Prof. Chiriac Ilona
XANTHI, GREECE, 8th OCTOBER 2018
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
It is essential to modify traditional techniques and to look for new mechanisms
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Goodman’s (2010) studies on game-based education prove that these ideas
are still accurate.
3. Why “learning by playing”?
A video game is a computer program specifically created to
entertain. It is based on the interaction between a person and a
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
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
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
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
The most important issues that the use
of video games in Special Education arise
Educational video games often are not
designed for the specific
symptomatology of pupils with special
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
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
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
Some points to take into account while designing video games for special
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
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
6. Errors should be corrected without causing frustration (sadness or
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Children are happy playing and learning. This improves the social
relationships with other children and the environment.
10. The benefits of video games as
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
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
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
In 2008 the EPINOISI R&D project (http://www.media.uoa.gr/epinoisi)
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
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
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)
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”.
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
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
getting ready for work-tasks, from getting up until leaving
VR supermarket: helps to teach students about money
management skills within a store environment;
EU HORIZON 2020 Project
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