Game based Learning in Computer Science

Dave Tucker
Edinboro University of Pennsylvania
What will be covered
 Are Serious games useful?
 Examples
 Serious games used to teach Computer Science
New research area
Useful tool for teaching abstract topics
Can be used for any subject matter, this talk
focuses on uses in Computer Science
New rapid development software for 3D sims
Research demonstrating success of using games
for education
Three examples with Higher Ed in mind
 Yes, a valid way to educate
 Some studies say slight, others up to 63% gain in
 All agree that students prefer the use of games
over traditional methods.
 There are examples of where students were
motivated to go beyond the game and research
more about a topic
 Applying knowledge is better than hearing the
 Requires the use of Critical Thinking
 Experimental Learning – No pressure and
unlimited tries
Inquiry-Based Learning – Experiment to learn
new things
Self-Efficacy – Tend to keep trying until
Goal Setting – Motivation
Cooperation – possible if multiplayer game
Continuous Feedback – Immediate response
Examples – Age of Computers
 Travel back in time
to solve problems
 Mostly multiple
choice questions
 Math & Processor
control also
 95% of students
said its more
motivating than
traditional exercises
Examples – Virtual Family
 Teach java programming
 Uses family characters
 You want to make your characters
programmed to react to your other character
actions (like a form of programming known
as Object Oriented)
Examples – Problems & Programmers
 Card based game
 Software Engineering
Player must follow certain
steps collecting cards
How well you design depends
on how you play your cards
Can get random problems
Budget concerns
Goal is to finish on as soon as
possible with quality product
Students found it easy to
learn and was an effective
teaching method
Examples – Algorithm
 Binary Search
 Try to find the number
 Player knows that the
numbers are in order
 Timed
Examples – Algorithm
 Teaching sorting
 Move the cards using a
certain sorting method
(insertion sort in this example)
 See how accurate the
player is given a fixed
amount of time
Current Project
 Simple walk through
 Inside a PC
 Approach a computer
component, it prompts
a multiple choice
 No disadvantage to using serious games to
supplement or replace traditional teaching
 Majority of cases found that students learn
more while enjoying the experience.
 Further research needed
 Other topics such as simulations for networks
 1st year programming students high failure rate
R.V. Eck, “Digital Game-Based Learning: It's Not Just the Digital Natives Who Are Restless ” EDUCAUSE, vol. 41, no. 2, 2006, pp. 1618.
J. Gee, “What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy,” computers in entertainment CIE, vol. 1, no. 1, 2003, pp. 20.
A. Clark, Natural-Born Cyborgs: Why Minds and Technologies Are Made to Merge, Oxford University Press, 2003.
M.J. Mayo, “GAMES FOR SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING EDUCATION,” Communications of the ACM, vol. 50, no. 7, 2007, pp. 30-35.
K. Squire, et al., “Electromagnetism supercharged!: Learning physics with digital simulation games,” Proc. 6th International
Conference on Learning Sciences, ACM Press, 2004.
P. Mcclean, et al., “Virtual worlds in large enrollment science classes significantly improve authentic learning ” Proc. 12th
International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, Center for the Advancement of Teching and Learning, 2001, pp. 111-118.
L. Natvig and S. Line, “Age of computers: game-based teaching of computer fundamentals,” Book Age of computers: game-based
teaching of computer fundamentals, Series Age of computers: game-based teaching of computer fundamentals, ed., Editor ed.^eds.,
ACM, 2004, pp.
W. Duplantis, et al., “'Virtual Family': An Approach to Introducing Java Programming,” ACM SIGCSE Bulletin, vol. 34, no. 2, 2002, pp.
A. Baker, et al., “An experimental card game for teaching software engineering processes,” Journal of System and Software, vol. 75,
no. 1-2, 2005, pp. 3-16.
S. Shabanah and J.X. Chen, “Simplifying algorithm learning using serious games,” Book Simplifying algorithm learning using serious
games, Series Simplifying algorithm learning using serious games, ed., Editor ed.^eds., ACM, 2009, pp.

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