Over the past few decades there has been a dramatic increase in the influence that digital technologies have had on young people. These changes are having a serious effect on how young people learn in today's world. However, there has been little development on how these technologies could be used in enhancing learning. Through an examination of existing educational theory, a discussion of personal experience and research into my individual design project, the objective of this research paper is to determine whether a technology based tool can enhance teaching and how this could be implemented. The paper will explore how children are learning in today's world and whether there have been any changes in this learning due to the introduction of computers. The paper also considers whether there is a potential market for an appropriate technology based product. This paper has been divided into three parts.
The first part begins by exploring current theories of how new technologies are affecting the way young people learn with particular focus on computer games. The first part will also indentify the need for a computer based learning tool. Part 2 will look at how key features of learning through computer games can be integrated into a socially positive educational video game. Part 3 will deals with how the target market could be reached.
How Children Learn in the Computer Age?
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The classroom is on of the places where most of our values knowledge and skills for living in a fast changing world are acquired. The average child in the UK spends at least 13 years of their life in a classroom. This raises a number of important questions. So what happens when the students evolves with their digital surroundings but the way they are required to learn does not? Is the educational system out dated? Does it take the environment the children have grown up in into account? As stated in, What's on the Mind of the Nation's Ten Year Olds?, a survey conducted by AOL UK (Whyman, Mansfield & Bond, 2005 QUOTE). It can be observed that there is a request for change in the institutional infrastructure. "31 per cent mentioned they would like to see improvements in education." From this it seems that the next logical step would be to engage children using the tools and processes they are comfortable with. Children are very capable of learning something for themselves, if it is of interest to them. They know that if they want to learn something the tools are available. As shown in an example here in Prensky's, Don't Bother Me Mom - I'm Learning! "When one 12-year-old, whose school problems were giving his parents fits, wanted a pet lizard, he spent days searching the web for everything he could find on different types of lizards as pets and the advantages and disadvantages of each. He even presented his parents with a 20 page report."(Page 48 don't bother me mum im learning.)
The minds of children today may work differently to how their parents did. William Winn, head of the Learning Centre at the University of Washington's Human Interface Technology laboratory, stated that."Children who grow up gaming think differently from their parents who didn't play video games, and will grow into adults who can process information in new ways."
116 serious games (Beck and Wade?) In Beck and Wade's book, Got Game: How the Gamer Generation Is Reshaping Business Forever, they observed that children who played videogames had differences in learning style to their parents. This learning style:
"Aggressively ignores" the structure and format of formal instruction.
Is built on extensive trial and error, with a "failure is nearly free; you just push and play again" mentality.
Includes input and instruction from peers (other gamers), not authority figures.
Emphasises " just in time" learning, with new skills and information picked up just before they are needed.
116 serious games (Beck and Wade?)
What is the Role of a Teacher?
Yet teachers still seem to believe that the education they received worked for them, so it will work for these children. But children today are massively different from when the teacher was a child."Graduates have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but often more than 10,000 hours playing video games, another 10,000 on their mobile phones, and more then 20,000 watching TV." (Prensky) Interestingly, research has found that teachers seem to be educating in the opposite way to how children like to learn. On one side teachers tend to work through things step-by-step from instructions, in a passive and linear way. On the other side many children prefer to experiment and find the answer, in an active way. Active and passive learning are opposite to each other. Passive learning is when the student is taught through observation or listening to the lesson. Active learning entails a more involved, interactive style of learning through experience. A good example of active learning is when a child goes to the zoo. The child learns from interaction with the environment. The opposite of this is to give the child a book about animals to learn from. When visiting the zoo the child is making their own discoveries about the animals instead of finding out about other people's experiences.
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
Teachers in a passive class would generally dictate information and then the answer. They are telling the student what and how to think about the subject. Teachers in an active classroom would tend to encourage students to learn by asking questions and allowing the students to form their own understanding of a subject by giving and receiving different views. This way lets the students search for the answers instead of forcing them in one direction. Teacher as guide or facilater is an active role. Problem solving is one way which seems to engage many students.
