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Originally published in: Ebner, M., Bckle, M., Schn, M. (2011).

Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 1510-1515). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria

Martin Ebner Social Learning, Computer and Information Services Graz University of Technology Austria Martin Bckle Student, Teaching Profession, Informatics - Geography Graz University of Technology Austria Martin Schn Institute of Life Long Learning Graz University of Technology Graz, Austria
Abstract: An educational, interactive flash game, iGeo, was developed at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz) with the intent to assist secondary school students with studying Geography. Objective: Our main research question was to find out whether challenging online games can motivate students to learn and achieve reach better results as a non-assisted group. Experimental Setting: The application was tested for the first time in a class with seventeen pupils at lower secondary school level. Methods: Pretest/posttest experimental control group design with questionnaires. Results: The group learning with iGeo reached significantly better results than the control group in the final examination. Additionally, it can be mentioned that learning by playing a game is more enjoyable for the participants. Conclusion: According to the results and the general impression of the students, Game Based Learning (GBL) has definitely a positive impact on the field of secondary education, in this case Geography.

The digital age reached the schools with a big impact and introduced new teaching methods. In the last several years, the use of Web 2.0 technologies (OReilly, 2006) for teaching and learning, called e-Learning 2.0 (Downes, 2005) efforts grew rapidly. The use of weblogs (Famer & Bartlett-Bragg, 2005), wikis (Augar et al, 2004), podcasts (Towned, 2005) and social media tools like Twitter (Ebner er al, 2010) was examined and researched for educational purposes. Furthermore, todays students grew up with gadgets like smartphones and tablet PCs constantly connected to the Internet. Prensky (2001) called this generation the Digital Natives because they are native speakers in this predominant age of digitalism. Since 2001, a debate has been started whether such a generation really exists and, if so, if there are significant differences to the previous generation called the Digital Immigrants. However different studies pointed out that todays youth are able to use a vast amount of different digital devices, but their competences in using these technologies is still lacking (Ebner & Nagler, 2010). It can be concluded that the available technology is dramatically becoming more prevalent. Current research on Technology Enhanced Learning has defined how we can integrate technologies in our learning and teaching processes in a meaningful way. Todays challenge follows the interests and creativity of an individual student. One of the most interesting fields in this research is Game Based Learning (GBL), which is very similar to Problem Based Learning (PBL), where a specific problem scenario is embedded within a play framework (Barrows & Tamblym, 1980). Despite the widespread recognition of the advantages of using games in elementary and secondary education as well as in higher education, little evidence can be found on the use of digital and/or online games. The computer game market is one of the most booming and successful ones. But it can be stated that using games in learning environments are beneficial (Mann et al, 2002) and games are often brings joy, fun and motivation to learners.

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Bckle, M., Schn, M. (2011). Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 1510-1515). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Malone (1980) has summarized three essential characteristics for computer games to answer the question of what makes a computer application enjoyable to operate: challenge, fantasy and curiosity. Bearing these principles in mind, digital games can enhance traditional learning settings in classroom. In this publication, we introduce a digital game in the area of geography. The development of the game as well as field experiences in the classroom are described and researched. In the end, we answer the research question of whether playing that digital game leads to a significant increase in learning outcome or not.

iGeo The Concept of the Game

The online game iGeo can be described as educational game software designed and developed for the subject Geography in secondary schools. The aim of the project is to motivate the students by giving them a challenging computer game within a didactical setting that should increase their ambition to learn. A traditional classroom behavior is dominated by intentional learning. With the help of games, incidental learning can occur due to learners are primarily playing the game rather than to learn. Lankard (1995) mentioned that incidental learning happens when it is unexpected; as a byproduct of other activities such as playing a game. From this point of view, the learning content in our case the geography of Austria, was designed as a game by providing game characteristics. A high score with nicknames plays a central role in this project as well the hall of fame representing the challenging character of iGeo. Furthermore, geographical facts are given to the player supplementing the game and pointing on the incidental learning factor.

