A newly formed collaboration between Aalborg University in Copenhagen, the university colleges VIA and UCC, and the Danish-based consultancy firm, Skolen i spil (School at play), has recently received $600.000 from the Egmont Foundation to research the use of commercial computer games and game pedagogy in Danish elementary schools.
The two co-founders of Skolen i spil, Stine Melgaard Lassen and Tore Neergaard Kjellow, have been working with the game-based pedagogy methods since August 2012 as a project at the special needs school they used to teach at.
Back then, it very soon became clear that their unique method for teaching these pupils was very successful. In fact, the project saw students increase their effective concentration time from 15 minutes to 90 minutes, and some of the students have now even surpassed their peers in regular schools in terms of test scores.
It is this local project, which only included a single school, that Skolen i spil is now taking to other schools in Denmark in order to do a proper research into the results of their game-based pedagogy, with funding from the Egmont Foundation.
When we last talked with Tore Neergaard Kjellow, he explained the general idea behind Skolen i Spil by saying that “We frame the classroom as a game. We do this by adding story lines, points, progress bars, achievements, challenges and more to engage the pupils, and then we use commercial games to teach a lot of different skills, like patience, communication, problem solving and team dynamics.”.
To specify, he continued by saying that “If we can get the kids “hooked” on Starcraft for instance, and then show them how they can gain an advantage in the game from being good at doing fast multiplication in their heads, they are much more interested in learning to multiply because the subject is useful right now, in a setting that important to them.”, Kjellow explained.
While many studios who develop learning-based games focus on implementing the school curriculum into the games, Thorkild Hanghøj, Associate Professor at Aalborg University, emphasizes that the game in itself is not the most important part of the game-based pedagogy method.
“The talk with the students about their learning, their process, and their goals is just as an important aspect as the game itself. The game simply help us clarify the academic focus and increase motivation – especially for those students who may be at risk of exclusion from the learning community in the classroom.”, Hanghøj says.
Throughout the project, Skolen i spil will be teaching the teachers at the four different schools that participate in the research how to use the game-based pedagogy in their classrooms. Afterwards, the researchers will then study what actually happens, and in the end of the project, Skolen i spil will also be co-writing the resulting book.
“The entire project is going to take up somewhere around 2/3 of our time. We like to think of the remaining 33% as our ‘innovative time off’. Time we can use to do other crazy stuff, like working with the game-industry. Right now, for instance, we are developing an analogue prototype of a game for MMEx (Meaning Making Experience) who is helping museums re-think their communication.”, Kjellow says to Nordic Game Bits.
Once the entire project is over, Skolen i spil aims to use the research as a foundation and argumentation for rolling out the games-based pedagogy to more schools in Denmark and abroad.
The business model will then be to charge schools for kick-starting their teachers’ use of the pedagogy, selling general consulting services, doing workshops, and giving talks at conferences. Apart from that, the books and teaching materials that support the method will also be sold.