Serious Fun: Game Design to Support Learning about the Surrender of Singapore, pp. 3 of 10

Designing the Game

In Singapore’s classrooms, teachers are increasingly expected to address 21st century competencies and teach for understanding, and games are a promising technology that can be used to support these educational goals.  Using games effectively and reliably is challenging however, and teachers need to be provided with time, resources, and an understanding of game-based pedagogies in order for games to be used successfully.  In a survey of 479 Singapore teachers, Koh, Kin, Wadhwa, and Lim (2012) found that the “majority… have a positive attitude toward the use of games in education” (p. 55).  The authors note, however, that most teachers (59%) reported using games rarely (less than once per month) (Koh et al., 2012).  Reasons for games’ lack of use include insufficient classroom and curriculum time, insufficient resources, high costs, difficulty finding games that fit their curricular needs, and adverse parental reactions to game-based learning. Though games are well-liked by teachers and supported by government initiatives, significant barriers to games’ effective use must be addressed, including designing games that align with curriculum and ensuring that such games can get into teachers’ hands.

In our design, we wanted to fully address these issues by making a game that is useful for teachers. As such, the game needed to include the specified curriculum, keeping in mind common classroom constraints (e.g. time, resources), and still resembling what we considered to be an engaging game. In particular, our aim was to design a game that would 1) encourage players’ historical thinking especially around content related to the Singapore History syllabus and that 2) could be played by Lower Secondary school students in less than fifty minutes.

We began designing by familiarizing ourselves with the events leading up to surrender and identifying key learning objectives (for students to collaboratively reason about the order of events and understand the chronology of events leading to Singapore’s surrender) with the help of subject matter experts. The role of the game designers was to help the team relate educational games to the learning goals, drawing on the idea of game design as “activity characterized by reflection-in-action (Schön, 1984), in which designers draw connections between the immediate design problem and their own prior experiences” (Gaydos, 2015, p. 478). To accomplish this, the design team introduced the subject matter experts to what were seen as relevant educational games as potential models to consider. The team was encouraged to reflect on the desired learning outcomes, the constraints of “typical” History classrooms that the design needed to meet, and to consider different types of games to develop a viable solution that could meet key curricular objectives.

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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