Sick at South Shore Beach: A Place-Based Augmented Reality Game as a Framework for Building Academic Language in Science (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Sick at South Shore Beach: A Place-Based Augmented Reality Game as a Framework for Building Academic Language in Science.

Abstract: Recent research on Augmented Reality (AR) gaming suggests that place-based AR games embedded in larger curricular units provide contexts, experiences and scaffolding that help develops students’ understanding of domain specific language in science. Using a socio-cultural view of learning, this project explores the potential of one specific place-based AR gaming unit, Sick at South Shore Beach, to develop students’ academic language related to environmental science and scientific argumentation. It examines specific game design features aimed at facilitating scientific language development and discusses how lessons learned during classroom implementations will be used to inform future AR designs.

Jim Mathews is part of the Games, Learning and Society group at the University of Wisconsin. The MIT-developed outdoor AR engine used in his project is GPS-, map- and role-based. Features: location awareness, content delivery.

Sick at South Shore Beach is a place-based augmented reality curriculum:

  • 10-15 days to “play”
  • Learners have to investigate why people are getting sick at South Shore Beach– it is a game of scientific investigation, detective-style.
  • To make the game experience authentic, the learners complete sign-up forms on the fictitious company’s letterhead, get emails from their “bosses”, etc.
  • Aimed to improve science language
  • Based on theory of situated learning

Iterative design cycle to iron out kinks in the game:

  1. Spring implementations
  2. Teacher workshops
  3. Fall implementations
  4. Teacher workshops

Very initial findings:

  • Learners were motivated to use and develop specialist language
  • Field experiences helped deepen learners understanding (especially English language learners)


  • The game is more appealing to some learners than others.


  • How to assess this sort of intervention?
  • Are the learnings transferable to other learning areas?

Author: James Mathews, University of Wisconsin, USA

Thinking About Thinking Through Multimedia: Undergraduate Learning with MicroWorlds (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Thinking About Thinking Through Multimedia: Undergraduate Learning with MicroWorlds.

Abstract: Undergraduate education students engaged in a multimedia project using MicroWorlds displayed levels of engagement in the activity that was beyond that displayed in other assessment tasks. Students also displayed deep levels of understandings about their own learning and about their understandings of teaching and learning. This paper investigates three years of student engagement with MicroWorlds and reports that in each year students achieved high grades and reported high levels of self satisfaction. It became apparent that through this task students were thinking about their own thinking and making practical connections to theory.

ICT in children’s learning is a whole year subject in the 2nd year Bachelor of Education at the University of Melbourne. Most students were not “digital natives.” The author wanted to use MicroWorlds to develop the constructivist and constructionist pedagogical skills of pre-service teachers using ICTs.

The assignment: in 5 weeks construct a multimedia project (a story, a book, a game, etc. in MicroWorlds). Needed to have at least 4 pages and 4 major components of multimedia.

At first the students were thrown out by the vagueness of the assignment. “The idea that these students ‘had to work things out’ for themselves, was alien and threatening for some; they were not being ‘taught'”. Some students complained bitterly about the assignment for this reason.

But gradually as the students engaged with the assignment, they realised that they themelves had to complete learner-centred tasks that involved creation, exploration and self-discovery — constructivist and constructionist learning attributes — before they could one day expect to engender these qualities in their classrooms. They realised that these skills could not be taught, but only learned through practice.

This study highlights the need for effective and practical teacher training when constructivist and constructionist learning is desirable in schools.


Authors: Nicholas Reynolds, The University of Melbourne, Australia

New Media Literacies, Student Generated Content, and the YouTube Aesthetic (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: New Media Literacies, Student Generated Content, and the YouTube Aesthetic.

Abstract: The proliferation of content generation and sharing through Web 2.0 tools has created what Henry Jenkins refers to as new media literacies. We explore the application of new media literacies through digital media creation with eighth graders. This pilot project promotes online video capabilities in conjunction with the time-honored practice of adolescents reading classic and young adult literature. Through the project’s curriculum design and pedagogical apparatus, student-generated digital stories illustrate that complex thinking and learning and the YouTube aesthetic do not need to be mutually exclusive. We provide the theoretical foundations for our work as well as preliminary analysis of student-generated products. We will introduce a revised scaffolding process that incorporates a series of rubrics (based on Henry Jenkins framework on new media literacies and Biggs and Collis SOLO taxonomy) to facilitate evidence of complex thinking in the students’ next round of video products.

In-class project and at-home work. Only four students involved.