"Education does not consist merely of "pouring" facts from the teacher to the students as though they were glasses to be filled with some form of intellectual orange juice. Knowledge is an interactive process, not an accumulation of Trival Pursuit answers; education as its best develops the students' abilities to learn for themselves." (page 23 Whipple 1987,the virtual classroom, Starr Roxanne Hiltz)
Students in an active class seem to become much more involved in learning. They ask questions about how and why so they are taking charge of their learning. There is a difference between knowing a fact and understanding it. Based on this and the opinion of psychologist Edward de Bono this therefore makes the passive kind of learning inferior to the interactive one."Children should be taught in an active way by doing things and playing games. It's very different than what is taught in schools, which involves sitting back and absorbing information." (Edward de Bono(Page 117 serious games (Re-imagine!, Tom Peters)) With active learning children are asked to discuss with the teacher and each other in order to formulate an answer. This is much like an online forum or a tutorial given on You Tube where problems are discussed without an authority figure telling them that something is right or wrong and effectively how to think. More than ever children are learning from each other and in some ways in preference than from their teacher whom they may feel is out of touch. The roles between teacher and student seem to be merging together, where sometimes even the teacher will be learning things too, even if it is just a shortcut on the computer. They are constantly learning from each other instead of the one-way educational trajectory from teacher to student.
Will children learn if they do not see a need?
In this increasingly evolving world it can be observed that children seen to have learnt to adapt to their high tech environment much more quickly than their parents generations have managed to."They have grown up in a world where high-tech devices and the Internet are omnipresent and they appear to be completely comfortable with everything from e-mail to game consoles, as a result some are so savvy that their parents turn to them for advice!" (Whyman, Mansfield & Bond, 2005 QUOTE). As shown earlier with the example of the boy who wanted a lizard, children will learn if they believe it will be useful in real life. But if the information to them at the time does not seem useful or that it will never be used it is not worth learning let alone remembering. I recall being in a French lesson at school and asking why I have to do this, "I'm never going to go to France!" I could not see a use for it and I had never been to France to be able to put it in context. Children only seem open to learning what they need; if there does not appear to be a real life need the urgency is not obvious. "Humans tend to have a very hard time processing information for which they can not supply such simulations. They also tend readily to forget information they have received outside context of actual use, especially if they cannot imagine such contexts." (Page 113 with what video games have to teach us about learning and literacy) During school my attention span was not great for most of my subjects. It tended to be longer for practical subjects such as Art and Design and Design Technology; this was because I enjoyed being active in class. As for History I could not concentrate, I now feel this was because the classes were taught passively. Nowadays I find history extremely interesting and I wish I paid more attention in class, but was it my fault or teachers or schools for not taking the way I learnt best into account? History could have been an amazing subject to learn actively. The following quote from Serious Games: games that educate, train, and inform, by David Michael and Sande Chan, shows an example of how interesting a history lesson could be, it also shows active learning can promote self motivated research in the student's own time.
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"The game unfolded much like WWI, with an entanglement of alliances between students that led to global war. Just before lunch, the students were told they would get chance to play the game again in the afternoon. Some students went to the school library during lunch to study the history of the Great War. The afternoon game, played with the experience of the morning and the results of the "active learning" (the self-motivated research of WWI in the school library), resulted in a peaceful compromise."
serious games page 112
For a seminar I took I presented on active versus passive learning. After making the presentation at home I realised that I had produced a passive presentation. I then began to think of ways of how I could make the presentation more active. This took a lot longer than I had expected and at times I thought about just giving a passive presentation. This could have been through laziness, but the fact is it takes a lot longer to produce and active presentation than a passive. You also have the fear of the class looking at you blankly, thinking what is he on about. In the end I read a step-by-step guide on how to juggle, I then asked how many of them felt confidant to juggle. Most of the responses were no, but if I had given them juggling balls to practice they probably could. With many teachers complaining about lack of time, having to produce an active class seems out of the question. It is no wonder that children are completely media literate and are becoming less tolerate of 'old fashioned' traditional ways of learning."On average British children spend five hours and 18 minutes watching television, playing computer games or online each day. The total of 2,000 hours a year compares with 900 hours in class." (Consumer Kids, written by Ed Mayo, head of Consumer Focus, formerly the National Consumer Council, and Agnes Nairn, an academic.) Susan Greenfield, Brain Psychologist argues that exposure to computer games, instant messaging, chat rooms and social networking sites can leave a generation with poor attention spans. (Cornwell, 2008) this could be taken as a warning or a reason to change the way children are taught. The Internet and computer games are now part of modern world and look like they will be here for the foreseeable future, so we should not be fighting against this new medium, of quicker results, but embracing it and exploiting the possibilities.
