Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Raising Awareness and Promoting Informal Learning on World Heritage in Southern Africa: The Case of WHACY, a Gamified ICT-Enhanced Tool

Academic journal article International Journal of Education and Development using Information and Communication Technology

Raising Awareness and Promoting Informal Learning on World Heritage in Southern Africa: The Case of WHACY, a Gamified ICT-Enhanced Tool

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Computers, internet and mobile technology have opened up the way to digital games, which have evolved into a significant global business and have become a common phenomenon in contemporary culture (ESA, 2015). However, beyond their use as entertainment, game mechanics and game thinking have also been applied in different industries for different purposes: this trend is called gamification (Deterding, 2012). Indeed, the idea of introducing game elements in non-entertainment environments is not novel; it has its roots in marketing activities such as reward systems, points collection, loyalty or frequent flyer programs (Seaborn & Fels, 2015; McGonigal, 2011). Game elements are also found in various simulations in the fields of education and training (Zichermann & Cunningham, 2011). The current re-emergence of gamification is influenced by factors such as cheaper and more accessible technologies, personal data tracking, and the popularity of games in individuals' everyday lives (Deterding, 2012).

Numerous positive claims have been put forward regarding the aspect of gamified learning in education, such as increased motivation and engagement, empowerment of students with low self-efficacy and even reinforcement of critical thinking (Turkay et. al., 2014; da Rocha Seixas et al., 2016). While the research related to gamification and education in developed countries (North America and Europe) are pervasive in the literature (Boyle et al., 2016; Dicheva et al., 2015), only a few studies have been conducted in the developing countries environment (da Rocha Seixas et al., 2016; O'Donovan et al., 2013).

Within this paper a campaign called World Heritage Awareness Campaign for Youth (WHACY) in SADC, which is dedicated to raise awareness and foster informal learning among Southern African youth about the heritage and sustainable tourism in the region, is presented. The campaign employed an online and offline gamified learning tool, which was supported by a dedicated website, Facebook page, wiki and offline materials. In one year of operation the campaign reached more than 100K audience. The purpose of this paper is to present the development, implementation, and evaluation of the campaign. The goals of the evaluation were dedicated to assess user experience in terms of engagement and conduciveness to learning as well as exploring the possibility of a gamified applications to be integrated into the regular high school tourism curriculum focusing on one of the SADC countries: South Africa.

LITERATURE REVIEW

Games and learning

Playing and learning is not a new phenomenon; the belief that children learn while playing is well recognized. While playing, children practice skills and develop social attitudes that are central to their social, motoric, emotional and intellectual development (Sutton-Smith, 2001). However, the recent arrival and growing acceptance of digital games has generated new interest on how to harness and take advantage of them for educational goals (Gee, 2008; Prensky, 2005). The relationship between games and learning has been approached from various theoretical perspectives: examining the informal learning that occurs during play (Sefton-Green, 2003) or the exploring the incorporation of games in formal learning activities (De Freitas & Oliver, 2006). Games, simulations, and gamification bridge the distinction between formal and informal learning. Introducing something that is considered an informal activity (gaming) into formal learning settings provides opportunities for better understanding on how formal and informal learning could reinforce each other in order to support cognitive development and promote learning (Sefton-Green, 2003; Koutromanos & Avraamidou, 2014).

In their systematic review of 143 papers of high quality evidence about outcomes of the games in education, Boyle et al. (2016, p. 182) reported that the most "occurring outcome was knowledge acquisition "2followed by perceptual and cognitive, affective and behaviour change, with fewer papers reporting physiological, skills and soft and social skills outcomes". …

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