Benefits to learners:

  • Improved critical research skills
  • Discussed and appreciated copyright issues

This study related to the student skills gap — identified in the 2007 Horizon Report — “between understanding how to use tools for media creation and how to create meaningful content. Although new tools make it increasingly easy to produce multimedia works, students lack essential skills in composition, storytelling, and design.”

Complexities of student-created video:

  • Creativity vs appropriateness (tensions with popular culture: adult teachers and teenage learners have different views on appropriateness)
  • Levels of scaffolding? Modeling? Too much and the learners simply repeat what is given back to them
  • Distributed expertise: change in traditional teacher role
  • Copyright and IP issues: need to appropriately cite and sourced material

A lesson learned was that students lacked many of the basic skills needed for the project:

  • Computer skills
  • Reference skills
  • Downloading skills
  • Flip video skills
  • Video editing skills

Future directions for the project:

  • Provide learners with a tech pack: camera, tripod, USB drive, headphones — one convenient toolkit
  • Pilot with entire class

Authors: Hiller Spires, Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, NCSU, USA; Gwynn Morris, Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, NCSU, USA

Playing to Learn: Guidelines for Designing Educational Games (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Playing to Learn: Guidelines for Designing Educational Games.

Abstract: Using computer games and games in general for educational purposes offers a variety of knowledge presentations and creates opportunities to apply the knowledge within a virtual world, thus supporting and facilitating learning processes. An innovative educational paradigm such as game-based learning, and guidelines for educational game design are discussed in the first part of the paper. The second part of the paper provides an example of a multi-user collaborative learning platform, “The Training Room”, and outlines the game concept employed.

  • Author has built on the Garris model of game building.
  • Many COTS are not historically factual or follow scientific laws (because they don’t want to employ those content experts).
  • For a game to be immersive, it must be fun and/or challenging. Otherwise it’s just homework!
  • 40% of students at Graz University in Austria do not like computers, the internet and games.
  • He demo’d The Training Room, a flash-based scenario-based game where the story is created by the moderator. Each team needs some information from another team, but there is much distrust between them because of ulterior motives and cultural differences. It’s a negotiation game between the Vulcans, the Shadows, the Narns, etc. with consensus needing to be reached on five goals. The designers used characters from existing fiction, e.g. Star Trek. The players need to find out info about their team from the web, e.g. Vulcan on Wikipedia.


Authors: Paul Pivec (website) ; Maja Pivec

Social Constructivism in Games Based Learning in The South African Context (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Social Constructivism in Games Based Learning in The South African Context.

Abstract: This research investigates the use of computer video games in teaching and learning of learners from disadvantaged communities and is guided by the design experiment/development research paradigm, which calls for a pragmatic epistemology that regards learning theory as being collaboratively shaped by researchers and practitioners with the overall goal of solving real problems. Participating schools are Buhlebemfundo Secondary, Qhakaza High and University of Zululand. Vygotsky’s social constructivism which views learning as a social construct mediated by language grounds the study. Firstly, the study examines the effectiveness of an adventure game Zadarh to overcome misconceptions related to photosynthesis and respiration. Secondly, yKhozi, a 3D virtual world adventure game, is utilized to determine if games, when used as mediating artefacts in a social context, support the development of educational literacy and communication skills. Finally, the study concludes that computer games are effective learning tools if designed to inculcate social interactions and dialogue.

(Note: much of these notes are taken directly from the authors’ presentation.)

The context for the study:

  • In South Africa (SA) the high school curriculum does not prepare students to cope at tertiary level
  • The education policy has changed from one that is content-driven to a constructivist-based OBE
  • But, the use of ICTs is still limited to and associated with the previously advantaged

Learning games:

  • Computer video games could support contemporary learning activity designs and foster intellectual growth (Prensky 2001; Gee, 2003)
  • It is in provoking and harnessing emotions such as satisfaction, desire, anger, excitement and pride in achievement, within the player that games software can benefit education (BETA, 2004)
  • But implementation of these technologies could be challenging in impoverished teaching and learning situations


Image: Thato Foko presenting, with co-author Alan Amory on the left.

The aim of the research was to investigate the use of computer video games by learners from disadvantaged communities in teaching and learning, based on a social constructivist framework. Two games were used.