" Noticed that kids attention spans are not short of everything. They're not short for games, for example, or for music, or anything else that actually interest the digital natives. As a result of their formative experiences with digital objects, though, digital natives do crave interactivity -- they expect an immediate response to their each and every action. Traditional schooling provides very little of this."
Marc Prensky don't bother me mum -- I'm learning Page 36
Children are born into this culture and are learning in this way so we shouldn't be making them adapt to the methods used in the past, these methods should now be adapted to them. We should be encouraging the students to learn in the most effective way for them. If students are not learning effectively in the way we teach, we should be teaching in the way they learn. The problem with this is teachers will be educating students with tools that the students are already fluent in. Marc Prensky refers to people from earlier generations, in his 2006 book Don't Bother Me Mom -- I'm Learning, as digital immigrants and students are known as digital natives. Similarly to learning a foreign language these children are brought up with technology, whereas some teachers and parents must learn it. These students expect technology as they are so used to using it, they are brought up in a world surrounded by computers, video games, video cameras, mobile phones, iPods and laptops. " This generation is used to getting its information digitally and is to media literate and expectant to tolerate the lower levels of interactivity and engagement that traditional education provides." (Page 119 -120 serious games) The plus to this is as time goes on more and more digital natives will be becoming the teachers. This can only be a positive from the point of view of someone developing educational games, as these teachers will be much more acceptant but also demanding of these new technologies. Some may argue that using technology may be teaching to the students strengths and what we should be doing is develop area in which they are weak.
My individual design project is to design a socially positive video game aimed at 8 to 11 year olds to actively involve them in environmental issues and teach them about cause and effect of human behavioural activities on the environment and ecosystem.
The ideas were sparked off by Davis and Cooke's idea that "One of the greatest tasks for society then is to equip children with the attitudes, values, knowledge and skills necessary to rethink and change current patterns of action and to secure healthy, just and sustainable futures for all." (Davis and Cooke,1996). A personal belief that is being shared by educational professors and psychologists is that education at a young age about environmental issues is the best way to prevent further decline in the environment. The importance of aiming this product at 8 to 11 year olds is to ensure that "Such experiences play a critical role in shaping life-long attitudes, values, and patterns of behaviour toward natural environments" (Tilbury, 1994; Wilson, 1994). It will teach the children via gaming, a widely accessible and acceptable medium not only making the learning experience fun but also having the added value of education for parents and teachers.
The game will be used in PSHCE (Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education) lessons and at home. The game will incorporate SEAL (Social, Emotional Aspects of Learning). The main learning objectives will be to develop an understanding of environmental issues, encourage safe experimentation and promote discussion in the classroom. The player will make choices about how to live and prevent the decline in the world's environment and ecosystems. It is the basis of such decisions that will affect the future of their game. This game aims to be, and has the potential to be inspirational: learning through play about the environment in the hope of preventing its decline. This will allow the child to develop and use strategies to gain understanding and knowledge of problems that affect the world both now and in the future. The game will be age and developmental stage appropriate and will be fun and competitive among students and schools.
Research conducted found most educational games are 2D cartoons; this game will be different because it will use 3D environments and characters and potentially real time weather. With the use of real time weather the aim is to close the gap between virtual reality and reality and show that people can look after the real world as well as a virtual one. Users will learn as they play that every decision made has an effect on the world. It will show these effects where in real life they are sometimes not obvious or visible, such as icebergs melting. The game will offer the child a safe environment to explore, experiment and observe consequences before making decisions in the real world. It will focus on the child's learning by being at least 50% education and 50% entertainment. This is because, primary school actually consists of about three hours of instruction time, when you strip out breaks in between times, in an average 9.00 to 3.00 school day. So if you had a learning game was only 50% educational and the students played for 6 hours a weekend, you would effectively add a day a week to their schooling. (Prensky Quote) Light Span Quote properly. This video game will attempt to make the world a better place by teaching children how to live an eco friendly life and more importantly why it is vitally important. Video games are extremely popular with children so why not utilise their potential? Not by creating another educational game that uses the same methods as in the classroom, but instead by letting the child make their own decisions and observe the consequences. "When you are playing a game you are generally focused; therefore, learning is focused. Playing an educational game doesn't "feel" like learning in the sense that "you have to sit here and fill in worksheets until you know this." Games are motivating, challenging, and engaging." (http://www.homeschool-by-design.com/educational-games.html)
Emotions are part of the learning process.(QUOTE) How we feel can affect how and what we learn. This game gives the opportunity for students to see, feel and think about environmental issues.
