Serious Fun: Game Design to Support Learning about the Surrender of Singapore, pp. 9 of 10

Based on the first pilot run, more attention needs to be given to students’ understandings of the Surrender of Singapore, in terms of significance and causation. In particular, lesson objectives could incorporate understanding of these competencies and implement the lesson in a way to encourage group (and/or classroom) discussion on these concepts. This could also include a post-game activity to assess their understanding and reasoning leading to decide which events they deem as most significant and why; what they see as key causes leading to the surrender; the consequences that certain events had in terms of Singapore’s history, and so on.

We also identified several challenges encountered by students during game play. One is the need for sufficient space to play the game. Given that the card pack comprises 50 cards, students need ample space to lay out all cards in the timeline. This also means that some students need to stand up and play as it is difficult to capture all the events in the timeline while seated. In order to mitigate this challenge, one group of students arranged the cards on the table according to the year and in different rows. The lack of geographical knowledge and understanding about places and unfamiliar places was another challenge students had, although they discussed many of the places that were represented on the cards. In order to overcome this challenge, students used their phones and mapping apps to investigate where certain places are located and sharing this information helped them decide the sequence of specific events. Though these challenges can be seen as shortcomings of the game, they also provide opportunities for teachable moments, compelling students to further investigate the events that the game introduces. We see support for these extension activities as essential to integrating the game into history curriculum. As Singapore Surrenders! exhibits, commercially available games like Timeline can be readily modified to fit local curricular needs, but these modifications are only the beginning of the work necessary to support games’ effective use.

As we advance our understanding of game-based learning, we find it increasingly necessary to adapt design processes that enable the reflection on and modification of the practical issues associated with applying games to classrooms. The historian, Christopher Lasch (1977), warns that we may run the risk of “contamination of play and serious activity” (p 24), by way of introducing some ulterior motives that drive the activity away from the player and the play experience. We nevertheless believe that a careful marriage of game play and content offers an opportunity for serious fun – the challenges of learning history combined with playful social interaction – so long as we reflect on both regularly throughout the game’s development.

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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