Game Design
The goal of iGeo is to closely spot locations, including capitals, mountains and important cities, within Austria. The student has to find the randomly provided places on a map of Austria with no labels, no cities and no streets are shown. Only the borders of the nine Austrian federal states are revealed. The learning goal of the game is to get an approximate and balanced feeling of the important cities positions. The game is structured into two levels. In the first level, the student has to find the nine capitals of Austria. After gaining more than 4500 points, the second level is reached with more difficult places to find. The distance between the players confirmed position and the actual geographical location would be subtracted from 600. The rest is added to the players score. As we can see in figure 1, the student shall find Graz on the Austria map. The confirmed position was eighty-six kilometers afar the correct position. For this question the student got 514 points on the score account. For each question, there is a time window of ten seconds. During that time, the student must set the flag or the question counts as failed with zero points. However, the game goes on. The first small blue box on the left side shown in figure 1 gives information about the amount of failed kilometers, points, and round. The second blue box informs the student about general information of the appropriate federal state. In this case, the output phrase is Leibnitz liegt 33,5 km sdlich von Graz which means Leibnitz is located 33.5 kilometers in the south of Graz plus the flag of Styria. The purpose of this additional information is to support the learning process of every individual learner with Figure 1 Main Screen some additional information. The different flags helps students learn the actual locations visually. The start screen appears when the button Game is clicked. Students can type their nicknames with a minimum of three characters. In the high-score the best hundred players are listed with their nicknames and their points reached in the game.

Technical Implementation and Architecture of the Game

The application was programmed and designed in the Flash CS4 development environment. With Flash, it is easily possible to create interactive content for the web. The technology is broadly used for tutorials or rather for online games in the field of e-learning. One of the advantages is the compact file size (SWF- Shockwave Flash) and the capability to quickly develop effective Internet applications. Flash requires one browser plugin, which is already a standard and comes with common internet browsers. For development, we used ActionScript 3, which is a powerful, object-oriented programming language and is ideally suited to build rapidly rich internet applications. ActionScript offers a wide range of tools to manage user events especially for interactive online games. The game consists of a high score listing the students names and the score they reached. For this option, the game interacts with a SQL database. PHP is a widely used open source server-side scripting language that is especially suited for web development. It is a scripting language and supports a large number of

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Bckle, M., Schn, M. (2011). Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 1510-1515). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

different libraries and functions like protocols or database connections. PHP is open source, platform and browser independent and is installed almost on every Internet server. The combination of PHP and the open source database MySQL is a standard, powerful programming web application. To interpret the actions of each student we save each click in a database. The first column represents the ID of the entity, starts with zero and is auto-incremented. The date has the following format Monday 10th of May 2010 02:48:19 PM and is an important value for the analyzing process. The IP address is an additional function to make sure that the clicks are coming from the same location belonging to the appropriate nickname. In the next column, the nickname is saved followed by the score. The score is the sum of all answered questions in the game. The column Question 1-25 and Answer 1-25 stores the random questions by the application and the answers from every individual student. With the last column score we are able to generate a conclusion out of the learning process for every single city or for example just the capitals of level one.

The Didactical Concept

The development started in March 2010. The didactical concept bases on the educational objectives of the 4th class an Austrian secondary school with the geography of Austria and their federal states are playing a central role. As mentioned before, this research addresses the importance of games for the process of incidental learning. In order to test the efficiency of incidental learning methods and to measure degrees of motivation, certain demands have been placed on the learning module: To increase motivation, the target group shall identify with contents of the game. The learners must become angry if they fail. High score and time limits: A win-lose situation is also necessary for a higher motivation. Difficult time limits should induce the learner to play again and again. According to Skinner (1954) repeated playing leads to more in-depth learning. Simplicity and clarity: Controlling the game must go without the need to read endless instructions; in best case it is self-explanatory. This is a further step for motivating gameplay Ease of use - includes the possibility of adjusting the game for different levels of expertise, which is a precondition of every successful game (Malone, 1982), (Nielsen & Mack, 1994), (Shneiderman, 1998). In case the player places the flag in the wrong federal state, the output WRONG is displayed in the first blue box on the left side; the score counts zero points. This function is very crucial during the learning process of the students, because they should learn not only to get the correct position of a place but also the information to which federal state the most important towns and mountains of Austria they belonging to.

