Games are often regarded as children’s domain. In the first years of their development, children explore their environment and acquire basic skills, which they improve as a result of competing. Competing is perceived as fun and allows them to have a good time. However, nowadays games intended for adults are becoming more and more popular. This form of entertainment allows grown ups to break away from their everyday routine (for example computer games), spend time with friends (for example board games) or move about (for example location-based games). It serves the community and boosts integration and education (for example during business events). But talking about games in the context of adults is quite unusual. By implementing the LoGaSET project, we decided to test how effective this method is when working with people over 60.
In the human life cycle, games help establish social relations being a precondition for full participation in a peer group. Ties established at this stage can last for a lifetime. In the first years of school education, games are en effective method to encourage pupils to acquire knowledge and learn difficult things in an interesting way. Edutainment offers (education through entertainment) aimed at school children are more and more extensive. Activities are organised in interactive museums, science centres and edutainment parks. There is also a wide rage of edutainment computer games and mobile applications supporting the acquisition of learning and writing skills, mathematics and languages. As they develop, adult people also seek entertainment by getting involved in informal education or participating in multiple social and cultural events, which have now become widely available.
However, there is a problem of social and digital exclusion affecting senior citizens. Those people are often unable to use new technologies and are affected by neophobia, which means a fear of anything new. They find it more difficult to establish social relations and there is a lot that remains to be done about their ICT skills despite more and more extensive offers provided by universities of the third age and senior citizen clubs.
Moreover, senior citizens, so-called Digital Aliens, did not grow up and work surrounded by computers and mobile applications. To them, the world of computers is completely unknown and - at the same time - excluding. That is where the generation gap is really visible. New technologies rule the world. Whether we book a taxi, register with a surgery or discuss a problem within a group, we use mobile applications more and more and computers - less and less. No wonder that the ICT training offer for seniors is so extensive.
author: Agata Katkoniene
However, in the opinion of researchers from the Edutainment Research Team at the University of Wrocław conducting IT training for seniors since 2005, senior citizens encounter a number of methodical difficulties: neophobia hinders their acquisition of ICT competences and they are afraid of potential costs resulting from destroying or damaging the equipment on which they work. Cyberspace is something they are not familiar with - they often relate their work in the virtual environment to reality. In real life we are unable to fit a bigger object into a smaller one, so how come we can paste some folders with their contents into one folder? Why do desktops look so different? Why are we able to watch people in the streets of Rio de Janeiro in real time when we are here, sitting in front of this computer? People who have never experienced virtual reality find such issues very confusing. The willingness to repeat certain sequences of steps is another problem. Seniors often take down (on paper) each step involved in a computer task. “Left-click to display a list. Click <<open>>”. But the interface changes after updating an application or a programme, and the sequence of steps previously taken down by seniors stops working. This causes confusion and frustration.
That is why the Edutainment Research Team decided to look for a new method, which could be used in education for seniors when teaching about new technologies. A method that would encourage seniors to delve in virtual reality, which they still consider mysterious. This method should release some intuitiveness and freedom in moving around applications and programmes, arouse interest and reveal the simplicity and pragmatism of tools used by senior citizens. It should also make them feel confident that they will manage and allow them to enjoy their freshly acquired competences.
Having watched children who, when playing, undertook the most difficult activities with lots of pleasure and were visibly involved, researchers decided to use location-based games as a method in education for senior citizens. The LoGaSET project was prepared with the help of Pro Scientia Publica Foundation, partners from Lithuania (Mikolo Romerio University in Vilnius), Slovakia (University of Trnava) and Great Britain (Kairos Europe). The name stands for location-based games as a contemporary, original, and innovative method of teaching and learning used in education for seniors. The project funded under Erasmus+ Key Action 2 Adult Education aims to verify the effectiveness of location-based games as a method of education. The project entails training provided to almost 200 seniors in four countries by 12 researchers representing prestigious academic and training centres over the period of 18 months. It involves the help of over 50 volunteers. As part of a pedagogical experiment supervised by Dr. Ewa Jurczyk-Romanowska (University of Wrocław), Polish scientists: Dr. Marta Koszczyc (University School of Physical Education in Wrocław), Dr. Luba Jakubowska (Wrocław Medical University), Dr. Aleksandra Marcinkiewicz-Wilk (University of Wrocław), Dr. Jacek Gulanowski (University of Wrocław) prepared two cycles of activities: traditional classes held in a classroom (control group) and activities provided in the form of location-based games (experiment group). The volunteers were recruited from among the most gifted students, doctoral students, researchers and teachers working with senior citizens. These educators were offered special training focussing on the most important aspects of working with senior citizens - a total of 16 hours of theory and over 50 hours of practice. The training event ended in awarding senior citizen game-based learning educator’s certificates.
