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The use of video games in special education

How video games are used in special education

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The use of video games in special education

  2. 2. Traditional educational systems emphasize more on the learning of answers (the development of memory) than on the exploration of questions (the development of situated understandings) without encouraging collaboration and creativity of the students. It is essential to modify traditional techniques and to look for new mechanisms that would:  increase attention and motivation levels;  ease the assimilation of new concepts;  facilitate “transference of theoretical knowledge” (generalization) into real life. This mechanisms are easily found in video games. Motivation
  3. 3. The design of educational video games should come to shift the focus from designing content to designing “experiences”. But for these to be effective they must be designed correctly and implemented well. For understanding how we can design and use video games in teaching pupils with special needs and how can they benefit from activities based on the “learning by playing” and “learning by doing” approaches we should understand first the meaning of Learning and Playing from the Special Education perspective. Introduction
  4. 4.  Learning can be defined as the form of acquiring knowledge by studying and gaining experience.  The learning process involves being able to associate mental ideas with real world objects, establishing a relationship between the mental world and the real one.  For the learning process to take place we have to activate mental processes like attention, motivation and continuity. In Special Education the learning process is usually limited to cognitive weaknesses and implies cognitive stimulation by memorization and repetition. 1. Learning
  5. 5.  Playing can be defined as the action or set of actions directed to having fun or merely to spending time.  When playing, we follow a series of rules to solve a problem individually, or collaboratively, against other players or a machine.  The main factor in a game is motivation. Thanks to motivation, players can be happy when they play. 2. Playing
  6. 6. Avedon and Sutton-Smith (1971) made the following observations about the benefits of using games as educational tools:  Games with simulated environments engage the students more than conventional classroom activities.  Students will learn more facts and principles by participating in games than by studying in the conventional manner.  Students will retain information learned in games longer than information presented through conventional methods.  Students will acquire more critical thinking and decision-making skills by participating in games.  Student’s attitudes will be significantly altered by taking part in games. Goodman’s (2010) studies on game-based education prove that these ideas are still accurate. 3. Why “learning by playing”?
  7. 7.  A video game is a computer program specifically created to entertain. It is based on the interaction between a person and a machine.  Players can control characters or any other element of a game to accomplish one or several goals by observing a set of rules.  Video games create situations and virtual environments where players can examine their own limits in a self-regulated way. Using video games make “players think, talk, and act” (Shaffer, Squire, Halverson, & Gee, 2005) and their rich virtual environments are powerful contexts for learning. 4. A particular way of “learning by playing”
  8. 8. Dickey (2005) argued: “Within the context of completing the assigned task, students play the role of explorer as they both discover concepts and connections and interact with the material and resources” and that is why the use of video games as learning tools has the following advantages:  Scholar success: Pupils that have used video games, have increased their reading comprehension capability.  Cognitive abilities: Pupils train these abilities using environments based on discovery and creativity.  Motivation: Games are an encouragement mechanism for children, they make the learning process easier and increase attendance considerably.  Attention and Concentration: Attention and concentration are focused to solve concrete problems due to pupils’ nature towards games. 5. The benefits of using Video Games in the classroom
  9. 9. In order to design effective video games for special education the contents must be adapted to the characteristics and restrictions that come with different forms of disabilities. People with cognitive disabilities have affected the functions of: attention; memory; language; perception; reasoning; problem-solving; self-regulation; social development and others; Having this in mind we can say that the vast majority of serious games can not be used by pupils with special needs because they imply the use of capabilities that some of them don’t have or that are not developed enough (such as reading and writing, identification of objects and colors, manual dexterity etc.) 6. Some design issues of video games for Special Education
  10. 10. The most important issues that the use of video games in Special Education arise are:  Educational video games often are not designed for the specific symptomatology of pupils with special needs.  The already existing video games for special education are mainly didactic units which have lost the essence and attributes of games.  The devices where these didactic games are implemented on are just PC’s and pupils are not being teached to use them. 6. Some design issues of video games for Special Education
  11. 11. When educational video games for special education are developed, psychological techniques must be used to enable people to overcome their cognitive deficiencies and to increase their social integration level [IGDA]. In order to achieve this we have to keep in mind two essential theories which support accessibility and generalization of information.  For accessibility we can use Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences Theory. This theory states that Intelligence is not a unitary and indivisible concept but a set of abilities or capabilities that can be trained (Fig. 1).  For generalization can use Sidman's theories about “Equivalent Relationship” (“Stimulus Equivalence” mechanism). This theory concludes that if relationships between stimuli (Reflexivity, Symmetry, Transitivity) are trained clearly , then new relations that have been hidden can be obtained implicitly. 7. Guidelines for video games design specific to special education
  12. 12. By combining these in designing educational video games we can enhance different abilities. Using stronger intelligences to improve weaker once while solving tasks allow the mobilization of a subset of abilities associated to others. It is important to stimulate the strong intelligences and to use them as supporting tools for the development and also for the personalization of learning based on the child’s profile. 7. Guidelines for video games design specific to special education
  13. 13. Some points to take into account while designing video games for special education (CEDI): 1. To identify the player's profile, his/her limitations and cognitive capabilities in order to choose the best interaction mechanisms. 2. To structure and adapt the didactic objectives to the player's characteristic. 3. The educational contents should be introduced into the game structure in a hidden way. 4. To evaluate the positive aspects that the game offers, without forgetting the negative ones (eg. game fixation or inappropriate conducts of the child). 5. The game must offer feedback for each action. This feedback is focused on the cognitive need which the child must train. 7. Guidelines for video games design specific to special education