The potential customers for an educational game for a Primary School would be the local authorities IT buyers responsible for purchasing technologies to enhance learning in schools. The local authorities are broken up into cities, counties and boroughs. There are 354 local authorities in England (www.direct.gov.uk) and 17,064 primary schools with 4,074,890 pupils (www.cilt.org.uk). This shows that there is 354 potential customers with the potential to buy 17,064 licences for the schools. Licences will be available either for one year or three years at a discount per primary school.
From the research there is no evidence for an environmental educational video game that is aimed for use in primary schools. 'The Real Game' is an interactive careers education and citizenship programme. In their evaluation report it concludes that 28.3% of schools in England were using their materials (DfES 2003 Evaluation Report). Stats from www.cilt.org.uk state that there are 17,064 primary schools and 3,225 secondary schools in England. This gives a total of 20,289 schools in England. This means that 5,741 schools in England use their product. The school can purchase a license for The Real Game for one year at £150+VAT. This means this company's yearly income would be estimated at £861,150 in the UK alone. Looking at the competition the product would have to be priced competitively, to give a specific price I would have to undertake a full product cost analysis. Stephen Crowne, head of the government's educational IT organisation, Becta, says there is money available. "We currently spend over £1.5bn per year in schools and colleges on technology."(news.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/hi/technology/newsid_10.../10004520.stm). There could also be a worldwide demand in schools as demonstrated by The Real Game which began in Canada and is now in 10 countries.
The market could be penetrated by gaining support from local authorities, the government's educational IT organisation, Becta and the Education and Environment Ministers. A key way to get into the market would be by getting the support from a similar support organization to Connexions which is government run and aimed at careers, housing, money, health and relationships for young people. The market could be entered by presenting the game to the educational and environment ministers, local authorities and educational IT buyers to show the game's potential while giving a positive message about the environment, educating effectively about specific issues and demonstrate its capability to develop global citizens. Possible market rivals in environmental awareness games could be Red Redemption's 'Climate Challenge 2010'. However, it is understood that their game is targeting the mainstream market rather than primary schools.
The target group for this product will be Primary Schools as suggested by WWF website this is a very important time in peoples lives. "Childhood is the time when most values are acquired, and the knowledge and skills for living in our fast-changing world are developed." (wwf.co.uk) The final consumer for the product would be the IT buyer for each local authority as they will be the ones purchasing the product. The difference in the target group and final consumer is that the government's IT buyer, not the child is responsible for purchasing the product. Therefore, IT buyers should be considered as the main customer and hence they should be targeted as well as children and schools. As such it is of primal importance that the game's positive impact should be stressed primarily to them. The game will hopefully appeal to the local authorities because it will link to the government's policies and be cost effective. It will also comply with and enhance the national curricula and help develop global citizens.
A survey called The Teaching with Games Report commissioned by Electronic Arts and carried out by Future Lab surveyed almost 1,000 teachers and more than 2,300 primary and secondary school students in the UK. The survey found 59% of teachers would consider using games in the classroom while 62% of students wanted to use games at school (http://www.futurelab.org.uk). This shows that there is a potential demand for the product. Recent talks in Copenhagen have placed environmental issues as a top priority concern, which is being reflected all around the world. If the government were to put this game into schools this would not only have a positive effect on the children and the future, but also in the way the international community views them. It will show they are making productive steps not only in the way of monetary investment but also by educating future generations. Furthermore, personal research by interviewing children, teachers and parents has concluded that the game would be of interest to them. A survey was sent to 20 parents and teachers, alongside another which was this time addressed to 20 children. Though the response rate was rather low (9 parent/teachers, 5 children replied), the main findings were as follows: 100% of parents and teachers said they think a fun and educational video game could be used in schools and 87.5% would like to use a game which explores environmental issues to educate in schools. As for children, 100% said they would find it easier to learn using video games and for the question "would you like to use a video game that explores environmental issues at school", 80% answered yes.