Iteration 1: Playing Zadarh individually:

  • Zadarh is an adventure game designed to provide learning resources that address specific misconceptions related to photosynthesis and respiration, evolution, Mendelian genetics and 2D/3D visualization
  • The study investigated the effectiveness of Zadarh to overcome these misconceptions
  • Three groups were set up: Qhakaza High School (Qhakaza), Buhlebemfundo Secondary School (Buhlebemfundo), First year Business Information Systems from the University of Zululand (UniZulu)
  • Qhakaza and Buhlebemfundo learners were unfamiliar with computers while all UniZulu students were computer literate
  • Learners played Zadarh  between 8-10 hours over a number of weeks
  • After play participants answered a multiple choice instrument on photosynthesis and respiration
  • Results:
    • Misconceptions appear not to be overcome by only playing educational games
    • Qhakaza, Buhlebemfundo and Tholokuhle learners did not improve after playing Zadarh for many hours over a number of weeks
    • Learners while playing memorised solutions to puzzles as explained by those who were able to solve them
    • Learners gave the correct answers, but not for the correct reasons
    • Learners enjoyed playing the game
  • As Adams (1998) found in the same study done previously, there is a need to change the learning strategy for improvement to be realised

Iteration 2: Playing Zadarh in groups:

  • Using Zadarh in groups to address the problem of rote learning
  • Only Qhakaza learners participated in this iteration (a new group of learners, though)
  • Learners were asked to work together during play and in answering the research instrument
  • A group of 13 learners from Qhakaza played Zadarh in pairs
  • During play learners navigated the game and decisions were negotiated and support sought from the researchers
  • A group of ten learners took a written test while another group of 3 did the oral test
  • The researchers gave learners taking the oral test some limited help by way of clarifying questions
  • Results:
    • The results were analysed using the non-parametric statistical test because of the small sample size
    • After playing Zadarh in groups learners overcame many of their misconceptions
    • 75% of those taking the written test gave correct answers and 42.5% of them provided the correct reasons
    • 90.5% of those taking oral test provided correct answers, 50% of them gave the right reasons
    • There is a big improvement from iteration 1 where Qhakaza learners working individually 57.9% gave correct answers and 29.4% provided the right reasons for their answers
    • Findings:
    • These results confirm the important assertions made by some scholars that working in groups improve student’s critical skills
    • When peers work together, modeling, cognitive disequilibrium, feedback and perspective emerge as students explain and receive explanations from their colleagues (Cooper & Robinson, 2002)
    • The argument that computer video games can act as a more knowing mentor and thus affect the Zone of Proximal Development (Gee, 2003) is only applicable when social interactions are included in the learning process
    • Results also indicate that computer video games, as mediating tools, support development of specific knowledge in students in disadvantaged learning environments
    • However, the unintended learning consequences of playing games by such students are not understood

Based on the learnings of the first two iterations, a new game was used that involved social interaction between students.

Iteration 3: Using yKhosi to improve literacy and communication skills:

  • yKhozi is used to determine if games, as mediating artefacts in a social context, support the development of educational literacy and communication skills (visualization, logic, numeracy, and language
  • yKhozi is a social constructivist microworld 3D virtual world adventure game
  • yKhozi includes a number of knowledge domains “each centred around an aspect of South African heritage or culture”
  • yKhozi is used to address: HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and cancer
  • 55 Buhlebemfundo Grade 12 learners [2005] played ?Khozi in groups and answered questions in groups
  • Literacy and communication skills results were compared to those of 2003 cohort [part of a baseline study]
  • To ensure that the two groups [2005 & 2003] were similar their Grade 11 overall and English final examinations results were compared and were found to be similar
  • Learners played ?Khozi for approximately 16 hours over a period of 4 weeks (they were bussed to the university on weekends to play the game)
  • Learners played and discussed both questions and answers in groups of three
  • Results:
  • Visualisation, numeracy and logic, and communication skills improved in 2005 when playing the game in groups, as compared with those skills in 2003 when learners operated individually


  • Results of this study reflect the poor functional skills that many young South Africans bring to tertiary institutions
  • Careful examination of Zadarh suggests that while participants appeared to advance through the game, they were not solving problems themselves but reverted to the predominant mode of learning (non-constructivist and based on memory recall)
  • However, the results suggest that learning is a social activity and it is through dialogue (Vygotsky, 1978) that misconceptions can be overcome
  • The yKhozi study revealed that this game was effective in enhancing student performance and in promoting learning skills when players were able to work in groups to solve problems presented during game-play
  • The success of yKhozi stems from its inclusion of social dialogue and interaction, cooperation and assistance from others, including the principle researcher
  • Computer games are effective learning tools if designed to promote and to inculcate social interactions and dialogue among learners and between learners and teachers. Peer-to-peer learning and teaching is the first level of social learning and, when stuck, the teacher enters the dialogue. In these studies the researcher, Thato, was the most knowledgeable agent that learners ultimately turned to. He moved them back into the Vygotskyan zone of proximal development.
  • Learners who might have struggled, had the opportunity to query other learners and verbalise their opinions
  • The inculcation of social dialogue in the classroom is fundamental to improved performance

An extremely interesting study. I asked Thato if the essential social dialogue has to happen face to face. “Absolutely not. In fact we originally wanted the groupwork to be virtual but were constrained by technical issues and poor bandwidth.”

