Category Archives: Pedagogy

Designing Engaging Educational Games: An Identification of Emotions for Modeling Pedagogical and Adaptive Emotional Agents: Statement of the Problem

The problem of my study is to identify learners’ emotional states triggered for or during gameplay.  This research will contribute to our understanding of Intelligent Tutoring Systems (ITSs), educational gaming software, and learning.  The goal of this study is to provide critical information needed for emotional design with a focus on exploring and understanding emotions during educational game play.  Understanding emotional responses in human-computer interaction is extremely timely and relevant for teaching and learning in digital environments.

In recent years, ITSs and game-based learning environments have attracted interest as technologies that harness motivation and support learning. Research has focused not only on the cognitive aspects of interaction, but also on affect recognition and response. There is increasing evidence that, in order to design an intelligent and responsive tutor, the learner’s emotions should be properly identified (Conati, Probabilistic Assessment of User’s Emotions in Educational Games, 2002; D’Mello, Taylor, & Graesser, 2007).

Designing Engaging Educational Games: An Identification of Emotions for Modeling Pedagogical and Adaptive Emotional Agents: Short Description

My dissertation research builds on my Masters thesis, has been ongoing in various stages for the past three years and is part of a larger project and lab mobilized around How We Learn (Media and Technology Across the Lifespan) within the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at UBC.  The HWL lab, funded through various agencies including the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), sponsors and supports a range of undergraduate, MA, MEd, and PhD research theses.  My study has been designed and conducted in close collaboration with Dr. Stephen Petrina and the graduate team of
researchers assembled in the HWL.

The Heroes of Math Island game employs principles from computer science,  learning, emotion, and game theory.  The game is implemented on an XNA professional gaming platform (a runtime environment provided by Microsoft) that allows for implementation of rich game mechanics and uses heuristics and semiotics from the gaming field: achievements, avatars, characters, levels of difficulty and quests.  The game has a narrative and activities happening
on an island employing as a central site a castle where students get “quests”
from a king or queen.  Similar to Rodrigo et al. (2012), the Heroes of Math Island game has an agent (the monkey) that uses emotional expressions to respond to situations in the game.

This study will provide critical information about emotional design methodologies with a focus on exploring and understanding emotions during educational game play.  Understanding emotional responses in human-computer interaction is extremely timely and relevant for teaching and learning in digital environments.

Resarch questions:

  • What affective states are important with respect to student’s interaction with an educational game?
  • What affective states are elicited during the Heroes of Math Island game play?
  • What are students’ levels of interest and achievement in the mathematics content areas after gameplay?
  • What are the students’ subjective reactions with respect to Heroes of Math Island game and to the underline mathematical content?

The game has a mathematical content (students solve 3 activities: divisibility, prime numbers and de-composition); however the focus is on design of technology and on the affective interaction and response.

Experiments were conducted by me and three BCIT students who were knowledgeable with respect to this study and involved in the design and implementation of the game.


What is Education For?

What is education for? Why do we educate? What are students really learning in our classrooms? Are we over-schooled but under-educated?

“Today’s children starting kindergarden this year will graduate in the 3rd decade of the 21st century, a world that will have challenges and opportunities beyond what we can predict, with new possibilities and problems that will demand creativity, ingenuity, responsibility, and compassion. Whether our children will merely survive or positively thrive in the decades to come depends in large measure on the experiences that they have in school” (OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture & Bruce Mau Design, 2010). How might we join school learning to living well and well-being? As the WALL-E Captain famously says: “I don’t want to survive, I want to live!”

What do we want our students to know, do, and be? What is best for our children to learn for the future, and how can they best learn it? How do we educate future innovators (beyond mere conformists or consumers) who are confidently prepared for the opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of life? How might we encourage “goodness” as part and parcel of school “effectiveness”?

There are no shortage of questions about “21st Century Learning” in a world of increasing instability, uncertainty, inequality, and unsustainability. Statistics estimate that we will reach 7.5-10.5 billion people in 2050 unless a major catastrophe happens. 2.8 billion people in our world live on less than $2 per day. 1.3 billion live on less than $1 per day. 1.5 billion people will never get a clean glass of water today, tomorrow, or any day in their lives. 115 million primary school aged children don’t go to school. And how many millions will go to bed sick and hungry tonight?

The Dalai Lama’s Facebook status on Monday, March 7 is worthy of contemplating:

Whatever the intellectual quality of the education given our children, it is vital that it include elements of love and compassion, for nothing guarantees that knowledge alone will be truly useful to human beings. Among the major troublemakers society has known, many were well-educated and had great knowledge, but they lacked a moral education in qualities such as compassion, wisdom, and clarity of vision.

