Can educators be a game designer and a co-author of gamified learning?

Games, which are more readily embedded into existing educational  practices, are more likely to be accepted by educators as useful resources. Hence, it is worth ensuring the design of game-based learning resources might support such blending, which can range from pragmatic considerations, such as how well an intended play session fits within a teaching schedule or homework arrangement, to pedagogical designs, which seek to address shortcomings in didactic instruction [1]. To promote the sense of ownership and autonomy in order to break the barriers of adoption, not only that teachers should be part of the development process but they should also be empowered to create their own games – removing the barriers to the development of game-based learning resources.

Aligning with the importance of the sense of ownership, purpose and also the aim for achieving competency in delivering engaging resources to learners, the Beaconing project has investigated playful approaches for digitally enabling play-learn in everyday spaces, which has produced a tool that allows teachers to co-author gamified and pervasive lesson plans. This has opened up opportunities for teachers to experiment new ways for delivering their content and to also track the learning achieved beyond the formal setting of classroom teaching. To author the gamified lesson plans, teachers will have their own dashboard that will allow them to manage their lessons, the students and also access the analytics related to the lessons that they created and assigned to the students. When authoring a new lesson, they can select various narrative options for encapsulating their lesson- which act as the backbone to the structuring of the learning contents and journey.

With a drag-and-drop approach, they can easily populate the narrative with the different activities including author-able mini-games, adapted to suit the specific topic or learning objectives, which can be configured in an endogenous or exogenous structure. Related to the fantasy[2] element of games, endogenous structure involves having a strong contextual similarity between the teaching material and the presented fantasy, whereas exogenous involves having weak contextual similarities between the material being taught and the fantasy being presented[3]. Beaconing in this case offers the freedom to the educators to author their own lesson plans i.e. how the learning contents map against the game narratives and deliver them to the students. Teachers are also presented with the authoring of a more pervasive lesson plan, where geolocation, QR codes and also Bluetooth sensors (such as beacons) can be used to transform any physical spaces into a playful learning environment.

Once created and assigned, students are able to access the lessons allocated to them from their own personal student dashboard. The experience through the gamified lesson plan (desktop or mobile) connects the context of what they have learned within the classroom into their own informal space. Beaconing is currently being piloted in at least 8 different countries, engaging over 6000 teachers and learners.

From the experience from Beaconing and other initiatives such as GameChangers and CreativeCulture, it is essential to onboard those who are on the frontline (e.g. teachers, educators) and empower them with a process that will enable self-creation and co-creation of engaging learning resources; i.e. a “teacher-friendly” interface for onboarding them into a new mindset and practice that is apparently far removed from everyday practice and that becomes deeply fruitful and self-sustaining only after a strong initial time investment [4].

GameChangers has been active since 2014/2015 and the approach has spun off into CreativeCulture, an initiative funded by the Newton Fund – a collaboration between Coventry University and Universiti Malaysia Sarawak. Through the Remixing Play approach as well as the simple remix play flash game developed by GameChangers, teachers have been onboarded into the creation of their own games towards engaging learners with educational contents. Game making can be used to foster the development of transversal skills, such as 21st century skills, where individuals can design and construct their own games, often working in teams, allowing them to engage in a task that involves – and at the same time fosters – collaboration, problem solving and creativity. CreativeCulture has so far engaged with over 200 teachers and students, including teachers and primary school students in three different rural sites in Sarawak (Borneo), Malaysia, where engagement with education in general is low.

During the period of the CreativeCulture study[4], it was made evident for the teachers, through the open reflections of their students about their experience and also their own experience in creating game-based learning resources in a very short time, that play can bring a powerful impact onto making pedagogical content more accessible. While it may require a substantial initial time investment, it can also work as a self-sustaining learning resource creation. The co-creation approach based on game design thinking has on-boarded them into the creative mind-set that is translating into sustaining practices. Since the inception of the initiative in 2017, eighteen game-based learning resources have been developed, which have been tested in schools. Out of this experience, they have also co-produced a guideline for game-based learning to provide practical blueprints and templates for others to adapt. The initiative has also created a set of play cards based on the lessons learnt from the teachers’ experience, which provides useful prompts for informing educational game design.

These initiatives demonstrate that – yes – educators can be a “game designer” – co-creating and authoring game-based learning resources. Time and effort spent at the initial onboarding stage is essential for ensuring that such a creative process and practice is sustained.

[1] Arnab,S., Brown,K., Clarke,S., Dunwell,I., Lim,T., Suttie,N., Louchart,S., Hendrix,M., de Freitas,S. (2013). The Development Approach of a Pedagogically-Driven Serious Game to support Relationship and Sex Education (RSE) within a classroom setting. Computers & Education 69, 15-30

[2] Wilson, K. A., Bedwell, W. L., Lazzarz, E. H., Salas, E., Burke, C. S., Estock, J. L., Orvis, K. L. & Conkey, C. (2009). Relationships Between Game Attributes and Learning Outcomes – Review and Research Proposals, Simulation & Gaming, 40, 217 – 266.

[3] Vincent P. Mancuso, Katherine Hamilton, Rachel Tesler, Susan Mohammed, and Michael McNeese. 2013. An Experimental Evaluation of the Effectiveness of Endogenous and Exogenous Fantasy in Computer-Based Simulation Training. Int. J. Gaming Comput. Mediat. Simul. 5, 1 (January 2013), 50-65. DOI=

[4] Mohamad, F., Morini, L., Minoi, J., & Arnab, S. (2018. Engaging Primary Schools in Rural Malaysia with Game-based Learning: Culture, Pedagogy, Technology, In Proceedings of 12th European Conference on Game-Based Learning, 4-5 Oct 2018. pp 433-440.


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