Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Multi-Modal Digital Game-Based Learning Environment for Hospitalized Children with Chronic Illnesses

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

A Multi-Modal Digital Game-Based Learning Environment for Hospitalized Children with Chronic Illnesses

Article excerpt


Digital games are rapidly becoming important tools for education, training, and even healthcare. Many people use these media for entertainment purposes and to escape the difficulties of social life (Sherry, 2004). Pivec (2007) indicated that the Digital Game-Based Learning (DGBL) model provides a complex learning opportunity, increases learners' motivation, and offers a different mode of interaction and communication. Recently developed health related games have been shown to effectively facilitate healthy behaviours, such as healthy lifestyle habits, behavioural modifications, self-management of illnesses and chronic conditions, and physical activity (Ferguson, 2012). The effectiveness of DGBL is not limited to the general student population, but extends to students with special needs. DGBL has been shown to improve the motivation of students with learning disabilities (Ke & Abras, 2012), the attention of children with cognitive disabilities (Rezaiyan, Mohammadi, & Fallah, 2007), the psychomotor skills of slightly mentally disabled children (Karal, Kokog, & Ayyildiz, 2010), and the social problem-solving skills of students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (Goldsworthy, Barab, & Goldsworthy, 2000).

Educators face the challenge of meeting the individual needs of students with very diverse backgrounds and educational requirements. Given the high incidence of childhood illness, supportive programmes to maintain students' motivations to learn during extended absences due to chronic conditions are needed (Leger & Campbell, 2008). However, young children with chronic illnesses have attracted little attention and support from educational communities (Wilson-Hyde, 2009). Students with chronic illnesses share the need for equal access to the same educational outcomes, academically and socially, as their healthy peers (Shiu, 2001). DGBL is a valuable instructional strategy for increasing students' motivation and providing opportunities for interaction and communication among students (Pivec, 2007). Despite increased interest among educational professionals in the use of digital games to support children's learning, research on examining the potential of DGBL for children with chronic illnesses is extremely limited.

This study explores the potential of DGBL to facilitate learning motivation and social interaction for hospitalized children with chronic illnesses. The study question is: what are the features of DGBL that promote learning motivation and prompt social interaction for children with chronic illnesses? By drawing upon observations and discussion with ill children, their parent, and a bedside teacher, the current study illustrates the needed support for the hospitalized children during the DGBL activities.


An estimated 2% of children in North America have severe chronic conditions, and an additional 3% have multiple chronic conditions (Newacheck & Stoddard, 1994). The incidence of illnesses such as asthma (Peat et al, 1994), diabetes (Kelly, Russell, Jones, & Byrne, 1994), and leukaemia (American Cancer Society, 1994) has increased in children. In Taiwan, there were about 0.06% of K-6 graders with severe chronic conditions (MOE, 1995). Consideration of the special needs of students with chronic illnesses must take into account academic and social aspects of the school setting (Shiu, 2001). Chronic medical conditions severely limit children's ability to participate in normal educational and recreational activities. These students have no learning impairment, but their ability to regularly attend school is limited (Ruland, Starren, & Vatne, 2007). The Ministry of Education in Taiwan required all children with chronic illness to accept beside teaching or home schooling services while they were absent from school. However, a family can only receive one weekly session (Tsai, 2006). The hospitalized children often struggle to understand and complete school work without assistance. …

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