As Alan Amory said, “We don’t learn from games, we learn through them.” So, in SA gaming can be used as a learning tool when it is conceived and designed as the vehicle that provides the opportunity for social dialogue in a learning activity. Using mobile games, and mobile instant messaging to enable the social dialogue between the players, is not only plausible but in fact the only way that digital game-based learning will benefit most South African learners today.


Authors: Thato Foko, Centre for Information Technology in Higher Education, South Africa; Alan Amory, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

Simulation Development by Students: An Alternative Cross-Thematic Didactical Approach (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Simulation Development by Students: An Alternative Cross-Thematic Didactical Approach.

Abstract: This paper presents the cross-thematic scenario “Free fall simulation development” as a framework for activities, using the multimedia programming environment MicroWorlds Pro (MicroWorlds Pro 1.1 – Greek version and the incorporated Logo programming language). This scenario combines elements from informatics, natural sciences and mathematics, and places emphasis on the development of models, programs and multimedia applications as combined projects. The paper’s aim is to discuss the basic parameters of an effective alternative didactical approach, in the level of planning, development and implementation, as well as to support the teaching community with particular suggestions for implementation.

  • Based on Seymor Papert’s work and theory of constructionist learning.
  • Course: Multimedia networks at 3rd grade of General Senior High school in Athens. Two classes participated: 18 learners and 23 learners.
  • Educational scenario: “Free fall simulation development”: a cross-thematic scenario that draws on maths and natural sciences.
  • The students’ response to the teaching process was positive.They were engaged in the work; they experimented.

The study demonstrated the value of modeling as a way to engage learners in deep learning. Kusasa aimed for this.


Authors: Katerina Glezou, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens; Maria Grigoriadou, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

A Stylistic Analysis of Graphic Emoticons: Can they be Candidates for a Universal Visual Language of the Future? (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: A Stylistic Analysis of Graphic Emoticons: Can they be Candidates for a Universal Visual Language of the Future?

Abstract: This paper, describing the current popularity of graphic emoticon usage in Japanese social network services, blogs and mobile phone communication, illustrates that these graphic emoticons are now evolving into ideographic images as substitutes for words or phrases from accessory markers showing the emotional state of the writer. It will be argued that the behavior of these graphic emoticons will give us valuable insights for implementing a universal auxiliary visual language that will overcome the barrier of language differences. Possible educational applications of the future universal visual language will be also proposed.

A new trend is to use emoticons instead of words, e.g. “I am feeling :-)”, as opposed to in addition to words to add context, e.g. “I am feeling happy :-)”.

Can graphic emoticons be used/understood across cultures? Are they universal? Before thinking “no,” consider the universality of cartoons, or international symbols for traffic signs, toilets, etc. Further, Chinese characters are similar to emoticons in many ways.

Future applications of a symbol-based language — which could be easily communicated by ICTs — are for more improved communication between people of different languages. The authors will be conducting further research into this topic.


Authors: Junichi Azuma, University of Marketing and Distribution Sciences, Japan; Martin Ebner, Graz University of Technology, Austria

Assist New Culture Learning with a Mobile Group Blog (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Assist New Culture Learning with a Mobile Group Blog.

Abstract: Cultural shock and adaption are ubiquitously existing problem among the international students who newly arrive in the UK. This research examined a new way of forming online community with mobile devices helping overseas students successfully adapt to the new environment after arrivals. In this pilot study, a group mobile blog, Nottsmoblog, was designed and developed to a group of Chinese overseas students in Nottingham, UK. During the month of this study, each of the participants held Nokia mobile phones for group blogging, sharing their findings and personal experiences about the adaption and discussing within the group blog site. Different levels of cultural awareness were found in the group and people got increasingly awareness and more motivation to learn the local culture through their blogging activities.

