Collaborative All Together Gaming


game2learnrobot1-x8ci8aOur current generation of students are fundamentally different from former generations, due to their comfort with information communication technology (ICT), multi-tasking, graphical, on-demand, and active media consumption (Prensky, 2001). Referred to as “digital natives”, they have never experienced a world without ICT (Prensky, 2001). It is suggested that these students have gained specific technical skills, new ways of thinking, and different learning preferences, which require a new educational approach (Prensky, 2001). In recent years Games Based Learning (GBL) has been developing, upon the success of e-learning, providing a more stimulating and relevant learning environment for our students.

Digital games allow for an immersive experience for those living a digitally rich life as described in the following clip (Interactive games and entertainment association, Beyond the Fun of Games from Digital Australia 2016 report).


Along with the rising appeal of digital games, we have seen increased academic interest in games and learning and how we may use games for educational purposes (Gee, 2007). A range of outcomes has been associated with playing games, ranging from knowledge acquisition to increased motivation (Connolly & Stansfield, 2007). Gee (2007) argues that when people play games, they actively engage in the process of learning a new literacy. Gee (2007) uses the term critical learning to refer to the learning that takes place as players consider the game as a complex system of interrelated parts, it involves not just change in practice but in identity. This critical learning seems to occur from experimenting with different identities, as well as from being able to reflect upon the relationship between old and new identities.

As educators we need to explore emerging ideas and adapt to innovation to extend the learning of younger people who have been brought up in an environment of powerful home PCs, graphic-rich multiplayer Internet gaming, and mobile phones with ever-increasing functionality.



The academic teaching Staff of SMGS are invited to partake in the first SMGS Game Based Learning Project – Collaborative Gaming: All Together. This project has been presented to the Principal as part of the Strategic Focus Groups, initiated in 2016, and this initial part will be used to lay the foundations of incorporating Game Based Learning (GBL) into the academic program of the school. This project will also be presented to the school board. The purpose of the project is to allow us to harness students’ current interest in games and to focus this energy into an educational environment where they will be using their skills, developed in various Key Learning Area’s, to design and develop an interactive game. Using Game Based Learning will enable students to engage in a multi-skilled collaborative exercise using concepts learnt in the classroom. This will give students the opportunity to experiment and explore with the various skills learnt in different subjects by creating an all-inclusive gaming product.


Why Game Based Learning for SMGS?

Game based learning involves games, simulations, computer games, simulation games, computer simulations, computer simulations games and serious games (Hainey, Connolly, Stansfield and Boyle, 2011). Hainey et al (2011) suggest that the main characteristics of games are that they are voluntary and enjoyable physical or mental activities. They involve goals and ways of achieving these goals usually through “moves” or actions within the game that can be subject to constraints or rules, and they are in some way separate from real life (Hainey et al 2011). Zyda (2005) defines a ‘serious game’ as: “a mental contest, played with a computer in accor­dance with specific rules, that uses entertainment to further government or corporate training, education, health, public policy, and strategic communication objectives.”

Games-based learning is considered a sub-category of Serious Games. Tang, Hanneghan and El-Rhalibi (2009) define games-based learning as: “the innova­tive learning approach derived from the use of computer games that possess educational value or different kinds of software applications that use games for learning and education purposes such as learning support, teaching enhancement, assessment and evaluation of learners.” Figure 1 shows where GBL could potentially fit in relation to games, simulations and serious games.

Figure 1. GBL in relation to games, simulations and serious games (taken from Hainey et al, 2011)

Figure 1. GBL in relation to games, simulations and serious games (taken from Hainey et al, 2011)


Computer games offer exciting potential as a tool to help educators engage with children who are particularly difficult to connect with. (Carr & Blanchfield, 2011). Every day we see the levels to which our students will engage with commercial computer games. This provides us with an opportunity to harness games as tools for constructive learning. The development of educational games requires the blending of serious educational content with game play concepts that were usually developed purely for entertainment purposes. (Carr & Blanchfield, 2011). We have an opportunity to learn how to incorporate this into effective teaching pedagogies.

Digital Australia 2016 report states that we are witnessing breathtaking changes in the realm of digital interactive entertainment. 15 years ago we were debating the worth, even potential harms, of simple video games while today attention is on the potential of this amazing medium to reinvigorate education, workplace training, consumer engagement and social and political conversation. Interactive entertainment is celebrated for its economic importance (Digital Australia 2016). Digital Australia 2016 (DA16) is a study of 1274 Australian households and 3398 individuals of all ages in those households. Participants were drawn randomly from the Nielsen Your Voice Panel in May 2015; research was designed and conducted at Bond University, figure 2 shows the findings of the report.

