While Alternate Reality Games have been used primarily as a marketing tool, Alternate Reality Games exhibit qualities that may make them extremely useful within teaching and learning. The aim of the ARGuing project is to investigate the use of ARGs to support the teaching and learning of modern foreign languages within secondary education across several European countries. The plan is to develop an ARG that will allow groups of pupils across Europe to work collaboratively to solve the game. The game designed so that the pupils have to communicate in the language they are learning to solve the puzzles. Like other ARGs, not all of the game will be scripted prior to commencement of the game and the teachers, as puppetmasters, will be able to dynamically intervene to scaffold and further challenge the pupils. It is envisaged that a number of multimedia mechanisms including websites, instant messaging, text messages, emails, wikis and blogs, will be used.
Within the theories of learning and instruction there are some highly desirable qualities of Alternate Reality Games that have been investigated. These include:
- Constructivism, a philosophical, epistemological, and pedagogical approach to learning, where learning is viewed as an active process in which learners construct new ideas or concepts based upon their current/past knowledge. The learner selects and transforms information, constructs hypotheses, and makes decisions, relying on a cognitive structure to do so.
- Situated learning, where learning is viewed as a function of the activity, context and culture in which it occurs
- Cognitive apprenticeship, an instructional strategy that models the processes experts use to handle complex tasks. The focus is on cognitive and metacognitive skills, requiring the externalization of processes that are usually carried out internally. Observing the processes by which an expert thinks and practices these skills teach students to learn on their own
- Problem-based learning, an instructional strategy for posing significant, contextualized, real world situations, and providing resources, guidance, and instruction to learners as they develop content knowledge and problem-solving skills
The major challenge of the project is how to evaluate the how ARGs can be used to motivate the learning of a foreign language. There has been a dearth of empirical studies analyzing the usage of games-based learning and general models of evaluation are currently lacking and this will have to be addressed early on in the project.
A recent study undertaken by S. de Freitas, Learning in immersive worlds: A review of the literature. Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC), 2007. Available at: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/media/documents/programmes/elearning_innovation/gaming%20report_v3.3.pdf (last access date 11 February 2007). This study produced the following guidelines for effective practice based on a series of case study reviews, which we plan to follow:
- Game Based Learning (GBL) may have benefits for learning in groups through social software tools; ensure that these are well tested before using them with learners.
- Ensure that there is an alignment between learning objective, game, activities and assessment in order to support the most effective learning outcomes with GBL.
- Ensure that GBL activities are fully integrated with face-to-face learning, otherwise learning will not be as effective.
- Provide opportunities for reflection upon learning with games through dialogue and discussion.
- Introduce a feedback loop into learning activities to ensure that the GBL remains relevant and effective in learning practice.
- Align assessment with GBL activities to ensure that it is effective.
- Design role plays to allow students to empathise and reflect upon situations from real life, this will support learner motivation and allow learners to transfer learning from a learning context to a real life context more readily.
- Develop realistic scenarios to allow transfer of learning from rehearsal to real life contexts.
- Place aspects of learning carefully within immersive environments to allow the learner control over when and how they engage with it.
- Consider the level of immersion as part of the learning design to ensure that learning is most effective.
- Learning through exploration is one of the strengths of GBL, allowing learners and learner groups time and scope for exploring environments freely