What is most important for students to know? How do we educate confident, happy, citizens who are committed to sustainability, social justice, and civic responsibility; who are technology-savvy; who have strong morals, cross cultural awareness, and respect for diverse others? How do we teach and learn about managing and ensuring a sustainable world? How do we minimize our reckless abuse of one another and nature? How might education be more relational, compassionate, and caring, such that we might learn how to love ourselves, each other, and the planet Earth playground that we share?

OWP/P Architects, VS Furniture & Bruce Mau Design. (2010). The third teacher: 79 ways you can use design to transform teaching and learning. New York: Abrams Books.

Designerly Ways of Theorizing

Here’s an attempt to visually theorize designerly learning environments as dynamically assembling in-interaction-with ways of knowing as doing as being as having as playing as emoting as worlding as ? (a wildcard to expand the space of the possible). Definitions are in development for the thoughtfully selected gerunds, which I believe represent the most important elements to attend to in designing learning environments.

Where’s teaching? It’s the innovative pedagogical practice of the theoretical diagram you are looking upon.

What’s learning? Learning is adaptation, assemblage or growth along a trajectory of participation that is recursively and radically in relation to knowing as doing as being as having as playing as emoting as worlding as ?-ing within a rich reality, complex and techno-cultural system.

Why discourses of power and labour? It is important to consider how designerly learning environments are created and perpetuated through discourses of power and labour (refer to the green arrows) as mediated by subjects, objects and artifacts, in-interaction-with ways of knowing, being, having, playing, emoting, worlding and ?-ing…


The Juxtaposition of Social Change and Gaming

Times are changing in our technologically connected world and the way we think about games needs to change too. Games do much more than entertain us and research shows how games offer inherently engaging environments for learning complex concepts that are difficult to teach, like sustainable development and global interdependence.

I am most intrigued by the growing genre of serious games about real-world issues, games that encourage youth to become more responsible citizens, including: Becoming a World Hero (UNICEF), eLections: Your Adventures in Politics (Cable in the Classroom), Freedom HIV/AIDS mobile phone games (House of Learning), Climate Challenge (BBC), Re-Mission (HopeLab), Whack TB (Families USA Global Health Initiative), A Force More Powerful (International Center on Nonviolent Conflict), Play the News (Impact Games), Stop Whaling (GreenPeace UK), 3rd World Farmer (IT University of Copenhagen), McDonald’s (MolleIndustria), Karma Tycoon (Do Something Inc), Planet Green Game (Starbucks), PeaceMaker (Impact Games), Nuclear Weapons (The Nobel Peace Prize), Free Rice (United Nations WFP) and Fatworld (ITVS). I advocate that these games for change offer important opportunities to reach and engage youth with the social, cultural, technological and political issues effecting their lives and futures.

According to a large-scale quantitative study on Teens, Games & Civics (Pew Research Center, 2008), 97% of all American teens play some kind of video game: “Game playing is universal, with almost all teens playing games and at least half playing games on a given day.

Not only is gaming ubiquitous in the social and leisure lives of youth, it also occupies an increasingly important role in civic and political life:

76% of gamers help others while gaming,

52% report game-play where they think about moral and ethical issues,

44% report playing games where they learn about a problem in society, and

40% report playing games where they learn about a social issue.

With certainty, the growing genre of games for change matters and the research questions are piling up. How do we learn about social justice by playing video games designed for change? What is the pedagogical potential for long-term thinking and deep conceptual understanding beyond the simulated game-play? What are the relationships between in-game experiences and real-world engagement? How might the popularity of gaming ignite interest in civic and moral leadership? Can communities of gamers playing together learn to change their attitudes and actions at both the individual and collective levels of society? How might gaming contribute to student success in school settings by making learning more responsive, meaningful and relevant?

Games for change is a new frontier of unknown opportunities as research is just beginning to understand how simulated learning experiences transfer to the real world. While the potential for games is breathtaking, a positive advocation is not complete without a serious reminder of the dark side lurking within diverse gaming experiences. We are circularly implicated as gaming plays an increasingly vital role in our lives: we make the gaming technologies that then shape who we are and how we exist in the world.

If the games we design and play have considerable effect upon our moral and social identities, then we have an enormous responsibility to create games that are valued for their contribution to the quality of life that is worth living. The current reality, however, is that gaming is a medium with distinctly political and/or economic agendas, and most games (including educational games) are created in the absence of any coherent theories of learning without a solid underlying body of research. As such, it is no surprize that the vast majority of the top-twenty selling video games contain heavily disturbing and violent content (Entertainment Software Association, 2008).

