Teachers as Designers of Educational Toys and Digital Games

Abstract : Playing is one of the most important activities of children. It constitutes a basic developmental factor and has a decisive influence on their learning processes. Although learning is not the reason why children choose to play, playing is the predominant way that children learn and "learn how to learn". Through playing, learning-related processes, such as repetition, practice, imitation, exploration and discovery are enhanced and skills necessary for learning, such as internal motivation and engagement are developed. Advancements in technology caused a rapid shift towards digital games, thus making it crucial for education to evolve in order to differentiate the existing leaning methods. Educational digital games have the potential to support learning in terms of improving conceptual and epistemologi-cal understanding, process skills and practices, strategic thinking, planning, communication , collaboration, decision making and negotiating skills. However, the successful embedding of learning mechanics into game mechanics has proven to be a complex activity. Recent research proposes that in order to achieve intrinsic integration of the learning content into a digital game, educators, as learning experts, should be placed into the designers' role. However, little research has been carried out in order to reveal the challenges that educators face during such attempts. The aim of this study was to identify the difficulties that educators encounter when they attempt to design educational toys and transfer their design into a digital game with educational value. For the purpose of this study, the designs produced by 16 postgraduate students were analyzed using qualitative methods. In particular , students, who participated in a postgraduate course related to the evolvement of toys through time, were asked to design an educational toy and redesign it as an educational digital game. In the first part of their design, they had to choose one of the dominant theories around play and explain how they applied it. Furthermore, rules of play, goals and learning context of their educational toy should also be described. The second part of the design should include descriptions of the mechanics they had chosen to achieve the integration of learning content into the gaming mechanics of the digital game. Finally, students should clearly explain the rational of their choice and define how it should lead the player to potential learning of a concept or ability. Even though the analysis of the designs in still in progress, the initial data shows that students faced major difficulties in both design tasks. Even though most of the designs included specific learning goals from various developmental and learning areas, the design approaches were either evaluative or behaviouristic and did not show any learning potential. This evidence is consistent with that of other studies that stress the importance of specific frameworks that need to be developed in order to successfully include educators in design processes.
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Domna-Mika Kakana, Sevasti Theodosiou. Teachers as Designers of Educational Toys and Digital Games. 8th International Toy Research Association World Conference, International Toy Research Association (ITRA), Jul 2018, Paris, France. ⟨hal-02090961⟩

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