3 Research Questions
In our research, we addressed the following two questions: Question 1: Does this game lead to similar/equal learning results as traditional methods? Are there any disadvantages for the learner playing this game? Question 2: Do the pupils learn the correct federal states in an incident way by playing the game? Furthermore, we hypothesize the application: Hypothesis 1: Playing iGeo leads to at least equivalent learning results as the traditional method there is no disadvantage for the learners who used this game. Hypothesis 2: The info box offers the student an instant feedback, which leads to an incidental learning effect of the federal states of Austria where the places are located. The hypotheses are independent of the end-user profile; this means that there is no difference between an Internet expert and a novice.

Experimental Design and Setting

The game was tested at the secondary school Kirchengasse Graz in a 4th class of lower grade between the 10th of May and 2nd of June in 2010. We call them the Game Class (N=17). Parallel to this group the second class, called Control Class (N=26), had traditional lectures by the teacher of geography. To summarize, Professor Pacher taught the Control Class during the Game Class was only learning with the game. The Game Class was introduced within two hours to be able to play the game and continued afterwards playing the game at home. The Control Class got about three additional hours of geography during the test phase.

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Bckle, M., Schn, M. (2011). Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 1510-1515). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

According to our research questions, a carefully tested setting was carried out. We used the pretest/posttest experimental control group design with questionnaires for the students. As shown in Figure 2, the students finished the pretest on the 6th of May 2010. After the pretest was done the Control Class continued with usual traditional classroom learning; the professor took care that the Control Class gets the same information as the Game Class. In a period of two weeks, the children got information about the places with the Figure 2 Experimental Setting professor playing a mentoring role and supervised them, assignment included. Afterwards, both the Game as well as the Control Class went through the post-assignment together. The Game Class just playing the game. The database shows that some children were challenging really hard; they were playing with the same nickname from different places and different computers. In summary, we recorded 466 entities in the database during the gaming period, which means that on average each pupil of the Game Class twenty seven times played the game The post-assignment (see figure 3) asked to sign different places Figure 3 Traditional Class assignment by hand on a blank map with the help of an atlas. The main goal of the assignment was to find out to which federal states a specific place belongs. Therefore, we asked not only for the exact position but also for federal state, which adverts to the incidentally learning. It must be pointed 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.

According to the research questions the following results can be pointed out: Question 1: Does this game lead to similar/equal learning results as traditional methods? Are there any disadvantages for the learner playing this game? In order to answer that the pretest and posttest were established; is there an increase of correct answers and is there a difference between the Game and Control Class in this course? Both assignments consist of 11 questions asking for the correct location of a specific place and also to which federal state the place belongs. As mentioned before, the assignment was done by 17 children of the Game Class and 26 children of the Control Class. Table 1 shows the mean of the increase of correct answers. N Mean Standard Deviation Game Class 17 2,65 2,06 Control Class 26 1,76 2,84 Table 1 Increase of correct answers pre- to posttest In order to justify the use of the well known t-distribution test for problems involving a difference between means, two assumptions must be taken into account: the populations sampled are normal and the population variances are homogeneous (variances are 1.90) by calculation s having the same value for each population. Formally, these two assumptions are essential if the t probabilities to be exact. On the other hand, in practical situations, these assumptions are sometimes violated with rather small effect on the conclusions. (Hays, 1973). Therefore t-test was carried out to clarify hypothesis 1. The results show that the difference of the means of increasing correct answers between the Game and the Control Class is not significant (p = 0,078) at all but it seems to be a clear trend that the children playing the game have a better result than the non-playing group. The weakness of the investigation in our case is that the sample population is low (just one class) and that the number of questions is minimal despite the students solving all the examples correctly (Game Class: 10, Control

