Academics News

Global Game Makers

Melvina Kurashige's Exploratory Japanese students partnered up with two Canadian schools as part of an international game building project.

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Scot Allen

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Games. Serious games. If you ever learned something purposeful while playing a game, chances are it was a serious one. Serious games differ from standard (read "entertainment-based") games because they teach problem-solving skills and center around real world problems like famine or nuclear weapons. The massively multiplayer online game America's Army, for example, has been used as a military recruitment and training tool. However, it is also one of the five most popular online games today. Why? Because it was designed to do what all great games do well: engage the players.

Melvina Kurashige's Exploratory Japanese students partnered up with two Canadian schools as part of an international game building project. Kurashige's students worked in teams to design games in which the player learns both Japanese words and elements of Japanese culture. She allowed students choice in game design and content resulting in a slew of board games, card games, Minecraft and digital games using bloxelsbuilder.com.

Many teachers aspire to build cross-cultural collaborations, and Kurashige made it happen by connecting with Gamifi-ed. Dr. Lee Graham, professor of Educational Technology at University of Alaska initiated Gamifi-ed along with Technology for Learning Specialist Verena Roberts, teacher Vicki Davis, and open programmer Colin Osterhout. The group aspires to increase the appreciation for gaming's potential in the classroom and improve the quality of serious games by including more student and teacher testing in serious game creation. Gamifi-ed's webpage states: "in our effort to change the world, we are here to create our own online encyclopedia of serious games. Every game is tested by students and educators using a research-based rubric to use in evaluating the games." Kurashige and her students collaborated with Gamifi-ed in their inaugural year.

The Gamifi-ed team approached Kurashige to collaborate on a Gamifi-ed 2.0 game project to build on their successful work together in 2014. Kurashige's students worked on their games in Honolulu and Gamifi-ed connected their classroom with with two classes from Rocky View Schools district in Alberta, Canada who designed games for a Renaissance unit and a science unit respectively. Kurashige met with the other Gamifi-ed 2.0 team members via Google Hangouts to plan and support one another. Her students used Google Hangouts to video chat and share their games with the two Canadian Schools.

"My students impact the world through collaborative projects and global connections," said Kurashige. "The more connections they make, the more they get to apply their learning in different, authentic contexts. I feel that game design offers many opportunities to develop higher order thinking skills like understanding and applying systems thinking, creative problem solving, storytelling, programming and collaborating with others."

Kurashige's students got all the feedback they could prior to the final game-playing day with their Canadian counterparts. "Students created prototypes and followed the Design thinking process in their projects," explained Kurashige. She coordinated with fellow Mid-Pacific teacher Leilani Sills whose students study design thinking and served as consultants on the game project. "My students met with [Sill's students] to share designs and prototypes and then met again a month later to test their final games," said Kurashige.

In their final game playing day via Google Hangouts with their Canadian counterparts, Mid-Pacific seventh graders Sierra Kato and Maiya Kuwana reflected that they, "had loads of fun designing and creating our game for our Canadian friends. Our design thinking consultant has also helped us in many ways, including the design of our game. We have learned new Japanese words through this project too."

Fellow seventh grader Jackie Nafarrete stated, "I enjoyed this project because it has to do with learning something, but we had to put it together in a fun way."

While this kind of student-centered learning can take extra organizing, Kurashige felt it was worth the logistics of coordinating video chats across time zones. "My hope is that the students will be able to review and learn new Japanese content in a creative student-centered activity," said Kurashige. "By empowering students, they are engaged in their learning and are excited to connect and share their knowledge with other students."

See a blog post from Kurashige's Canadian counterpart in the Gamifi-ed 2.0 project by clicking here.

By Laura Davis