Involving teachers in games and virtual learning environments with SEN pupils and gifted learners

ABSTRAKTI BETT, LONTOO 2013, Minna Kytölä, Petri Lounaskorpi

The Finnish school has proved to be suc­cess­ful in in­ter­na­tional as­sess­ments of school achieve­ments, but the vir­tual and game-based learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments are not widely ex­per­i­mented and ex­ploited in Finnish schools. The prob­lem seems to lie within the in­abil­ity for these new en­vi­ron­ments to ef­fec­tively per­vade into the cur­ricu­lum, or it is due to teach­ers’ sus­pi­cions or lack of tech­no­log­i­cal re­sources and fur­ther train­ing.

This study aims to de­velop a teacher- and cur­ricu­lum-friendly pro­gramme to in­volve sec­ondary school teach­ers in vir­tual and game-based teach­ing and learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments in or­der to re­new ped­a­gogy and to en­hance stu­dents’ mo­ti­va­tion as well as ex­per­i­men­tal, prob­lem solv­ing and col­lab­o­ra­tive ways of learn­ing. The pro­gramme is part of a larger co-or­di­na­tion project Learn­ing games and vir­tual en­vi­ron­ments sup­port­ing the re­newal of teach­ing and learn­ing (LEVI) which is con­ducted col­lab­o­ra­tively by the schools of Kon­n­evesi mu­nic­i­pal­ity and Jyväskylä Uni­ver­sity’s Agora Cen­ter and funded by the Finnish bu­reau of ed­u­ca­tion.

The­o­ret­i­cally, the study is grounded in the so­cio-cul­tural view of learn­ing and in-ser­vice teacher ed­u­ca­tion where knowl­edge is shared through so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and where games and vir­tual en­vi­ron­ments can serve as spa­ces for me­di­a­tion be­tween in­di­vid­ual and col­lab­o­ra­tive ex­pe­ri­ences and shared knowl­edge con­struc­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Method­olog­i­cally, we fol­low the de­sign-based ap­proach, which com­bines the vir­tual game en­vi­ron­ment, the needs of in-ser­vice teacher train­ing and the­o­ret­i­cal knowl­edge of so­cio-cul­tural view of learn­ing. De­sign-based study si­mul­ta­ne­ously aims to re­new learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments and to use such en­vi­ron­ments in au­then­tic set­tings to study learn­ing and teach­ing. In prac­tice, we in­vite teach­ers to ex­pe­ri­ence avail­able learn­ing games and vir­tual worlds such as Sec­ond Life.

As a first step in this study we have col­lected links to learn­ing games and cur­ricu­lum suit­able learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments in Sec­ond Life to our project home page As well, we have built “Dis­cov­ery of An­other World” -gallery to our High School Is­land (Lukiosaari), where is a camp fire as a gath­er­ing place, screens which con­tains the ba­sic in­struc­tions for use, move and live in Sec­ond Life as well short bursts of video clips of dif­fer­ent learn­ing en­vi­ron­ments, and prints screens di­rect SLurls to those places. The in­struc­tions op­er­ate self-study ba­sis, and are sim­ple and clear.

Sec­ond step of this project was to as­sem­ble teacher ex­pe­ri­ences us­ing learn­ing games from the per­spec­tive of spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion and gifted stu­dents needs. Games are found very mo­ti­vat­ing and ef­fec­tive in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion to prac­tice ba­sic skills, like math­e­mat­ics or gram­mar. Game based learn­ing gives great pos­si­bil­i­ties for gifted stu­dents to progress in their stud­ies in­di­vid­u­ally. As well vir­tual worlds give equal pos­si­bil­i­ties for ev­ery stu­dent to act de­spite dis­abil­ity or other prob­lems in real life. Start point in this project is sur­vey where we sort out stu­dents’ per­sonal learn­ing strate­gies or styles. Stu­dents can choose learn­ing games to cre­ate their own PLE, which is suit­able to their learn­ing strate­gies and skills.

In our game plat­form the free games from the In­ter­net are sorted by cat­e­gories, the sub­ject, age group and game-type. The cur­ricu­lum based sort­ing in the sub­ject cat­e­gory is one of the ma­jor sup­port for the teach­ers. The games are played and they are rec­om­mended to fit in the cur­ricu­lum. The listed games are also sorted and rec­om­mended for the dif­fer­ent age groups from preschool to high school (K-12).

The third cat­e­gory is the game type. The rec­om­mended games are sorted by the game gen­er­a­tions in two cat­e­gories: the ped­a­gog­i­cal games, like drilling, fill­ing and prac­tis­ing games and the story or ad­ven­ture based games.

We pro­vide teach­ers with a space to dis­cover and share ped­a­gog­i­cal ideas and re­sources, dis­cuss projects, make pre­sen­ta­tions and ex­plore good and not-so-good prac­tices, both vir­tu­ally and in real life learn­ing ses­sions. Through these en­vi­ron­ments teach­ers can meet stu­dents, other teach­ers and tech­ni­cal tu­tors, com­mu­ni­cate their ex­pe­ri­ences, solve prob­lems, get sup­port for their learn­ing process, de­velop in­di­vid­ual or col­lab­o­ra­tive ex­er­cises and net­work to de­velop in­spir­ing in­struc­tional prac­tices and new cul­ture among par­tic­i­pat­ing teach­ers and schools. The par­tic­i­pat­ing schools (8 net­work schools) and teach­ers (ap­prox­i­mately 100 teach­ers) are fur­ther en­cour­aged to dis­sem­i­nate vir­tu­ally me­di­ated prac­tices and new in­struc­tional cul­ture to other schools and teach­ers as well as to teacher train­ing in­sti­tutes.

Teach­ers share good prac­tises in the na­tional Teacher Card data­base (OpenKo­rtti), which is open to all teach­ers. Teach­ers have been vis­ited this data­base very ac­tively.

The data of teach­ers’ ideas, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, shared knowl­edge and dis­cov­ered best prac­tices are fur­ther an­a­lysed to de­sign and dis­sem­i­nate new game-based ped­a­gogy and cul­ture for other schools to keep up with the pace of tech­no­log­i­cal, ped­a­gog­i­cal and cul­tural change.

Löytöretkillä toisessa maail­massa, vol 1Lauri Pirkkalainen & Petri Lounasko­rpi (toim.),5/2013, 16.5.2013