Sonja Gabriel works as a professor for media literacy at University Teacher College Vienna/Krems (Austria) where she teaches pre-service and in-service teachers. Her primary focus of research is on digital game-based learning and using serious games for teaching different subjects at school and university as well as evaluation of various projects for learning with games and game-design approaches.
The magic of serious games for learning
FROG 2021 – Talk
When talking about serious games for teaching purposes, magic can be seen in two ways. First of all, magic is quite often used as narrative, to give a background or by equipping the player’s avatar with magic items or skills. The use of magic in storytelling has always been important for humans to explain phenomena which could not be explained in another way. For children, however, magic also is of educational value – although the themes used in stories (and games) might often be unrealistic, there are fundamental elements for children’s development. Many studies which had a look into fairy tales have proven the learning possibilities of these stories. Especially, digital games aiming at children (and also those that have been designed for learning purposes) use magic to engage children and to teach them – talking animals, towns made of candy and sugar or (nice) monsters being some characteristic examples. A second connection to magic and learning games for children can be made with the magic circle. Serious games wanting to teach players facts, change in behavior or attitude need to go beyond the magic circle. In order to make a game immersive, the three identities according to Gee have to be taken into account. However, that does not mean that knowledge or skills acquired within the game, will be taken beyond the game boundaries automatically. To enable transfer beyond the boundaries of the magic circle, additional measures (like classroom teaching) have to be taken. In the first part, the contribution will have a look at some children learning games and the role magic plays, whereas the second part will summarize major findings of studies related to digital game based learning and thus stress the fact that learning from games will show best results when it is accompanied with measures outside the game.