Digital Games-Based Instructional Design for Students With Special Education Needs: Practical Findings and Lessons Learnt

Saridaki, Maria; Gouscos, Dimitris; Meimaris, Michalis
January 2010
Proceedings of the European Conference on Games Based Learning;2010, p343
Conference Proceeding
Digital Game-based learning (DGBL), if used effectively and in a coherent way, can support both (a) more choices on experiential learning as well as (b) personalization of the learning experience according to learners' needs and abilities, which is essential in a special education setting. The educators' perceptions on the potential and the actual design of the instructional process function as self-fulfilling prophecies and are of cardinal importance to overall success. The EPINOISI project has been a year-long (end 2007 - end 2008) R&D effort investigating the place of especially designed serious games and online educational computer games in the educational experience of users with Mild Intellectual Disability (MID). Through teacher training on games-based learning for special education, the project has aimed at building practical evidence of the potential of DGBL interventions in special classes, as well as an informed strategy for games-based instructional design and DGBL application requirements. This communication focuses on the outcomes of the EPINOISI project with respect to design and implementation of DGBL interventions for MID students by special educators, discussing the potential and limitations of using games-based content to enhance the students' inclusion and motivation in the educational process. Approximately 200 special educators in some 160 special schools have realized DGBL interventions in the context of the EPINOISI project, involving more than 500 students with MID and other special needs, resulting in an overall mid- to large-scale pilot for digital games-based instructional design. During such interventions each educator documented in detail the designed and actual instructional experience as well as his/her views on future GBL interventions in special education classrooms, providing feedback to the EPINOISI R&D team regarding the implications and benefits of such an effort. As will be presented, educators have documented in detail their initial plans and final observations on using digital games as a motivational tool for students with MID, providing important insight into this process, revealing successful practices as well as common mistakes and misconceptions. According to the reports gathered digital games are less threatening for students with MID than other learning tools and have the potential to effectively engage them promoting external and internal motivation. Other findings include the observed capability of digital games to provide feedback to learners and educators alike in order to help the former identify their current levels of achievement while the latter can intervene, scaffold and adjust learning opportunities as necessary in relation to objectives and outcomes. The practical value of this communication, therefore, lies in the grounding of the practical findings reported and lessons learnt on actual in-class experience, as well as on the highlighting of practices to take-up (or on the opposite to avoid) in an effort to move from digital games-based learning to digital games-based teaching.


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