Posting to NottsmoblogBlogging through mobile devices — moblogging — provides the opportunity to “capture the moment,” “on the spot.” A mobile group blog, with multiple authors, is a shared space which can create a sense of community between the bloggers. In this study:

  • 12 Chinese students moblogged for 4 weeks directly after arriving in Nottingham
  • They used internet-enabled phones and posted to their WordPress blog via a page customised for mobiles (see image)
  • Most posts were anonymous
  • 239 posts, 184 comments
  • The site received 2,847 hits with 218 login visits and 1,798 site pages viewed

They also created a short video using their camera phones: “A day in Nottingham.” Scenes include: Queuing to get onto a bus, getting onto the bus and buying a ticket. A market scene. A lone protester with a poster — free speech, new to the Chinese students. A funny British post-card — the Chinese girl explains to her friend that in the UK they find self-mockery humorous. Robin Hood museum. Etc etc.

When moblogging the students can send a photo, text and choose a category. Most posts covered the categories: life, buildings, food and traveling.

The author observed (not measured) the following links between blogging activities and thinking skills:

Mobile learning activities Thinking skills
Awareness Inquiry skills
Information gathering Information processing skills
Information transfer Reasoning skills
Information sharing Collaboration skills
Feedback Evaluation skills

Student motivation for moblogging:

  • Sharing experiences
  • Expecting comments

Time and place of moblogging:

  • Needed time to edit and choose photos to upload
  • Needed a place to sit down to upload
  • Asked for new input methods other than text

New opportunity for language learning:

  • Of interest was the unconscious shift in language use of a few students from mother-tongue (Chinese) to English after a few weeks of moblogging

Usability feedback:

  • Poor quality of photos taken by mobile camera
  • Inconvenience of inputting personal logging information

Privacy and security:

  • Students noted the need to keep blog audiences in mind before blogging
  • Students wanted more people to join in
  • There was mutual F2F communication between the students beyond the blog (they did not know each other before arriving in Nottingham)


  • Students are very happy to share their experiences with people not only with the same background but also with people from diverse cultures, including local people
  • Young people are fascinated with the changes brought about by new technology in their daily life
  • The information they captured and stored in the group blog helped them recall their experiences
  • All of them would like to know more people who are in similar situation as them, with the aid of online community

In addition to being useful to immigrants, it could also be used for people moving from rural areas to cities. Businesses could also have their employees use such a service when they are moved between countries. Before moving to Shanghai (with the Ambassador Relocation or any other quality service), a US-worker could read the blogs of others who have gone before her and prepare for the culture shock.


Author: Yinjuan Shao (aka Peggy),  LSRI University of Nottingham, UK

Keynote: "Where is the mentor?" — New ways to support learning (ED-MEDIA 2008)

Peter Scott, Director of the Knowledge Media Institute, Open University, UK, spoke about mentoring. Technology is cool, but it is only valuable in the way it supports and enables people. So it’s useful to contextualise tools as follows:

  • social content like wikis
  • communicative content like blogs
  • social awareness like IM
  • social visualisation like Second Life
  • social search like Facebook
  • social telepathy like Twitter

The Open University (OU) has around 250,000 students, with 200,000 online at any time. It’s a mega distance learning university. 8,000 human mentors support the students. They have created OpenLearn and LabSpace. The OpenLearn site gives free access to course materials from the OU. The idea is for anyone to find a course they’re interested in, find a mentor/someone to study with, and go for it. It hasn’t had a huge amount of use since launch — but not much marketing was done. Still, it’s a great idea and example of open educational resources (OERs) in action. One of the tools that you can use in the collaborative process is FlashMeeting.

Reframing assessment: Using social software to collect and organise learning (ED-MEDIA 2008)

ED-MEDIA 2008 paper: Reframing assessment: Using social software to collect and organise learning.

Abstract: Assessment is a fundamental ingredient in the teaching and learning process, yet there is an increasing body of literature expressing dissatisfaction with current assessment policy and practices in higher education that challenges the appropriateness of assessment to address the future needs of students in a rapidly changing information rich environment. The paper will provide a framework for designing assessment with social software and a examples of options for alternative, authentic assessment methods that collect and organise evidence of learning, suggesting that this process can foster the development of self-directed learners, resulting in discretely embedded learning activities that promote problem-solving and knowledge development beyond the boundaries of the classroom and institution.

How can social software be used to reframe assessment?

University students in Anne’s class created a blog (using WordPress) to write as well as collect and publish content — this was their individual portfolio. Also used:

  • Delicious, tag clowds
  • A community site for discussion between students — this became one of the most dominant spaces for interaction
  • A wiki for collaborative tasks

What was found was that the open and social online behaviour made students think about what they publish. They began to critically reflect on the sources of content that they chose to link to. Having the tools to search for and organise content relevant to them and in ways that they choose proved an effective and stimulating exercise for the students.

Author: Anne Bartlett-Bragg, University of Technology Sydney, Australia