1 SoftJam S.p.A. (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2014 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Pages: 5182-5191
ISBN: 978-84-617-2484-0
ISSN: 2340-1095
Conference name: 7th International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 17-19 November, 2014
Location: Seville, Spain
Games are widely considered effective educational tools. They have been profitably adopted to foster the learning of a variety of educational subjects and to sustain the development of those horizontal, cross-disciplinary, non-subject-based competences that are commonly defined as key or transversal skills. Spatial Intelligence (which actually refers to a set of competences involving space awareness and self-perception in space) is included among the basic transversal skills underpinning a variety of cognitive tasks and is a prerequisite for autonomous mobility.

This paper deals with two games, which were originally developed for users with cognitive impairments in order to contribute to sustain the development of their spatial and orientation skills. Relevant and recent scientific studies, in fact, show that people can improve their spatial skills with appropriate training and a variety of experiments shows that both adults and children, after a short training have significantly improved their ability in this area.

The first of the two games presented in this paper is oriented to the comprehension of the terms and the concepts of right/left, with the overall goal of helping cognitive disabled people to be able to understand and follow simple instructions while moving around town. The second game is aimed at exercising “perspective-taking” skills: the ability of identifying the position and the orientation of other people in the space and understanding that their perspective can be different from our own‏.

After a brief description of the game structures and contents, the paper focuses on some choices that have guided the actual implementation of the two games. Technological as well as pedagogical choices are discussed in the light of the special needs of the target population, with a view to a larger deployment of the games also in the context of mainstream primary education.

Technological choices reflect the needs linked to each game constraints (e.g. the need for optimal 3D representation or for table touch employment) as well as general specifications emerging from users’ requirements (e.g. the need for adaptive features, multiple interaction formats).
Pedagogical choices are linked to the established educational objectives (e.g. the nature and level of difficulty of the tasks and their optimal sequence), the definition of the most appropriate educational strategies (e.g. drill and practice vs exploratory exercises) and suitability of the type of feedback and assessment (e.g. formative vs summative evaluation actions; in itinere vs final assessment).

Besides technological and pedagogical aspects, the paper also outlines some relevant implementation choices regarding aspects of user interface development (in particular the dialogue between user and the system) as well as more general aspects connected to usability, which represents an important issue for the target population. Details about the adoption of data mining techniques and the related integration of learning analytics in the games are also provided.

In the conclusions, some ideas on how to make the most of the games for the benefit of the target population are put forward, together with considerations on the game potential to trigger and support perception, orientation and spatial intelligence of children at primary school level.
Serious games, inclusion, disabilities, cognitive disabilities, spatial awareness, mobility, orientation, perspective.