With the implementation of educational goals in mind, an identical didactic programme was prepared, which included training for seniors in the following fields:
- Mobile application installation,
QR code scanner handling,
Taking photographs and sending them by MMs,
Creating films and audio files,
Using Google Maps navigation,
Applying Google Maps to plan travelling by public transport
Using Google Translator,
Using Trip Advisor,
Combining work using different applications (evaluation of classes)
author: Klaudia Šútorová
Original application operating manuals in versions for Android and iPhone were prepared for each module. The study programme, instructions and all teaching tools were translated into the partners’ mother tongues. On completion of the project, an open access methodology guide for senior citizens’ educators in the field of applying new technologies using the classwork method and location-based games (Good Practice Book) will be published in four languages: Polish, English, Lithuanian and Slovak.
The same teaching materials are used during classes with the control group and the experiment group. Therefore, the only difference between the two cycles of classes is the method. The control group learned in a classroom and their classes involved a lecture and hands-on training. However, the experiment group was given the rules of its new game during each class and was then sent to play it outside. Elements of board games involving a map of towns, dicing, paper chase and games involving role play and live action role-playing (RPG, LARP) as well as logic games were used in the case of the experiment group. The main goal consisted in beating the opposing team and no educational goals were disclosed to participants. Seniors had to use mobile applications to solve individual tasks (quests). The tasks were not preceded by lectures. Basing on their didactic materials, senior citizens had to find out by themselves how to perform their tasks. Moreover, a system of rewards was used - emoticon stickers (big and small smiles). The results of each game were announced to participants directly after its end and recorded on a scoreboard for all games.
Seniors from both groups were allowed to ask questions and count on their educators’ support. The number of questions asked was indicative of senior citizens’ independence. The time of performing control tasks included in each class was also measured.
Training was provided in two parts. The first part - the pilot phase - served the verification of class scenarios and game mechanics. It was also meant to eliminate inconsistencies. That was an important stage in the training of educators involved in the project who had an opportunity to gain experience in conducting gaming classes for senior citizens. That stage finished in June 2018 in all the four partner countries. The first conclusions allow us to say which aspects described below are important in using games in education for seniors.
author: Olga Niemasz
- Joy and fun. Senior citizens were extremely willing to participate in classes involving games. New ties were established between their participants and strong emotions were observed in the course of individual activities.
- Game pace. The speed at which individual tasks were performed was imposed by competing and required an automatic use of applications. This means they did not try to recall the sequence of steps. Instead, they quickly performed their tasks.
- Intuitive activities. Seniors were more likely to look for solutions to their problems without anyone’s assistance and they also applied newly acquired skills needed to use new applications still unfamiliar to them.
- Independence. The game results in its participants’ increased independence, they are more likely to ask their team mates or solve a problem by themselves than ask the educator. Questions were asked only when they were unable to solve a problem despite their previous attempts. In the case of traditional classwork, questions were often asked without trying to solve a problem.
- Ties between participants. The game resulted in stronger ties between its participants. The teams started to meet also after classes. The traditional classes produced no such effect.
- Using new skills in everyday life. Participants in location-based games started using applications in their everyday life. One of our seniors, for example, gave up coming to the class in the car, only to practise public transport journey planning based on Google Maps. They also tested other applications, for example Healthy Shopping. One senior scanned all articles he was going to buy. All participants found it very amusing that only water and alcohol contain no unhealthy substances.
- Improved self-esteem. The skills that were required during those classes were instrumental in improving seniors’ self-esteem. This change was seen in both groups, but the game-based learning group was more likely to express it and did it more often. On a number of occasions, seniors told their educators what they had done without assistance. For example, that they had set up a video call to their grandchildren, used Google Translator to translate a label in a foreign country or had a 30-minute-long conversation with a foreigner while using an application.
- Physical activity. Those from the game-based learning group emphasised the meaning of exercise in their activities. Their locality-based game required them to move around, walk and sometimes do physical exercises. They noticed that they were not tired after their classes, on the contrary - they were much more energetic and felt like doing things for the rest of the day.
- Improved resistance to distractors. Becoming more resistant to distractors reported by our location-based game participants was a very important issue. At the beginning of their game they kept complaining about being surrounded by city noise. However, they later concluded that owing to that they could not see any difference when using mobile applications during their outdoor classes and in everyday life.
The above conclusions are initial and result from the completion of the pilot phase. The second phase of the project will go on in all partner countries until the end of 2018. It is then that research tools will be applied to present research results as statistical analysis and to support or refute the hypothesis that location-based games are an effective method of educating senior citizens. However, conclusions drawn from observing our existing research and from interviews held with seniors instil optimism as to this new direction in education for senior citizens.
To sum up, here are two remarks of female senior citizens participating in the project: One of them said that universities of the third age are about promoting the quiet life. However, seniors have competed all their professional and private life. Now, thanks to the games - they had the impression of living their life to the full. After the end of training, the other senior told us about her dream: “I was on a bus and a young person got on with a phone. There was something he could not do so he asked his peer: “How do I get there”? The peer did not know how to answer and that’s where the senior said: “But I know, and I can show you”!
More about the project: http://logaset.eu/ (link is external)
and on Facebook: https://web.facebook.com/LoGaSET/ (link is external)
Dr. Ewa Jurczyk-Romanowska, University of Wrocław, LoGaSET project manager
Justyna Szewczyk M. Sc., Jan Wyżykowski School Complex in Głogów, LoGaSET project educator.