Serious Fun: Game Design to Support Learning about the Surrender of Singapore, pp. 2 of 10

Another key component of the Lab’s framework is drawn from research in history education that emphasizes the importance of equipping students with the intellectual tools to understand the nature of history as a discipline. The objective is not only to help students acquire knowledge about the past, but to also equip them with a conceptual apparatus to help them understand the discipline. This includes helping students develop conceptual understanding of core disciplinary concepts that structure the ways people make sense of the past. While “first order” concepts specific to historical topics of study, such as nationhood, independence, decolonization, and communism, are important for students to learn when studying post-World War II history, for example, “second order” concepts are absolutely essential for understanding “how histories are put together and what counts as a valid historical argument” (Seixas & Morton, 2013, p. 3). The 2nd order concepts of historical significance, accounts, evidence, chronology or continuity and change, cause and consequence, historical perspectives, and empathy are core to the discipline as historians engage in debates around these concepts. They help us organize our thinking about the past, enable us to make our own claims and arguments about the past, and help us more effectively construct knowledge about the past. They are absolutely vital constructs for historians and for history education. For our purposes, we wanted to focus on chronology, because we thought that could also help students think about causes and consequences as well as the significance of key events in the history of Singapore’s fall.

It was with these two key ideas in mind – that all learning is social and that learning history hinges on understanding 2nd order concepts (Afandi, 2013) – that we started to focus on designing a game that could help students understand the chronology of Singapore’s surrender. This led us in two directions: 1) consult academic historians and educators who could inform us about the events leading to the surrender; and 2) understand the principles and potential of game design to support student learning. In terms of better understanding the history of Singapore’s fall, we consulted a veteran history educator (Chelva Rajah, HSSE) and two historians, Ang Cheng Guan (NTU) and Kevin Blackburn (HSSE). All three shared their views, key source materials and secondary accounts that could help us better understand the contexts of the surrender, different individuals and groups who played a central role in the surrender (e.g., leading commanders in Singapore during the War, local populations, etc.), and specific events from the date when Yamashita was given the order to invade (8 December, 1941) to the Japanese victory parade when Singapore was officially renamed Syonan-to (16 February 1942). Several members of the group also took a guided tour of the Battlebox (see for more information on the site and tours), which also provided important details about what transpired after the Japanese invaded Malaya. Since we wanted to better understand the events leading to surrender (the sequence or flow of events as well as causes and consequences of events), we focused on developing a chronological list of key events.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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