Learning-by-Teaching in Educational Games (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Learning-by-Teaching in Educational Games.

Abstract: This paper summarizes pedagogical design, product design and empirical evaluations of Learning Critters game series in terms of design study. The design phases as well as evaluation phases (N=2718) are done between years 2005 and 2007. The pedagogical idea of the Learning Critters is to put a learner into a role of a teacher in the virtual world. The evaluation phase showed that the main strengths of the learning-by-teaching types of games are good learning outcome and increased motivation towards information seeking.

This research project has relevance to teachable agents (TAs). Two groups of learners in Finland, one group made up of 6-year-olds and the other 12-year-olds, played a learning-by-teaching game called Animal Class. The former played a geometry game while the latter a mathematical game. The paper makes reference to TAs, including Betty’s Brain, but differentiates Animal Class as software better suited to a younger audience.

Twelve year old learners have to teach a bird about geography; as the bird learns its brain grows. Learners like competition so an online game feature was developed to pit two birds against each other. The bird that has been taught most correctly wins the game. Children aged 6-12 successfully played and enjoyed the game.

Learners played at school, but could continue to play afterwards if they had a PC and internet connection. Between 60-70% of learners carried on playing after hours. The authors observed that the children liked to discuss their actions with each other and so built a social networking feature into the game.

Pros of the learning-by-teaching approach:

  • More than half of the players demonstrated a positive learning outcome, due to meaningful activities that increased learning motivation
  • This motivation is attributed to the freedom to try, evaluate (reflectively) and try again — in other words, learning by doing

Cons of this approach:

  • Not all learners like games
  • A particular game might not be best suited to an individual’s optimal learning style

To note: The presence of friends, teachers and parents is important. The discussions about the game were extremely valuable in guiding the learnings of the learners. In fact, without this guidance there is a risk that players will actually learn the wrong information while playing educational games.

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Authors: Harri Ketamo, Tampere University of Technology, Finland; Marko Suominen, Tampere University of Technology, Finland

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