  14. 14. 6. Errors should be corrected without causing frustration (sadness or discouragement). 7. To use a main character or hero, who acts as a guide in the learning process and game. 8. The learning process should be in rise, based on multi-levels or missions where the level of difficulty increases gradually. At each level the cognitive weakness should decrease. 9. To give rewards for correct actions: animations, songs, videos, points. 10. The mechanism to carry out an action in the game should have the same structure as the mechanism that would be used to solve it in the real world. 7. Guidelines for video games design specific to special education
  15. 15. The features of video games, and the reexamination of some basic educational premises have provided a list of characteristics for a game based curriculum that corresponds with special education fundaments:  it should require increasing response rates and accommodate wide performance possibilities.  it should provide immediate feedback through a variety of options.  it should provide rewards for quick and correct responses by higher scores and/or extended playing time. 8. Some characteristics of a curriculum based on video games
  16. 16.  it should see errors as opportunities to improve rather than indicators of failure.  it should use positive reinforcement to motivate pupils to want to perform and consequently.  it should value proficient performance which recognizes that mastery is based on both accuracy and speed. The concern of this kind of curriculum is directed to maximizing the odds that a student will be able to perform with ease and confidence, retain the skill, utilize it to build more complex performance, and transfer it into real life. 8. Some characteristics of a curriculum based on video games
  17. 17. Video games can make a very real contribution to teaching essential life and work-based skills to people with disabilities. To find other ways of teaching these skills is essential if we are to make the integration of this specific group possible.  Video games are an attractive and direct platform to approach children.  Video games become mediators for the learning process if used as learning tools.  Video games provide interesting human-computer interaction methods that enrich the learning process.  Video games help to improve social relationships. They raise the communication level and ease the assimilation of new. 9. Why using video games in Special Education?
  18. 18. Blamires argues that enabling technology provides access to educational opportunities and life experiences and facilitates engagement with knowledge and people: “Speech, pictures, words, and animation can be combined in interactive ways to structure concepts to suit the level of understanding of learners and their interests.” Thus responding to the main values of special education and social integration: accessibility and normalization. The use of videogames in special education offer very interesting results:  Better spatial, temporary and hand-view coordination ability.  Better concentration, motivation, attention and reasoning capability.  Better assurance in the learning process. Children can repeat a task until they dominate it.  Better assimilation of strategies and consequences in determinate actions.  Children are happy playing and learning. This improves the social relationships with other children and the environment. 10. The benefits of video games as learning tools
  19. 19. The research on the potential of video games in special education started in the 80’. In 1982 Frederiksen, Warren, Gillote, and Weaver have described three experimental computer games that incorporate motivational features of video arcade games. They were designed to improve reading skills. The purpose of the Frederiksen, et al., article was to describe the three applications of their work and to identify motivational features important and potentially exportable to educational computer instruction. The motivational features they cite are: clear-cut goals, fast pace, immediate feedback, and variable levels of challenge. 11. Some studies that confirm effectivnes of video games in special education
  20. 20. In 1991, Burt et al. published a report presenting the case studies of four adults with autism that participated in a work-training program each one with widely varying inabilities to retain a job. Each person had a specifically developed training plan, meaning that the tasks proposed had in mind the inabilities of each one, but also their personality and their qualities. For instance, two people presented a ritualistic behaviour while walking and the approach to each case was quite different: one of the subjects was extremely time-conscious, therefore he was given a detailed task schedule as a form to control his ritualistic behaviours and encourage self-control; for the other subject with ritualistic behaviours, the best approach was to film him and other people walking, so that he could compare both ways. Despite the personalized approaches, both had also a checklist with the desired behaviour and rewards associated, in order to teach them self-control. This report shows us the need for adaptability and personalization of approaches, even if they are aimed for people with the same diagnosed pathologies. The 90’
  21. 21. In 2008 the EPINOISI R&D project ( has been implemented by the Faculty of Communication and Mass Media Studies of the University of Athens. This project had two main objectives: to realize a specialized formation program in digital games-based learning for special education teachers supporting students with mild intellectual disability (MID) to develop digital games-based learning material for MID students that can be used as a supplementary in-class tool. The total duration of the EPINOISI formation program was 400 hours of which 100 hours (May- June 2008) were allocated to theoretical formation and 300 hours (September – November 2008) to practical hands-on seminars and supervised application of digital game-based learning material in the special classroom. The new millennium
  22. 22. The 200 teachers that attended this formation program have been selected from schools and cities from all over Greece and grouped in 20 formation classes located in 15 cities all over the country. Two major observations have arisen in this effort: a. special educators have needed motivation and effective empowerment to employ digital games for learning and create their own learning content; b. special education students have not found it difficult to establish an engaging and recurring relationship with digital content and engage in interactions during which learning has occurred.
  23. 23. Between the years 2010 - 2012 a team of researchers from three partner countries (UK, Lithuania and Hungary) have designed and evaluated around 10 serious games under the EU Leonardo Transfer of Innovation Project: Game On Extra Time (GOET) project. The aim of the project was to support people with learning disabilities and additional sensory impairments in getting and keeping a job by helping them to learn, via game-based learning, skills that would help them in their working day. These games help students to learn how to prepare themselves for work and for dealing with everyday situations at work, including money management, travelling independently etc. Five games were developed, but were not tested in every partner country. These are “Anger management”, “Personal Hygiene”, “Starting Work”, “Stress at work” and “Work Sustainability”.
  24. 24. The games that were developed and tested are:  D Work Tour: simulating the first days at work  Cheese factory: teaching the students using fractions and percentages  Memobile: trains the student in the important things to do in preparing to leave the house and throughout their working day;  My Appearance: covering everyday routines such as personal hygiene and  getting ready for work-tasks, from getting up until leaving home;  VR supermarket: helps to teach students about money management skills within a store environment;
  25. 25.   https:// EU HORIZON 2020 Project - Newton -
  26. 26. THANK YOU !