Research Questions: What learning gains do students make through a game-based learning environment for geography education? What is the nature of learners’ motivation in this game-based learning environment and how does this motivation differ from their motivation in the traditional school environment?
Study Design: The world is becoming more connected than ever, but students' interest in learning geography, one of the most important foundations for understanding global issues, is declining. Drawing on research that suggests computer simulations are effective tools to engage students in meaningful learning, the authors explored the potential of the computer simulation game Global Village, a virtual world developed in the Quest Atlantis game platform, for geography education.
Twenty-four elementary school students who volunteered to participate in an after-school program played the simulation online to learn about different countries in the world. Students took pre- and post-tests centered on their knowledge of the world, and completed surveys about their motivation in traditional school contexts and in game-based learning environments. Data were analyzed to understand the effectiveness of this simulation game for learning geography.
Findings: Qualitative analysis of the learning experiences in Global Village suggests that this 3D environment facilitated geography learning through affordances of exploration (free movement in an immersive virtual world), interaction and collaboration (via avatars and various communication channels such as online chat). Survey data reveal that students were intrinsically motivated to learn through gameplay, and became less focused on getting grades in game-based activities. Furthermore, students gained new knowledge about the world through 3D immersive gaming.
Moving Forward: Keeping students motivated is essential for effective teaching. Well-designed educational games are especially helpful in guiding students through various phases of self-paced learning activities. Findings from this study provide another encouraging piece of evidence in game-based learning. With new simulation and gaming pedagogical tools available (e.g., Mystery Skype), it will become easier for teachers to assume their roles as facilitators, rather than traditional lecturers, as they guide students to deep learning.
Image: by John Lester via Flickr