Figure 2: Findings of Digital Australia Report 2016

Figure 2: Findings of Digital Australia Report 2016


The Key findings show that 98% of homes with children have computer games, with 65% of game households having three or more game devices. Over two thirds (68%) of Australians play video games, spending 1 hour per day on in-depth game play. Majority of gamers (89%) state video games can improve their thinking skills. Just under a quarter of gamers have used video games at work for training and 35% say their children have used video games for school curriculum. These statistics suggest that engagement in video games is strong and over a third of Australian children are already using video games in their learning.

The emergence of games development as a career path or field of study is an area gaining more focus and momentum within the community. As suggested in the following video, 10% of players have expressed interest in working in gaming and 27% of gamers are making their own games. This suggests that game development is a potential career option for our students who are exhibiting interest in the area. We need to expose them to this potential and provide a scaffold to support their skills development.  This video also features the inaugural winner of the STEM Games Challenge in 2014, Josh Caratelli.


As educators we are always looking for ways to improve learning, digital games is a platform for us to further pursue this. GBL offers the capacity to promote learning procedural knowledge beyond the traditional standards-based declarative knowledge by motivating students with engaging interactions (Shaffer, 2004). Game play is proposed to provide students with deeper conceptual understanding through digital interactions. Thus, digital games have been identified as an effective way to engage students in learning (Gee, 2007). Marc Prensky (2001, 2006) maintains that games are uniquely suited to the learning styles developed in today’s youth.

It has been suggested that the inclusion of creative thinking with technology tools is critical for 21st century learners (Sternberg, 2012). Resnick, 2007 (p.18) states that success is based not only on what you know or how much we know, but on your ability to think and act creatively. In short, we are now living in the Creative Society”. Designing and programming games offers students authentic participation in the digital game creation and empowers them in their learning as a Web 2.0 participant.

Game designers have come to recognize the role of learning in good game design (Crawford, 1982, Gee, 2007, Habgood & Overmars, 2006, Koster, 2005). This is not about commercial games containing educational content but about how the enjoyment of games derives from the process of learning itself (i.e., “the fundamental motivation for all game-playing is to learn,” Crawford, 1982, p. 17). Now is the time to harness this exciting opportunity, which is already underway across the nation. It gives us a tool to foster student interest and harness their engagement, especially in students not currently engaged in the learning content. This is a time for us to work collaboratively to enhance our students learning.


What influences Game Based Learning might have on SMGS.

There are other possible benefits of the platform that extend beyond the motivational. Carr & Blanchfield (2011) suggest a computer game can offer an activity where the child takes the lead; children who play games at home could consider game-based activities to be more in their own domain than that of the school and teachers. They also suggest GBL has the potential to offer a uniquely interactive experience. They can provide children with a presence in an interactive, virtual world filled with characters and activities to discover and explore (Carr & Blanchfield, 2011).  This world can provide a unique opportunity for them to interact with and think about topics which can be difficult and often embarrassing without any fear of judgement from their peers, and without the stigma that comes with the teacher student relationship (Carr & Blanchfield, 2011). The events the player encounters while exploring their virtual world can be experiential rather than instructional in a way that no other medium could hope to achieve. In this there could be the opportunity for a powerful and unique educational experience in itself (Carr & Blanchfield, 2011).

As discussed in the following video on Games Based Learning, Games in the Classroom A discussion by 2 teachers, teachers have identified games in the classroom engage students via high levels of interactivity, enable students to participate in competition, practise skills and receive instant feedback. They suggest it allows a collegial approach to learning, students get to explore, solve problems, make mistakes and take a risk in a safe environment.


Salen and Zimmerman (2003) discuss storytelling in computer games stating that a player can experience a game narrative in two ways. First, a game narrative can be an interactively told story that a game designer has constructed in advance of the game play. Secondly, a story can be an emergent experience that happens during the game play (Salen and Zimmerman, 2003).

Games based assessment is a real world activity being utilised by corporate recruitment as outlined in this video Serious Games and their application in the workforce. This may be further used by schools to assess learning and skills.


GBL learning offers our school a new vision for learning by our student. It enables learning to learn, improvement in memory and information retention. It can improve literacy skills and provide students the opportunity to safely try new concepts in the virtual world.


Issues that might arise

Beavis et al (2014) suggest that problems arise when digital games are introduced into schools with a limited awareness of the role that context plays in a gaming experience. They further suggest difficulties also come into play when the educational potential of games is discussed without reference to the role of teachers in GBL. Ketamo et al (2013) state that the diffusion of game-based learning can be facilitated only if both learners’ and teachers’ needs and goals are taken into account.

It is important we are cautious in the appropriate place of GBL. Sometimes games have been included with an educational system which could only be played as reward for completing a certain amount of the educational work – answer 20 questions correctly and you get to play a shooting game for five minutes. Carr and Blanchfield (2011) suggest that this approach fails to make learning any more interesting, merely attempting to sweeten the bitter pill of boring and repetitive study.