It can be concluded that the respective market is under-served, so therefore the suggested game has selling potential based on the research. A paper called Evidence on the Impact of Technology on Learning and Educational Outcomes from becta.org states, "Overall there is a strong body of evidence linking the use of technology to improvements in learning and outcomes for learners." The game could be communicated through events such as BETT (British Education and Training Technology) exhibition in London, which is an educational technology exhibition held each year where IT buyers from local authorities come to purchase products for schools. The product will also be available as a free demo or download for pupils, teachers and parents to gain interest. Using the internet it will be fairly cost effective to distribute the demo and trailers online, which will also be available to game review sites and bloggers, in order to gain publicity. In addition, ideally presentations will be given to local authorities, BECTA and parts of the government such as the educational and environment ministers. Getting support from eco-friendly companies and organizations such as Greenpeace, WWF and UNESCO could prove fruitful.
Potential stakeholders in the product would be, most importantly the child aged 8-11 years old. The child is inquisitive, curious and needs to learn but also have fun. The child would actively explore and make decisions and see the outcomes of those decisions. The game will be fun to play and will have learning outcomes. Next would be the parents, teachers and head teachers. They would want the children to grow and learn in an effective and safe environment. They need the children to learn in a purposeful and meaningful way and support the curricula. The Head Teacher also needs to think about accountability, the school's reputation and ensure they maintain a positive reflective ethos. The game would use a variety of learning styles, promote classroom discussion, comply with national curricula and will have a positive effect on children, hence the future. It will therefore reflect positively on the school. The game will be a safe place to explore, develop and it will promote making the right choices. Children need to learn about how to make appropriate choices. Adults need to give children the opportunity to make choices in a safe, meaningful environment.(QUOTE)
It would also be important to gain interest from the government's Educational IT Organization, Local Authorities and the Education and Environment Minister. To get them on side the game would need to link to the government's policies and be cost effective, give a positive message about helping the environment, educate about specific issues and help develop global citizens. The game will comply and enhance the national curricula and be cost effective. Backing or support from a games company would be sought after in order to develop the idea talk about their previous experiences and financial and legal issues. The massive potential market could appeal to the games company and encourage them to get involved in its development. Investors' would also be needed for financial support. Game companies and investors need the game to be fun, sustainable, updatable and make money. The game would allow them to make money and feel good about it. The game will be good for their reputation as they are having a positive effect on children. The potential level of reach could be almost every child that goes through school.
The next six months will be spent looking into different scenarios. That will be the game, based on research and the learning outcomes. Narrowing down the scenarios to one which could be develop into a playable demo. Then work could begin on 3D development. It will be of upmost importance to continue collaborating with teachers and education professionals in various fields.
If the game were to receive backing there would be many things to consider. In terms of Intellectual Property Rights the game would need to be copyrighted on completion. Using existing technologies would be used so it is believed that there will not be a need for patents, though licences would be needed for use of the technology. It would be best to gain support from a games company and build the game with their technology, as licences for software are expensive.
The need to identify the brand and game name would be in order, while ensuring the availability and registering them as a trademark at the British Library.
There would also be a need to check availability in other markets around the world such as the US if the game was to be taken abroad. Another important thing to do would be to secure the domain name. The next stage for the product would be to finalize the game proposal after talking to game companies about technical issues and learning from their experience. I then would go into the production stage where programming, level design, art design, audio development, videogame narrative and testing would be implemented. There would be a schedule to maintain with milestones to keep development on track.
Failing to get support of a software design company I would need programmers, sound designers and testers. Support from a game company would be needed in order to discuss technologies to use, ideas, help with programming, level design, audio and narrative. Creating a playable demo would prove important in receiving financial support and gaining interest from schools and government. An important point is to keep up with technology. The required technology is available to create this game and with the support of a company it could be taken to the next level.
Summary of key findings
Children like computer games. They are happy to learn through playing.
Some adults and professionals are reluctant to approve of more computer games.
There is a lack of sustainable, meaningful hands on computer games.
There are few 3D educational games.
Making choices is part of education and there are few opportunties for children to have experiences about environmental issues in a controlled safe manner.
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