Loughborough University (UNITED KINGDOM)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN19 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 5381-5390
ISBN: 978-84-09-12031-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2019.1322
Conference name: 11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2019
Location: Palma, Spain
Gamification is increasingly used in the education context due to its engaging and motivating features that could enhance the learning/teaching process (Dichev, Dicheva, Angelova, & Agre, 2014; Dicheva, Dichev, Agre, & Angelova, 2015; van Roy & Zaman, 2017). While there is rich and growing work on game-like applications across fields, there is little multidisciplinary dialogue between pupils, researchers, and game designers about how to design them for more effective mobile educational games. To be able to make the learning experiences more engaging, different methodologies have been used to provide designers with input from their target. Although it is broadly accepted that end users should be consulted when designing information and communication technologies (Foo & Mårtensson, 2016; Maguire, 2001b, 2001a; Moreno-Ger, Torrente, Hsieh, & Lester, 2012; Nielsen, 1994; Nielsen & Molich, 1990), when the participants are children, the extent and type of consulting is more controversial. Hence, some considerations are necessary regarding the conclusions drawn from children’s enthusiastic play behaviours and reactions (Large, Nesset, Beheshti, & Bowler, 2006; Zaman & Abeele, 2010).

This paper explores the concept of participatory design in the process of designing a mobile gamified learning application about recycling and its effects on the environment. The study presents a learner-centred approach in order to inform the design and to gain an understanding of the mechanisms of the students’ learning context and, therefore, to promote a more engaging learning experience. The sample of this study consists of 36 children in Portugal and in the UK (PT=20, UK=16) within the age group 12-14 years (digital natives). Observational data were recorded in field notes on students’ performance in the activity of playing a mobile recycling game. In the end, students were asked to complete a short questionnaire about their experiences. Lastly, rough paper mock-ups were presented to understand the users’ interaction with the system and to test the graphic user interface design. The purpose of this study was to understand the students’ learning experiences in a game-based learning environment and to ensure that the prototype design will adapt to the interests, knowledge and styles of the learners who will use it.

Findings show that visual content is a powerful tool, as pupils became engaged with colours, sounds and images in their learning process. Over 70% of the children in the study stated that they did not need to know a lot about recycling before playing the game and 86% of the children would not need any assistance to play the game. Overall results show that the children were easily able to learn about recycling with almost 100% saying that the topics of the game were easy to understand and remember. Pupils gave several inputs, for example, the inclusion of the effect of non-recycling on animals and on water, clearly labelling the bins for better understanding of their purpose and showing some facts throughout the game. These overall results suggest that the learner-centred approach could be favourable to inform the design process of an educational game-like application and the findings highlight important learner perspectives which the paper will explore in detail.
Learner-centred design, participatory design, user experience, gamification, educational technologies.