Games are not culturally benign and a major concern is the equitable representation of gender, race, class, religion and sexuality—and not the further dissemination of white, western culture. Access for all is another challenge for the serious games movement and no matter how meaningful games are, there is no magical built in guarantee that everybody will be included. Therefore, collaborative efforts between students, parents, educators, governments, social organizations and game developers are important to enable disenfranchised youth to participate in the learning opportunities afforded by digital networks and gaming technologies.

We need to be mindful of both industry developments and academic research, especially as gaming is evolving from a rather vexed history to a much sweeter spot within the field of education. Now is not the time for passive acceptance, it is the time for critical thinking and continuous questioning about the roles that games can and should play. My marked enthusiasm is not that I believe the world’s problems will be solved by simply playing games, but rather that game experiences stimulate new ways of thinking and open up questions for discussion about deep-rooted issues of social justice. For example, how might the future of education be shaped by playing games for change in the post-industrial school? What kinds of games will we need to play to learn and practice the social, organizational and technological skills required for participation in a globalized culture? How might massively multi-generational teams of students and experts join together to explore and solve real-world challenges by making social-change games?

Our children look to us to teach and inspire them in meaningful ways, and it behooves us to seriously consider how playing games for change might help humanity move towards the goal of a more benevolent future for our planet earth home. Playing video games can create a socially-responsive space for learning as well as an authentic pedagogical place for developing the sustained engagement that will perhaps make today’s gamers the most socially conscious generation in history. Parents and teachers, I hope that you will play these meaningful games with your children: for fun and for change.


How do we learn PEACE?

Did you know there are well over 1,000,000 texts about peace… each read by an average of three people, including the author and the publisher? [source: joke!]
Who really wants to read about peace? From the reactions I receive about my interests in Peace & Gaming, peace is not generally valued as a cutting-edge or critical area of gaming research. Peace is just a lovely little old lady idea, merely a sweet or trivial topic of inquiry…
In my search for a more scientifically verifiable and rigorous approach to studying peace, I am enlivened by the work of world-renowned quantum physicist, Dr. John Hagelin (PhD from Harvard). Impressively, Hagelin’s work includes some of the most cited references in the physical sciences and his outstanding research contributions have earned him official recognition as a scientist in the tradition of Einstein. Dr. Hagelin is unique among scientists in being one of the first to apply advanced knowledge for the practical benefit of global human concerns.
According to Hagelin, permanent world peace is real and can be achieved by stimulating technologies from the science of consciousness. Yes, there is an actual science of peace because the field of consciousness is the field of unity, the field of bliss on a tangible, powerful physical level millions of times more powerful than a nuclear force… if we can just access it. Consciousness can access peace, as Hagelin believes, thus we need more peacemakers who develop their nervous systems to the point where they become lighthouses radiating peace. Together, these peaceful people will stimulate the unified field of peace, simultaneously strengthening and unifying the world’s diversity in happiness, prosperity and invincibility.
Dr. Hagelin sheds his light further: when individual awareness expands to become universal, it creates a ripple in that universal field just like it were a ripple in the electromagnetic field. When we stimulate the fundamental field of consciousness and unity, this ripple propagates in all directions at the speed of light. Research shows that to have a really powerful effect, you need these ripples rippling in close proximity to each other, thereby creating not a ripple, but a tidal wave of unity, peace and coherence. This coherence, unity and peace gets communicated through the field of consciousness and that’s why it is important to understand that consciousness is fundamentally a shared field that underlies and pervades us all.
Rather amazingly, the strength of numbers is such that it doesn’t take that many peaceful people to influence a difference. Hagelin’s research shows the that the radiated influence of peace in the environment grows roughly as the square of the number of people doing it together. This n2 (n-squared) effect amplifies the power to be enough to produce a demonstrable, repeatable, publishable effect upon crime rates, terrorism, even stopping warfare in war torn areas like the middle-east.
The Transcendental Meditation technique is described as a mental procedure that allows the mind to quiet itself and to practice of peace as a higher state of human consciousness. In October 2008, David Lynch (yes, the celebrated film-maker who is also a peace-maker and a long-time transcendental meditator) met with Israel president Shimon Peres in Jerusalem and secured his support for a large peace-creating group in Israel, to be composed of 500 Palestinians and Israelis who will practice the Transcendental Meditationprogram together. Hagelin’s research indicates that this group should be large enough to create a measurable influence of peace in the region.
Peace is a powerful technology, a quantum science that exists as a higher state of human consciousness. David Lynch explains this concept with the simple metaphor of how darkness goes away when the sun comes up. The sun doesn’t have to drive the darkness away, the sun just comes up and it glows. Similarly, once the unified field gets enlivened with a higher state of human consciousness, then negativity goes – it just goes…

// PJ