research
Question and Hypotheses: Q1: Does this game lead to similar/equal learning results as the traditional methods? Are there any disadvantages for the learners who used this game? Q2: Does the student learn the correct federal states implicit ? On the basis of our questions we formed hypotheses, which we carefully proved by using the iGeo Application: H1: Playing this game leads to at least equivalent learning results as the traditional method – there is no disadvantage for the learners who used this game. H2: The feedback in the info box gives the student a “WRONG” message which leads to an implicit learning e ect of the federal states of Austria.

Conclusion
Playing with the tool shows that the gaming class increased their output compared to the control group. In addition, the tests prove that the kids were learning the federal states of the places implicitly. This means, the game had an additional bene t for the kids. The di erence between the gamers and the control group is not signi cantly large due to the small numbers of questions asked. It can be said that the game has an positive impact on the learning results of the kids. In another attempt, we should clarify if this impact is signi cantly di erent than the one from the control group. Discussion Results: In H1 it has been shown that playing the game leads at least to an equal learning result as with the traditional method without any disadvantages for the learners. Our tests prove that students learning places implicitly. (H2) Motivation: The motivation was brilliant, but a tiny group of students didn’t show any interest. A short view in the database tells us, that a small group was challenging really hard, was playing with the same nickname from other places, this means during the break at other computers or from the home computer. The other quarter was in the middle section, had an average number of games and the last quarter was at the end. It also shows the importance of students motivating other students through verbal communication (classroom) during the game process and the general importance of motivation. There is a high probability that learning will not be successful if there is a lack of motivation. Usability: The design/environment of the game must be appropriate to the age of the kids as well the challenging character. If they don‘t feel comfortable with the game, they will never use it again. The game shouldn’t be designed too complicated. Ease of use is an important factor in this case. (simplicity, clarity) We needed some ideas to motivate the students playing the game repeatedly. Settings: We must point out that all of these experiments took place within a real-life setting, including all its disadvantages. Subsequently we were not able to gather data similar to a laboratory setting. The voluntary aspect of these experiments was one of its strengths. If the students would have been forced to take part, the results would probably have been less successful.