Francis (2006, as cited in Beavis et al 2014) notes that students can become so engaged with the activity of gaming that the education focus of the activity can be lost, indicating the importance of how the game is presented and used by the teacher. This highlights the need for teacher’s professional learning on GBL.  Johnson et al (2015) states that the lack of adequate teacher education relating to digital skills is a challenge that is widely documented.

Navarrete (2013) suggests tension between existing educational standards-based educational approaches and the identified potential of creative thinking with game design and development is suggested. For example, approaches for learning creative thinking, elicit a considerably different curricular approach to learning than may found in standards-based educational approaches (Klausen, 2010; Sternberg, 2012).  Discussion of these curricular tensions is called for as critical educational concern that requires attention (Sternberg, 2012).

Parents appear to be alarmed by media messages from the past which often directly target parental responsibilities, by pointing out that parents need to watch over the type of games children play (Bourgonjon, 2011).  It follows that their beliefs about the potential negative effects of playing video games will have a profound impact on their acceptance of GBL.

Carr & Blanchfield (2011) observed children playing digital games and noted that there were occasional frustrated outbursts and lack of focus when the children were not particularly impressed with the game they were playing. Once engrossed in playing a game, many continued to focus for around 40 minutes until the experiment ended. Suggesting that the right computer game does have the power to capture the full attention and imagination of children, even those considered notoriously difficult to engage (Carr & Blanchfield, 2011). Thus spending time to find the right game or in our instance empowering the students to develop the game needs to be considered to ensure engagement is maintained.


Procedure to implement Game Based Learning at SMGS

This invitation for the school has been created to follow the various concepts discussed and will allow a great deal of time of let staff gain a better understanding of how to effectively implement games into their academic teaching.

The Process:

  1. Initial presentation to all staff at Staff day meeting Term 3 this year.
  2. A presentation, similar in content to this paper will be shown to staff.
  3. Staff will be challenged to play 3 games which will be used to show staff how taking time to investigate games enables them to discover how they might be incorporated into the academic program. These games include:

a) White Tiles to test their adding ability in mathematics



b) Bridge Builder to test their construction ability in regards to physic

b) Bridge Builder to test their construction ability in regards to physic

b) Bridge Builder to test their construction ability in regards to physic


c) Where’s my Water to test their understanding of fluid flow

c) Where’s my Water to test their understanding of fluid flow


This shows staff that with time and effort spent exploring and actually playing games, they will be able to find games that can be used in an educational setting with worthwhile content and concepts.

4. Staff will then be challenged to find games that relate to their curriculum fields. Staff will be given the duration of third term to allow immersion and understanding of how various games they find can be implemented into their academic program.

5. Staff will then be given term four to think of strategies and methods that students can use their skills as developed in the various KLA’s to design and develop an interactive product. Using GBL will enable them to engage in a multi-skilled collaborative exercise using concepts learnt in the classroom. This will give them the opportunity to experiment and explore with the various skills learnt in different subjects by creating an all-inclusive gaming product.

The faculties’ that will firstly be asked to take on this project will include:

  • Tech – Design & Build
  • English – Narrative
  • Arts – Graphical design
  • HSIE – Context for story
  • Maths – Logistics
  • Science – Research of facts.

6. At the start of next year this project will be presented to students with a proposed timeframe to present a final product at Speech Day at the conclusion of the academic year.



It has been suggested that game design and development may support the learning of modern skills needed by students to be active participants as digital citizens (Navarrete, 2013). By aligning curricula with open-ended, project-based, constructivist learning environments, in which students are provided with ample opportunities to explore content and game design element, while developing original digital products that signify the learning objectives may have much to offer young learners (Navarrete, 2013).

Navarrete (2013) suggests that games have the potential to adapt to students in the same way human teachers do, providing a powerful advantage over other non-computational approaches. If educators are to use games they need to be as usable as possible. This means thinking about: (a) who is going to use it (b) what kind of changes they may want to make and (c) how to make that happen without necessarily relying on conventional game development knowledge (Navarrete, 2013).

Navarrete (2013) states that the exercise of creating games as a learning experience itself is a creative way at looking at how games can be used in an educational setting. This project engages teachers to use creative thinking to consider how games can best serve both ourselves and our students in terms of their educational needs. Educational games have enormous unfulfilled potential, hopefully we can harness this for the benefit of our learners.

Finally Gabe Zichermann provides an eloquent summation on how games are making kids better problem-solvers and why we need to get on board in the following video.




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Part 3: Invitation

Part 3: Invitation

Inviting organisations, systems or workplaces to meet, respond & adopt the challenge of game-based learning.

In this section:

Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) developed by the
School of Information StudiesCharles Sturt University, 2016.
Charles Sturt University
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