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Bckle, M., Schn, M. (2011). Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 1510-1515). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Class: 8). However, it can be stated that the first hypotheses has been fulfilled; playing the game did not influence the learning result of the playing group in a negative way. Question 2: Do the pupils learn the correct federal states in an incident way by playing the game? For our second research question we formally set up another hypothesis. By analyzing the pretest posttest on learning the federal states, we found out the results listed in Table 2. N Mean Standard Deviation Game Class 17 2,70 1,82 Control Class 26 1,34 2,39 Table 2 Increase of correct federal states of Austria and

The mean shows that the increase of correct answers (correctly named federal states to the specific places) was 2,70 by the Game Class and only 1,34 by the Control Class. The follow-up t-distribution test points out that the increase of the Game Class is significant (p = 0,026). So the research study showed that the second hypothesis could be confirmed due to the fact that children learn the federal states in an incidental way. Additional finding Figure 4 focuses on the number of games and related points of a typical player. In this case, the place Murau after nine games the graph turns into the value of about six hundred points (maximum), which indicates that the child solved the game correctly. So we can state that after approximately 13 games the high score is reached. If we compare this outcome with the traditional learning material (e.g. an atlas), the speed of learning the correct position is amazingly high. Bearing in mind that children always have to repeat all capitals in level 1 to enter level 2 with more difficult places, this is also

Murau - Points Points

Number of Games

Figure 4 Learning progress of a typical gaming child interesting for the overall learning process.

In the end, we like to discuss our findings from different points of view: Motivation: On one hand, highly motivated children were observed subjective; on the other hand a small group of children whom didnt show a lot of interest. This is represented by the database, showing that around half of the Game Class was playing often, playing with the same nickname from different devices. About a quarter of the students played an average number of games and the last quarter only did just some few games. Furthermore, it could be possible that the children motivated other children through verbal challenging communication during the game process. Motivation, often stated as the most important factor in improving learning in educational games, depends on the learner itself. During the observation of the children playing the game, it was difficult to maintain the high motivation level of each child, because when the challenging element of the game disappears, the learning process is simply done. Usability: Especially in GBL scenarios, usability is an essential task (Ebner & Holzinger, 2007). The design of the game must be appropriate to the target group. Our observations show very clearly that in the case where children did not like the game, they did not play the game again. The game also shouldnt be too difficult or the player will lose interest. Interface: Our online game displays a map of Austria, a possibility to choose the right position via a pin and a textual feedback. It could be improved by adding audio to avoid violating the coherence principle (Mayer, 1999) and help to concentrate on the main tasks. Effectiveness: Figure 6 points out that after approximately 13 games children reached the highest possible score and all games afterwards were solved more or less without mistakes. The teacher reports that after just one day almost all students made good results. The necessity to do the post-assignment

Originally published in: Ebner, M., Bckle, M., Schn, M. (2011). Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 1510-1515). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

about one month after the pre-assignment was because of the Control Class, which needed just more time to get the information via a traditional classroom setting. The teacher mentioned that he had the impression that Game Class reached the goal too fast. This shows the unexpected impressive speed of learning process via the game Didactical scenario: A very important factor is that the teacher uses the game carefully. The game must be a part of the lesson and the pupils must be given time to play it. Furthermore the teacher needs more control over the game to manage the games played by each child and to react on the decreasing or increasing of the scores according to the learning outcomes.

We conclude that the Game Class increased their learning outcome more than the Control Class by playing the game iGeo. Additionally, children learned the federal states Austrian places belong quickly. It can be summarized that playing the learning game is a benefit for the children. The difference of the correct answers between the Game Class and the Control Class was not significant, because the number of questions asked may be too small. Nevertheless, a positive impact on the learning results of the children through playing iGeo can be stated. But the more interesting fact is the significant increase of known federal states where the places are located in. Furthermore, based on video observation, it can be pointed out the most of the children loved to play the game. Therefore, we think that in our particular case the GBL scenario addresses more children in an appropriate way than traditional methods. The research has shown that there is a huge potential in gaming and learning incidentally.

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Originally published in: Ebner, M., Bckle, M., Schn, M. (2011). Game Based Learning in Secondary Education: Geographical Knowledge of Austria. In Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2011 (pp. 1510-1515). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.
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