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GEOQUEST A COMPUTER CLASSROOM ROLE PLAYING ENGINE TO TEACH EARTH SCIENCE IN AN INTERDISCIPLINARY WAY

S. Maraffi1, F.M. Sacerdoti2

1University of Camerino (ITALY)
2Temple University, Philadelphia (UNITED STATES)
GeoQuest is a class Role Playing game to teach Earth Science and History. The game seems to be a perfect vehicle for education, even more when cooperative. The acquisition of knowledge and enhancing skills now requires more modern approaches. The use of tablets, social networks, likes, etc. is more comprehensible by young people.

In response to this massive and differentiated requests, which represent for the majority of teachers a real “Copernican Revolution”, the training provision is poor and involves very few teachers (European Commission, 2013).

We decided to realize a role playing computer game called GeoQuest (Maraffi S. et al. ,2015) creating at the same time a Role Playing Engine (Maraffi S., Sacerdoti F.M., 2015) which can be easily applied to create new didactic games for the whole class.
This article is focused on our first role playing game experience with the pupils to apply these concepts to the high school.

GeoQuest is a class interactive role-playing computer game which goal is to teach Earth Science and humanities in an interdisciplinary way.
The participants live a graphic adventure in which they face several choices of different paths with different opportunities. Furthermore, often the students must solve questions or quests to go on.

In role-playing games, players do not know where they are and the map of the location where they virtually move. Everything is revealed as players proceed: different choices create a new original game experience. Through a path choice or as output of some questions, the players change the experience.

In our game the players-students of a class meet some mythological and historical figures along the way. They tell their story introducing the player in an atmosphere of mystery and dramas.

The myths and stories belong to the place and time in which the game is set, and these are correlated to the path the players will reconstruct.

While the path is revealed through the stories heard by mythological characters, players proceed and find some clues to discover a final event. The clues are based on scientific evidence, mineralogy, volcanology, geodynamics, history and myths.

Students have freely access to materials that they found along the way, including original texts created on purpose, as notes about mineralogy, petrography and volcanology.

Their consultation is easy and immediate since it's realized as synthetic PowerPoint presentations or PDF files full of icons and pictures.
Texts are spoken by a computer synthesized or human recorded voice in several different languages.

Sound effects enhance the sensations during the gaming and there are several recited classic texts and original music tracks (diversified communication codes).

The students interact with the system using their own smartphones and tablets with a new technology (Sacerdoti F.M. et al., 2013) which collects the individual answers.

At the same time the system calculates the overall response according to the criterion of the majority: the ultimate responsibility for the next game step is therefore collective and class dependent.