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Written by Professor Thomas M Connolly   

While there are a number of well-known ARGs in the non-educational field, very few ARGs have been implemented in the educational field, and little empirical evidence of their effectiveness exists. One of the earliest examples of their use in education appears to have been the eMapps project , which aimed to demonstrate how online games and mobile technologies could be combined to provide new and enriching experiences for children (9-12 year olds) in the school curriculum and beyond (Davies, Kriznova. and Weiss, 2006). Some of the main objectives of the project were:

  • to build communities of creative, networking children in the New Member States (NMS) of the EU, generating their own cultural content and communicating with peer groups in other countries;
  • to contribute to the growth of a community of teachers who are aware of the potential for change through ‘schools without walls’ and who exchange knowledge and experience through communication with counterparts in other NMS countries;
  • to develop adaptable interactive tools (primarily games played on a mobile platform) with which to deliver learning objectives and which help to integrate the use of ICT in the delivery of the school curriculum;
  • to establish processes and facilities for teachers and children to access relevant digital content available through a variety of sources while playing the eMapps.com games - and to make the multilingual and multicultural local content created during the games to be shared and repurposed for use in the wider eLearning context of schools and children in NMS;
  • to create a child’s living map of Europe, based on geography, history and heritage, accessible through mobile devices, which can be continuously expanded as an important and rich content resource for schools in NMS and elsewhere.
  • The project developed a game platform based on the concept of a map with embedded objects, which teachers could adapt and use in their own local setting, to create a pedagogically sound online game mapped around a defined territory (for example, a school’s city centre, a local nature reserve, a historical site or a tourist attraction). The players were teams of pupils, divided into two groups:
  • the first group controls and manages the “game desktop” from a PC or laptop based within the school, sends “challenges” to the players in the field to guide their activities, and receives information back from the players in the form of photo, audio or video evidence as proof that they have met the challenge;
  • the second group use a range of mobile handheld devices such as smartphones, GPS devices, PDAs and laptops to navigate the game territory while completing the tasks and challenges, which make up the game.
During this time, the teacher monitored and controlled the activities of both groups of children by releasing instructions and feedback via the desktop. In the evaluation of the pilot of the platform, teachers reported that children had learned new facts across a range of curriculum subjects (one of the strengths of the game being that it could be cross-curricular), new technology skills with handhelds, and transferable ICT skills. The teachers also reported improved generic skills especially: teamwork and cooperation, analytical appraisal, collaborative decision-making, negotiating, independent decision-making, self-reliance, planning, navigating in real and virtual spaces and self-confidence. Teachers also reported that:
  • in four schools game playing stimulated other work such as artwork, acting, writing and video making;
  • in six schools children remembered what they learned (although this wasn’t universal across all schools);
  • in all schools children achieved their intended learning outcomes;
  • parents were generally supportive of the actuality of playing educational games.
Some unexpected outcomes were that passive children emerged as leaders in some games and shy children, especially girls, spoke up in the games (Brophy, 2008). The project did find though that there were significant barriers at to the use of such games within school education around issues like ICT facilities, teacher training, health and safety, cultural and language barriers, linking games to the curriculum, and lack recognition of social skills in assessment (Balanskat, 2008).

 

 

References

Balanskat, A. (2008) eMapps.com – Impact on Policy and Recommendations for Policy Makers. Learning through Games and Mobile Technology Conference eMapps.com final event, 12 ebruary 2008, Prague
Brophy, P. (2008) Learning Impact. Learning through Games and Mobile Technology Conference eMapps.com final event, 12 February 2008, Prague
Davies, R., Kriznova, R. and Weiss, D. (2006) eMapps.com: Games and Mobile Technology in Learning. In Proceedings of First European Conference on Technology Enhanced Learning, EC-TEL 2006 Crete, Greece, October 1-4, 2006
 

 

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