Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Gamifying and Mobilising Social Enquiry-Based Learning in Authentic Outdoor Environments

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Gamifying and Mobilising Social Enquiry-Based Learning in Authentic Outdoor Environments

Article excerpt


There has been a persistent belief that learning in game-like contexts can promote students' motivation and engagement (Games & Squire, 2011; Gee, 2013; O'Feil, Wainess & Baker, 2005; Papert, 1993; Piaget, 1970; Prensky, 2016). By taking advantage of this humans' psychological predisposition, "gamification of learning" aims to integrate game mechanics and technologies into non-game learning environments to motivate and engage students in the pedagogic process (Burke, 2014; Kapp, 2012; Landers, 2014; Lee & Hammer, 2011). The recent K-12 edition of the New Media Consortium Horizon Report (Johnson, Adams Becker, Estrada & Freeman, 2016) forecasts that gamified learning will become a part of students' lives in schools in the coming decade.

Rather than being passive knowledge recipients in traditional schooling, the twenty-first century education encourages students to play the active, learner-centric role to construct new knowledge on their own (Howland, Jonassen & Marra, 2012). Enquiry-based learning (EBL) has been one of the student-centred instructional practices advocated in today's school education (Elder & Paul, 2009; Ho, 2012; Small, Arone, Stripling & Berger, 2012; Wallace & Husid, 2011). EBL requires students to construct knowledge self-directedly via recursive exploration and reflection in the learning process (Hwang, Chiu & Chen, 2015; Shih, Chuang & Hwang, 2010). While EBL can be applied in both science education and social humanities education, this paper focuses on the latter.

Traditional classrooms in schools are never a desirable venue for conducting EBL in social humanities education (Ip & Fok, 2010; Lim, 2004). To pursue meaningful explorative and reflective tasks in EBL, students are best to be situated in real-world, real-life contexts (Hill, 1994; Jansen, 2011; Small et al., 2012). Yet, the conventional type of outdoor fieldtrips is ineffective to engage and scaffold students in the course of EBL (Shih et al., 2010; Wake & Wasson, 2011; Zurita & Baloian, 2012; Jong, 2013, 2015b). While designing effective outside-the-classroom EBL activities remains a challenge in social humanities education (Johnson et al., 2016; Hwang et al., 2015), our work aims to address this pressing need.

Harnessing the context-aware mobile technology (in particular, the Global Positing System [GPS]) with the basis on student-centred learning theories, we have developed a mobile application, Gamified Authentic Mobile Enquiry in Society (GAMES), to authentically support students in conducting outdoor EBL in social humanities education. This paper reports the quasi-experimental study (with a total of 559 Grade-10 students) in which we evaluated the learning effectiveness of GAMES. Specifically, the study focused on probing into the effects of GAMES on supporting different academic-achieving students' knowledge construction, in comparison with the conventional outdoor EBL approach.

We organise the rest of this paper as follows. The next section is a review of the related work. Then, the design and implementation of GAMES will be elaborated. After that, we will delineate the method, findings, implications, and limitations of the study. At the end of the paper, a conclusion of our observations in this study will be drawn.

Related work

Gamification and gamified learning

Video game-based learning or edutainment is about "the marriage of video games and education" (Prensky, 2016). Fun is always the best driving force for learning; "making learners feeling fun" by engaging them via gaming is a desirable motivating approach to education (Papert, 1993; Piaget, 1970). Video games (hereinafter referred to as games) are interactive activities with continuous challenges that engage players in an active learning process to master the rules and pursue the tasks therein (Koster, 2005). In fact, since the 1980s, there has been positive research evidence showing that harnessing games in the course of learning and teaching can effectively promote students' motivation for eventually achieving the intended educative goals (e. …

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